Your Impact &
Your Stories


Donor Story Ross McCullough

Ross McCullough graduated from EIU in December 1987!

EIU was the perfect fit for Ross because he lived close by and had family members that lived in Charleston, so he was no stranger to the area. Ross remembers seeing Old Main when he would visit his grandparents and still considers that one of his favorite places on campus today.

"Every time I walk into the building I look up at its structure with admiration."

Ross credits his professional success to the personal engagement of his professors. The experiences he had at EIU created a personal responsibility within Ross to give back to the university for current and future generations of EIU students.

Ross has plenty of advice for current and future students but he thinks the most important thing is to be a lifelong learner.

"No matter what you do or how experienced you are, you can always make yourself better, and those people who continue to invest in themselves tend to be happier and more successful."


Donor Story Marilyn J. Coles

Dr. Marilyn J. Coles retired as a Professor of Voice on the music Faculty here at Eastern Illinois, where she taught voice and voice related subjects to undergraduate and graduate students. Marilyn was not only a voice coach but also a performing artist!

Marilyn received her Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and her Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois, where she later earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree. Ms. Coles was awarded a research grant to perform works by 20th century American women composers in which she toured through the Midwest and California.

Marilyn’s performances have taken her from the West Coast to the Midwest, and even to several cities in Europe. While living in Germany for ten years, Dr. Coles sang in many opera houses and had guest appearances in France and Italy. She even performed and toured as a soloist with the Rochester Oratorio Society in Rome and Florence, made recordings for Radio Bremen, appeared in a film on the life of Handel for German television, and taught a music course in Maastricht, The Netherland. It is safe to say that Ms. Coles voice has taken her all over the world.

When Marilyn returned from living and performing in Germany, she decided to attend the University of Illinois again to work on a D.M.A. (Doctor of Musical Arts). While finishing her course work, Ms. Coles began looking for University positions and a tenure- track opening for a voice professor jumped out at her. Marilyn feels that she didn’t choose EIU, it chose her instead.

While at Eastern, Marilyn loved spending time in her brightly decorated teaching studio in the Doudna Fine Arts Center. She refers to it as her “haven” since some days she spent 10-12 hours there. When Ms. Coles wasn’t busy with classes, she also enjoyed the time she spent meeting with friends and students at the coffee shop in the Union.

Marilyn still feels a strong connection to EIU and continues to give back to the community.

“After spending 27 years here, EIU has really become my home. I care about it deeply and enjoy doing what I can to serve. I really miss my students (not so much the meetings) and would have loved to continue teaching them for many more years.”

Although Marilyn no longer teaches at Eastern she has two pieces of advice for current students:

“Take advantage of every single opportunity EIU and your major department have to offer; and ENJOY every minute possible of your time in college because it is such a short four years and the real world responsibilities will probably not allow this much time to learn ever again!”


Donor Story Everett Lawrence

Everett graduated from EIU in December 1973 with a degree in accounting. He decided to attend Eastern because of the campus layout and availability of course offerings. Not a lot has changed since then, the small campus and variety of courses are still some of the top reasons students fall in love with EIU today.

Everett gives back to EIU today because it provided him with a wonderful education and unforgettable people and memories. It is important to him that he helps preserve this opportunity for future Panthers.

If Everett could give one piece of advice to a current student at EIU it would be to "get as much education and training as you can to prepare yourself for today’s world. It will help you become successful and become a better person."


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