“It’s nice to know that there are alumni outside of Champaign who still want to be involved in the lives of students.”
University of Illinois alumnus Robert Campbell has fond memories of his years as a student in the early 1950s. “I’d have coffee in the morning at Newman Hall before walking over to class,” he said. “It was sort of a gathering place.”
At that time, opportunities were few for new graduates, but Campbell’s degree in business administration from Illinois provided him with the knowledge and skills he needed to build the Robert Campbell Company in California.
“Illinois is where my wife and I received very good educations, and we just have a great love of our days at school there,” he said.
Like many alumni, Campbell’s appreciation for his Illinois experience inspired him to find several ways to give back to his alma mater. Because helping individual students was important to the Campbells, they decided to become sponsors in the James Newton Matthews Merit Scholarship Program.
“It appealed to us because it recognizes top students,” he said. “It’s a terrific program, one of the best on campus.”
Sponsoring Matthews Scholar Susan Lohuis has provided the Campbells with another way to stay connected to the university by personally getting to know Lohuis through letters and chats over coffee.
“I think the most impressive thing is to see this young woman who is so intelligent and personable,” he said. “She’s going to do really well because she’s very charming and just a good person.”
Lohuis met the Campbells her sophomore year, and knew right away that if she needed anything, they were the type of people that she could count on.
“They’re always interested in what I’m doing on campus and outside of school,” Lohuis said. “It’s nice to know that there are alumni outside of Champaign who still want to be involved in the lives of students.”
Campbell said he plans to continue sponsoring future Illini through the scholarship program, because the experience of helping a student succeed at his alma mater has been so rewarding.
In addition to participating in scholarship opportunities for students, the Campbells also provided funding to build a permanent home for WILL, the university’s public broadcasting service.
“We believed very strongly in communications, and we found out WILL was operating out of locations which included a motor home trailer and an old bakery,” he said. “And at the same time they were working under adverse circumstances, they were winning all kinds of awards.”
Campbell said he is pleased with the now completed Campbell Hall for Telecommunications, especially because of the addition of a teaching studio which is used by students. The Campbells are also the lead benefactors in the creation of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, which opened in May, 2006.
“It has always been a source of pride to say I’m an Illini, a University of Illinois graduate,” he said.