Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Tomnitz CBT Challenge
Each year, WIU’s College of Business & Technology (CBT) bestows the honor of Distinguished Alumni on a graduate who demonstrates exemplary leadership and outstanding career success. Donald J. Tomnitz, Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of D.R. Horton Incorporated, earned the distinction in 2010.
Tomnitz attended the ceremony to accept the award in April of 2010. It was his first visit back to campus in 37 years. After earning his masters of business administration in finance in 1975, and teaching for three quarters while his wife, Sharon (MS.Ed. ’76), finished her degree, Tomnitz worked in the banking industry, real estate, and various divisions within the D.R. Horton Company, “America’s Homebuilder.” He was also a captain in the U.S. army for four years between his undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Don and Sharon found their visit so refreshing that they began to conceptualize a scholarship program. Consistent with Don’s innovative business reputation, this was no ordinary scholarship gift. The Tomnitz’s decided to build their scholarship endowment as a “challenge” to other CBT donors.
CBT’s annual fund appeal this year offered the “Tomnitz Match.” Don and Sharon generously matched all financial contributions to CBT up to $100,000, directing their share to the Sharon K. S. & Donald J. Tomnitz Scholarship Award Endowment. As CBT contributions are received, the Tomnitz’s deposit an equal amount in their scholarship endowment.
The Tomnitz Scholarship will be awarded annually to a U.S. military veteran majoring in any discipline within CBT. “We established the scholarship as a challenge in order to permit others to participate at any financial level.” said Don, “The goal was to create as large a scholarship fund as possible, so we could assist as many military veterans as possible.”
“We both obtained master’s degrees at WIU in the mid-1970’s,” explained Sharon. “Don used the Vietnam Era Veteran’s scholarship and I was awarded an academic scholarship my first year of graduate school. These scholarships provided both of us the opportunity to achieve a higher level of education and better prepare us for the future. We established our scholarship at WIU to provide others, specifically U.S. military veterans, the same opportunities we were afforded. We strongly believe in the motto of paying it forward.”
“The quality of the College of Business and Technology and the Counseling/Guidance Department was excellent,” said Don. “The programs in each taught the theory, but most importantly, were able to relate it to reality. Further, the professors in both programs were very approachable and each had a keen interest in those of us who were seeking to master the material.”
“The Tomnitz Match and the Tomnitz Scholarship have energized CBT’s fundraising efforts this year,” said CBT Dean Tom Erekson. “Alumnae nationwide responded early and generously to their departments’ annual appeals, so that our totals are ahead of previous years. A few donors have come forth with larger than usual annual gifts, $10,000 to $30,000, in order to leverage the Tomnitz Match.”
“All areas benefit from this,” Erekson continued. “Individual programs are receiving private support, and all the while the Tomnitz Scholarship continues to grow. CBT is grateful to the Tomnitz’s for the their generosity and for the unconventional approach they have taken to helping the College.”