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On a mission to help: Terrence Tapley Sr. carries on his brother’s legacy

From left: Mennonite College of Nursing Dean Judy Neubrander, Illinois State University donor and PROUD student mentor Terrence Tapley, and Mennonite College of Nursing Director of Development Jennifer Sedbrook

From left: Mennonite College of Nursing Dean Judy Neubrander, Illinois State University donor and PROUD student mentor Terrence Tapley Sr., and Mennonite College of Nursing Director of Development Jennifer Sedbrook

Terrence “Terry” Tapley Sr. has taken up his brother Eric’s mission in life to help people. Mennonite College of Nursing graduate Eric Tapley ’83, ’97, passed away suddenly in 2010, but not before changing the world for the better.

“Eric loved the idea of helping people. He was always that kind of guy,” recalled Terry. “If someone needed help, he would do it, no matter what it was. He had a big heart. People loved him.”

To honor his life and memory, the ER doctors with whom Eric worked—Dr. Kathy Bohn, Dr. Richard Castillo, Dr. Thomas Nielsen, Dr. Richard Sabbun, and Dr. Douglas Ward—established the Eric Tapley, BSN Heartland Emergency Specialist, LLC Endowed Scholarship for community-minded nursing students. Terry joined their efforts during Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, when he made a major commitment to his brother’s scholarship.

Eric Tapley ’83, ’97. A scholarship in Eric’s name benefits nursing students who exhibit his commitment to the community and advocacy for those in need.

Eric was recruited to play football for Illinois State from Harper High School, located on the south side of Chicago. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in physical education, and later returned to ISU to pursue a bachelor’s from Mennonite College of Nursing.

He went on to work in emergency nursing at Advocate BroMenn Regional Emergency Department in Normal, OSF Saint Francis Emergency Department in Peoria, and OSF St. Joseph Emergency Department in Bloomington. He became known for his exceptional care as a nurse.

“I met a number of his patients and their families. They told me stories about Eric, how he would always follow up to see how they were doing. A couple even said, ‘I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for your brother. He saved my life,’” said Terry. Mennonite recognized Eric’s patient-centered approach to care when they posthumously awarded him Mennonite’s Spirit of Nursing Award in 2011.

Eric also had a passion for bringing communities together, especially through the arts. He brought comedy acts such as Sinbad and D. L. Hughley to Braden Auditorium. He organized the gospel portion of the Bloomington-Normal Cultural Festival and later founded the Nothin’ But the Blues Festival sponsored in part by WGLT radio.

Eric kept admission prices low because he wanted to make his events accessible to the entire community and often donated proceeds. “It wasn’t about making money for him. It was about providing a family-friendly, safe environment where people could come together to enjoy music,” said Terry.

A self-professed business person, Terry always admired his brother’s approach. Terry worked in banking and accounting early in his career. He transitioned to financial information services administration for Cardinal Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company before joining McDonalds Corporation, where he became the global chief information security officer. He was responsible for McDonald’s global information security initiatives.

PROUD members with project director Dr. Mary Dyck at the MLK dinner on Friday, January 24. Front row, from left, are Scarlett Holze, Biodun Jaiyeola, Matthew Tjahjadi, Michael Jankun, and Dr. Mary Dyck. Back row, from left, are Emily Swiderski, Brogan Robinson, Olalekan Bamidele, and Jacob Veyette.

Terry’s undeniable career success makes him a natural fit for a new role at Mennonite College of Nursing, as a mentor to students in Mennonite’s Pre-Entry and Retention Opportunities for Undergraduate Diversity (PROUD) program. The program was established at Illinois State in 2017 to support diverse populations pursuing nursing degrees.

“I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without a vested interest in my success,” he said. “I tell the students I mentor, ‘You can ask me anything you want.’ And they’ve asked me some tough questions.”

Terry also speaks to student groups about interviewing for a job, salary negotiation, and embracing diverse perspectives in the workplace.

“I talk with the students about the importance of diversity in a broader sense. How do you problem-solve? How do you take into consideration the experiences of someone other than yourself? Just because people have different viewpoints doesn’t mean they don’t have something valuable to offer,” said Terry.

His contributions to Illinois State honor the legacy first established by his brother but extend beyond that too. Terry knows firsthand the challenges of affording higher education. As he ages, he wants to strengthen the next generation of nurses who will one day provide his own care.

“My doctors are all very patient-focused,” Terry said. “When I see students who want to support their patients in that way, like my brother did, I want to be a part of that.”

Student scholarships are the largest area of donor support at Illinois State. Donors collectively recognize the power of reducing students’ financial burdens and opening doors to students’ dreams. To support scholarships during Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, visit Giving.IllinoisState.edu/donate.

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