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Lorraine & Ken Epperson
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Epperson Gift Achieves WIU's Campaign Goal

September 23, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- The Western Illinois University Foundation is pleased to announce that its Higher Values in Higher Education Campaign has met its $60 million goal with a most generous gift from distinguished alums, longtime friends and loyal supporters Dr. Ken and Lorraine Epperson.

"Our commitment to Western and to this campaign is a gift of love and appreciation for what Western has meant to us, and an investment in the future of Western and the Center for Performing Arts," said Lorraine.

The Epperson's seven-figure gift, a combination of an outright gift and a bequest, directs $1.5 million to the long-anticipated Center for Performing Arts (CPA) to be located on the southwest side of campus along Western Avenue. Both Ken and Lorraine selflessly worked to bring a Center for Performing Arts to the campus of Western Illinois University and the Macomb community since 1970s.

"We will be so happy when the CPA is constructed at last, and believe strongly that it will positively impact the quality of life for the University, the community and the region," Lorraine added.

The more than 5,000-square-foot iconic lobby of the center will be named in honor of Dr. Ken and Lorraine Epperson in recognition of this gift. Ken and Lorraine have been involved with Western in some way for most of their lives.

"Our loyalty to Western has never changed a bit since we were students," said Ken. "We got our start at Western, and everything we have achieved is possible because of the education we received. We are giving back so that current and future students can be as fortunate."

The couple met as students at Western and were married the year following Lorraine's graduation. As students, they were both involved: Ken as a three-sport letterman (football, basketball and track) and Lorraine as the first president of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. They both earned education degrees then went on to education careers – Ken as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and later Community College Relations Director for Western; Lorraine as a teacher and 18 years as guidance director for Macomb High School.

Lorraine entered the real estate business in 1974 and Ken joined her upon his retirement from Western. Together, they purchased the Purdum Real Estate Firm in 1985, and in 1990 acquired a Century 21 franchise.

The Eppersons have strengthened their commitment to Western throughout their lives. As a couple, they have served on the Performing Arts Society Board of Directors. Lorraine was a member of the WIU Alumni Council for several years, serving as its president for two years. She was a Board of Governor's Trustee, then appointed by Gov. Jim Edgar to Western's Board of Trustees in 1995, including terms as vice chair and chair of the Board. In 1988, she received the College of Business and Technology's Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2006, was awarded Western's Distinguished Alumni Award. She is currently in her third term on the WIU Foundation Board of Directors. Lorraine received the Sigma Sigma Sigma Centennial Woman of Distinction given by the national sorority. She received her bachelor's degree in 1948, and master's degree in 1952 from Western.

Ken earned his bachelor's degree in 1946, and his master's in 1952 from Western, and later his doctorate 1969 from Indiana University. He was awarded WIU's Alumni Achievement Award in 1987, and was initiated into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996. Ken is a talented woodworker, crafting the large WIU seal on display in the Registrar's Office (made in 1974 in honor of Western's 75th anniversary) and the Ceremonial Mace (a symbol of university scholarship and integrity since the 11th century) featured in convocations and commencements. Ken learned basic woodturning skills while at Western, nearly 70 years ago, from Wayne Wetzel, for whom Wetzel Hall was named.

"The Foundation and WIU are thrilled that this noteworthy gift, the one that achieves our campaign goal, comes from Kenny and Lorraine," said Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter. "Their relationship with Western and their history of giving, both of their time and resources, makes this particular gift and attaining this goal all the more meaningful. Truly, all of Western is grateful to them for all they do."

The Eppersons have supported numerous Western initiatives, including the Leatherneck Club, Performing Arts Society, the College of Business and Technology, University Libraries and several scholarships. They made a commitment to the previous Centennial Campaign in 1996 to establish an endowment to support future generations and are among the University's leading donors.

"It is a day for rejoicing," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "Not only are we celebrating Founders' Day at Western Illinois University, we are celebrating meeting our campaign goal thanks to two very special people who have been connected to Western since the 1940s. We are so happy that they are part of this important occasion."

The "Set the Standard: Higher Values in Higher Education" $60 million campaign for Western Illinois University began silently in 2006, and went public in 2010. The campaign has focused on increased scholarship support for students, support for faculty, improvements to capital facilities and enhancing information and technology for all the staff and students of Western Illinois University. The campaign will conclude Dec. 31.

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