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EIU University Advancement

About the Foundation
  • About the Foundation
  • Message from the EIU Foundation President
  • Meet the Board of Directors
  • Donor Recognition

About the Foundation

Founded in 1953 under the leadership and direction of H Ogden Brainard, the Eastern Illinois University Foundation has, since its inception, been dependent upon the generosity of its members to encourage and provide private support to the University, and to promote the ideals of volunteerism and philanthropy among alumni, friends and employees of the University.

Dawn Johnson


Message from the EIU Foundation President

It is an exciting time to embrace and reconnect with your alma mater – this “hidden gem” in rural Illinois for more than 125 years! Ranked as one of the best college values in the Midwest, Eastern Illinois University is poised for growth as it welcomes a new president, Dr. Jay Gatrell, who served as Provost, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, under former President David Glassman, who retired in June 2023. By working directly under Dr. Glassman, President Gatrell is already familiar with the progress made during the past few years with increasing enrollment and financial stability after the many years of legislative upheaval and the pandemic that threatened the University that we all love. He also is aware of the challenges that face smaller, regional universities. Dr. Gatrell jumped right into the job, meeting with alumni, donors, students, staff, and faculty. The Foundation Board looks forward to working with Dr. Gatrell to offer fresh perspectives to further strengthen the University and help it move forward with its goals.

Eastern articulated those goals and achieved a milestone in the summer of 2023 when it unveiled its new strategic plan, which can be found at Developed under the leadership of then-Provost Dr. Gatrell and a task force, “Plan 2028” revolves around four interconnected themes with 14 strategic initiatives that require annual evaluations, ensuring it will not just sit on a shelf. It reflects a well-thought-out vision for the University as we look ahead to a bright future at EIU.

The Foundation is helping the University meet the strategic plan’s goal of developing a comprehensive campaign to raise money by hiring a consulting firm that will lead EIU through the process. The University’s last capital campaign – EI&U – was in 2010. Although this new campaign is in its infancy and we do not yet have a catchy slogan, we look forward to talking with many of you about your hopes and aspirations for EIU. We will be asking for your financial support as we hope to increase gifts and donors to meet the high expectations of the strategic plan.

If you have not been back to campus in a while, or visited with fellow alumni, I encourage you to do so by arranging a tour to see the exciting things that are happening on campus, or attending or hosting an alumni event in or near your hometown. If you do, I promise that you will immediately remember the close-knit community and why EIU is so special.

After graduating in 1983, I have always felt connected to EIU through my group of fellow journalism classmates and Daily Eastern News staffers. However, I have experienced an even stronger network of EIU alumni and staff by serving as a member of the Eastern Illinois University Foundation Board. I am now honored to serve as the President of the Board for 2023-2024. I want to thank the outgoing president, Dr. Gordon Grado, for his years of leadership, service, and support to EIU. I count him as one of my friends, thanks to my service on the Foundation Board.

Lastly, please join me in giving back to Eastern. Individuals or organizations who wish to provide support for students with financial needs or academic talent may be interested in establishing an endowment that will provide scholarships for students. Or you may wish to support faculty or student research, fund a lecture series, or any number of worthwhile projects to create your legacy at EIU. You can also make a planned gift or a monetary donation to a specific program or allow the university to direct the gift where it is needed most. Generous donors helped Eastern establish a School of Nursing, which graduated its first class in 2023.

The Foundation Board works hard to fulfill its extraordinary fiduciary responsibility in managing the approximately $100 million in Foundation assets and investing those funds to generate revenue for scholarships and grants. We appreciate each person who invests in the University and I look forward to your continued support to help the Foundation promote the interests and welfare of the University now and for future generations. I hope to see you on campus or at an alumni event. We are delighted to have you as part of our EIU family.

Dawn Morville Johnson
Board of Directors 2023-2024
Eastern Illinois University Foundation

Meet the Board of Directors

The EIU Foundation is the receiver and repository of gifts to Eastern Illinois University. The Foundation manages the endowment for the University through oversite by the EIU Foundation CEO and governance of the EIU Foundation Board of Directors. The Foundation Board represents a diverse group of volunteer professional and business leaders who have devoted their time and resources in service to the Foundation for the benefit of Eastern Illinois University.


Dawn Johnson

Ms. Dawn Johnson, President

Ballwin, Missouri

Dawn graduated from EIU with a BA in Journalism in 1983. She is a litigation lawyer at Greensfelder, Hemker, and Gale, PC. – St. Louis, Missouri. As head of the firm’s Franchising and Distribution Industry Group, Dawn leads a team of transactional and litigation attorneys who represent clients nationally and internationally. Her practice focuses on all aspects of the dealer, distributor and franchise relationship, including termination and non-renewal, claims under state and federal relationship laws and claims such as breach of contract, fraud, tortious interference, antitrust pricing, and trademark infringement. Dawn has significant appellate experience and is co-leader of the appellate practice within the firm. She handles appeals and works closely with other trial lawyers in the firm to ensure that issues are properly preserved for appeal. She has argued before the Missouri Supreme Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern and Western Districts, the Illinois Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Before attending law school, Dawn was an award-winning reporter for the Herald & Review daily newspaper in Decatur, Illinois. After graduating from Washington University School of Law, she continued her writing experience as a law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge David D. Noce in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, from 1993 to 1997.

Ms. Johnson is active within her community, having served on the Board of Directors for Safe Connections from 2015 to the present; College Summit Missouri Site Advisory Board, 2012-present, Chair, 2015-present; Gateway Legal Services, Inc., Board of Directors, 2008 to the present; and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, Board of Governors, 2002-2004.

Dr. Kelvin Lane

Dr. Kelvin Lane, Vice President

Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Kelvin graduated from EIU in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in technology education. He was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated while at EIU in the Spring of 1977. In 1988 he obtained a Master of Arts in computer teacher education from Governor State University. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1993 with a Master of Arts in administration and supervision. He obtained his Doctorate from Loyola University in curriculum and instruction.

He started his career in Education teaching industrial arts and then later computer technology in Wheeling, Illinois until 1993. Much of his career was dedicated to high school administration. His most recent role was the Coordinator of Student Discipline for the second largest School District in Illinois, Elgin U46, in 2009 until retirement in 2014. Kelvin has dedicated his career to helping students reach their full potential regardless of learning style in a safe and nurturing environment. He continues to consult with school districts, focusing on student life and discipline.

Mr. Randy Wright

Mr. Randy Wright, Treasurer

Houston, Texas

Randy graduated from EIU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. After completing a master’s in business administration degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Randy began a career in healthcare administration on the staff of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. In 1979 he moved to Houston to work for The Methodist Hospital. Over a 20-year period at Methodist he held various leadership roles including Administrator for the Institute of Otorhinolaryngology, Vice President over the for-profit programs of the hospital and then Senior Vice President responsible for the Hospital’s Diagnostic and Therapeutic programs. In 2000, Randy moved to Texas Children’s Hospital, the nation’s largest children’s hospital. He served in many different executive roles at TCH including Chief Information Officer, Acting Chief Financial Officer, President of the Texas Children’s Health Plan, and interim Administrator of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. His major responsibility was as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and he retired from TCH in 2016.

Randy and his wife Brenda (Bachelor of Science in Education 1970) have strong ties to EIU particularly the Physics Department. They created endowed scholarships honoring Dr. Glenn Q Lefler who was Department Chaiman from 1950-1970 and for Dr. Bill Butler who was Department Chairman from 1970-1087. Brenda and Randy, along with Dr. P Scott Smith, a long serving faculty member, provided a significant part of the funding for the development of an Observatory to support the Astronomy program.

In 2004 Randy was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service for his support of EIU. In 2016 he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by the EIU Alumni Association. In 2017, Randy and his wife Brenda were honored by the EIU Foundation as Distinguished Philanthropist. Randy currently serves on the Board of the Children's Hospital of San Antonio Foundation and is a member of the M D Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors.

Bonita Tillman

Bonita Tillman, Secretary

St. Louis, Missouri

Bonita graduated from Eastern in 1980 with B.A. degrees in both Journalism and Political Science and a teaching certificate. After a brief stint as a substitute teacher, she spent 15 years as an editor and reporter for the Suburban Journals newspaper chain in the Metro-East communities of Granite City, Edwardsville, East St. Louis, and Belleville.

In 1996, she transferred her skills to a public relations position at Nestle’ Purina pet products company in St. Louis where she worked for 22 years. She retired in 2018 as Manager of Corporate Public Relations.

Since that time, Bonita started Aries Communications LLC and contributes regularly as a freelance writer to the St. Louis Business Journal and its affiliates in Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla. She also continues to support the profession via the St. Louis Press Club and the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists where she has been treasurer for 10 years.

At Eastern, Bonita helped initiate the EIU Black Student Reunion celebration and served on the EIU Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2010 to 2019.

Dr. Nathaniel Anderson

Dr. Nathaniel Anderson

Belleville, Illinois

Nate Anderson has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Eastern Illinois University dating back to the 1970s. Known as "Nate the Great," Anderson played on the Panther football team as a running back and held numerous rushing records while attending EIU. In 1973, he was named first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. Graduating in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation, he continued his education at his alma mater and later earned a Master of Science in Education in 1977 from Eastern. Anderson earned his Specialist in Education degree from Southeast Missouri State University in 1991 and his doctorate in Educational Administration from Illinois State University in 1998.

He has spent over 25 years working in educational administration, offering expertise and guidance within large community districts, being employed as a principal at Rock Island High School and a superintendent of the East St. Louis school district. He has worked at the University of Illinois-Springfield, teaching educational leadership courses at the graduate level. Throughout the years, Nate Anderson has served EIU in many capacities. He has devoted time through service on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, Educational Administration Advisory Committee, and the University Board of Trustees as both a member and board chair. He also has been a member of the Panther Club. The Nate Anderson Scholarship was established in 2004 in his honor and as a testament to his beliefs in education and improving services for children.

Mr. Robert Glover

Mr. Robert Glover

Dallas, Texas

Robert F. Glover graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Political Science. While at Eastern, Bob was a Student Senator and was elected twice to Student Body President in 1980 thru 1982. Bob received the Outstanding Senior Award in 1982 for his leadership to create the Student Legal Service, Grade Appeals Policy, Athletic Fee Referendum and many other achievements. Bob was a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board from 2002 thru 2008. Bob has endowed two Eastern scholarships, the Glover Student Leadership award and the Gerardo Solis Latino/Latina Scholarship award. In 2005, Bob received the Distinguished Alumnus Award and in 2008 the inaugural Political Science Distinguished Alumni award. He was on the EIU Alumni Association Board of Directors and a Steering Committee Member for the EI&U Campaign in 2010. Bob was the Eastern Commencement Speaker for the fall semester in 2007. Since graduation, Bob was a Vice President with Cardinal Health for over 30 years and in 2018, joined TIDI Products as Senior Director, Health Systems as part of the RoundTable Health Partners private equity firm in Lake Forest, IL. Bob has received several national customer and company awards for his service, contract negotiation and mentoring.

Dr. Judith James

Dr. Judith James

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Dr. Judith James, an accomplished EIU retiree professor, began her journey teaching in the Zoology Department on a temporary basis, prior to completing her doctorate in 1987. After earning her Ph. D. in Genetics from Illinois State University, she taught a variety of genetics courses, ranging from “Heredity and Society” through the required genetics courses for majors and an honors and graduate course in Human Genetics. She served as Pre-Medical Studies Chair and University Personnel Committee Chair, as well as on the Faculty Senate, Intercollegiate Athletic Board, Student Health Advisory Board, and Library Advisory Board. Academically, she published various professional articles on developmental genetics, presenting her research at myriad national and professional meetings. In addition, Judith also served on the Board of Directors of the Central Association of Advisors for Health Professions for six years. Judith’s invaluable dedication to the EIU earned her two Faculty Excellence Awards. Her greatest passion was the major support she provided to autistic students and funds for graduate assistants and diagnostic tests for children. After a fulfilling career, including so many memorable and crucial contributions to EIU, she retired from the university in 2001.

Dr. Charles Maris

Dr. Charles Maris

Charleston, Illinois

Chuck earned his BS in Zoology with a Chemistry minor from EIU in 1971 and an MD from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1975. After medical school, he completed full residencies in General Surgery and Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. Chuck entered private practice in 1982 as a Sarah Bush Lincoln Medical Staff Member. During his tenure at Sarah Bush, he served in multiple medical staff positions which included service as Chief of Surgery and three terms as Medical Staff President. In 1996 Chuck became an associate of the Carle Clinic Association based in Urbana, IL. Chuck progressed through multiple medical administrative assignments. He retired from medical administration as Chief of Surgery and Medical Director of Surgical Services in 2014. During his career, he has served on the volunteer medical faculty of the UIUC College of Medicine and most recently with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine as a Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Maris is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. He is a past member of the IL ACS Committee on Trauma and a State Faculty member for the ACS Advanced Trauma Life Support Course for Physicians. He was instrumental in bringing the ATLS Course to downstate IL acting as course director for the first ATLS courses at the Carle Level 1 Trauma Center. He served as a member of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Foundation and served as a physician member of the Carle Foundation Board of Directors.

Dr. Maris and his wife Karen are EIU Alumni Association Members and recently endowed a Scholarship for students enrolled in the new EIU Electrical Engineering Program.

While an EIU undergraduate, Chuck was a founding member of the EIU Eta Mu Chapter of Sigma Chi. In July of this year, he was honored as a Significant Sig at the fraternity’s Grand Chapter meeting in Scottsdale, AZ.

Chuck retired as a Colonel from the US Army Reserve in 2011 after 34 years of combined reserve and active-duty service. His most memorable assignments include mobilization to the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 as Assistant Chief of Surgery for the 159th MASH, four years as Command Surgeon of the 3rd COSCOM in Des Moines, IA, and four years of duty as the Command Surgeon for the 89th Regional Readiness Command in Wichita, KS.

Mr. Elmer Pullen

Mr. Elmer Pullen

Brookport, Illinois

Elmer is a 1970 graduate of EIU with a Bachelor of Science in sociology and a Master of Science in education in 1973. He served as a financial aid counselor at EIU for more than 30 years. Elmer has volunteered on numerous non-profit and university committees. Selected in 1978 as “Big Brother of the Year” by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coles County Organization, he also served on the Big Brother organization’s Board of Directors. Elmer was chosen as “Boss of the Year” by Eastern’s Office Staff Support Group in 1989.

He was a member of the Charleston Rotary Club and served on the Board of Directors of the Central East Alcohol and Drug Council. Since retiring to Brookport, IL, Elmer has continued to serve the local and regional community on several committees and boards. He is a veteran of the US Army.

Mr. John Schmitt

Mr. John Schmitt

Chicago, Illinois

John D. Schmitt, EIU Alumnus. Graduated from EIU with a Bachelor of Arts ('76) and a Master of Arts in Political Science ('78). John served as a Graduate Assistant in the Political Science department during graduate school and assisted Dr. Peter Leigh and Dr. Charles Hollister. John was involved with Greek activities on campus through his involvement with his fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha of which he was a founding and charter member. John has been involved with the EIU Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity all throughout his alumni years having served as Chapter Advisor and as Treasurer and Secretary of the EIU Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni Association. John also served his International Fraternity serving as Chairman of the Alumni Advisory Board. The Lambda Chi Alpha International Fraternity awarded him the Order of Merit for Alumni Service in 1996. John is currently serving as the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Foundations Chairman of the Founders Day of Giving Committee.

John spent 35 years working in Illinois Government, Not-for-Profits, Local Government, and Higher Education (State Senate, Department of Energy and Natural Resources, Department of Conservation, Office of Illinois Governor James R. Thompson). He participated in a trade mission to the former USSR and a mission to France. John also served as Executive Director of the Nature of Illinois Foundation and was the first Executive Director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation which raised over $16 million. His last position of over seven years was with his beloved Alma Mater Eastern Illinois University in which he served as the Director of Development/Philanthropy for the Chicagoland region.

John has been a long-time member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and served as President of the Chicago Chapter in 2012. The Chicago Chapter of AFP at the time was the largest Chapter with over 1,000 members.

John has been a long-standing member of the EIU Alumni Association and served on the Board of Directors from 1983-1986. He was awarded the EIU Alumni Association's Lou Hencken Alumni Service Award in 2004. He established the John D. Schmitt Scholarship which annually awards an officer of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at EIU. John has also been instrumental in leading to the creation of three other EIU scholarships benefiting undergraduate members of Lambda Alpha Chi: the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Founders Scholarship, the Lambda Chi Alpha Scholastic Incentive Scholarship, and the Jack R. Kelly Scholarship. In 2022 John Schmitt was named the EIU Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal. In 2018 the EIU Foundation honored John Schmitt with the Outstanding Member Award.

Ms. Susan Young

Ms. Susan Young

Mahomet, Illinois

Susan graduated from EIU in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Master of Science degree in taxation in 1990 from DePaul University. Susan serves as Executive Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Chief Financial Officer in the University of Illinois’ Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, where she’s worked for more than ten years. In her role, she oversees the annual financial operations, capital project funding, and human resources for the division.

Additional areas under Susan’s supervision include the State Farm Center, Orange and Blue Golf Course, Atkins Tennis Center, and IT services. Before her tenure with U of I, she spent nearly six years as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust Wealth Management Division in Mattoon. She is an accomplished executive with more than 30 years of tax, financial planning, and investment advisory experience for several firms, including Ernst & Young, Fel-Pro Incorporated, and KKP Group. Susan has been very involved in the Eastern Illinois University Alumni Association, serving as president in 2004-05 and as a board member from 2001 to 2010.

Donor Recognition

Burnham and Nancy Neal Philanthropy Awards - The Burnham and Nancy Neal Philanthropy Awards are our most prestigious awards. They honor transformational philanthropy to Eastern Illinois University. This special award, named for Burnham and Nancy Neal in recognition of their leadership, gifts and steadfast dedication to Eastern Illinois University. Signifies the vital role that our alumni, friends, and corporate partners play in ensuring EIU’s growth and success. This award bestowed upon individuals and organizations has demonstrated dedication and commitment to the academic and cultural well-being of Eastern Illinois University. They have provided sustaining financial support through lifetime contributions and pledges or planned gifts as well as service to the University and the community.

view award history


Founded in 1953 under the leadership and direction of H Ogden Brainard, the Eastern Illinois University Foundation has, since its inception, been dependent upon the generosity of volunteers to fulfill its mission of support to the University. Beginning in 1993, the Foundation has recognized and honored philanthropists whose spirit and overwhelming generosity will serve Eastern Illinois University and its students in untold ways far into the future. In 1997, the Philanthropy Awards were named after Burnham and Nancy Neal in recognition of their leadership, gifts and steadfast dedication to Eastern Illinois University.

This award is bestowed upon individuals and organizations who have demonstrated dedication and commitment to the academic and cultural well-being of Eastern Illinois Unviersity by providing sustaining financial suport through lifetime contributions, and pledges or planned gifts as well as service to the University and the community.

2022 Recipients, Jerry and Martha Drake (Posthumously)

It is the EIU’ Foundation’s great honor to posthumously recognize Gerald A. (Jerry) and Martha A. Drake as the Foundation’s 2022 Outstanding Philanthropist Award recipients.

“Martha and Jerry were exceptional people and a magnificent team, steadfast in their devotion to EIU and the success of our students,” said Jonathan McKenzie, Foundation Executive Director. “This recognition acknowledges their impact and pays tribute to the role they and supporters like them have in connecting our students with the resources they need to complete their degree programs and make an impact in their own homes and communities.”

Jerry was born on January 2, 1926, while Martha was born on October 27, 1928—both in Mattoon. Following high school, Jerry and Martha’s EIU story began in the late 1940s, when the two met and fell in love, culminating in their marriage on March 4, 1950. Jerry earned degrees in physics and chemistry, while Martha earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

Martha and Jerry settled in Urbana in 1954, where Jerry combined his EIU education with the skills he retained as a U.S. Navy veteran to support WCIA’s engineering department. At WCIA, he primarily worked at the transmitter, prior to the station becoming fully televised later on. Meanwhile, Martha worked as an elementary school teacher for Urbana #116 Schools starting in 1955. She taught fourth grade at Thornburn School until 1971 and thereafter was a second-grade teacher at Thomas Paine School. She was highly regarded as an enthusiastic and engaged teacher by her extensive network of students, staff, and administrators throughout the Urbana School District from 1955 until her retirement in 1988.

Jerry was a lifelong member of the American Legion in Mattoon and an amateur radio operator and member of the Air Force Military Affiliated Radio Systems and Ham Radio Club in Champaign/Urbana. He also was a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. In his spare time, Jerry enjoyed joining in with local Barber Shop Quartets as a lead singer, photographer, and jazz musician. He had a very special connection to animals of all varieties—he and Martha have had many cats over the years who were unquestionably a big part of their family.

When it comes to philanthropy, Jerry and Martha appreciated and advocated for the personal, social, and educational opportunities they shared at Eastern Illinois University. So much so, in fact, that they endowed scholarships at EIU—the Gerald Alison Drake Scholarship for students pursuing a degree in Physics and the Martha Ann Drake Scholarship for students pursuing careers in Elementary Education.

Scholarships are increasingly essential to the success of EIU’s students. Since the EIU Foundation’s establishment in 1953 by H. Ogden Brainard, the strength of the EIU Foundation has reinforced, enhanced, and uplifted the opportunities Eastern Illinois University creates for its students and their families. Since its inception, the Foundation has been dependent upon the generosity of its members to encourage and provide private support to the University, and to promote the ideals of volunteerism and philanthropy among alumni, friends, and employees of the University.

We’re proud to recognize Jerry and Martha Drake and to acknowledge the important work they’ve done to enhance the EIU experience for our talented and ambitious students. You, too, can join us in that mission. Please consider making an online gift today at or explore the breadth of our important work at and