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The Influence of a Committed WIU Alumnus Extends Beyond the Walls of a Classroom

August 28, 2023

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MACOMB, IL - - The impact of a dedicated educator can be felt far beyond the confines of a classroom. Over his five decades in education, Western Illinois University alumnus James Elander has significantly and positively impacted hundreds of students, as well as the educational mathematics community. Now, Elander is taking the next step in his education journey, endowing a new scholarship for graduate students in mathematics, ensuring the continuation of excellence in mathematical research and application.

Elander's educational pursuits began nearly 70 years ago, when he earned his bachelor's degree from what was then called Western Illinois State College. During his time at what would become WIU, Elander was involved in Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity and student government. He continued his education at Illinois State University, where he earned his master's degree. Following the completion of his degrees, Elander spent nearly three decades teaching at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL. He completed his career as an associate professor at North Central College, retiring in the 1980s. Currently, he is the oldest living past-president of the School Science and Mathematics Association (SSMA).

Throughout his career, Elander authored seven textbooks; the first,"Geometry for Decision Making," was published in 1992. This book consolidated the conventional two years of high school geometry into one year, allowing time for high school seniors to start calculus. His most recent book, "Plane and Solid Geometry Essentials with Everyday Decision Making," was published in 2022. Elander's books have not only guided students through complex mathematical concepts, but have also inspired generations of mathematicians to apply critical thinking to geometry.

The James E. Elander Mathematics Teaching Endowed Scholarship aims to alleviate the financial burden often associated with pursuing advanced degrees, empowering talented individuals to fully immerse themselves in their research and further their contributions to the field. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a full-time graduate student in the Master of Science in Teaching Mathematics program in the WIU Department of Mathematics and Philosophy. The scholarship, which was fully endowed through a single gift from Elander, will be awarded for the first time during the 2023-24 academic year.

"Elander's generosity exemplifies the essence of WIU, where alumni not only embrace their own successes but also strive to create a lasting legacy that empowers future generations. The endowment of this scholarship serves as a testament to Elander's unwavering commitment to his discipline, his passion for teaching and his belief in the transformative power of education.

We are deeply grateful to James for his philanthropy and for choosing to support WIU graduate students and For the W: The Campaign for Western Illinois University with this gift," WIU Director of Development for the College of Arts & Sciences Amy Crosby said. Crosby worked with Elander, who now lives in Naples, FL, and his son, Olaf, to create the new scholarship.

For more information on the WIU Department of Mathematics & Philosophy, visit For more information on the "For The W" comprehensive campaign, visit

Posted By: Drew Donahoo (
Office of University Communications & Marketing