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Wife Surprises Retired Broadcasting Professor with an Endowed Scholarship

July 1, 2016

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MACOMB, IL - - A nice watch … an engraved clock … a plaque noting one's years of work … all of these items are typical gifts one receives when he or she retires. But, for long-time WIU broadcasting and journalism Professor Sam Edsall, his retirement gift was a bit more unique.

Edsall's wife, Anne, surprised him at his retirement reception on May 6 with the announcement that she had fully endowed a scholarship in his name.

"I just wanted to give some recognition to his 27 years of hard work here at Western and have some type of lasting recognition to honor him," said Anne. "Any little bit of help we can offer a student who is qualified and worthy to have another's help financially—it is good to be able to offer."

It was a process to keep this secret from Sam as Anne worked with Julie Baker and the College of Fine Arts and Communication to establish the Samuel H. Edsall Endowed Scholarship.

Sam recalled Baker's speech during the retirement reception, "She started saying all these wonderful platitudes, which you kind of expect at a retirement reception. Then she dropped the bomb saying that a scholarship—a fully endowed scholarship—was created in my name. And I'm standing there with the dean and my mouth just dropped to the floor. I had no idea this was coming."

Beginning Fall 2016, the annual scholarship will be awarded to a senior pursuing a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, who specializes in television. Broadcasting student Emily Manley, from Highland, IL, will receive the first award.

"She is maximizing her experience, and that's the kind of person I'm really interested in awarding—someone that doesn't just come to get a degree; they come to get an experience, as much experience as possible," said Sam.

The Edsalls said this scholarship was designed for students who are hard-working, ambitious, talented, have initiative and leadership qualities and are a Christian.

"I worked hard to get an education, and I understand the importance of it, so if I'm able to help in any way I can, I want to. Part of the reason I ended up being a teacher is because of how I value education because it really does shape one's character," said Sam.

The award amount will vary, based on the annual interest earnings, with a minimum award of $1,000. The Edsalls believe the monetary award will not be the only benefit of receiving this scholarship.

"I think some recognition goes a long way. When you realize that your hard work is noticed, recognized and rewarded, then that would help you continue on," Sam said.

Having worked in the department for almost three decades, Sam knows there are a number of incentives to bring incoming freshmen into the program, but this scholarship will help those students already in the broadcasting department, a demographic where more scholarship money is needed.

"The nice thing about Western is that it's a place where you can get a really good education without the king's ransom. And that's important to me. Perhaps even your parents didn't have the chance to go to college, but at this state institution, you have a chance to earn a degree, to learn things that you won't get from high school, to better yourself, to learn what it means to be a responsible citizen … to have integrity, to take care of yourself," stated Sam.

Anne, a retired counselor, said education is very important to them both and they want to give to organizations they value, such as their church, animal groups and education, specifically WIU.

"We value education and think education is worth investing in and maybe alert others that this is some place where you can also make a difference in a student's life someday," said Anne.

Sam started working at Western as an instructor in Fall 1989. As the resident "TV guy," he taught TV production to underclassmen. Little did he know, he would spend the rest of his career at Western Illinois University, ultimately retiring as a full professor.

"It's been a wonderful experience here. And the best part about working at Western was my chance to work with the kids. It means a lot to me; they are like my family," said Sam.

"It was quite the retirement gift when the announcement was made at Sam's retirement reception. As an educator himself, Sam knows what an education can do for a young adult, and he has spent more than two decades helping prepare tomorrow's broadcasters for their work in television production. I am very happy that Anne wanted to celebrate his career at Western by endowing this scholarship," said Brad Bainter, vice president for Advancement and Public Services.

"It is very satisfying to me to see that the impact that Sam has had on his students' lives at Western won't end with his retirement. He will continue to impact students in perpetuity because of Anne's wonderful idea and generosity," Bainter added.

The idea to create a scholarship came to Anne about three years ago, and she was excited to finally share the news with her husband.

"He's just a very selfless and giving person who took the hard-work in stride, so I just wanted to honor and recognize that because he's a remarkable person," said Anne.

The humble professor, who doesn't like to toot his own horn, according to his wife, is really proud of how this scholarship will help students for years to come.

Sam said, "I think it's nice that it has my name attached to it, but the better part of it is that it's to help students."

Sam plans to return to campus each spring for the department banquet, where he will present the award to the scholarship recipient, allowing them to put a face with a name when receiving the Edsall scholarship.

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