A $500,000 gift from Barbara Efaw ’59 and family was honored with action by the Board of Trustees on Friday, May 7. In recognition of the family’s generosity, the College of Education’s new student success center will be named the Barbara and Larry Efaw Center for Educator Excellence. The center is scheduled to open spring semester 2022 and will be housed in Degarmo Hall.

Barbara and her late husband, Larry Efaw ’56, M.S. ’59, have been loyal university supporters since they graduated from Illinois State Normal University. Barbara earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Larry graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business teacher education.

“My husband was very fond of saying all his life, ‘I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for ISU,’” recalled Barbara.

Larry came to ISNU from Cambridge, where he had no plans to attend college. His high school principal intervened, and Larry applied to ISNU just in time to enroll. Once on campus, he earned a position as the assistant to Dean of Men Emeritus Ralph Linkins, who became Larry’s mentor. Larry was active on campus, serving as president of both the University Club and Senior Class of 1956.

After graduating, Larry served in the U.S. Army as a sergeant before teaching business classes at Atlanta High School. Barbara also taught in Atlanta and Bloomington until the birth of their son David in 1965, and later their daughter, Diane (Efaw) Gunz, in 1971.

In 1959, Larry joined the Library Book Selection Service, a not-for-profit organization that reviewed books for school libraries. He served the organization faithfully until his retirement in 1999.

Barbara and Larry’s son David, an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon in Bloomington, is proud of the family’s contribution. “My father’s starting salary was $3,500 per year, and my mom’s starting salary was $3,200 per year. And when they married, they only had $100 between them,” said David. “So when our family gives $500,000 to ISU, it’s pretty amazing.”

“I never would have believed we could do this,” said Barbara of the visionary gift. “It’s wonderful.”

The Efaws are motivated to give other students the access to education that Larry enjoyed as a first-generation college student. In 2004, they established the Larry and Barbara Efaw Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide financial support to future educators.

Junior elementary education major Erica Bobrowski said receiving the Larry and Barbara Efaw Endowed Scholarship has relieved financial stress. “Any financial support that is available to me helps my family so much,” she said. “The scholarship allowed me to focus more on my learning and future goals.”

The family hopes the Barbara and Larry Efaw Center for Educator Excellence will assist other students in need of additional support.

“We’re incredibly honored to receive the Efaws’ gift. It will make a tremendous impact on future Redbird educators for many years, allowing us to provide even more academic, social emotional, and teaching supports to help our students persist in their dreams of becoming educators,” said College of Education Dean James Wolfinger.

David knows his father would be proud of the legacy their family has created at ISU through their gift.

“My father was so appreciative of everything that he earned. My parents always believed in giving back,” he said. 

For more information about supporting the College of Education, visit Giving.IllinoisState.edu/opportunities/college-education.