University News

WIU Takes Care of Its Own

July 5, 2016


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MACOMB, IL — Western Illinois University has been known to be a caring community—and now that care and support is being extended even further. Thanks to the idea of some WIU employees, a new scholarship has been established so that WIU "can take care of its own." The WIU Takes Care of Its Own Scholarship was recently created to provide educational support to WIU employees who have been laid off due to the state budget crisis, as well as their dependents, if those dependents are enrolled at WIU.

"I was a little bit grieved based on hearing what had happened, the dynamics of employees being laid off," said Ronald Pettigrew, an academic advisor at WIU. "When we have something that's hard, rather than it be a problem, it can be an opportunity for us to come together and take care of each other."

Ron got the ball rolling; he first approached Molly Homer, another academic advisor, with the idea of creating a scholarship to help those impacted by furloughs and the layoffs that have recently taken place at Western due to the state budget impasse.

"I know people who have been laid off and/or impacted by the furloughs, and I really felt that a lot of people want a way to support their colleagues," said Pettigrew.

As a Navy veteran who has had numerous deployments overseas, Pettigrew remembers that when times get hard, knowing that others want to help and care for you can make all the difference in the world.

"I know my colleagues at the University, and we're people that have a similar heart, a similar concern. When we make a choice as a community to come together, we are so much stronger as a group than we are as isolated individuals," Pettigrew said.

The WIU Takes Care of Its Own Scholarship is funded by donations from WIU employees who want to support their colleagues who have been laid off or bumped. Beginning Fall 2016, the scholarship will provide financial support for educational expenses incurred by employees and their dependents who are attending WIU while in permanent layoff status or furloughed at Western, as well as promote student enrollment and retention.

"Rather than looking to outside sources to boost enrollment, we're encouraging people who have been laid off to continue their schooling, and continue to have faith in the University. I don't see how any bad can come from this because we're doing things to show how much we believe in the school and helping other people who also still believe in the school who've been impacted by hardship," shared Pettigrew.

Scholarships will have a minimum award of $500, while the maximum amount will be dependent on the number/need of applicants, as well as the amount raised among donors. Homer stated that this is a unique scholarship in that it is an employee-supported scholarship. It is also a very time-sensitive scholarship as people are trying to determine what they're going to do in the fall.

"As a donor, I feel good that somebody will have a little bit of an easier time paying their tuition bill. I feel really good that the scholarship is set up so all the money that comes in will get distributed. I know that every single penny I donated is going to go to somebody," shared Homer. "In this case, this is an immediate need—it's important that the money get out there to people right away."

"I find it tremendously humbling, in a positive sense, that people who've been laid off from the school make the choice to finish their degree here, even when they can't get all the income or other resources—so once again, that says, that's the type of person I want to help," shared Pettigrew.

While the amount of the awards and the number of awards will be determined by the funds raised, Pettigrew said that at least five $500 scholarships will be awarded for the Fall 2016 semester. However, he and Homer want to do more. They have been reaching out to all areas of the WIU community to educate them on this new scholarship with the hope that others will want to give as well.

"This was a way for everybody to be able to help. Every employee at WIU has the opportunity to help support their colleagues and contribute to this [scholarship]. There's only so much you can do, but this is something we can do for each other," Homer said.

"We're dealing with unprecedented times at WIU due to the state budget crisis. It's very enlightening to see our campus community come together to support each other in this way. This scholarship, which was the brainchild of two WIU employees, will have a positive impact on those hurt during the budget stalemate," said Brad Bainter, vice president for Advancement and Public Services.

"I'll always remember when I went into the Navy, my dad said one thing to me, 'Son, take care of your people because they'll take care of you.' There's something about when we come together as a community to take care of one another—that's phenomenal. And if we learn that we can take care of each other, I think we can make it work," shared Pettigrew.

To support this initiative, text the word 'WIUCARES' to the number '41444' or visit http://bit.ly/WIUCARES to make a secure online gift. Many other scholarships are available to help WIU employees including the Civil Service Book Scholarships and scholarships for dependents of current civil service employees. For more information about these scholarships, as well as others available to WIU employees, visit the Scholarship web site at wiu.edu/scholarships.

Posted By: Amanda Shoemaker, WIU Foundation & Development (AJ-Shoemaker@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations