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Bequest for Campus Beautification

Bequest for Campus Beautification

Eastern Illinois University alumnus Thomas Hoehn '68 has committed to a substantial bequest that honors some of his most significant experiences at Eastern. This bequest provides a significant gift to our campaign, EI&U: expect greatness. The commitment will create the Thomas & David Hoehn Campus Landscape Improvement Fund. Named for himself and his brother, the fund will pay for trees, shrubs, annual and perennial flowers, grasses and landscape structures that will enhance the beauty of campus.

Being from Chicago and the first in his family to attend college, Thomas had no idea what to expect when he stepped on campus at Eastern. He was up for the challenge. After a one semester stint as a business major, Thomas made the switch to education. He truly embraced the Eastern experience. He lived in Thomas Hall for four years, serving as president his junior year and as an RA his senior year. He was also on the yearbook staff and attended summer school. After undergrad, he stayed on and completed a specialist in instructional media. During graduate school he served as a GA.

After graduating with a BS and specialist from EIU, Thomas went on to have a long and rewarding career in education. Thomas retired from teaching in 2002 and can now be found hard at work at his farm (Hoehn Farms) in Knoxville, Ill., where he and his wife, Deane, have created a peaceful landscape filled with rose and vegetable gardens, flowers, annuals and perennials, and plenty of green space. I had the privilege to visit Hoehn Farms earlier this month to say thank you on behalf of the students, faculty and staff at Eastern. I also had a chance to sit down and discuss why he chose to leave his legacy in this way.

How would you describe your Eastern experience?
"Just fabulous! Besides the inviting campus, I was attracted to the small class sizes and always feeling like our professors were approachable and there to help us. Campus was much more than sidewalks and buildings; it was a place that allowed me to grow up."

Who or what inspired you to create this fund?
"Dr. Wesley Whiteside ignited a passion in me; one that I never would have discovered had I not taken two of his botany classes. He was incredibly passionate and down to earth. I especially enjoyed the field trips we were able to go on with him, in particular the trip to Fox Ridge State Park where none of us could keep up with him. Dr. Whiteside encouraged me to look outside of my major or career for other passions. As a teacher, you sometimes never know the effect you have on your students, even 30 or 40 years later."

Why did you decide to make this significant commitment?
"Both Dave and I have received so much from Eastern. We both walked away with no debt! I remember writing a check each quarter for $27.50 and that covered it. I had a teacher's education scholarship all four years as well as graduate assistantships. It was just time for us to give back." There is also a constant need for improving and upgrading campus green space. As the campus grows, we should continue to make the grounds very inviting."

What has surprised you about this experience and how does this commitment make you feel?
"It makes us feel good that we have a chance to give back in this way. There was never any pressure to give. I appreciated the professionalism and patience. You provided multiple different options and made the process simple".

What would you tell others who may be considering leaving their legacy to Eastern?
"Call the office. They are there to answer your questions and will provide you with multiple opportunities. You provided me information on life insurance and bequests. A bequest made the most sense to me right now, but I appreciated the different options. It's a big decision, that can take time, but I never felt pressured."

Every panther needs a legacy! Anyone can do this, regardless of the size of the gift. To learn more about how you can leave your legacy through a bequest to the Eastern Illinois University Foundation feel free to send me an email or call (217) 581-5113.