Advancement & Public Services
Human and compassionate considerations in the interpretation of society are basic to man's search for love, kindness, and gentle understanding.
These words were chosen by Robert Gabler upon establishment of his first permanent fund with the WIU Foundation in 1978 to capture the spirit of the fund’s intent. In many ways, these words summarize Dr. Gabler’s life and work, which has greatly influenced and benefitted Western Illinois University.
Gabler joined Western’s faculty in 1957 and before retiring in 1990 served as professor of Geography/Geology, chair of the Department of Geography, and Director of International Programs. He holds the title of Professor Emeritus/Distinguished Professor of Geography from Western, and is probably one of the most prolific writers in WIU faculty history. During his tenure, Gabler held numerous leadership positions including parliamentarian and chairman of the Faculty Senate, chair of the Council on Professional Status and faculty representative to the WIU Foundation Board. He received numerous awards including the George J. Miller Distinguished Service Award from the National Council for Geographic Education and the Illinois Distinguished Geographic Educator Award from the Illinois Geographic Society.
“My relationship with higher education and with Western Illinois University in particular has been a source of great satisfaction for me personally,” said Gabler. “I could never find a better way to say ‘thanks for the memories’ than to support the Western Illinois University Foundation.”
“My goal was to reach the $250,000 Founders level of the Foundation’s lifetime giving societies,” explained Gabler. “It seems like a lot of money, but I wanted to show other faculty that it is possible and can be done. I urge all of my colleagues, friends, and former students to join me in giving back to Western just a little of that which Western has given to us.”
Gabler and his late wife, Mary Ellen, began their legacy of giving back in 1978 by establishing a scholarship in memory of their youngest daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Upon the passing of Gabler’s wife in 1996 the scholarship was renamed the Mary Ellen and Mary Elizabeth Gabler Humanitarian Award in honor of individuals who care more for others than they do for themselves. In 2004, the funds from the Humanitarian Award were combined with a graduate fellowship Gabler had supported in geography to form the Gabler Fund.
Earnings from the Gabler Fund endowment are awarded annually to the departments of geography and curriculum & instruction to recognize and support outstanding teaching. Gabler’s goal is to improve the classroom experience for both faculty and students. “I believe it is important to support faculty,” said Gabler. “They do so much for the institution that it is imperative to give them tools and invest in them.”
“Bob has been as thoughtful and creative in his charitable giving as he was in his teaching,” claimed WIU Foundation CEO Brad Bainter. “Through a combination of cash gifts, a charitable gift annuity, and a gift of life insurance, Bob has created a substantial fund to honor and support the quest for understanding and humanitarian ideals that have shaped his life and work.”
“I have always encouraged my colleagues to give back to the university as I have,” said Gabler. “There are three things to remember in regards to giving: One, giving is a great way to commemorate a faculty member who has influenced you. Second, faculty do wonderful things, but are only able to do so because the institution has provided the support and environment in which to thrive. Third, there are many different ways to give to the institution; I have found at least three!”
“I was fortunate to spend enough time at Western to see it mature; not grow bigger, but actually mature by responding to the changing times,” said Gabler. “Western gave so much to me and my family that it pleases me to have the Gabler Fund supporting teaching and learning.”