University News

Norm and Judy Rocke Establish Two Scholarships at WIU

August 11, 2016


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MACOMB, IL - - Before he came to Western, Norm Rocke didn't really know what he wanted to do with his life. He toyed with the idea of becoming a math teacher or an astronaut. Rocke claims he wasn't a great student in high school, but he did excel in math.

When he arrived at WIU as a freshman in the late 1960s, "everything just fell into place," he stated. The 1971 mathematics major and physics minor enjoyed a successful 32-year career at State Farm in Bloomington, IL. And now, he's in a position to "Pay it Forward," which happens to be one of his favorite movies.

Rocke and his wife, Judy, have named the WIU Foundation as the beneficiary of a new life insurance policy. Proceeds from this policy will be used to establish the Norm and Judy Rocke Physics Scholarship Endowment and the Norm and Judy Rocke Mathematics Scholarship Endowment. The Rockes wanted to create not one but two scholarships to not only entice students to attend WIU but to stay in school once they are on campus.

"Some people can't afford college. And even those who can afford it—these scholarships help relieve the burden, and we are trying to do our little part. You never know who's going to find the cure to cancer or something like that. It could be a person right here at Western" said Norm.

Once endowed, two annual scholarships will be available to undergraduate students, one majoring in mathematics and the other to a student majoring in physics. The Rockes said these scholarships will be available to help any student who has a dream or a goal and who enjoys math and the sciences.

"We consider this a reward or a promise that somebody is on their side and believes in them," said Judy.

While at Western, Norm was a math major with a minor in physics, and he also was involved in the computer science program that was established during his junior year of college. After graduation, he spent a year teaching math and physics at Mason City High School with the stipulation that he had to coach the wrestling team, a sport he had never coached—let alone played. While he enjoyed his time as an educator and coach, when an opportunity at State Farm in Bloomington presented itself, Norm jumped at it, ultimately retiring from the company as a systems programmer when he turned 55. In his retirement, he and Judy enjoy traveling, as well as looking at ways to help others, including students at WIU.

"The key thing is that I graduated from there. Western was very, very good to me. It's just a way of giving back to that. I happen to have been very successful in my career, so why not. I can't take it with me," Norm joked. "The professors, the atmosphere, the college was just super, and I really, really enjoyed it there."

"The future is education. If students can learn something today, then they can apply it again later. We both feel very strongly about education, and that's one way to be sure that everyone has the opportunities that they can reach for their goals and their dreams," Judy added.

To establish these scholarships, Norm met with his financial advisor. He had previously given to Western and shared that his gifts had been small, and he wanted to do something more substantial. It was his financial advisor who suggested the life insurance policy as a way to give back to his alma mater in a larger fashion. After chatting with the WIU Foundation staff, Norm learned that his gift could be used to fund two named scholarship endowments, helping students for years to come.

"Well, they don't have to worry about finances, so they can concentrate on their studies. Every little bit helps in there. Lots of students have to work to make ends meet, and hopefully this will just put them a little over the edge so they don't have to worry about it," stated Norm.

"We are very grateful that Norm and Judy have decided to support WIU in this manner. Purchasing a life insurance policy to help Western create two scholarships is a wonderful way to support future WIU students majoring in math and physics. I appreciate the Rockes' vision for the future," stated Brad Bainter, vice president for Advancement and Public Services.

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