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The audience gave longtime WIU supporter Lorraine Epperson a standing ovation in celebration of her generosity over the years.
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College of Fine Arts and Communication students Elizabeth Huntley and Riley Francis performed for the audience.
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Celebrating Generosity: Major Donor Banquet

April 18, 2024

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MACOMB, IL - - Last week ended on a high note, with the Western Illinois University Foundation and Development Office hosting the annual Major Donor Banquet. This year's theme, Celebrating Generosity, did just that.

More than 350 alumni and friends filled the University Union Grand Ballroom for an evening celebrating philanthropy in action at WIU. Attendees heard updates on For the W: The Campaign for Western Illinois University, celebrated recent major gifts and listened to impact stories about students and donors. Alumnus Ben Gougeon emceed the evening and alumna and Director of Development Liz Gougeon gave a preview of the new Commodities Lab coming to Stipes Hall, thanks to generous donors. Guests were also entertained by performances from College of Fine Arts and Communication students.

The highlight of the evening was hearing from students who had been impacted by the generosity of donors.

"I'm the first person in my family to go to college and get a degree. There was a semester last year that I couldn't come back. It was spring semester of ‘23," Elizabeth Huntley, senior Musical Theatre major, said. "I couldn't come back because I still owed too much money. I moved back home, worked two jobs, worked over the summer and I came back.

"With the scholarship office, I was able to work out some Foundation scholarships, and I came back to school. The Foundation has really been so positively impactful on me. It allowed me to continue to follow my dream, to feel the support and love of strangers who don't even know that it feels so special, and it makes you feel seen and heard as a human being. And I'm just really appreciative."

Graduate student Kyle Ramlow shared what he has learned about the impact of scholarships and giving back to his school.

"It's important for students to engage in philanthropic efforts because I think we really see first-hand how important it is. Working with the Foundation Office and the phone-a-thon, I really understood how important the students are, as well how much the alumni care. Hearing the alumni give back and telling you the stories makes you be like, man, that's what I want to do. I want to give back and to get that phone call from a student and get that thing in the mail and hear their story," said Ramlow.

The audience also gave a standing ovation in celebration of alumna and longtime supporter Lorraine Epperson.

Epperson and her husband, Ken, who passed away in 2014, have supported numerous Western initiatives, including the Leatherneck Club, the Performing Arts Society, the College of Business and Technology, University Libraries and several scholarships. They made a commitment to the previous Centennial Campaign in 1996 to establish an endowment to support future generations and are among the University's leading donors.

"Both Ken and myself had taught at Macomb High and I know there are many people there who do need scholarships. So when I think of how much need there is, it means a difference in whether or not people can go to school. I just hope it can impact a number of lives," Epperson said.

Hear more from Epperson, Ramlow and Huntley at

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