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Clines' huge connection to Illinois and passion for education spur College contributions

by Sal Nudo / Nov 2, 2014

Lots of people around the world are loyal to the University of Illinois.

But Illinois graduates and husband and wife Rich Jr. and Rebecca Cline probably have most folks beat when it comes to Illini allegiance.

Rebecca, who met Rich when they were both freshmen, is one of 54 people in her family who have attended the University, dating back to her grandparents, who graduated from the school in 1913. Her parents graduated from Illinois, as did four of her siblings.

Two of the Clines’ children are among the fourth generation of Illini: Sara graduated with an undergraduate and graduate degree in political science in 2010 and 2011, and Molly is currently studying in the College of ACES as a sophomore.

Richs’s parents are Illinois graduates as well. His father, Richard, was the 2007 recipient of the Chicago Illini of the Year Award.

All in all, the 53-year-old Clines and their surrounding brethren have a huge history of orange and blue, which is why they have chosen to establish the Cline Family Scholarship, a gift that will support undergraduate students.

“If you’re passionate about something, it makes it easy to want to give your time and treasure,” said Rich. “We obviously have a passion for Illinois and hope we can make a difference.”

The inaugural Cline scholarship will go to junior Michelle C. Frigo, who will receive the couple’s contribution at the 2014 Student Recognition Brunch.

Rich and Rebecca are attending this year’s brunch, which recognizes the achievements of students and the philanthropy of College graduates and friends. The couple will meet Michelle in person, an encounter they are very excited about, Rich said.

Rebecca, who received her master’s degree in elementary education from the College in 1985, said that no matter where students attend school, they must have good teachers along the way to help them.

“Our mission is to help students achieve their goal of becoming a teacher so that they can pay it forward and help others achieve their dreams,” she said.

One exceptional teacher-leader whom Rebecca recalled from her days in Education was Professor P. David Pearson, who taught a methods course in reading.

“I feel a sense of pride,” she said, “when I tell my colleagues that a nationally known reading researcher taught me how to teach others to read.”

Educating future teacher-leaders was a natural path for Rebecca, who recalled “playing school” in her house while growing up, chalkboard and all. Her grandmother, sister, and daughter Maggie have all taught at the elementary level.

The Cline FamilyRebecca, who grew up in Champaign, taught kindergarten, second grade, and third grade after graduating from Illinois. After putting her teaching career on hold to raise their five children, she received a reading specialist degree and now works in that field at Bower Elementary School in Warrenville.

Her favorite thing about her job is the connection she’s developed with the children, as well as the positive difference she makes at the school.

“I’ve taught in a very affluent school and I now teach in a school that has a high number of families from a low socio-economic status group,” Rebecca said. “Any additional help I can provide these students at school, help that they might not get at home, makes my day feel complete.”

She said the children’s parents at the school are extremely thankful, which makes going to work feel good.

“You really feel appreciated,” she said.

The Cline Family Scholarship will be awarded to students of need, something that matters greatly to the couple.

Rich, who graduated from Illinois with a business degree and is now a founding partner at Calzada Capital Partners, said their commitment to the University is not complicated.

“It has to do with our love for the University of Illinois, and the fact that Rebecca and I are very passionate for education. I guess it would be as simple as that,” he said.


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