Foundation & Development

Robert L. Hodges English Education Scholarship


Bob Hodges saw the world from the sky and through the pages of countless books, informed by his experience at Western Illinois University and the liberal arts. Hodges was born in Adair, Illinois, and grew up in Macomb, where he attended the Academy, or WIU laboratory school.  As a WIU student in the 1940s, Hodges was active in the English club, Green Door (drama club), and the student newspaper. He earned a Bachelor’s of English Education degree in 1943.

Hodges also became part of the first group of pilots to be trained at Western. “That was during the Roosevelt era, and he knew we were going to be at war but the country was unprepared,” Hodges said in a 2009 interview. “Roosevelt wanted to enlarge the military, but Congress wouldn’t let him, so he created an aviation program at colleges across the country.”

“It was a little like today’s ROTC, in a sense, but we weren’t in uniform,” explained Hodges. “We studied meteorology, aeronautics, and so on and flew out of Macomb’s old Clugston airfield, earning our private pilots’ licenses.”

Hodges served during World War II and taught high school when the war ended. He also earned his master’s degree in English literature and drama during this time. At the start of the Korean War, he was called up as a reservist. Hodges had a long career in the Army, serving until his retirement in 1970.

Remaining true to his love of literature and books, Hodges opened Burkwood Books in Champaign-Urbana, a bookstore specializing in rare and collectible titles upon his retirement. He operated Burkwood Books for more than 35 years, taking coursework for a doctorate in literature along the way.

Hodges died in 2012 and Western recently received nearly $253,00 from his estate for English Education majors.

“Bob informed the WIU Foundation of his estate plans in 1995,” said vice president for Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter. “Because we knew the gift would be received in the future, we were able to work with Bob on the criteria of the scholarship and structure it according to his wishes.  We appreciate his willingness to assist our students, and were pleased that he discussed all the issues in advance. In this way, we are able to honor Bob’s life and intentions and help students at the same time.”

The Robert L. Hodges English Education Scholarship is available to undergraduate English Education majors aspiring to teach English literature or language in a public school setting and will be available for Fall 2014. For information or applications, contact the Department of English and Journalism or Office of Scholarship Activities.

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Special thanks to Bill Knight, Deputy Director of Western’s Journalism Program. Excerpts taken from Knight’s article ‘Area native became a trained aviator, but he was a born leader” in the Fall/Winter 09 issue of Focus magazine.