EIU Foundation honors three alumni


Jason Hardimon

Randall and Brenda Wright talk with Eastern President David Glassman following the presentation of the 2107 Burnham and Nancy Neal Outstanding Philanthropist Awards at the Doudna Fine Arts Center Friday. Randall Wright, a Charleston native, said in addition to all of his relatives who attended Eastern, about half of them had also worked at the university. His mother worked in the former housekeeping department and his father oversaw the university post office, he said. “Eastern means a lot to our family overall… in terms of providing education to move us forward and as way to provide for families on a daily basis,” Wright said.

Jason Hardimon, Staff Reporter

The EIU Foundation celebrated scholarship and exceptional generosity Friday as Eastern continues to weather the Illinois budget impasse.

One-hundred and fifteen donors and 30 students were in attendance as the foundation honored Steve Gosselin, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern in 1979 along with Randall Wright and his wife Brenda, who both earned bachelor’s degrees in 1970, with the 2017 Burnham and Nancy Neal Outstanding Philanthropist Awards at the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

Michael Murray, director of university development, said Eastern’s donors play a critical role in securing the future of the university.

“Without people like this, the university would be suffering even more than we are right now,” Murray said. “Everyone is aware of the plight that we face with the state of Illinois and the lack of a budget and lack of funding and so forth. Any support coming in right now — financial support and moral support, for that matter—is really important.”

Cara Pschirrer, director of donor relations in the Office of University Development, said one of the more important aspects of the ceremony is the interaction between students and donors.

“The donors get a chance to interact with the students whose lives they personally affect and the students get a chance to thank them personally,” Pschirrer said.

Frida Arellano, a senior political science major, said the generosity of Eastern’s alumni made earning a college degree possible for her.

“I can say proudly that if it weren’t for your generosity, I wouldn’t be here today,” Arellano said in a speech.

Arellano is the daughter of agricultural laborers from Texas.

She said while she has her family’s support, the scholarships she received were vital to her success.

“Instead of working two jobs full-time, I was able to work part-time jobs. It allowed me to focus more on school,” Arellano said.

Arellano now plans to attend law school in 2018.

Gosselin, a vice president for the customer services support division at Caterpillar Inc., said most of his contributions have gone to students in the Lumpkin College of Business.

“That is my primary passion and area of focus,” Gosselin said.

Gosselin said while serving as an executive-in-residence for the College of Business, he decided he wanted to fund study abroad programs.

“We are teaching global business, global marketing, all of those programs… but the students I was speaking to either had never been overseas or never had any experience overseas,” Gosselin said. “I wanted to provide kids an opportunity to gain that experience.”

Gosselin said he owes much of his success to Eastern.

“I got a very good education, but I would openly say that I got equally as much value from the influence Eastern had on my perspectives on people, on relationships, on life in general,” Gosselin said.

Gosselin declined to disclose the amount of his contributions, but said he has given more than the minimum requirement for the award – $50,000 over a lifetime.

“At this point, I give an annual amount,” Gosselin said. “And now everything is targeted at the study abroad program to help build the principle for that program, as well as fund the current years.”

Randall Wright, a retired deputy vice president for Texas General Hospital in Houston, explained why giving to the physics department at Eastern is important to him.

“Physics is a small department — it’s really a good group of people, a lot of fun to be around them,” Randall Wright said. “As you go forward in life, you realize that the people you were with are just a reflection of the people that are going to follow you. So, supporting these students and the people coming through… it’s been a lot of fun to watch.”


Jason Hardimon can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].