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Recognizing College of Education donors

Chris Marks and Washington family

From left: Chris Marks ’95, Tinishia Washington, Khareem Washington, and Sekou Woodard.

Individual donors have always been integral to the College of Education’s success, especially during Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. Since its start, more than 7,100 donors have supported the college, contributing more than $16.6 million for its initiatives and students.

Among them is Chris Marks ’95. Marks committed $25,000 to create the Jared Iman Washington Memorial Scholarship in memory of his friend, fraternity brother, and former educator Jared Washington ’95, M.S. ’99. Washington passed away in December 2018 at the age of 47. The scholarship provides for students pursuing elementary, middle, or secondary level teacher education.

“Jared was very intuitive when it came to learning. He understood the needs of students and was able to adapt his teaching style to meet those needs,” Marks said. When Washington passed, the first thoughts of Marks and the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity were to the immediate needs and well-being of Washington’s family—wife Tinishia, stepson Sekou, and son Khareem. The second thought was how to best honor his memory and legacy.

After initiating the scholarship, Marks was later able to attend a College of Education scholarship ceremony with Washington’s family.

“Seeing the scholarship students walk across the stage really brings to life the donor experience,” said Marks, who is especially grateful to have endowed the scholarship because it will live on into perpetuity as a lasting tribute to Washington.

Another donor, Kim Benziger ’64, was inspired to create a College of Education scholarship after joining the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The organization, founded in 1885 by a group of female graduates, now gives out $4 million in scholarships annually. Benziger heard one of the student recipients speak at an AAUW meeting. The student used her scholarship money to pay for babysitting for her two young children while she conducted research toward her Ph.D. at Argonne National Laboratory.

“The experience planted a seed for me,” Benziger said. “I wanted to do something for students with no strings attached.” She consequently created the Marla Kim and Robert A. Benziger Endowed Scholarship during the Redbirds Rising campaign to lift up nontraditional students enrolled in Illinois State’s Educational and Administrative Foundations (EAF) program.

During the final year of the campaign, Nancy and Donald Watson ’82 committed major gifts to establish two scholarships for education students. Their first $50,000 contribution created the Betty Phillips Watson Fund in Special Education for students with demonstrated financial need. The scholarship honors Donald’s mother, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s in special education after raising eight children on a farm outside Macomb.

The Watson’s second $50,000 contribution established the D. Gene Watson Fund in EAF. It enables faculty to further develop their skills through travel and research.

“I liked the idea of providing faculty the opportunity to network outside of their everyday environment,” said Watson, who saw his father attend faculty conferences during the ’70s when travel by plane was considered a luxury.

Thomas and Carole Barger also made a major gift during the campaign. The couple, along with Thomas’ brother Carter, established the Thomas M. Barger Family Endowed Scholarship to support University High School, from which Thomas graduated in 1958 and Carter in 1961. The scholarship is named for Thomas and Carter’s grandfather, who was a beloved U-High chemistry and physics teacher and confidant of Illinois State Normal University President Raymond Fairchild. The scholarship rewards students enrolled in physics or AP chemistry classes at U-High.

The College of Education is grateful for gifts from myriad donors that enhance its students’ experiences.