Associated Colleges of Illinois

ACI News

ACI 65th Anniversary Reception Focuses on Scholars, Independent Higher Education
May 2, 2017

More than 200 people attended the ACI 65th Anniversary Benefit Reception April 21 at the University Club of Chicago.

More than 200 people representing Illinois higher education, corporations and foundations, plus several individual supporters, attended the Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI) 65th Anniversary Benefit Reception April 21.

The event at the University Club of Chicago was a celebration of independent, private higher education in Illinois while generating financial support for ACI’s scholarship program, and its Peer Mentoring Program, now available at seven ACI member campuses. Both programs support underserved students at ACI’s 24 member colleges and universities.

“I strongly believe the best way we can make incremental improvement in our communities is by making a high-quality, liberal arts education accessible and affordable to first-generation, minority and low-income students,” said James S. Wylie, chair, ACI Board of Trustees, in his remarks. “What we’re doing is to help build the critical resources needed to make our mission a reality for the nearly 60,000 students at our member colleges.”

ACI President Barbara A. Farley

Dr. Barbara A. Farley, president of Illinois College, Jacksonville, and ACI president, expressed appreciation on behalf of ACI’s member presidents and institutions. “I would like to thank you for your enduring support for the students attending and graduating from our colleges and universities.  These students need your support more than ever, so they can go on to do great things in their professional careers, their personal lives, their communities and the world,” she said.

CIC president comments on three dimensions of higher education

Dr., Richard Ekman, president of The Council of Independent Colleges, Washington, said in his keynote remarks that supporting private higher education is critical for America’s future and society’s needs. He commented on independent higher education access, success and affordability.

CIC President Richard Ekman

On access, he said a higher percentage of low-income first-generation students attend private versus public colleges. “We are in the private college sector, the places of opportunity, the places where people get a chance to make it and begin their path to upward mobility,” Ekman said. On success, he commented that graduation rates in private colleges are better than graduation rates in other higher education sectors. Private college graduates are active in their communities, vote regularly and give generously, he said.

Finally, he said private colleges are more affordable than many people believe. “The reason why it’s entirely affordable is because of the commitment of our colleges and universities and people like you in this room,” Ekman said. “Scholarships … make it possible for our students to succeed.”

Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Ensemble performed at the ACI Benefit Reception.

Sponsors of the ACI 65th Anniversary Reception were Aon, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and UPS.

Founded in 1952, ACI consisted of 22 charter member schools, many of whom are still affiliated with the organization. Since then, it has awarded more than $70 million in scholarships to Illinois students, with the help of corporations, foundations and individuals donors. Today, it serves nearly 60,000 students in 24 Illinois colleges and universities

ACI Benefit Reception testimonials emphasize opportunity for underserved students
May 2, 2017

Educators, students and supporters offered heartfelt testimonies to supporters attending ACI’s 65th Anniversary Benefit Reception. They called attention to ACI’s scholarship and peer mentoring programs, aimed at underserved students at ACI’s 24 member colleges and universities.

President David L. Parkyn, North Park University, Chicago, was the first in his family to attend college.

Education is a “noble mission” made “more noble” when extended to students who don’t have the opportunity to attend college, said Dr. David L. Parkyn, president of North Park University, Chicago. Parkyn said his own family was not part of those who sent students to college, yet he was the first in his family to attend college and graduate, with significant help from mentors and instructors.

“ACI and its member institutions are committed to serving this important student population,” Parkyn said. “We as ACI own an obligation. We claim a moral responsibility to open wide the doors to higher education, the doors that were closed to my family, and that too often remain closed for so many students and families across our nation.”

KhayLeen Wright, Dominican University, River Forest, joined the ACI Peer Mentoring Program at Dominican as a mentee, and now is a mentor to first-generation students entering the university.

KhayLeen Wright, a mentor and leader in ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program at Dominican University, River Forest, joined as a mentee in her freshman year. That experience had a significant impact for her. “Entering into college was a huge source of anxiety for me as I had no idea how college was supposed to look or feel,” she told the attendees. Now a junior majoring in English, she is mentoring incoming students. “I have found great value in making connections with students walking in my shoes. This is a program that I hope continues to be funded,” she said.

Terri Diggs Norman of AT&T, a corporate ACI Board of Trustees member, said she and her husband, Art, veteran news anchor and reporter at WMAQ-TV, Chicago, are both first-generation college students. The Normans are excited about ACI’s efforts to increase college graduates, she said. “We need graduates. We need a generation that doesn’t come up to a podium and say ‘we were the first in our family.’ That should be a thing of the past,” she said.

“I want to thank this organization for opening many doors,” said Art Norman. “Dr. King said it many times: ‘It’s not where you come from. It’s where you’re going.’” He noted that any student can succeed in college, regardless of background or experience. “We want to mentor them every chance we get,” he said. “You are a part of a solution.”

To provide financial support for ACI scholarship and peer mentoring programs, please visit or contact Mick Weltman, ACI executive director by phone at 312-263-2391, ext. 0523, or email at

Higher Education Headlines

Benefits of Liberal Arts Education

Archived stories, cont’d

Aug. 5: Lewis University College Success Program Receives $45,000 AT&T Contribution
Aug. 5: From ACI-member North Central College: Democracy through the eyes of students
July 6: Peer Mentoring Program expands to seven campuses for 2016-17
July 1: ACI welcomes four new college and university presidentsMay 27: North Central College agrees to acquire Shimer College
May 9: Laura Ortega-Lamela Appointed to ACI Board of Trustees
May 6: ACI Scholar Katherine King, Concordia University Chicago
April 27: ACI Scholar Paris Edwards, Augustana College
April 14: Welcome new board members!
April 6: ACI Welcomes Sikich LLP as a New Corporate Partner
April 6: Northwest Comprehensive Continues its ACI Corporate Partnership
March 16: ACI April 29 Reception to Recognize Scholarship Recipients, Peer Mentoring, Retiring Presidents
Feb. 25: ACI offers Conservation Careers internships for this summer
Feb. 23: Rockford University appoints Dr. Eric Fulcomer as president
Feb. 18: Elmhurst College names Dr. Troy VanAken president
Feb. 12: Greenville College tops list of state’s best online colleges and universities; 6 other ACI schools also ranked
Feb.9: Dr. David Livingston named 10th president of Lewis University
Feb. 4: Three ACI member schools cited for lowering tuition costs
Jan.7: ACI’s 2016 spring conferences set


Dec.15: Consider ACI for year-end, tax-deductible giving
Nov. 18: ACI’s Project LEAD Summit explores teacher diversity and support
Nov. 6: ACI awarded challenge grant for peer mentoring at member colleges


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