University News

Kohler-Esters CSP Scholarship Established at WIU

February 25, 2016

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MACOMB, IL -- Kellie Kohler-Esters has spent more than a decade raising funds for Western Illinois University as a member of the WIU Foundation team. But the tables have turned for this fundraiser who is now establishing a scholarship for future College Student Personnel (CSP) graduate students.

"I have worked in development most of my professional career, and I have worked with hundreds of donors who have paid it forward by giving back to help others. Fortunately, I am in a position to be able to put my money where my mouth is and do the same thing I have asked so many before me to do, and that is to help pave the way for others," stated Esters.

Esters came from a family of seven children and her older siblings all went into the military because they did not think a college education was something their parents could afford. Knowing she was not military material, she looked into attending college and learned she was eligible for financial assistance, student loans and scholarships.

"Without these needed resources, I would have never been able to attend college. Someone made my path to obtaining a college education a little easier, and I want to do the same for future promising students who might think a college education is not possible. I am so grateful for the help I received, which is why I decided to direct my philanthropic support to establish this scholarship endowment," said Esters.

The Kellie Kohler-Esters College Student Personnel Scholarship will be awarded annually to a CSP graduate student pursuing the student affairs tract. Esters was part of a nationally recognized CSP program at Western Illinois University as a graduate student who completed her degree in 1993. Now, she wants this scholarship to help CSP students who are pursuing a degree focused on areas other than residence life since most of those students receive assistance to cover their room and meal plan, along with a monthly stipend.

"I was not interested in working in residence life, so I had to borrow to cover some of my educational expenses. The scholarship I have created is designed to help those graduate students enrolled in CSP who are not involved in the residence life track. I established this scholarship to help to fill that void for future CSP students at WIU," said Esters.

With the dramatic decrease in state funding, the need for scholarship support is more crucial than ever before, Esters stated. Funding a scholarship endowment is one way to provide critical financial support for outstanding students—to help make their Western education a reality. As someone who works in higher education, she knows that financial assistance provided by scholarships is a key factor in a student's college choice.

"It is a win-win because scholarships help attract and retain the best and brightest students to Western and allow our students to invest their energies more fully in their academic studies. I take great pride in knowing that my scholarship endowment will help transform the lives of promising WIU students," said Esters.

"Kellie has spent numerous years working to raise funds for WIU scholarships to help students. She knows first-hand how important scholarship support is, especially to today's Western students. I am grateful she is creating her own scholarship to assist CSP students," said Brad Bainter, vice president for advancement and public services.

Esters attributes the amazing professional opportunities she has had to the education she received at Western, which paved the way for a successful career in development.

"Western invested in me as a graduate student, and now I am investing in Western and future CSP students. I believe in leading by example and feel strongly that I should do what I have asked so many others to do, and that is to give back to something you are passionate about and make a meaningful difference," Esters added. "It is my hope that others reading this story will consider the impact their Western education has had on them and their career and consider how they too can benefit future WIU students for years to come."

Posted By: Amanda Shoemaker, WIU Foundation & Development (
Office of University Relations