Dr. George T. and Frances D. Wilkins Named NAADD National Donor of the Year
June 7, 2006
CLEVELAND, OH - The Officers and Executive Committee of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD) have selected their award recipients for the 2005-06 year. Dr. George T. and Mrs. Frances D. Wilkins, loyal supporters of Northern Illinois University Athletics, have been honored as the University Division's National Donor of the Year. The University division includes all NCAA Division I institutions.
This honor is the highest national honor bestowed by NAADD, and is given annually to the donor(s) that best represents philanthropic spirit relative to intercollegiate athletics. Award winners will be recognized at NAADD's 13th Annual Convention, June 20-23 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Since their introduction to Northern Illinois University Athletics in 2003, the Wilkins' generosity has placed them in the forefront of Huskie supporters. In 2005, their generosity was highlighted by a $1 million leadership gift that spearheaded the campaign for the new $12 million Academic and Athletic Performance Center. This donation was the third-largest gift to NIU in the 107-year school history.
Despite living quite a distance from the NIU campus, the Wilkins family willingly travels extensive distances to personally support Huskie Athletics. Tragically, on one of the trips last September, Dr. Wilkins suffered a massive heart attack and passed away while attending the NIU football game at Northwestern. Frances and her family are still very active in the Athletics Department and continue to show their support by attending athletic contests and other department special events.
Other examples of their year-round support include providing funds for student-athlete academic service computers; an opportunity for every student-athlete, cheerleader and band member (over 700 NIU students) to enjoy a dinner hosted at the home of the athletics director; Thanksgiving meals for student-athletes remaining on campus during the university break; and funding for the football team to stay in a hotel prior to home football games.
"From the day of my arrival at NIU in 2004, the Wilkins embraced and welcomed me and my family to the community," Jim Phillips, Director of Athletics, said. "They understand the importance of our mission to provide student-athletes with a world-class experience academically, socially and athletically. More importantly, they have a firm grasp of how their own personal support and participation is critical in helping us reach this goal.
"Their importance to me, our student-athletes, and the NIU community transcends any particular financial donation they could make. It is very gratifying for our entire Huskie athletic family to see them honored on a national level, because they are truly representative of the spirit of this prestigious award."
From the time the Wilkins set foot on campus three years ago helping their daughter, Elizabeth, relocate for a faculty position in the College of Education, they have been enthusiastic leaders among the NIU donor constituency. The Wilkins have provided NIU with an example of integrity and generosity that truly serves as a model for intercollegiate athletic donors throughout the nation.
Copy by Tim McMurray, Associate Athletics Director for Development