Eureka College has received a generous estate gift valued over $1.3 million, courtesy of longtime supporters Virginia and Joe Severns.

The gift will be used to support student scholarships, the College’s outstanding faculty, and programs that will help provide a rich and memorable educational experience for its students. It is the largest unrestricted gift distribution ever given to the College in its 166-year history.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of benefactors and great friends to the College like the late Virginia and Joe Severns,” Eureka College Vice President of Advancement Josem Diaz said. “By remembering Eureka College in this significant and impactful way, they have helped ensure success for generations of Eureka College students.”

Virginia, who passed away at age 99 on June 30, 2020, and Joe Severns were both Peoria natives who had long been enthusiastic supporters of the College. They first visited the campus community ‘Neath the Elms in the 1980s due to a function that involved the College’s most famous alumnus, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and established a relationship that lasted the rest of their lives.

Virginia attended Peoria Institute of Business in Peoria after high school in 1939. She later worked at Travelers Insurance Company in Peoria. She enjoyed traveling throughout the United States with her husband and was known for her rose garden.

Located in Eureka, Illinois, and chartered in 1855, Eureka College cultivates excellence in learning, service and leadership while providing students uniquely personalized and custom educational opportunities.

Originally founded by abolitionist members of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Eureka College holds the unique distinction of being the first college in Illinois and only the third in the nation to admit men and women on an equal basis. The College, which is located on nearly 70 wooded acres in central Illinois, is the smallest of only 24 colleges and universities to ever award a bachelor’s degree to a future President of the United States.