Altogether amazing generosity

Read about the people whose lives have been changed thanks to the generosity of our donors.


Michael Mitchell pictured in the wheelchair he uses to play basketball, in front of a brick wallMichael Mitchell

“I wouldn't be where I am without the people who helped me get over the obstacles that I had.” — Michael Mitchell, winner of the Eakman Scholarship

After Michael Mitchell broke his femur for the seventh time, he thought his days of making fast breaks down the basketball court were over. And then he discovered wheelchair basketball — a unique sport that allowed him to continue playing the game he loved, despite a rare bone condition that made him prone to injuries.

"It was a godsend," says the student from Dell Rapids, South Dakota. And it's been a big part of his life ever since, eventually bringing him to Illinois where he joined a men's intercollegiate team that's one of only nine of its kind in the country.

When the young athlete visited campus in 2014, he knew he had arrived at a world-class university. What he didn't know was that it was the birthplace of the sport that had led him there. It all started shortly after World War II when Timothy Nugent, director of the Rehabilitation Education Center at Illinois, saw the benefits that physical activity provided for wounded veterans returning from the battlefront. In 1949, he created the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, and his vision quickly spread, inspiring teams across the country.

Michael knew none of this when he made his decision to attend Illinois. "I was that nerd who was actually looking at the school," he says with a laugh. He loved athletics, but wanted a school that would provide him with something more.


Madeline Decker stands in front of a poster presenting her researchMadeline Decker

“A lot of my tuition is covered, so I can do things like volunteer in Ecuador in the summer, and make a difference. It's really allowed me to focus on my academics and on the extracurricular pursuits that have really shaped who I've become and what I've become interested in as a person, as a future teacher, and as a student.” — Madeline Decker, winner of the Jean Crist Weagant and William G. Crist Memorial Scholarship

For some college is about getting away from home, moving to a different state or even an exciting country far around the world. For Madeline Decker, however, it was about discovering an academic gem right in her own backyard.

"Both of my parents attended the university and stayed in the area," explains the Illinois senior, who is currently completing a double major in English and Spanish, with a minor in secondary education. Growing up in Champaign, Illinois, Madeline says she enjoyed the many cultural opportunities that came with living in a campus town. She didn't plan to attend Illinois, though, until a campus tour encouraged her to give it a second look.

"As soon as I visited campus and saw it as a potential student and not as a community member, I got really excited about it and everything that's going on on campus," says Madeline. She also liked the research opportunities and small classes she'd enjoy as an English major. After seeing that, she says, "I was kind of sold."


Nicole Odulate poses in front of a brick wallNicole Odulate

“It's somebody's future that you're literally helping build. ... Each dollar is somebody's step up to a better life. While it may not seem like a lot, it's a lot to somebody else.” — Nicole Odulate, a College of LAS Lincoln Scholar

"I'm trying to leave this world with something more than my name," says Nicole Odulate. It's a lofty ambition, but one that the senior from University Park, Illinois, is actively pursuing, thanks in part to the financial help she received through the Lincoln Scholarship Initiative.

As the second of five children raised by a single parent, Nicole didn't have a lot growing up in the southern Chicago suburb. But what she did have was far more valuable than money — a hard-working and supportive mom who encouraged her to aim high.

"Growing up, my mom really stressed education to us," says Nicole. "That pushed me to do really well in high school." For four years, she knuckled down and dug deep. When others were skating by, she took honors classes and strove for excellence. And her hard work paid off. In 2014, Nicole graduated sixth in her class, with a passion for psychology she discovered her senior year.

It came from observing the people she grew up with. "One of my favorite past times was people-watching," she explains. "I just like to watch how people move and how they interact." Eventually, she realized that interest could lead to fascinating field of study. "My senior year, I ended up taking a psychology course and absolutely falling in love with it," explains Nicole. "So I was like, 'Yeah, this is definitely something I want to study.'"

She thought about attending Duke, but she also wanted to stay close to her mom. So, she decided to visit Illinois, and that's when everything changed.



Donors support professorial scholars in LASRichard Romano

“It is a joy for us to be able to support the work of scholars who have been chosen by their own colleagues as outstanding contributors,” — Richard Romano

Outstanding professors in the College of LAS have been selected by their peers to receive named professorial positions, which provide financial assistance to support their research and teaching duties. The positions were created through gifts to the college. For example, Richard Romano (BS, '54, chemical engineering) and his wife, Margaret, established the Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar program, which selected six new professors this fall.

Romano said his entire family congratulated the "truly distinguished group of teachers and researchers."

"It is a joy for us to be able to support the work of scholars who have been chosen by their own colleagues as outstanding contributors," Romano said.

Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS, said the new appointments are a point of pride for the College of LAS.

"These named positions have been created by people who care deeply for the future of the liberal arts and sciences at Illinois, and the appointees are dedicated to their disciplines, the college and university, their colleagues, and their students," said Hu. "We're grateful for them and their good work."


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