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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.

Dr. Gordon Grado


Message from the EIU Foundation President

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would be remiss as the new Foundation President if I did not recognize the excellent work of the two proceeding Foundation Presidents, Dr. Jill Nilsen and Ms. Susan Young, the Foundation Board, and of course, President David Glassman, for the tireless work they all did for EIU. During this challenging time, they kept the Foundation on task and focused, building upon the “foundation” created in 1953 and strengthened by their predecessors. They helped Eastern survive the budget impasse and the additional financial challenges to the University. They supported President Dr. Glassman as he negotiated these unchartered waters, gaining recognition for EIU during this time. Today. Tomorrow. Together.

Today, Eastern remains dynamic, having risen like the Phoenix from these setbacks with the help of countless students, faculty, staff, administration, alums, and donors. So many EIU supporters, all dedicated and committed to seeing EIU grow into the evolving Tomorrow. The continued analysis and evaluation of Today and Tomorrow can best be expressed as “You Can’t Really Know Where You Are Going Until You Know Where You Have Been” (Maya Angelou, Jan. 9, 2021). What is needed is a foundation made of personnel and support dedicated to the success of EIU by Working Together. For example, generous donors, the local medical community, and EIU Together have all teamed up to introduce a new College of Nursing at Eastern. This type of commitment will give back not only to the community, county, and the state of Illinois but nationwide.

This year (2022-2023) is extraordinary for EIU, not only for the successes made by the University, its faculty, students, and alums, but also in the works, achievements, and vision of its 12th President, Dr. David Glassman. He has announced his retirement at the end of this year. Let us all recognize and congratulate his work, commitment, and the outstanding contributions he has made to us together. I am nearly a “lifelong” EIU supporter, having come to Charleston at the age of two as the son of a new faculty member and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Louis Grado. The first years were spent living “on campus” in old army barracks for faculty parked on the shore of “TC Lake” (Teachers College Lake). I was enrolled and went through the Buzzard Laboratory School through ninth grade, coming back to go to EIU for my undergraduate degree. I am honored to have served as a member of the Eastern Illinois University Foundation Board and I am now honored to serve as the President for 2022-2023.

I look forward to your continued generous support to help the Foundation promote the interest and welfare of the University in the present and future.

Thank you very much for your support of EIU!

Dr. Gordon Grado, MD, DABR, FACRO, FACR, PhD (hc)
Board of Directors 2022-2023
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.


Dr. Gordon Grado

Dr. Gordon Grado, President

Scottsdale, Arizona

Gordon graduated from EIU in 1974 with a BS in Zoology. In 2006, he was named the Distinguished Alumnus by the EIU Alumni Association and in 2013, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from Eastern Illinois University. Gordon is the founder and Medical Director of Southwest Oncology Centers based in Scottsdale, Arizona with four other oncology centers throughout Arizona and with two affiliated centers in Mexico and two in Latin America. Before his private practice, he established and chaired the Radiation Therapy program at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale and was the Wurtele Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology at the University of Minnesota where he developed the prostate brachytherapy program.

He has given hundreds of presentations worldwide and authored numerous peer-reviewed articles on the subject of oncology and prostate cancer. In June 2000, Governor Jane Hull of Arizona named him to serve on the Arizona Prostate Cancer Task Force. Gordon has worked with EIU lecturing health science students and developed a mentoring program for pre-medical students who fly to his Arizona Southwest Oncology Centers (and Mexico) where they work as interns for at least two weeks and have also worked on research projects. Most recently, Gordon served on the board of Adelante Healthcare which began as a program to provide health care to farm workers and now offers affordable healthcare throughout Maricopa County. He also provides support to St. Vincent DePaul and their clinics in Arizona.

Ms. Dawn Johnson

Ms. Dawn Johnson, Vice President

Ballwin, Missouri

Dawn graduated from EIU in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. 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 franchisee 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. Dawn 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, she 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.

She 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, Treasurer

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, Secretary

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.

Dr. Judith James

Dr. Judith James

Charleston, Illinois

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.

Dr. Jill Nilsen

Dr. Jill Nilsen

Charleston, Illinois

Jill graduated from EIU in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology and a Master of Science degree in 1975. Jill was an EIU faculty member, Department Chair, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, and Vice President of External Relations before her retirement. Her contributions to EIU have been and continue to be extensive. During her time as Vice President, Jill restructured the EIU Development effort so every college was an integral partner in EIU’s Development activities. She also created an endowment in the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences that provides funding for graduate student research presentations.

Jill was recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Philanthropist award. She is an EIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna and a recipient of the Louis V. Hencken Service Award. She also serves as a member of the College of Education and Professional Studies Philanthropy Board. Jill was formerly President of the CASA of East Central Illinois Board of Directors, and her service in other local agencies includes the Boards of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Systems, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, CCAR Industries, and the Charleston Zoning Board. She served as a member of the EIU Presidential Search Committee as well as President of the EIU Annuitant Association and President of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.

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.

Bonita Tillman

Bonita Tillman

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.

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.

2021 Recipient, Dr. Gail J. Richard

Dr. Richard graduated from EIU in 1977, earning a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She was then eager to join EIU’s esteemed faculty, which she did in 1981. During the course of her storied EIU career, Dr. Richard taught courses and provided diagnostic and treatment services in the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic for a variety of individuals challenged by communication disorders. Her reputation for professional and service excellence attracted people and families from across the nation interested in receiving Dr. Richard’s personal touch and expert evaluation. During her 14 years as chair of the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences (CDS), she also helped to coordinate the Online Master’s Degree in CDS, which enrolled its first class in 2012.

After her retirement, Dr. Richard returned to EIU to establish and serve as the first director of Eastern’s nationally-recognized Autism Center, which provided dedicated diagnostic services for individuals on the autism spectrum as early as 2014. She also established EIU’s Students with Autism Transitional Education Program (STEP) in 2015, which serves a diverse assortment of students with high-functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome in their transition to college life at EIU. In addition, D. Richard initiated the annual Autism Conference and additional fundraising opportunities to support the Autism Center at EIU.

She regularly presented on the topic of Autism Spectrum Disorders across the United States and internationally, and has numerous publications in Autism, Syndromes, and Language/Auditory Processing. Dr. Richard also held a number of leadership positions in state and national organizations, including president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Dr. Richard was honored in 2004 as an EIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient and given an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the EIU Foundation in 2017. She was initiated into the EIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016 for her profound impact and compassionate involvement.

Dr. Richard has devoted significant time and personal financial resources in support of EIU’s CDS Department, Athletics and Autism Center at EIU. Through her efforts, countless individuals and families have benefited from life-changing diagnostic and treatment services. Dr. Richard's dedication and leadership also propelled EIU to become a leading advocate of Autism awareness and a place of comfort and support for many local residents.

2021 Recipients, The legacy of Marjorie Davis and Paul Davis

Marjorie and Paul Davis set up the Marjorie Davis Trust to benefit the EIU Foundation and the many students the Foundation supports.

Marjorie was born in rural Windsor in 1929. She married Paul Davis in 1970, and they enjoyed 46 years of marriage before his passing in 2016.

A lifelong educator, Marjorie recognized the importance of education—and more importantly, the students who benefit from a higher education at Eastern Illinois University. She herself graduated from EIU in 1951 before teaching English for 24 years. She held professional memberships in Delta Kappa Gamma, Honorary for Women Educators, KAUW and National Council of Teachers of English, for which she served as secretary for five years. While Marjorie’s estate supported numerous bequests to educational institutions in addition to EIU, her planned estate gift to Eastern matured following her passing on July 20, 2018. That gift resulted in an extremely significant bequest of $1.7 million in November 2021.