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BLOOMINGTON — “Aspiration” is more than the name of a water feature in the newly dedicated Egbers Quadrangle at Illinois Wesleyan University.

It's also what IWU officials wish for the school's students: to have aspirations to reach as high as they can.

The name comes from the sculptor, Giles Rayner of England, but IWU President Dick Wilson said, “The name, 'Aspiration,' is consistent with what we want to happen here. ... It all seemed to come together.”

What came together was a desire by Jan Egbers and her family to leave a lasting presence on campus to remember her late husband, Gary Egbers, a 1972 IWU graduate, who served as an officer on the board of trustees and as president of Wesleyan Associates.

A plaque unveiled at last week's dedication includes a quote from Gary Egbers, founder of Commercial Packaging: “Believe in yourself and never stop learning.”

“My husband, who went to school here, was so incredibly passionate about his education and the value he placed on this university,” said Jan Egbers. “We wanted to give back. Our family wanted to do something.”

The idea for the green space and fountain came about when State Farm Hall was being built. A portion of Beecher Street was temporarily closed for use as a construction staging area.

The street had long been a safety hazard as students crossed from residence halls to the north.

Wilson thought it would be good to obtain the city's permission, keep the street closed and make a plaza.

The city's OK and the family's major gift made that possible, including the commission of the stainless steel water sculpture, which is a focal point.

“We wanted a fountain as a contemplative space,” Wilson said, a place where students can sit and think about “issues in their lives, hopes they have, concerns they have.”

In looking at possible designs, Egbers wanted something that brought to mind a leaf.

In July 2004, she and her husband saw a tree with a red spot and she remarked about how surprised she was to see the leave turning in mid-summer.

“He said, 'Some things just perish earlier,'” she recalled.

Three weeks later, he died in a plane crash.

The plaque dedicating the quad in memory of Gary Egber's service and the family's long commitment to service of IWU, includes a red leaf.

“The flow of the water, in my mind, is the continuation of learning,” Egbers said as she stood next to the fountain. “It points to the sky. … It's so peaceful here.”

Wilson said, “The dean of students, Karla Carney-Hall, has been thinking about how to bring the sculpture … into a Wesleyan tradition.”

One idea is to have incoming first-year students line up on the sidewalks for a picture and “encourage them to think about this space as their space,” Wilson said. “We're enormously grateful to the family.”

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Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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