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The Shoemates: Helping Western Illinois University Students Get To D.C.


shoematesWhen Dick and Nancy Shoemate were college students, they attended Western Illinois University (WIU) and received coveted scholarship funding. At the time, when scholarships were few, they were offered scholarship funding toward their educations.

“Dick and I felt very lucky to be going to Western Illinois,” Nancy said.

Now the couple has paid it forward and generously established a scholarship fund to help students from their alma mater attend The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) programs in D.C. The scholarships will go toward tuition for the summer programs, which include a full-time internship, housing in the heart of D.C. on the George Washington University campus and academic credits accredited by George Mason University.

“When Nancy and I went to college, there were not a huge number of scholarships available. I think I would have been tremendously excited about an opportunity to attend a program like TFAS had it existed then,” Dick said.

TFAS has had six WIU alumni attend programs since 1984. WIU alumnus Jonathan McGee (IBGA 12) completed the Institute on Business and Government Affairs during the summer of 2012. He interned for the Self-Storage Association. He described his TFAS experience as invaluable.

“Truly I think everyone interested in politics and business should experience something like TFAS. Especially people from Illinois because it’s a very political state,” McGee said.

McGee graduated from WIU in December 2013, and moved to D.C. about a month ago to start a master’s degree program in political management at George Washington University.

McGee highly recommends TFAS to his fellow WIU students.

“This is a chance for students to gain professional experience before entering the workforce. Students don’t always have opportunities to get work experience before entering the career field. The most important thing about obtaining a job is having experience,” McGee said.

Like McGee, the Shoemates are also from Illinois, and their ties to WIU are deep. Both Dick and Nancy both grew up in west central Illinois, not too far from the university. Many of their relatives and family members also graduated from WIU.

“WIU has been a very important part of opportunities for both of our families,” Dick said.

The Shoemates said they especially like the aspect of economics education that TFAS promotes. Mostly they are ardent supporters of education.

“Higher education is an eye-opener to young people, wherever they come from,” Dick said. “That was for sure very important to us coming from small towns to get that exposure to the world.”

After graduating from WIU the couple married and had three sons. Dick Shoemate went on to get a master’s degree in business from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  He then began working for BestFoods. As Dick advanced in his career, the family moved from the Chicago-area to Texas and then to Canada, and enjoyed many travels in between. Dick was the CEO of BestFoods in 2000 when the company was acquired by Unilever in one of the largest takeovers in global food industry.

The couple, now in their 70s, splits time between Vero Beach, Fla. and Colorado. They still go back to visit WIU for relatives’ graduations.

When they attended WIU graduation in spring 2013, the university announced that they have a high percentage of students who qualified for the Federal Pell Grant Program, among other types of scholarship and aid.

“WIU is still awarding funding to students who are qualified,” Nancy said.  “Students who study hard and work hard.”

The WIU student scholarships are available for summer 2014. Interested students should visit www.DCInternships.org to apply.

If you too would like to support TFAS students, visit www.TFAS.org/Support or contact Vice President of Development Ed Turner at 202-986-0384.



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