Alumni Give Back to Program that Shaped Them
October 11, 2016
MACOMB, IL -- Turn back the clock almost two decades and Cory Fosdyck and Matt Robins were two players on the Western Illinois University Leatherneck Men's basketball team. Today, they are Western alumni and they are brothers-in-law. And they've decided to give back to the program that gave them so much.
"The WIU basketball program was pivotal in my education, professional development and maturity as a man. My experience at WIU shaped who I am today," Fosdyck said. "I owe a debt of gratitude to my coaches, teammates and the University administration for affording me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing D1 basketball. This gift is hopefully the first of many steps that allows me to demonstrate gratitude and pay it forward to future Leathernecks."
Together, Fosdyck and Robins have pledged a $25,000 donation to the men's basketball program. They said the purpose of their investment is three-fold: they hope it will help the program attract and retain talented student athletes, influence the likelihood of the program reaching its first NCAA tournament appearance and encourage other basketball alumni to contribute to the program.
"We would love to see a future Leatherneck team in the NCAA tournament. This gift hopefully will be a step in the right direction. Attracting the best talent means having upgraded facilities and other amenities that show student-athletes that this is a great place to play and go to school," Robins added.
Fosdyck said his goals for the program have not changed in the 20 years since he first suited up.
"My objective was to win the conference and make it to the NCAA tournament. There are many variables that contribute to making both of those goals a reality," he said. "At a medium sized institution in a small town, it can be difficult to raise the financial support needed to upgrade the program and compete with other mid-majors. That is why I believe it's critical for alumni to financially support the basketball team in any way they can afford."
Both men said they are grateful to have had the opportunity to play Division I basketball. Their experience on the hardwood and the ability to obtain a great degree set the stage for the rest of their lives.
"Western was a destination school for me, over 500 miles from my hometown of McPherson, Kansas. Cory was a couple years older than I was, but he made me feel like home with the team and the town. His persuasion helped me pick Macomb," Robins recalled. "I built some great relationships with my teammates through the years as well as (with) Coach Kerwin and Coach Underwood." Robins also went on to marry his college sweetheart, Nicki, who just happens to be Cory's younger sister.
After hanging up his jersey, Fosdyck and his family ultimately ended up in Florida, where he now works as a senior vice president for Merrill Lynch. But Western Illinois University runs deep in the Fosdyck blood.
"I was the third generation in my family to play basketball at WIU. My grandfather Fear Fosdyck played for the legendary coach Stix Morley. My father Olie Fosdyck played two seasons of basketball before focusing on the golf team. My brother-in-law Matt Robins and I played three seasons together and my sister Nicki was a cheerleader," Fosdyck said. "My father-in-law Loran Erdmann is a professor in the kinesiology department. So my entire family is entwined in the school and basketball program. If I can get my four-year-old son off his iPad and into the driveway, perhaps he can keep the streak going. Given these roots, you can appreciate why I care deeply about the town, the University and the basketball program."
As for Robins, he and his family call Nashville, TN home where he works as a financial adviser for AmeriPrise Financial. While he and Nicki give to many causes in the Nashville area, Western definitely holds a special place in their hearts.
"We met at Western and really appreciated our time there," Robins said. "Giving back to the University and future students seems like a great way to show our support."
Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter, who is also a Leatherneck Men's basketball alumnus, noted that as a former player, this gift is "extra special" to him.
"While academics should always come first, WIU's student-athletes gain so many out-of-classroom experiences throughout their time at Western that supplement that classroom learning," Bainter said. "We were proud of Cory and Matt as student-athletes and we are proud of their successes now. We are appreciative of their support of the Leatherneck Men's basketball program."
Assistant Director of Athletics for Development Michael Jones added that athletics is grateful for the gift from the former players.
"Having known Cory and Matt since their playing days, it's obvious they have the same passion for Leatherneck basketball now as they did when they wore the purple and gold," Jones said. "They are setting a shining example for men's basketball alumni, and their gift ensures that our program will continue to compete with the best in the country."