Monmouth College alumni couple establish scholarship for first-generation students from Warren, Mercer, Henderson, Knox counties
Monmouth, Ill. (04/06/2021) — Before Nathan Gaskill '04 was a partner at the accounting firm of Lauterbach & Amen in Naperville, Illinois, he was a first-generation college student wondering if he'd have enough money to begin and continue his Monmouth College education.
"First-generation college students can face a multitude of challenges," said his wife, Laura Haumiller Gaskill '06. "The financial burden is often one of those barriers to entry, and one we thought we could help lighten that load."
The couple had Nathan's experience in mind when they considered supporting Monmouth's Light This Candle Campaign, which will raise a minimum of $75 million for the College's endowment by Dec. 31, 2022.
In 2015, the Gaskills created the Nathan and Laura Gaskill Accounting Prize.
"If we were going to make another gift, we thought about what that would look like," said Laura. "Both of our hearts were set on helping first-generation college students."
The Gaskills responded to the challenges of the Light This Candle Campaign by initiating the Dream and Achieve Scholarship. The scholarship is for a first-generation college student, with preference given to students from the local counties of Warren, Mercer, Henderson and Knox. Recipients should also be involved in Monmouth cocurricular activities. Although preference will be given to first-year students, transfer students will also be eligible for the scholarship.
Inspired by family
A graduate of Monmouth High School, Nathan studied accounting and business in college. Playing football, he set Fighting Scots career records for the most receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, earning multiple All-Midwest Conference honors at receiver and on special teams. He also competed at the NCAA meet as a member of the Monmouth track team.
"The scholarship that we've done is also inspired by Nathan's family," said Laura. "Both sides of his family are from the area. We wanted it to be for local students. Monmouth has impacted Nathan's life in a significant way; it's his hometown."
Laura's high school experience was different from her husband's. She came to Monmouth from Naperville Central High School.
"There were a thousand seniors in my class," she said. "At the graduation ceremony, I sat next to people I didn't even know."
Finding a picture-perfect college
Laura knew she wanted a different experience for college, and she set out in earnest to find it, making "13 college visits over the span of a couple of months." Then a van trip to Monmouth, led by longtime admission counselor Peter Pitts, helped her make her decision.
"I came to campus, and I remember thinking it was the picture of what a small school should look like," she said.
Laura said she felt the freedom "to try new things" at Monmouth. That had not always been the case at Naperville Central, which she said it often felt "fast-paced" in a stressful way.
"At Monmouth, I had the wonderful opportunity to try new things and make new friendships," she said. "At first, I thought I would study psychology, but then public relations really spoke to me."
Laura majored in the subject, minoring in English. Until the pandemic, she ran a small PR marketing firm, Gaskill Creative. Laura attended a writer's workshop at the University of Chicago and is working on a novel - although the pandemic has limited her writing opportunities as her focus has been on the school schedule of the couple's two children, who are 8 and 6.
"I'm temporarily on the leadership team of the Vaccine Buddies group," she said. "So far, we've vaccinated about 2,000 senior citizens in DuPage County."
Laura said her ability to shift midstream comes from her Monmouth experience.
"I can point to so many examples from my liberal arts education at Monmouth that taught me to be flexible with what's happening - from lessons I learned in economics with Professor (Dick) Johnston, to PR classes with Professor (Benita) Dilley, to the flyers we'd put out in Chris Goble's class," she said.