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EIU Media Relations

EIU Foundation Celebrates 2016 Award Recipients


Since its inception in 1953, the Eastern Illinois University Foundation has been dependent upon the generosity of its members and volunteers to fulfill its mission of support to the university.

Since 1993, the Foundation has honored philanthropists and others in recognition of their gifts and dedication to EIU.  That tradition continues in 2016.

“The Eastern Illinois University Foundation is pleased to recognize each of the following remarkable award recipients,” said Jonathan McKenzie, executive officer.  “As a result of their dedication and generosity, the EIU Foundation is fulfilling its mission by encouraging the ongoing charitable support and promotion of Eastern Illinois University. We are deeply appreciative of the work our honorees have undertaken in support of this university. They each represent the very best of EIU’s commitment to student success, and we are most grateful for their continued support.”

Robert DeBolt, Jill Nilsen and Charles “Chuck” Witters have been named the EIU Foundation’s Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year, while Mary Ann Hanner has been named Honorary Lifetime Member.  Christopher and Nancy Desmond are this year’s Outstanding Foundation Members.


Robert DeBolt

Robert DeBolt ’62 earned his bachelor’s degree in technology education. An avid sports fan, he participated in collegiate athletics while attending EIU. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where his work ethic and dedication earned him the rank of lieutenant commander. After leaving the Navy and teaching in the San Diego suburbs, DeBolt attended San Diego State University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1969. He returned to Illinois to begin a career as a teacher and coach.

As an instructor in Chicago Suburban High School District 214, he imparted his knowledge and love for learning to each of his pupils. His love of learning motivated him to earn a juris doctor degree from John Marshall Law School before embarking on a successful career as an attorney, practicing in the fields of real estate and estate planning. Now retired, he resides in Apollo Beach, Fla., and spends summers vacationing in Canada. Through his generosity and commitment, he continues to make positive differences in the lives of EIU students.

Jill Nilsen

Jill Nilsen ’74 ’75 served as an EIU faculty member (speech pathology) and department chair, as well as associate dean of the Graduate School and vice president for external relations before her retirement. Her contributions to EIU have been and continue to be extensive. As vice president, Nilsen restructured the EIU Development area to include every college as an integral development partner. She created an endowment in the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences that provides funding for graduate student research presentations. She is also an EIU Distinguished Alumna and a recipient of the Louis V. Hencken Service Award.

A member of the EIU Foundation and the College of Education and Professional Studies Philanthropy Board, Nilsen also served as president of the CASA of East Central Illinois Board of Directors, helping to positively impact the organization’s fundraising abilities. 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. Her commitment to the university and the community has made EIU and Charleston better places to learn and to live.

Charles Witters

Charles W. “Chuck” Witters ’68 earned his bachelor’s degree in business from EIU before earning his MBA in finance from Illinois State University. He recently joined Gatski Commercial as senior vice president of office services where he specializes in the leasing and sales of professional office buildings. Previously, Witters held the title of acting president and senior vice president of the Las Vegas Lee & Associates office. He joined Lee & Associates in the city of Orange, Calif., in 1985 and became a founding principal of the Ontario, Calif., office in 1987.

Witters has an extensive background in office marketing, consulting, and investment and land sales. He has served for 21 years as a member of the Southern Nevada Chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and as chapter president. Additionally, Witters has served on the board of directors for the National Associates of Industrial and Office Parks, Commercial Alliance Las Vegas, and Commercial Marketing Group (CMG).

His love of Eastern started as a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, and is demonstrated by his six-year service on the EIU Foundation Board and on the EIU Business Advisory Board. Witters remains passionate about EIU and never misses an opportunity to engage other donors. His generosity is evident, and includes the stock ticker data board he and his TKE brothers helped secure for the Lumpkin Hall Securities Analysis Center and the naming of the Dean’s Conference Room in Booth Library in memory of his mother.


Mary Anne Hanner

Mary Anne Hanner ’72 ’74 spent most of her career as an EIU faculty member. She served as chair of the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences and as dean of the College of Sciences until her retirement in 2011. Among her many accomplishments during her EIU tenure was the creation of Women in Sciences and Math (WiSM), which brings together successful women in math and science to mentor EIU women studying in those areas.

Hanner has provided countless hours of advocacy on behalf of EIU.  She and her husband, Dale ‘74, are committed to giving back to EIU and have supported many different projects over the years, including the Hanner Teaching Excellence Award, given annually to an outstanding faculty member in the College of Sciences. Hanner was named an EIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna in 2014.

She is engaged in the community and has served on several area boards including the Oakland Hindsboro Community Foundation and Catholic Charities of Coles, Douglas and Edgar Counties. She served as president of the Oakland Community Unit #5 School Board and CASA of East Central Illinois. She is currently president of the EIU Annuitant Association and the managing partner of Academy Solutions consulting company. Her commitment to EIU continues as a member of the College of Education and Professional Studies Philanthropy Board and as a new member of the EIU Alumni Association. Hanner continues to be an excellent role model for numerous female faculty members and administrators, exhibiting an optimistic attitude that inspires everyone to become the best version of him/herself and to support worthy causes with time, talents and financial support.


Christopher Desmond

Christopher Desmond ‘94 graduated from EIU with a bachelor’s degree in business (management), along with minors in theater and law. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in international business from EIU. His wife, Nancy ‘92, graduated from EIU with a degree in English.

Desmond is a managing director at Duff & Phelps for its transfer pricing team and was named a World’s Leading Transfer Pricing Adviser by Legal Media Group. Prior to that, he was with Ceteris, where he helped build the company into a world-class organization by serving as managing director and chief sales officer. He also served as a transfer pricing economist with both PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ernst & Young LLP.

Simultaneously, Nancy Desmond was leading a successful marketing career, and has worked for leading firms within the technology industry, including Forsyth Technology and ktMINE. The couple’s love of capturing digital photographic memories of their young family led to the creation of a photo app for archiving and storing digital memories; this app has now been made available to others through their company, MemoryWeb, LLC.

Christopher Desmond has remained a vital part of Eastern, having served as president of the EIU Delta Chi Alumni Association and having earned honors as an EIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Together, the Desmonds established two endowments—“All the World’s a Stage” and the Lori James Memorial Scholarship. They also have made a generous pledge to name the Globe Studio at the Doudna Fine Arts Center. Together, they have demonstrated the spirit, dedication and commitment to making EIU a better place for both its students and community.



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