By Jeff Holt
Published September 15, 2022 in The Burg
MACOMB - Ronald Pettigrew has a humble business card - no pictures on it, only one color (in light purple) and a small logo of Western Illinois University. And in the small print, it says he is the Director of the Veterans Resource Center at WIU in Macomb.
But Pettigrew, who has served in the U.S. Navy for close to 40 years, is the one person who really makes the Veterans Resource Center go. His enthusiasm is off the charts. "The Veteran Resource Center serves as a one-stop shop," he said, proudly, in his office last week. "Your average student may have to go to Financial Aid and a whole bunch of different offices. Military veterans can come here and sidestep that and we'll also help them be successful." Pettigrew went on to say, "The most significant thing I'd like to say is that we have this facility - this house. It has couches, TV's, and computers. There should never be a time - for anyone who is military - to feel alone. You can sit in the Veterans Resource Center and be connected to other students." Last Thursday, Pettigrew had close to 10 speakers lined up to speak for the "Meet and Greet" event for new students at the Veterans Resource Center. They had close to 100 in attendance, a bunch of food delivered from Jimmy John's and a big flag hanging up outside in honor of WIU's Military Appreciation Club. One of his speakers, Amber Schultz, had some great news. Schultz is the Vice President for Enrollment at WIU. Schultz said enrollment is up 2 1/2 percent over last year. The new freshman class at Western is at an increase of 16.7 percent overall and they have the largest international enrollment in WIU history at about 1,100. If that is not enough, WIU has their largest graduate enrollment since 2008. The total enrollment for the Macomb and Quad Cities campus (and on-line) is 7,643. When asked what she credits it all to, she said, "A collaborative effort and incredible leadership on campus. President (Dr.) Wong arrived on campus about two years ago and he's made it very clear that one of his top priorities is to increase enrollment." Just a few of the other keynote speakers on Thursday - in what seemed like a bunch of 4-star Generals in the military included: Dr. Zoghi (Provost and VP for Academic Affairs), John Smith (VP for Success), Mike Murtagh (Interim VP for Advancement and Alumni Relations), Larry Pickett (Recruiting Officer for the Army ROTC program) and Doug Shaw (IT professional for Caterpillar since 1977). The term "Military Friendly college" went up a notch with each speaker on that night. If that is not enough, Pettigrew serves as a U.S. Navy Chaplain and truly cares about everyone on the WIU campus. * * * * * * * * It's amazing what WIU does for the Fallen Soldier 5k Run/Walk on October 8. Pettigrew, when he's not been on deployment for combat, has taken part in this event eight different times. They average over 200 people and have had up to 500 people attend this event. "Anyone wanting to attend on that day - even if there are classes that are scheduled - the (WIU) faculty and staff normally give approval (for the students) to attend on that day. We do Colors, play Taps and have several significant ones to speak." Added Pettigrew, about Western's Fallen Soldier 5k Run/Walk in Macomb, "It's humbling and encouraging to see the campus lined up with flags. To see everyone come together to support veterans means a lot. Less than one percent of our nation is currently serving (in the military). No more than 7 percent have ever served and to take a moment to honor those who are serving - I think is important. I don't think a lot of people get it." * * * * * * * From the President of WIU's Military Appreciation Club: WIU student Kae Reid also spoke at the Meet and Greet on Thursday in Macomb. She continues to focus on the recruitment part of it all. Yet, she also has the big picture. "My second goal this year is to continue to build our resources this year - our network and connections as a club. I just want to be a conduit to help others achieve their goals. When people come to us with these needs for things that they want to do, that we are able to accomplish those things. Reid takes a great deal of pride in WIU's homecoming parade. Plus, she's going to bring back and re-establish the Student Veteran Book Award. Reid has been a volunteer the past five years for the Fallen Soldier 5k Run/Walk. Then last year, she walked it with her dad. It is this type of commitment that makes WIU's Military Appreciation Club go.
Western Illinois University
Military Appreciation Club
The Purpose of the Club is to: help socialize veterans into university life; empower and enable veterans to give back to their community; and bring together all facets of the military community into a cohesive environment.
President Kae Reid
Vice President, Secretary, and FSL Representative Drew Killam
SGA Representative Gerry Garcia
Veterans Resource Center Representative Michael Hendrickson
Faculty Advisor Jeremy Robinett
Veterans Resource Center
Wright Residence 333 North Ward Street Macomb
298-3505 or VeteransResources@wiu.edu
Saturday, Oct. 8
Fallen Soldier 5K Run/Walk 8:30 a.m. Each year, the University hosts the Fallen Soldiers 5K to raise money for the WIU Fallen Soldiers Scholarship Fund, which supports veterans and service members currently enrolled at Western. Before the race, a special program is held to honor our Fallen Soldiers for whom the scholarship was established and recognize the current scholarship recipients. More information about ways you can honor veterans and be involved in the 5K Run/Walk can be found at wiu.edu/fallensoldiers.