Wartburg News

McCaskeys' $11.5 million gift commitment largest to Wartburg

Raymond F. and Judith K. McCaskey of Chicago have provided Wartburg College with its largest-ever gift commitment, an $11.5 million contribution that will provide significant scholarship support to Wartburg students from the Chicago area who demonstrate financial need.

The gift, announced during the College’s Opening Convocation, includes $1.5 million in immediate scholarship resources, with an additional $10 million to be fulfilled through the couple’s estate.

“Ray and Judy are exemplary servant leaders and have consistently demonstrated their commitment to their alma mater and to providing life-changing educational opportunities to young people, particularly in the Chicago area,” said Wartburg President Darrel Colson.  “Wartburg excels in enabling students to live their learning, unlock their potential, and find their calling.  This gift allows students who otherwise may not have an opportunity to consider a college education to take full advantage of the distinctive educational environment for which Wartburg is well known.”

The funds will create the McCaskey Orange Opportunity Scholarship Program to benefit students from the Chicago area, with preference to students from Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy.  Rowe-Clark, a campus of the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, opened in 2007 and now has nearly 600 students in grades 9-12.  The McCaskeys are active supporters of the school, and this fall nearly a dozen students from Rowe-Clark will attend Wartburg.

“Everyone aspires to ‘make a difference’ in the world, each in their own way,” said Ray McCaskey. “For us, education is the key to changing young peoples’ lives, and thus impacting our world, long after we’re gone.”

The current chair of the Wartburg Board of Regents, Ray McCaskey is the retired CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  He serves on the boards of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where he is immediate past chair, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.  His other civic involvement includes serving on the board of Life Directions, along with the advisory boards for United Way of Metro Chicago, and Chicago United.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield established a diversity award in honor of Ray and his lifelong commitment to supporting diversity in the workplace and in the community. Ray is a Chicago native who earned his undergraduate degree in math from Wartburg College in 1965 and his master’s degree from DePaul University in 1971.

Judy McCaskey (nee Slade), a native of Mason City, Iowa graduated summa cum laude with a degree in elementary education from Wartburg in 1965.  She enjoyed 40 years of teaching in the Chicago area and still actively volunteers in inner-city CPS schools.  She serves on seven not-for-profit boards, including After School Matters, Erikson Institute, and Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind.  In 2012, Judy was named among 100 “Women to Watch” by Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

“We have been blessed in our lives, and have always been guided by the biblical quote, ‘to whom much has been given, much is expected,” said Judy McCaskey. “We’ve gained lots of ‘adopted grandchildren,’ our McCaskey Scholars, in the process of providing these scholarships.”

Rowe-Clark’s enrollment includes 63% African-American and 32% Hispanic students and the school has been ranked ninth among Chicago’s 116 open enrollment high schools. Students engage in a rigorous, four-year college preparatory curriculum preparing them for college success.  Wartburg has one of the region’s most diverse enrollments, with 19% of the study body comprised of either U.S. students of color or international students.

“One of the things at which Wartburg excels is meeting students where they are and supporting and stretching them to the next level of academic achievement,” said Dr. Edith Waldstein, Wartburg’s Vice President for Enrollment Management. “For a long time we have recruited, enrolled and graduated students from Chicago. However, despite Wartburg’s generous financial aid, many of these students still face significant financial challenges. And what we don’t know is how many don’t even look at us because they think they can’t afford it—and, yet they would thrive here. The McCaskey Orange Opportunity Scholarship program will make study at Wartburg for these students possible. They will enrich our community with their experiences and cultural backgrounds, and we will provide them with the best college education possible.”

The McCaskeys’ commitment will support the College’s upcoming comprehensive campaign, which will include an emphasis on increasing scholarship resources. Most Wartburg students receive some kind of financial aid, and currently 72% of a first-year student’s financial aid package consists of scholarships and grants from Wartburg College. Scholarship awards of nearly $15 million recognize and encourage scholastic achievement. And through the generosity of alumni and friends, Wartburg offers 655 endowed or annually-funded scholarships totaling nearly $820,000.