September 10, 2014, Carlinville, IL — Blackburn College Board of Trustees member Jennifer Shelby recently contributed $161,000 to the College’s upcoming comprehensive campaign. A native of Champaign and current owner of two Hoopeston-area car dealerships, Shelby joined Blackburn’s board in 2010. Her gift amount included the donation of a Steinway Model O grand piano which is housed in Blackburn’s historic Clegg Chapel. The remainder of her gift will be allocated for a number of capital improvements campus-wide.
Shelby, former president and owner of Shelby Motors (Champaign, IL), first learned about Blackburn in 2009 after meeting president emeritus Miriam Pride. Blackburn College, a small, four-year liberal arts college located in Carlinville and famed for its student-managed work program, was unknown to Shelby who searched the school online to learn more. Impressed by its rigorous academic curriculum, student work ethic, and post-graduation job placement rate, Shelby has since been known to call Blackburn higher education’s “best kept secret”. After five years spent on the Board learning more about the institution and its mission, Shelby has dedicated herself to making others aware of the amazing value that Blackburn brings to its students, their careers and future successes.
Donated in 2013, Shelby’s Steinway is a gift that is close to her heart. Although not a musician herself, her great grandfather, Robert Eisner, was a Vaudeville pianist who entertained his audience of grandchildren. “He was quite the showman,” Shelby remembered. “I think he would have liked the thought.” The donation of the Model O Steinway allowed Blackburn to claim the distinction of being an All-Steinway School, joining an elite rank of institutions dedicated to excellence in music.
“Jen Shelby has provided exceptional contributions to Blackburn College as a non-alumna,” noted Blackburn President John Comerford. “Finding a need that matches a personal interest is something that donors always seek and her help in securing our All-Steinway School designation is a wonderful tribute to her family. Her support as an active trustee and donor has been invaluable as we move Blackburn forward into the future.”
Shelby’s remaining $125,000 campaign contribution was given as unrestricted funds, meaning it can be used as the College best sees fit. “If I believe in the organization I’m giving to, I believe they know how to use it,” Shelby said. From her first knowledge of Blackburn College, Shelby has become an outspoken advocate for its work-learning mission and the practical life-skills possessed by graduates. “I gave because of my entire affiliation with Blackburn College. I find the work college concept incredible and practical, and continue to be impressed by Blackburn graduates’ time management, professional, and managerial skills.”
Outside of the Blackburn Board of Trustees, her roles as capital campaign co-chair and chair of the Admissions and Retention committee, and her two dealerships, Shelby is also co-owner of Shatterglass Studios in Champaign; secretary to the Champaign-Urbana Sunrise Rotary Club; president of the Courtsiders booster club for UI women’s basketball; board member for the Illini Quarterback Club; chair-person of Champaign County Humane Society’s Fur Ball; and a member of the Hoopeston Economic Development Committee.