Meaningful change is made when people like Redbird political science graduate Richard Greenfield ’17 live out their passions. Greenfield is among the University’s youngest donors and has been contributing to Illinois State since he graduated. With his recent annual gift, Greenfield became the 10,341st donor in Illinois State’s quest to reach 15,000 Redbirds in the 2020 fiscal year. Now, he has decided to further his impact with a planned gift commitment.

The 15,000 Redbirds Strong challenge stresses how any gift of any amount creates a ripple effect that gives prospective students confidence in their decision to choose Illinois State, which in turn boosts national rankings, shows current students alumni are rooting for them, and inspires others to invest.

As donor 10,341 of the 15,000 Redbirds Strong, Greenfield is now actively part of this transformative process. His contribution is significant given he has overcome many obstacles throughout his life.

At a young age, Greenfield was diagnosed with lead poisoning that damaged his comprehension skills. He faced many academic challenges and almost failed third grade. He was even told that he might not be able to complete middle school.

Rather than letting his struggle defeat him, Greenfield’s learning disability motivated him. He compares his journey to going through a dark tunnel. The light at the end was finding his passion for higher education.

“One of the major challenges I did face was that I had to stay an additional semester because I didn’t have enough senior-credit-hours to graduate. However, I turned that negative into a positive and found my passion for higher education policy that extra semester,” said Greenfield. He knew that furthering his education by obtaining a college degree was a way for him to work past his learning disability.

Greenfield’s mother, Debra, provided him with additional resources and help when needed. Greenfield realized, however, that not all students had this kind of support. His mother was the one who encouraged him to include ISU in his estate plan. She also recognized the amazing opportunities that Illinois State provides students, and matched her son’s gift with her own estate gift.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to incorporate ISU into my estate gift,” Greenfield said. “Illinois State has given me a lot and has done a lot for me. The staff of Illinois State University such as President Larry Dietz, Dr. Jonathan Lackland, Dr. Kerri Milita, and Dr. Nancy Lind provided me with the resources and opportunities that made me the Redbird I am today.”

He was actively involved in extracurricular activities while at Illinois State. He was a part of the Student Alumni Council, secretary of Government Relations for SGA, College Democrats, Alpha Omega Service Fraternity, and many more. These experiences provided opportunities and helped create relationships that led to success.

Greenfield is now pursuing a master’s degree in public administration from Governors State University in Chicago. He is on track to graduate next May.

Greenfield’s planned gift commitment supports the Dean of Students Enhancement Fund, Black Colleagues Association Fund, Department of Politics and Government, Student Affairs Diversity and Inclusion, and the Red and White Scholarship Fund.

“The need for donors never goes away. Donations of any type make a difference, and no matter what always enhance the University,” said Greenfield, who knows firsthand how gifts benefit students. He received many scholarships himself.

Now Greenfield is paying it forward to the next generation. As someone who knows what it is like to overcome adversity, he is a proponent for all students in all types of situations to pursue their education and cross the commencement stage. He is an inspiration to all Redbirds to persist in the face of adversity, live out their passions, and pay it forward.