Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Oberhelmans, Caterpillar pledge $11.5 million to Transform MU

It’s been one year since Millikin publicly launched “Transform MU,” a five-year, $85 million capital campaign, with an announcement that more than $25 million had already been contributed by alumni, parents, community leaders and friends of the university. Since that time, an additional $22 million has been pledged to the campaign, including an $11.5 million commitment made in late March, the largest such commitment in the history of the university (see next page for complete details). 

The “Transform MU” campaign seeks funding to revitalize the east side of Millikin’s 75-acre campus through planned renovations and expansions to two existing campus buildings, construction of a new university center and enhancing athletic facilities. Other goals include increasing support for The Millikin Fund, the university’s endowment, faculty development and student scholarships.

“The response we have received to this transformational campaign thus far has been exceptional,” says Peg Luy, vice president for alumni and development and a 1975 Millikin graduate. Luy leads the staff members who work with volunteers to coordinate fundraising efforts.

The campaign’s steering committee is co-chaired by Millikin Trustee Dr. Stephen Huss, a Decatur orthopaedic surgeon, and Emeritus Trustee Mike Waller ’63, retired publisher and CEO of The Baltimore Sun. Doug Oberhelman ’75, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., serves as honorary chairman.

Learn more about the campaign at or call toll-free to 1-877-JMU-ALUM (568-2586).

Transformational $11.5 million to help fund three priorities

On March 28, Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman ’75 joined then Millikin Interim President Peggy Luy, also ’75, to announce an investment of up to $11.5 million in the “Transform MU” campaign, the largest such investment in Millikin’s history. 

The investment, made both by the Caterpillar Foundation and personally by Doug Oberhelman and his wife, Diane, will support creation of a new university center that will house the Oberhelman Leadership Development Center, help renovate Millikin’s oldest residence hall to create a center for international education and double the number of students supported by the university’s Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program for minority students.

“One of the things that I remember so well from my time at Millikin is the spirit and confidence that was instilled in all of us – that we could go anywhere and do anything we wanted,” said Doug Oberhelman, who is honorary chair of the “Transform MU” campaign steering committee. “Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and to hold a variety of jobs, and I’ve carried those early lessons from Millikin with me every step of the way. Diane and I are personally committed to the university’s ongoing success and to making sure future Millikin graduates have the opportunity to thrive both personally and professionally.”

“Millikin has enjoyed a long and successful partnership with Caterpillar, extending back nearly six decades to 1955 when the company made its first investment in the university,” Luy said at the announcement. “We are tremendously grateful for the generous support that Caterpillar has demonstrated to Millikin through the years, and this investment will do much to further our mission of preparing students to be confident, inspired global citizens by providing expanded opportunities for leadership development and international education.”
The $7 million investment from the Caterpillar Foundation, consisting of a $3.5 million core investment plus a $3.5 million challenge matching grant, will be supplemented by a $3.0 million personal donation and a $1.5 million challenge matching grant from the Oberhelmans.

“Caterpillar has hired hundreds of Millikin graduates through the years, including Doug Oberhelman, a Caterpillar employee since shortly after his graduation from Millikin in 1975,” Luy said. “Doug is one of the finest examples of how the unique performance-learning attributes of a Millikin education give rise to graduates who have the confidence to not only succeed, but thrive. He fulfills Millikin’s mission to attain professional success, democratic citizenship in a global environment and a personal life of meaning and value. The Oberhelmans’ commitment will help ensure that the same solid foundation Doug received at Millikin is available for future generations.”

Funding Plans

Creation of the Oberhelman Leadership Development Center - $6.5 million
Total funding to create the Oberhelman Leadership Development Center on the second floor of the new University Center includes a $3.5 million challenge matching grant by the Caterpillar Foundation to match donations made by Caterpillar employees and retirees, as well as $3 million donated personally by the Oberhelmans, for a total gift of $6.5 million. The proposed center will be home to more than 100 student leadership organizations, including student government, Greek life and the multicultural student council. Emerging and seasoned student leaders will have the opportunity to share their resources and practice leadership, management, marketing and technical skills. The new Center will include student organization and development areas, collaboration rooms and three flexible laboratory areas.

Creation of a new Center for International Education - $3 million
The Caterpillar Foundation has also committed $3 million to help create a new center for international education through the renovation of Aston Hall, originally built in 1907. The proposed center will complement the academic experience, offering a variety of cultural, educational, social and recreational programs for students. The Center will provide residence hall space for up to 70 international and domestic students, faculty offices, a lecture/conference hall, two “smart” classrooms and a resource room.

Challenge gift for donors to the new University Center - $1.5 million
The Oberhelmans have also committed to a $1.5 million personal challenge matching grant for potential donors to the new University Center.

Expansion of the University’s Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program - $500,000
The Caterpillar Foundation is also investing $500,000 in MU’s Long-Vanderburg Scholars program, which recognizes high scholastic achievement among historically underrepresented students by providing scholarship support and development opportunities. The program will double from 60 to 120 students in a four-year period and be renamed the Long-Vanderburg Caterpillar Scholars program.

The $85 million “Transform MU” campaign was launched in May 2010 and will revitalize the east side of Millikin’s campus, as well as make significant advances in creating new student scholarships, increasing endowment and faculty development funds, and improving infrastructure. To date, the campaign has raised more than $47 million dollars.

For more information, visit the campaign website at

It’s a brand new day at MU

You may have noticed a new Millikin logo on many of the university's recent publications. The familiar sketching of Shilling Towers, used since 1994, is replaced by the Millikin seal. The words “Millikin University” are in a sleek, modern typeface. It’s all part of a new visual package for the university, but it goes much deeper than that. It relates to the brand.

Just like a soft drink or a car company, Millikin is a brand. People make decisions based upon their impressions of and experiences with a brand each time they are “loyal” to a favorite coffee or sports team. For Millikin, the collective perceptions of prospective students, alumni, trustees, community members and employees define the Millikin brand. In other words, if Millikin was a person, the brand would be the unique attributes, values and personality characteristics that set it apart from every other person in the room.

Why does a university
need to “define its brand”? 

Life is noisy and complicated. It can be very difficult to make the right choice in the cluttered field of marketing and advertising surrounding you 24/7. Searching for a college forces students to rely on their brand experiences to inform their choices.

We know that not every student is a “Millikin student.” Defining our brand is how we help students determine if the Millikin fit is the right fit for their college experience. Defining what MU is and what it is not is absolutely necessary for this process. 

How did Millikin define its brand? 

Working with Jump Company, a national brand-development agency cofounded by Jon Tiede ’92, we engaged in a three-year effort involving focus groups of Millikin constituents in every category and a thorough analysis of the results. In the end, it was affirming to see that the results confirmed the gut feelings we’d had all along.

So what is Millikin’s brand? 

There are a couple of ways to define it. To use one word, it’s THRIVE.

Thriving is what Millikin students typically do, both during and after their Millikin experience. It’s a result of Millikin’s approach to offer aspiring students of all majors the chance to build their confidence through a unique concept we call “performance learning.” Time and time again, students are given the chance to actually gain practical, hands-on experience in their fields of study that goes beyond simulation and embraces reality – such as letting business students successfully manage a $100,000 university investment fund (they are beating the current rate of return, by the way).

Performance learning is a concept that takes Millikin’s mission and its 1901 origin – to be a place where the theoretical and practical exist side by side – one step further. Because practice is not enough to be prepared for today’s work world, we’ve raised the bar to performance level. Specifically, it’s a promise to our students to “ignite a life of meaning and success through the power of preparation by performance.”

This is a promise that our students have lived every day for generations, and now we have the tools to help future students better understand it.

by Sarah Shupenus

Ready to lead a thriving Millikin

As of April 1, Millikin’s new president is on the job and ready to take the wheel as a man who has a reputation for getting things done.

As president for 10 years at his previous institution, Texas Wesleyan, Dr. Harold G. “Hal” Jeffcoat successfully overcame the challenge of inheriting a university in financial crisis and on probation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, its accrediting body. At the end of the first two years under his leadership, the budget was balanced, the school was off probation and significant strides had been made in the areas of technology, business practices and athletics. Progress continued for the next eight years and when Jeffcoat stepped down as president in spring 2010, he anticipated taking a sabbatical and then teaching some classes at his former university.

“Without question, he made truly significant contributions during his decade at Wesleyan,” Dan Boulware, Wesleyan trustee, said in the fall 2010 Wesleyan magazine. “He brought vision and focus to Wesleyan when we needed it most. He stabilized the financials, ensured proper accreditation and then went to work breathing new life into a once-tired campus.”

“During those 10 years, we completed 22 total building projects along with the day-to-day running of the university,” Jeffcoat says.  “It was a tough 10 years. I was fatigued and ready to relax a bit. No one at Wesleyan believed I would really retire.”

In fact, it was one of those unbelieving Wesleyan vice presidents who contacted him about the presidential position at Millikin.

In Millikin, Jeffcoat saw a university that had none of the issues he’d faced at Texas Wesleyan, and instead was moving forward from a position of strength.

“I had other opportunities, but Millikin attracted me,” Jeffcoat says. “One of its great strengths is the university’s track record of preparing students for careers or graduate school. That’s a tremendous advantage over other schools who can’t make that claim. The credentials of the faculty are very strong, and the leadership of the institution was extraordinary, from the board of trustees to previous president Doug Zemke. All those key indicators to me were very positive.”

Jeffcoat and his wife, Marie, confirmed their observations with an unannounced visit to campus while en route to Chicago for an interview with Millikin’s search committee.

“We were taking the temperature of the campus and community,” Marie Jeffcoat says. “We sort of milled around, talked to waitresses in restaurants about Millikin, that sort of thing. Everyone was very positive, and that warmed us to the institution and the area right away.”

In April, Barry Pearson, the university’s vice president for academic affairs, told the Decatur Herald & Review that Jeffcoat brings infectious energy to the job and prizes collaboration.

“One of the things that you want in a president is someone you can be very direct and honest with, and he’s very much that way,” Pearson told the newspaper.

Honesty is also what Jeffcoat sees as a key element in the development of a new strategic plan for the university, one of the first items on his agenda following the upcoming completion of the current strategic plan.

“We need to evaluate how the previous plan has done,” he says. “We need to be completely honest with ourselves on how we measure up to competition and  what we need to move forward.”

Jeffcoat also would like to see an increased focus on accessibility for students as a major component of the plan, specifically through building the scholarship endowment to help qualified students achieve their dreams of a
Millikin education.

“I want every student who can perform academically to be able to come to Millikin,” Jeffcoat says. “I am very student focused toward ensuring accessibility to higher education and providing the elements that students need to succeed.”

Chief among those elements is hiring and retaining engaged and committed faculty and staff at Millikin.

Jeffcoat personally knows the value of a caring and challenging faculty and staff. As an undergraduate at the University of South Florida, more focused on having a career in major league baseball than the college experience, his life was changed by a professor named Jim Swanson.

“What he did was really extraordinary,” Jeffcoat says. “He took me aside one day and told me, ‘there’s more to you than just being a professional athlete. You need to discipline yourself to be a better student.’”

Swanson became a mentor for the unfocused student and showed Jeffcoat how to concentrate on his studies. It opened up options he never would have considered otherwise.
“Had I not met Jim Swanson, I would not have had a 34-year career in higher education and I would not be president of Millikin today,” he says. “He went out of his way to help a student along his life path.” Jeffcoat went on to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American history at USF, followed by his doctorate at the University of Kentucky and a law degree from the University of Leicester School of Law. He has worked at eight institutions of higher learning, including Purdue and the University of Missouri, Columbia.

“Every single faculty member at Millikin has Jim Swanson in them,” he says. “It’s the part of them that conveys to the students that they have value, they have worth. The heart and soul of an institution is primarily its faculty and staff, because a staff member can also intervene and engage a student to show they care about the students they are serving. I see it happen every day.”

He’ll have a close-up view of those life-changing events inside and outside the classroom. The Jeffcoats will be living in the Huss House, the university’s former guest house, and look forward to the increased opportunities for attending campus activities as a result of living right next door.
“We asked to live there,” Jeffcoat says. “It’s great to have that access. I think it’s important that a president take a highly visible part in the life of the institution.”

That focus on involvement also extends to the Decatur-area community.

“The office of the president needs to be engaged with the area,” Jeffcoat says.

“You can’t be a good leader for Millikin by staying ensconced in the corner office.”

School Crossing ahead?

A study by officials of Millikin and the Decatur School District could turn Dennis Elementary School into a lab school for Millikin students. The school, which serves students from kindergarten through sixth grade, is located only a few blocks from campus in the historic West End of the city.

“Driving this is Millikin’s desire to continue playing a role in improving the West End neighborhood,” Barry Pearson, vice president for academic affairs, told the Decatur Herald & Review. “We’ve done a lot of work with the city to streetscape and other things. We just see this as a continuation of our effort to find a way to partner with another strong Decatur entity, and that’s Decatur public schools.”

Both the school district and Millikin officials see this as a possible win-win
scenario, with MU students gaining real-world teaching experience and observation in a nearby location, and Dennis students benefiting from increased exposure to the university setting through cross-visits.

The issue is currently under study and a decision is expected sometime this summer. If the lab school concept is approved, it will be implemented in fall 2012.

That song really takes me back...

Last fall, we asked you to share the soundtrack to your Millikin experience, and many of you responded with your fondest memories of songs that take you back to your college years.

In her time at Millikin, Barbara Kauppala Miraftabi ’67 of Lappeenranta, Finland, recalls “The Twist” as the most popular dance music, while “The Sound of Music” brings back memories of performing with other Millikin students at a nearby nursing home. This memory later inspired her to teach “The Sound of Music” to the children at the First Presbyterian Church for their spring show when she was their choir director.

She also remembers “I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog” by Peter, Paul, and Mary because it surged to popularity during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when Miraftabi was an active supporter of Friends of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

“I was just finishing at Millikin and moving on to graduate school,” she says.

Miraftabi’s generation may have twisted through school, but Sara Ray Helmus ’03 and her group of New
Hall 3 girlfriends (pictured below at Helmus’ wedding) fell in love with “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega, their theme song during fall 1999.

“We would gather in a room and start dancing on the desk chairs (which was hard to do because they were rockers), beds, floor and out into the hallway,” she says. “We even watched the video over and over again to learn the dance that goes in the middle. Why a bunch of women fell in love with a song about a man who switches from woman to woman, I don’t know. All I know is that we have played it at all six of our wedding receptions.”

In spring 1974, Ellen Radcliffe Woods ’77 stayed behind to attend her then-boyfriend’s graduation, after her friends and roommate left for summer break. While the campus was sunny, quiet and virtually deserted, her Walker Hall room bumped with the beats of “Horse with No Name” from her stereo.

“I always picture that moment when the dorms were silent except for that song,” she says.

Woods has been married to that boyfriend, Michael Woods ’74, for 35 years.

For Don Hildebrand ’50, his favorite musical memory occurred during a Chapel program in 1948 or 1949, when “a guest student musical group, I believe, from Illinois Wesleyan University, performed a choreographed version of the then current pop song, ‘Rag Mop,’ complete with one of the singers wearing a rag mop on his head and other places. It was a refreshing hilarious performance in contrast to most of the Chapel’s serious events.”

And last, but not least, Christine LaPorte ’07 remembers her times as an active Millikin Tri-Delta every time she hears “American Pie” on the radio.

“We sang it at every Tri-Delta dance at the top of our lungs! I still call my sisters whenever I hear it on the radio,” she says. 

The tradition lives on today, but do you remember when that song became a Delta tradition? Perhaps Tri-Delta sisters from the 1970s (when the song first became a hit) recall when it became a fixture at dances.

Send your memories  to

Alumnus shares dance band memories

Our thanks to Russell Estes ’50 for correspondence detailing his experiences in 1948-49 with the Joe Bearden Dance Band.

Along with a letter, Estes sent a photo and a CD of the band’s music, featuring “Too Old to Dream,” “Autumn in New York,” “Portrait of Jeannie” and “Disc Jockey Jump.” The CD is now a part of the Staley Library archives.

Although Estes didn’t recall the names of all the band members, he did identify the following musicians, five of whom were Millikin students at the time: Jack Eddie, trumpet; Russell Estes ’50 and the late Elmer Sampson ’51, trombone; George Holland ’50, tenor saxophone; Kenneth Wiley and the late Bruce Hayden ’51, alto saxophone; Emile Hatton, baritone saxophone and the band’s leader and organizer, the late Joe Bearden ’49.

Referencing an article in the spring 2010 issue of Millikin Quarterly, Estes wrote, “Being a graduate from 1950, I was pleased to receive the [Millikin Quarterly] that included a story about the jazz program in the music department that was created in 1960. It brought back many memories of my time in the music department, the tremendous opportunity to study trombone with Professor Howard Akers, being advised by Dean Ploenges and playing in a jazz band/dance band …

“It is always a tremendous pleasure to receive information about Millikin. I spent many happy and challenging days, months and years there.”

Anonymous donor strikes match

Will you accept the challenge?

An anonymous donor has issued a spring challenge to Millikin alumni and friends, offering to double the impact of their gifts by matching all new gifts to the Millikin Fund through June 30.

The Millikin Fund helps provide general scholarship support for deserving students, which could be especially beneficial in the wake of potential MAP funding decreases at the state level and Pell grant decreases at the federal level.

“Giving to the Millikin Fund is easier than ever,” says Associate Director of  Development Mandi Podeschi ’03, noting that donors may make a one-time or recurring credit card gift through the secure giving site at

Recurring credit card gifts allow donors to spread out gifts on a weekly, monthly or yearly automatic basis.

Donors may also opt to make a gift of stock or securities, or donate through a monthly EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) withdrawal. 

“Some companies match employees’ donations, so the impact of an individual’s gift could be even more significant,” Podeschi says. “Employees should check with their human resources office to see if that applies at their company.”

For more information about the matching gift challenge or making a gift to the university, call the alumni and development office toll-free at 1-877-JMU-ALUM (568-2586). Locally, dial 424-6383.

Scholarship Support on the Rise

Creating student scholarships is an important priority of Millikin’s five-year “Transform MU” capital campaign launched last May. In fact, within the $85 million overall campaign total, Millikin set a goal of raising $10 million to endow student scholarships.

Less than a year later, that amount has been surpassed, with $11.6 million donated toward new or existing scholarships as of this March.

“Our alumni and friends understand the personal impact these scholarships have on our students,” says Peg Smith Luy ’75, vice president of alumni and development. “In an era marked by a struggling economy and uncertainty of the status of state and federal grants for college students, scholarship support for worthy students has never been more needed or appreciated.”

When possible, scholarship recipients thank donors in person on campus through luncheons hosted by the alumni and development staff (see upper right). Many also write letters of thanks to those individuals and organizations who help fund their education. For example, in a letter to her scholarship donors, junior Kristin Shepherd of Springfield, Ill., says: “Without the aid I have received from you, I would be unable to continue my education and pursue the career of my dreams.”

Shepherd is active in several campus organizations and plans to teach elementary students.

To learn more about establishing a scholarship at Millikin, call us toll-free at 1-877-568-2586.

Scholarships can honor, memorialize individuals

More than 300 endowed scholarships have been established at Millikin, usually in honor or memory of individuals who are special to the donor. During the 2009-10 academic year, $2.36 million in scholarships was awarded to 641 worthy students. At Millikin, a new scholarship can be established with a gift of $10,000, which may be given in increments over a period of time. 

Scholarships established during the last fiscal year include The William T. Eichenauer Scholarship Fund. Preference is given to a student(s) studying in the entrepreneurship program in the Tabor School of Business. In the event that no student meeting the criteria is available, the scholarship may be awarded to any deserving business student. The scholarship was established by Bill’s wife, Nancy Fisher Eichenauer ‘53, and friends to honor his memory. A 1951 Millikin graduate, Bill served on MU’s board of trustees and was chairman for the Millikin Fund and the centennial celebration committee, as well as numerous other positions. He was named Millikin’s Alumnus of the Year in 1996 and was a member of the Millikin Medallion Society, which honors those individuals who made the greatest positive impact on the university during its first 100 years.

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL