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EIU Media Relations

Luke Bryan’s Farm Roots Plant Seeds of Hope for Two EIU Students


Scholarships help EIU’s Makenzie Hill, Luke Gilbert reach their higher education dreams

It’s not often the son of a Georgia peanut farmer finds success as a global country music artist. But Luke Bryan has leveraged his talents to become one of the past decade’s hottest acts in country music. And for two students at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Bryan’s launch into superstardom has been music to their ears—in more ways than one.

Charleston, located in east central Illinois, sits amidst some of the state’s largest swaths of farmland. Those vast fields of corn and soybeans must have captured Bryan’s attention while on tour. Following an annual tradition that dates back to 2009, Bryan was inspired to commit a portion of his ticket proceeds to support EIU scholarships after his October 2016 performance in Effingham.

Thanks to that gift, Neoga’s Makenzie Hill and Windsor’s Luke Gilbert received EIU’s first-ever Luke Bryan Farm Tour Scholarships last year. The $2,000 scholarships have helped Hill and Gilbert offset some of their college costs and allowed them to concentrate more fully on their academics.

“It’s reassuring to have this earned this scholarship,” said Hill, a Neoga High School graduate interested in a career in athletic training and exercise science. “Earning the Luke Bryan scholarship really put me in a good place to concentrate on my education,” she said.

Hill, who runs and enjoys family in her free time, also found earning the scholarship to be delightfully coincidental.

“I love music, typically classic rock,” she said. “In fact, I only really listen to one country artist, and it’s Luke Bryan. So to earn the scholarship named after him is really fitting.”

Gilbert, an accounting major from Windsor, Illinois, hopes earning the Luke Bryan scholarship will help him take a different route to a career.

“My career plans are to someday become a CPA, move back to my hometown, and have a small office of my own that I run on the side when I’m not working the office for my parents’ construction company,” he shared. “Receiving this scholarship has affected me in a positive way because with it I am one step closer to being able to pay for college on my own.”

Both Hill and Gilbert are happy with their EIU experience, and recommend that all prospective students—especially those in the Central Illinois region and the greater Midwest—explore how EIU can put their personal and professional endeavors on a positive trajectory.

“EIU is a great school and I am very glad I get the chance to attend,” Gilbert said.

Over the past few years, ticket proceeds from Luke Bryan’s annual Farm Tour concerts have generated dozens of scholarships for college students in a variety of farming communities across the Midwest and south.

Eastern Illinois University offers several scholarship opportunities to current and prospective students. Just recently, EIU introduced an entirely new scholarship search option for those students that easily and efficiently matches students with potential scholarships at the university. To access this online scholarship tool, prospective students can visit There, they, along with their parents, can review scholarship options based on a variety of different criteria, including field of study, career interests, and others.



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Contact Information

Media Relations
Josh Reinhart, Public Information Coordinator

2142 Old Main
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
Fax: 217-581-8444

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