Uploaded on Nov 17, 2010
MACOMB, IL -- "The person I am today -- an Army Major, husband and father, was created here in these halls, here on this campus."
These are the words of Major Erik Archer -- who earned his bachelor's degree in history from Western in 2001 -- to the crowd gathered in Macomb on October 29 for the announcement of the public phase of the Western Illinois University $60 million campaign, "Set the Standard: Higher Values in Higher Education."
Archer continued: "The Army Major talking to a distraught soldier was created as an RA [resident assistant], helping a resident through family issues. The successful communicator was created as a writer for the Courier [Western's student newspaper]. The husband who met his wife on a PT [physical training] run the first day of ROTC. I owe a debt to this institution that can never be repaid, but it is a debt that I am supremely thankful to carry."
Archer and his wife, Beth (who earned her Board of Trustees bachelor's degree [now the bachelor of general studies degree at WIU] also in 2001), have established the Soldier Statesman Scholarship to recognize and reward a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Ranger Club who epitomizes the Army values and is a leader at WIU and in ROTC. Archer is the Fort Carson (CO) Provost Marshal and is between his third and fourth deployment overseas.
"When Erik contacted me about funding the scholarship via payroll deduction earlier this year, he mentioned it might take a little time to set it up," said Brad Bainter, vice president of Advancement and Public Services at WIU. "When I asked why, he said it was because he was currently serving our country. That really hit home hard and fast. Here was a fellow alum serving overseas, in a dangerous situation, with a wife and children at home. Yet, he took the time to remember Western and the thoughtful action to make sure his scholarship would be funded, regardless of his location," he added.
"My wife and I were in a position to give back to the University and the program that gave us so much," said Archer. "We wanted to help, in a small way, some cadets that may have been in the same position we both were in ROTC."
Archer explained that the scholarship is designed to help struggling students.
"Both my wife and I struggled financially and academically at points, and we want to help those who find themselves in the same situation," he noted. "I'm not addressing you as the prototypical scholar, rather the student who, partnering with the University, overcame obstacles to succeed."
Archer also mentioned many things that Western gave him, besides an education: a wife, confidence, humility and compassion.
"I came to WIU as a boy without direction and left a confident leader of men engaged to a beautiful fellow Leatherneck," he said. "To everyone who makes this institution what it is, thank you, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, for creating this amazing paint brush with which students like me can take and transform a blank canvas into a thriving work of art."
Bainter noted that Archer personifies the core values of Western.
"He is living the values we promote and embrace. I am grateful for, and humbled by, his thoughtful generosity. Erik Archer is what this great institution is all about," Bainter said.
Copy by: Julie Murphy
Special Thanks to Roger Kent and University Television for the video production.