Private support from the Owen Foundation and joyce gillie gossom ’78 accelerates opportunity across the College of Education.

The Owen Foundation was established in 1994 by Richard Owen and his wife Frances “Fran” Owen. Richard was owner and CEO of Bloomington’s Owen Nursery Enterprises until his passing in Fran, their son Brent Alsman, and daughter Andrea Beyer carry on his legacy through the foundation.

“Education is costly,” said Fran. “School budgets often don’t cover special projects or school renovations. That has to come from donors.”

Owen family
Owen family, from left, Brent Alsman, Anastasia Alsman, Fran Owen, Andrea Beyer, and Bradley Beyer

Foundation gifts transformed ISU’s weight room—now the Owen Strength and Conditioning Center. The foundation also helped revamp Metcalf’s Hayden Auditorium and has contributed significant funds towards a future renovation of University High School’s science laboratories.

“Finding innovative ways to teach contributes to students’ success,” said Brent. He hopes the upcoming renovations will foster more hands-on, collaborative

Though family members are not alumni, they maintain strong ties to ISU and its Laboratory Schools because of their belief in giving back. “I want to support the community that has supported me,” said Brent.

The family also enjoys Redbird Athletics. “I’m a fan whether they’re winning or losing. I don’t give up on them,” said Fran, who finds joy in giving back. “It’s a privilege
to improve the lives of children.”

Dr. joyce gillie gossom ’78 chose ISU after writing then Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Caspar Weinberger for advice in selecting a university. She decided to study special education after witnessing a special education teacher mistreating students in the school where her mother was an administrator. The teacher was terminated, and the experience ignited in gossom a lifelong pursuit of equity and justice.

Since earning a special education degree, gossom has gone from teacher to management consultant to instructional designer and program development supervisor for Georgia Power Company.

Dr. joyce gillie gossom

Today she is The Princess (aka President) of Best Gurl consulting firm, which provides assessments and solutions for corporations, education, and nonprofits. She uses skills learned at Illinois State.

“I was taught how to look at any problem; diagnose and analyze what the underlying causes of the problem were, not just the symptoms; conduct research and figure out what to do to address the underlying causes,” said gossom, who legally changed her name to be lowercase, a nod to her connection with the poetry of e.e. cummings.

She was a student representative on Illinois State’s Student Code Enforcement Review Board. As a first-year teacher, she earned a leadership role on the school’s community partners committee. As associate dean for University of West Florida Emerald Coast, she broadened the campus’ reach and increased access to education.

It was through gossom’s commitment to equity and her gratitude to ISU that she committed $25,000 to establish the joyce gillie gossom Endowed Scholarship for Students in the Special Education Program. The scholarship aids students demonstrating financial need, with preference given to a Chicago Public Schools graduate.

“I want to make possible an education for someone who may not have the advantage, but has the ability,” said gossom, who was a philanthropist at an early age. When she was 10 she organized a neighborhood carnival that raised $300 for muscular dystrophy research. She still sees giving back as a responsibility she gladly accepts.

“My mother encouraged me to not just sit there and cry about an injustice, but to do something about it,” gossom said.

Learn more about College of Education funding priorities and make your gift today. Visit or contact Wilma Bates at (309) 438-4304 or