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Alumni Matt & Laura Miller
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Matt & Laura Miller as students at WIU
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Matt Miller speaking at the Real Estate Summit at WIU last Fall
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WIU Alumni Couple Endows $5,000 Real Estate Scholarship

February 14, 2024

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL - - A love story that started in the dish room of a Macomb staple in the 1980s has blossomed over time and has now led to the creation of a new endowed scholarship in support of For The W: The Campaign for Western Illinois University.

Matthew Miller, SRA, and Dr. Laura Miller, both WIU class of 1992 graduates, have established a new scholarship in their names, focused on providing academic support and alleviating financial burdens for students interested in pursuing careers in real estate.

Matt, who is originally from Morton, IL, attended high school in Macomb and completed his degree in History. Laura, originally from Industry, IL, transferred to WIU to complete her degree in Psychology. Attending WIU was also a family affair for both; Matt's dad and Laura's mom both worked on campus as their children were growing up. Both of their sets of parents also graduated from WIU.

While attending WIU at the same time, Matt and Laura first connected when they both worked at Aurelio's Pizza, now Gelsosomo's.

"I was a dishwasher and Laura was a waitress," Matt said. "One day, I got up my nerve to ask her if she would like to do something after work. She said yes, and that was it."

"We really got to know each other at work and got to spend a lot of time together that way," Laura said.
"I still remember the night of our first date—it was the night of the Mike Tyson, Michael Spinks fight, which was June 27, 1988," Matt said.

Matt and Laura continued to develop their relationship outside the restaurant and as classes resumed that fall.

"Most of my classes were in Morgan, while her's were in Waggoner, so we would meet on campus between classes," Matt said.

Throughout their time at WIU, Matt was involved on the golf team and Laura spent a summer working on the orientation team, while also working multiple jobs on and off campus.

"I had good access to the golf course, so we would fish at the pond between number six and number seven," Matt said. "And the bench on number three, if you go there after dark, you can sit on the bench and you're overlooking all of campus. We would do that from time to time."

Matt and Laura's love story continued, eventually getting engaged in 1993. The couple will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this year.

Since graduating, the two have remained involved with WIU, frequently attending Quad Cities alumni golf outings and supporting various fundraising initiatives. Matt and Laura contributed to scholarships for Men's Golf student athletes and provided a significant leadership gift to aid in the construction of the Chown Golf Learning Center at the Harry Mussatto Golf Course. Matt is a member of the 2008 WIU Alumni Achievement Award cohort, recognizing and celebrating his contributions to the real estate field.

The two now live in Princeton, IA, and have three daughters. Matt is the President and CEO of Rally Appraisal, which boasts more than 20 locations across six states. He holds the SRA designation from the Appraisal Institute, which signifies advanced knowledge on appraisal theory and methodology. Laura obtained her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College in 1997 and is licensed to practice in Iowa.

Matt reconnected with WIU professionally in 2005, making biannual trips to campus to speak to real estate classes. The semesterly visits proved to be good recruiting opportunities for Rally, which now employs several WIU graduates across Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. With the retirement of Professor Don Johnson in 2018, Matt's close connection with the WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT) paused temporarily, while he continued to serve on the School of Accounting, Finance, Economics and Decision Sciences'(AFED) Advisory Board.

In 2022 and 2023, Matt was a featured speaker at the George Potter Real Estate & Appraisal Learning Summit through the WIU School of Accounting, Finance, Economics and Decision Sciences. The visits reignited Matt's spark for WIU and inspired him to take the next step in providing opportunities for WIU students.

"When Dr. Johnson retired, I stopped going back to campus," Matt said. "In 2022, Dr. Lin reached out and asked me to speak at the Summit. I felt like, as WIU is my alma mater, it was a way for me to give back. I'm hopeful to give back with this scholarship, as well."

"Matt's connection to WIU and the College of Business and Technology is very strong. I first met Matt as the keynote speaker for the inaugural Economics Day event in 2006. His expertise in appraisals land at the cross-roads of many disciplines, particularly Finance and Economics," Jessica Lin, director of the Schools of AFED and Management and Marketing, said. "When the family of Dr. Potter set aside funds to create a Real Estate Summit, Matt was the perfect choice. He's been a dynamic and engaging speaker at our summits, and his participation in recent advisory board meetings has been invaluable. His enthusiasm has brought fresh energy into our program and we enjoy working with him."

Matt expressed his desire to fund a substantial scholarship for students interested in pursuing careers in real estate with Director of Development for the CBT Liz Gougeon at the end of the 2023 Real Estate Summit

The Matthew Miller, SRA, and Dr. Laura Miller Endowed Scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the 2024-2025 school year. Geared toward students from downstate Illinois, the $5,000 scholarship will support one student interested in pursuing a career in real estate annually.

Matt hopes to attract interest to the real estate profession through this new scholarship initiative, a field he wasn't familiar with when he was in college.

"My path into real estate was a bit of a fluke," Matt said. "I had never considered real estate as a career. My best friend from high school got a job as an appraiser. The company he was working for was starting an office in the Quad Cities and asked him if he knew anyone who would be interested, and he recommended me. I didn't know much about the field, but I knew he liked it and I knew I'd get to work with my best friend. And now 30 years later, here I am."

While many scholarships are endowed through cash gifts, Gougeon worked with the Millers to create the criteria for their scholarship and fund their scholarship in an unconventional way. Knowing the Millers' experience with investments, Gougeon recommended the Millers explore funding their scholarship through a gift of securities.

"The Millers are savvy donors. By establishing their scholarship through a gift of securities, they were able to endow their scholarship to ensure it continues to benefit students in perpetuity," Gougeon said. "They also received the same tax savings as they would by making a gift of cash or check, but they were able to avoid capital gains tax. This unique way to give has multiple benefits, and I was thrilled to work with Matt and Laura to make their philanthropic wishes a reality."

In January 2024, the Millers finalized their stock transfer and made a six-figure gift to the WIU Foundation through securities. This single payment fully endowed the scholarship and set the stage for it to be awarded in the coming months. Full details of the scholarship are available at

"As we finalized the details of this scholarship, I became hopeful for two reasons," Matt said. "I hope it helps in some way to support and grow the School of Accounting, Finance, Economics and Decision Sciences. I also hope we can use this as a recruiting opportunity to hire more WIU graduates at Rally.

"Downstate Illinois is currently underserved by real estate appraisers," Matt said. "This can be a very satisfactory career path in terms of quality of life and economic opportunity. I am hopeful we can network with students who are from these areas and want to serve their home communities after graduation. We have a number of downstate offices and would love to staff them with WIU graduates."

The Millers' generosity will have a significant impact on the WIU School of AFED.

The Millers' gift comes at an exciting time for the real estate portion of our finance program," Lin said. "We see growing interest from students to pursue careers in real estate, whether it's as future brokers, investors or appraisers. This generous scholarship will be critical in supporting students interested in these career paths. It also helps to solidify WIU's position as a top choice for new students looking for futures in real estate."
The Millers hope their gift will inspire others to support areas of campus they care about.

"I would tell others that if you feel like me and believe that your experiences at WIU helped you to succeed in life, it is very gratifying to give back and help this generation hopefully gain the same accomplishments," Matt said.

Individuals interested in providing financial support for programs within the CBT can contact Gougeon at Details about the For The W comprehensive campaign are available at

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