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"I can't explain how I felt when I found out about the scholarship; I was overwhelmed with emotions," Denita Rouse (pictured here with Noah Eckman) said recently. "For the Eckmans to think of me this way and honor me, when Noah was such a big part of my life, leaves me just in awe."

Noah Eckman Memorial Scholarship in Honor of Denita Rouse

July 1, 2013


MACOMB, IL -- "I can't explain how I felt when I found out about the scholarship; I was overwhelmed with emotions," Denita Rouse said recently. "For the Eckmans to think of me this way and honor me, when Noah was such a big part of my life, leaves me just in awe," Rouse added.

"We want to help people become teachers like Denita," said Jennifer Eckman, "and capitalize on the difference she made in Noah's life. Special education teachers have a unique connection with their students, and that certainly was the case with Noah and Denita."

Clearly, the respect and admiration between Denita Rouse and Troy and Jennifer Eckman have evolved beyond the professional relationship between a teacher and the parents of her student. The Eckmans feel that Rouse was much more than a teacher to their son, Noah; she allowed him to be a normal child rather than a special education student, and she became a close family friend.

Rouse was one of the first people the Eckmans met when they moved to Macomb in July of 2000 to open the Women's Health Center. Rouse was Noah's teacher at West Central Illinois Special Education Class at West Prairie Elementary School, and also provided respite care outside of school.

"Denita made Noah a 'normal' child, rather than a special education student," said Jennifer. She reports that Rouse made them feel welcome in the community and it turned out to be a great place for Noah's needs.

Noah was three at the time and loved going to school.

"He would start laughing as soon as he heard the bus in the morning," Jennifer said. "He loved Denita and accomplished many milestones with her."

Noah died on March 5, 2004, at the age of six. The Eckmans recently established the Noah Eckman Memorial Scholarship in May to honor both Noah and Denita Rouse, and the memories they have of the two of them together.

"We established the scholarship first and foremost to remember Noah while honoring Denita," said Troy, "and to give something back to Western."

Both Troy and Jennifer are graduates of Western; Troy completed a B.S. in biology and Jennifer earned a B.S. in home economics and an M.A. in gerontology.

"It's kind of fun to do something outside both our fields," Troy noted. Their daughter, Abbey, is now a student at Western, continuing the family tradition.

The Noah Eckman Memorial Scholarship in Honor of Denita Rouse will be available this fall semester to senior level special education majors and will award $1,000 annually. Applications and information can be found at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction or at www.wiu.edu/scholarships.

"Noah was special to me and I truly loved him as my own," Rouse said. "I’m honored to be recognized by the Eckmans this way, and to have my name forever associated with Noah's."

Posted By: Julie Murphy, WIU Foundation, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606