Bill Breitzke was an investor. "Bill loved numbers," recalls his wife, Eileen. "Investing wasn't work for him...it was like a game. He didn't care how much he accumulated. He just thought it was great fun." All that fun paid off. Bill was able to leave a legacy, a large part of which he left for students at NIU.
Bill earned his bachelor's degree in marketing at NIU in 1964 and his master's degree in education in 1969. He built a 27-year career teaching marketing and cooperative education at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois. "His students loved him," says Dick Beard, who taught with Bill. "He spent a lot of time on job sites as part of the co-op program for those kids. He worked long hours with their employers. He never thought twice about going the extra mile, because he really cared about his students' success."
At age 62, Bill found the love of his life, Eileen. She was his college sweetheart and the two reconnected in their sixties. "Bill had been a bachelor his whole life," recalls Beard. "Eileen made him very happy." "Dating was one of the most exciting times of our lives," says Eileen. "We felt like we were 20 again. We felt like our lives were just beginning." Unfortunately, the happy couple's new start was short-lived. Bill was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 64.
The following months were tough as Bill underwent surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. "He fought hard and almost never complained," she recalls. "He was always upbeat." Through it all, Bill never stopped wanting to help others. "There was a van that would pick patients up for treatments at the hospital," says Eileen. "It was the dead of winter and we really appreciated it. We wanted to make sure others could benefit from that life-saving service for years to come, so we donated a new van," she says.
The couple's belief in the power of education is so strong that before Bill's passing, they chose to create three endowed scholarship funds at the NIU College of Business. "We wanted to help students, and it was very important to leave the estate with an organization we could trust. Bill needed to know it would be well invested," she says. In his final weeks, Bill and Eileen created a living trust with several beneficiaries, including family members and charities. The university will also receive the proceeds from a marital trust the two created before his death. NIU president John Peters: "People like Bill and Eileen who believe so much in this university community remind us why we do what we do. We are very proud indeed that they chose to leave their legacy at NIU."
Northern Illinois University has designated the NIU Foundation as the charitable organization to receive and manage all gifts on its behalf.
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