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+ ACI Raises Nearly $85,000 at its 70th Anniversary Celebration
+ ACI Board of Trustees Honor ACI Executive Director Mick Weltman
+ ACI Board of Trustees Approve Budget, Business Plan, Reappointments
ACI Raises Nearly $85,000 at its 70th Anniversary Celebration
Funds raised go to for scholarships and programs to benefit Illinois college students
April 29, 2022

ACI's 70th Anniversary Celebration was held at the University Club of Chicago.

ACI raised nearly $85,000 in estimated net revenue at its 70th Anniversary Celebration April 22, a strong fundraising result for ACI since it initiated its April fundraiser in 2016. The funds included an estimated $20,900 in pledges for second-mile gifts made at the event. About 130 people attended the event at the University Club of Chicago, with live music provided by the North Park University Jazz Ambassadors.

The organization also established a new high for event sponsors with 11, plus an additional sponsor for the ACI Presidents Forum, held earlier in the day.

This year, ACI celebrated its 70th year of service to Illinois college and universities, and their students. The purpose of the event was to recognize ACI’s 26 member colleges and universities, recall the organization’s roots and history, and to raise scholarship and program funds.

The North Park University Jazz Ambassadors provided live music.

ACI Board of Trustees member Rob Johnson, president of Rob Johnson Communications, was master of ceremonies. Twelve of 22 founding members are still with ACI today, he noted, adding that ACI has raised $70 million dollars in its history. The 12 schools are Augustana College, Aurora University, Blackburn College, Eureka College, George Williams College (now part of Aurora University), Illinois College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Millikin University, McKendree University, North Park University, Quincy University and Shimer College, now part of North Central College.

“In 1952, it was time when privately funded education was at a crossroads,” said Lyn Bulman, ACI Board of Trustees chair. “Small private school were struggling to keep pace with the large state universities because they were receiving public funding as well as private donations.” To help ensure private college funding, community and business leaders joined private college presidents to establish ACI, she said.

Tracie Morris, BMO Financial Group,

Tracie Morris, BMO Financial Group, was featured speaker at ACI’s 70th Anniversary Celebration.

Today, ACI focuses much of its work on helping first-generation and low-to-moderate income students earn college degrees. “These students need financial support and often, they need guidance to graduate and get their first job,” Bulman said. ACI offers scholarships and emergency aid to some 350 students each year, she said. In addition, ACI offers college-to-career programs. ACI research shows member colleges are worth $3.75 billion to the state’s economy, and more than 24,000 alumni are employed by largest Illinois companies. “It seems clear that investing in these students makes a really valuable contribution to our state,” Bulman added.

Speakers make the case for liberal arts and sciences education
Tracie Morris, left, featured speaker, U.S. chief human resources officer and chief inclusion officer, BMO Harris Financial Group, earned degrees from two ACI-affiliated institutions, Benedictine University and North Central College. She said BMO Harris’ mission is to “Boldly grow the good in our community and in life.” Through its Empower Program, it has given $5 billion to the City of Chicago and throughout the United States, for women entrepreneurs and for people of color in business.

Carlos Robles, left, Saint Xavier University, and Mia Pitts-Hope, right, Wheaton College, were student speakers who earned ACI scholarships during their college years.

Carlos Robles, left, Saint Xavier University, and Mia Pitts-Hope, right, Wheaton College, were student speakers who earned ACI scholarships during their college years.

Carlos Robles, far left, a recent finance graduate from Saint Xavier University, an ACI member, was a recipient of the ACI General Scholarship. He and his family came to the United States from Ecuador when he was very young. He will join NFA, a financial company, in a few weeks, he said. His ACI scholarship helped him pay off his college debt and graduate earlier, he said. “This scholarship provided so much help in getting where I am. Thank you so much to the donors. I am eternally grateful for the scholarship. I want to thank ACI for allowing me to this opportunity to share my story and allow me to better my life in general.”

Mia Pitts-Hope, above right, who graduates this spring with a communication degree from Wheaton College, an ACI member, told the audience her grandmother inspired and supported her for much of her life. After her passing and other challenges, Pitts-Hope was awarded a McGraw Emergency Financial Aid Fund grant from ACI. She plans to use her degree “to improve the world around me through film, visual storytelling, journalism and design. I plan to cultivate works of arts and carry on my grandmother’s legacy.” She added she was “grateful for the McGraw Foundation and its generous contribution and thankful for ACI. What seems to us as bitter trials are blessings in disguise.”

Honors for retiring executive director
President S. Georgia Nugent of Illinois Wesleyan University, who also serves as ACI president, helped honor Mick Weltman, ACI’s executive director, who will retire this summer. “We know tonight is about our member institutions. It’s certainly about our students, but we also want to recognize Mick,” she said. At an earlier meeting, board members praised Weltman’s leadership of ACI, she said. “I thought that the sense of what Mick has brought to the organization was particularly well captured by one speaker who said he has an incredible combination of kindness and effectiveness.” Nugent presented an engraved memento to Weltman on behalf of friends of ACI.

“It’s a real honor to be recognized. I will miss the work,” Weltman said in response, crediting the work of ACI staff, board members and others for ACI’s success.

ACI Board of Trustees Honor ACI Executive Director Mick Weltman
April 29, 2022
ACI Board of Trustees Chair Lyn Bulman presents an acrylic memento to Mick Weltman.

ACI Board of Trustees Chair Lyn Bulman presents an acrylic memento to Mick Weltman.

The ACI Board of Trustees honored Mick Weltman, ACI executive director, at the board’s annual meeting April 22 in Chicago. Weltman, who began his role as executive director in late 2014, plans to retire this summer. A search for his successor is expected to be completed soon.

Prior to joining ACI, Weltman was a consultant to associations and nonprofit organizations, and served as an adjunct instructor at multiple colleges. His tenure at ACI has included an increase of six member colleges and universities, including two that returned to the organization. He led development of research projects that showed member institutions’ value to the state of $3.75 billion, and that more than 24,000 alumni of member schools work at 148 top Illinois companies.

Weltman and staff secured at least eight grants from the Council of Independent Colleges, Washington, D.C., which established or funded ACI these programs: Career Fair, Career Leaders Program, Career Mentoring Program, Leadership Council, a major gifts program, Micro-Internships Program promotion, Peer Mentoring Program and Work and Life Skills Boot Camps. The organization recently won a planning grant to conduct research and develop an implementation plan for community college students to complete bachelor’s degrees at ACI member schools.

In addition, ACI increased its Peer Mentoring Program member campuses from three to 12; established Named Scholarships; established partnerships with Parker Dewey for micro-internships and Sage Scholars for tuition discounts for students; became a regular participant in the annual Midwest Roundtable on Talent at Mackinac island, Michigan; established an ACI Board of Trustees student position; initiated regular discussion groups for board members, presidents and provosts; and introduced a new website, organizational logo and design.

President Gene Crume, right, of Judson University, presents Mick Weltman with the university’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Tributes focus on hospitality, compassion, effectiveness
Board members said they appreciated Weltman’s focus on hospitality, compassion and effectiveness in building the organization. For example, President Brian McGee of Quincy University, commented that one of his early contacts when he became president three years ago was Weltman. “He helped wonderfully to orient me as he had with many presidents before,” he said. “On behalf of all of the presidents who have had that experience, I express my gratitude. (Mick) is a kind and generous spirit.”

Leslie J. Sawyer, board member, president and CEO, Environmental Design International, Inc., thanked Weltman for helping independent, private colleges in Illinois, and their students. “You really have shown sincerity about caring about students and caring about all of us. You’re a friend of the board, and I’ve enjoyed working with you,” she said. Raymond E. Krouse, Jr., board member, Sikich, said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet with member presidents. “You really get to learn about the schools and their challenges. I really appreciated that,” he said. Anthony Lobello, board member and Advancement Committee chair, Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects, said Weltman has been “a great brand ambassador” for ACI. Chloe Overstreet, student board member, Eureka College, thanked Weltman on behalf of students ACI serves, and commented, “Your generous heart and your desire to make higher education more accessible to people is truly incredible.”

Lyn Bulman, chair, ACI Board of Trustees, said she appreciated her many discussions with Weltman about ACI. On behalf of the board, she presented Weltman several gifts, including an acrylic memento in recognition of his service, above left.

President Gene Crume, ACI executive committee member and president, Judson University, presented Weltman the university’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Achievement, above right. Weltman is the ninth person awarded this distinction, Crume said.

In thanking the board, Weltman recalled that when he applied for the ACI job in 2014, he spoke to board members and leaders on short notice and was offered the opportunity in four days’ time. “Thank you so much for this great opportunity. It’s been a real treat. It’s been a real pleasure serve in this role,” he said.

ACI Board of Trustees Approve Budget, Business Plan, Reappointments
April 29, 2022

The ACI Board of Trustees convened for ACI’s Annual Meeting April 22 in Chicago.

The ACI Board of Trustees approved a $1.4 million expense budget for the organization’s new fiscal year to begin June 1. The trustees also approved a business plan for the upcoming fiscal year and reappointed several board members.

The board reappointed 12 corporate members to two-year terms, and reappointed President Gene C. Crume, Jr., Judson University, for a two-year term on the ACI Executive Committee. In addition, board member Barry C. Mastin Jr., Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., will assume the role of chair of the ACI Trusteeship Committee, succeeding longtime chair Jerry Murphy, retired, who will remain on the board and committee, said Mick Weltman, ACI executive director. Pawel Szeliski, Kutchins, Robbins & Diamond, Ltd., will become vice chair, he said. Also, Debora L. Osgood, Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose, Ltd., will step away from her role as Program Committee chair. A successor will be named soon, Weltman said.

The business plan addresses ACI’s efforts in advancement, including its annual fundraising event, plus grants, corporate and individual giving. It also addresses college-to-career programs, peer mentoring, scholarships and emergency funds, professional development conferences and ACI’s communications.

The business plan includes a slight increase to 115 percent of return-on-investment to member schools, in response to assessments they invest to fund ACI’s operations, Weltman said. He also reported an anticipated budget surplus of about $26,000 in the current fiscal year.

Board members comment on anticipated financial returns, ACI initiatives
“It is encouraging to have 115 percent,” said President Philip G. Ryken of Wheaton College, an ACI member. He also thanked corporate board members for their service to ACI. “Hopefully this work is satisfying for you, and you have an opportunity to give to our state, to give to our community and to higher education. We don’t take it for granted. We really appreciate it. Thank you,” he added.

During an open discussion, James L. Applegate, Illinois State University, and chair of the ACI Communications Committee, suggested board members study ACI’s Member Employment Data. “It is an eye-opener. It is really quite stunning. Go look at the numbers in that study. Every employer in Illinois should value these colleges,” he said.

Rob Johnson, Rob Johnson Communications and ACI board member, asked his colleagues to think of themselves and the organization as “thought leaders.” “It’s more than just sharing a link to something that we did,” he said. “It’s for you all to feel like that you’re invested in this, too. If we’re going to go to the next level, we need to be thought leaders.” Among other things, the organization should produce a live event once a quarter for the business community, to highlight ACI’s contributions and relevance to higher education and workforce development, Johnson added.

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