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Campus News / News

Rockford University’s Just Imagine 2023 Gala Raises Funds for ‘Life Changing’ Scholarships

02/22/2023 4:34 pm

by Sara Myers, copywriter

Rockford University transformed its campus into an evening of elegance in support of student scholarships. More than 150 people — dressed to impress and in festive spirits — attended the university’s annual  “Just Imagine” Gala Saturday evening on Feb. 18. 

The annual event has been an ongoing opportunity to raise funds for RU student scholarships. Students like Elijah Lowry, an RU junior, called the scholarship “life-changing.”

Attendees enjoyed a three-course meal with dessert, followed by a special performance from RU’s vocal group Vocal Collective (known affectionately as VoCo). 

There was also a raffle in which half of the funds went to the winner, while the other half went toward student scholarships. 

“For the past five years, we have awarded an average of 56 competitive scholarships, each year” said Interim President Dr. Patricia Lynott. “100% of our full time domestic students in our traditional programs receive some level of academic scholarship.”

Scholarships like the Rockford Promise Scholarship allow Rockford Public School 205 students to receive full tuition at RU. Since 2016, the university has welcomed 35 students and has seen a 92% retention rate. 

Lowry and Julissa Guitierrez, both Rockford Promise Scholarship recipients, shared their personal journeys with event attendees. They expressed how beneficial the scholarship has been in helping them accomplish their life goals and dreams.

“I just had a conversation with President Lynott the other day and I told her I always knew that in order to be at a university like this one — a private university with an amazing education program — I had to get a scholarship,” said Gutierrez, a first-generation college student and RU sophomore. “I did, and I worked for it. I got a scholarship and I’m here and it’s much more amazing than I could have ever imagined.”

Lowry is studying theater management and pursuing certifications to teach at all grade levels. He said he’s always had a passion for working with homeless and drug-addicted individuals in the Rockford community. 

He gives back to his community by volunteering at Miss Carly’s, a Rockford nonprofit that provides meal service, clothing, hygiene items, and drug/alcohol treatment for the community’s underserved.

“If I hadn’t gotten the Rockford Promise, I would still probably be at RU, but I would be working either full-time or part time along with my classes,” Lowry said. “The scholarship has been really instrumental in my involvement with the university and my involvement with the community.  I would have never gone to Miss Carly’s in the first place after I found out about her (non profit) in my classes.”

He encouraged more people to help sponsor students like himself. 

In fall 2023, the number of Rockford Promise Scholars at RU will triple and require financial support. A contribution of $4,000 per year will send a student to RU tuition free. 

Dr. Lynott thanked all attendees, including sponsors, the Board of Trustees, and RU staff for their efforts and participation.

“It is the trustees who had the greatest impression on me and the trustees who ultimately helped me make the decision to take this position,” Lynott said, while addressing the audience. “Many of these trustees are alums so many are local business leaders. All of them are utterly committed to not just Rockford University by the entire Rockford community.”

Event sponsors included Illinois Bank & Trust and Fresh Ideas who were Leaders with their $5,000 donations. Benefactors who donated $2,500 included Mr. John ‘81 & Mrs. Elizabeth ‘81 Hegel; CSL Group Rural Oaks Plaza; Mercyhealth and Ceroni Piping.

Partners (those who donated $1,750) included The Kantner Family; Dr. David ‘73 & Mrs. Barbara Ragnar ‘73 Tanaglia; Dental Dimensions- Dr. Kris & Mrs. Patti Carlini ‘87 Tumilowicz; Mr. L. Thomas ‘84 and Mrs. Patricia Heiser; UW Health; Chartwell Agency; Stillman Bank; and MPEC.

Lynott also thanked Gala donors which included: Freeport Industrial Roofing, Ann Boe, Sue Smith, Jeffry Potter, Barbara Clucas, and Jim & Connie Coffey.