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Gene and Marilyn Nuziard

Gene and Marilyn Nuziard are making an eight-figure estate gift to establish an endowment for student scholarships at Illinois Wesleyan University.

BLOOMINGTON — A 1950 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and his wife are establishing an eight-figure endowment to be used for student scholarships.

The estate gift from Gene and Marilyn Nuziard, who live in Los Angeles, is among the top five donations in the school's history, according to IWU spokesman John Twork.

“The endowment that Gene and Marilyn Nuziard are setting up as part of their estate is large enough that huge numbers of students over the years are going to benefit from the Nuziards' support,” said President Eric Jensen. “They're going to change thousands of lives.”

The dollar amount of the gift was not released.

Jensen announced the gift at Thursday night's annual Scholarship Benefactor Dinner, the unofficial kickoff of IWU's homecoming weekend. IWU is celebrating “100 Years of Homecoming.” The football game against Carthage College starts at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tucci Stadium.

Although the Nuziards were not present at Thursday's dinner, Gene Nuziard said in a statement issued by the university, “There's a time for learning, there's a time for earning and there's a time for returning.”

Nuziard came from a working-class family and credits the IWU faculty and staff with preparing him to thrive in the business world.

“I'm giving to Wesleyan scholarship money so they can help other people, like they helped me,” he said.

Nuziard used his business administration degree to rise though the ranks of the commercial baking industry. He eventually became executive vice president of ITT Continental Baking Co., where he managed the Hostess Cake Division.

The Nuziards are longtime supporters of the university. Gene Nuziard received the Illinois Wesleyan Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.

Jensen described the gift as “transformative for Illinois Wesleyan as a whole.”

He said, “As an endowment, it will continue to give,” having an impact well into the future.

IWU saw a large increase in new students this fall, with 540 students in the incoming class, a 30 percent boost over last fall. Total enrollment this fall is 1,693, up from 1,649 a year ago, an increase of about 2.7 percent.

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Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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