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L-r, History Chair Jennifer McNabb; History Major and ASH member Maddie Olejnik; Professor & Chair Emeritus Gordon Kirk; CAS Development Director Bryce Dexter; Vice President for Advancement & Public Services Brad Bainter
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Gordon W. Kirk Associated Students of History (ASH) Endowment Fund

June 12, 2017


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MACOMB, IL -- Transformational learning experiences happen throughout a Western Illinois University student's experience both in and out of the classroom, and thanks to the generosity of a retired WIU Department of History chair, faculty member and administrator, those experiences will soon be expanded.

Retired Associate Provost, History Chair and Professor Emeritus Gordon Kirk has established the Gordon W. Kirk Associated Students of History (ASH) Endowment Fund, to support the organization's activities and experiences.

"I've created scholarships for students previously so I wanted to look for something else that I could do to help Western students. Student organizations have a lot to offer students and faculty, and by programming various activities both on and off campus, bringing the two groups together (students and faculty), in a different setting, this type of interaction serves a function," Kirk said. "Student organizations in academic departments provide a bond that is different than that found in other student organizations. Department organizations, like the Associated Students of History, add to what the other student programs do. I'm very proud of the Department of History and I wanted to fill another niche."

The endowment will support such activities and programs as field trips and lectures. This past year, the group traveled to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in Iowa. And Kirk hopes more trips like that can be added to their schedule to supplement classroom learning.

"In these tight budget times, trips like this might not get funded or faculty might have to pay for it out of their pocket," he added. "Students need these out-of-classroom opportunities and that's why I decided to establish this endowment."

While at Western, Kirk was a professor of urban history and was instrumental in the establishment of the University Honors Program in 1983, serving as its first director. He was the chair of the Department of History from 1984-1986 and again from 1989-1999. He also served as assistant provost from 1986-1989, and was active in the faculty union, serving as chief negotiator for two contracts, and faculty governance, serving four terms as chair of the Faculty Senate. While at Western, he started hosting activities that would bring students together with faculty.
The Associated Students of History organization is designed to promote history both as a field of study and as a hobby. ASH members include history majors and minors, education students with concentrations in history and others interested in the study of the past. Members meet on a regular basis during the academic year to discuss historical and professional topics and to participate in the variety of history-related programs, lectures and movies. ASH was recently awarded the WIU College of Arts and Sciences Student Council Outstanding Student Organization Award for its professional development, outreach and service activities.
"I am at a point in my life where I can be philanthropic and Western is one of the organizations I want to give back to. WIU was an important part of my life; I had a lovely career there. I was able to do a lot of different things with a lot of wonderful people. And that's why I want to help this program. It will give them a little more flexibility and something to think about in terms of planning. I have confidence that it will be used well," he added.
According Department of History Chair Jen McNabb, during Dr. Kirk's career at Western, he sought the empowerment and excellence of students and faculty.

"Dr. Kirk continues to serve as an exemplary ambassador for the WIU Department of History," McNabb said. "This generous new endowment in support of ASH is a testament to his ongoing commitment to provide WIU students with enriching professional development activities that cultivate lifelong learning and career success."

Active student organizations go hand-in-hand with higher retention rates. So this endowment, Kirk believes, will help the University achieve some of its goals.

"It gives them a sense of place, something to belong to. Whether they go to an event once a year or six times a year, it's another connector. It's something a residential college should do," Kirk said.

"With hundreds of student organizations to choose from, it's easy for WIU students to find something to belong to. The benefits of joining an organization in their field of study are two-fold: it allows them to continue learning about their academic area and gives students an opportunity to get those out-of-classroom experiences," said Brad Bainter, vice president for advancement and public services. "Having taught at Western, Gordon knows how important these organizations are to students and we are grateful for his generosity … not just with this new endowment, but with the generous support he has shown WIU for many years."

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