Barry McNamara  |  Published April 17, 2023

$1 Million Gift

Donors with long association to the College give back ‘to a great small college that’s given a great education to our family history.’

GIVING BACK: Pictured from left are 2007 Monmouth graduate Sarah Zaleski Degarmo and her parents,... GIVING BACK: Pictured from left are 2007 Monmouth graduate Sarah Zaleski Degarmo and her parents, Jane Turnbull-Zaleski and Steve Zaleski.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College has received a $1 million gift to support faculty development, technology and campus improvements.

The gift is from the Turnbull-Zaleski family, which includes 2007 alumna Sarah Zaleski Degarmo and her parents, Jane Turnbull-Zaleski and Steve Zaleski of Geneseo, Illinois.

The gift will cover five areas, with half of it establishing the Turnbull-Zaleski Endowment for Faculty Professional Development. Those funds will cover such expenses as participation in academic conferences, support for ongoing education, annual membership in professional organizations, and materials for scholarship.

Another $230,000 will establish the Turnbull-Zaleski Endowment for Information Technology, while $200,000 will be slated for the Turnbull-Zaleski Endowed Maintenance Fund for McMichael Academic Hall.

Portions of the gift also went to the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research (MJUR) Endowed Fund and the purchase of a new mount for the College’s 20-inch Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph telescope.

The McMichael fund “will provide support for the upkeep of one of Monmouth’s oldest and most noteworthy buildings.” Opened in 1907, McMichael Academic Hall houses the art department, where Degarmo spent much of her time as a student.

“Not only is the size of their gift extraordinary, but so is their desire to talk with the College about its areas of greatest need and where their philanthropy can have the greatest impact.” President Clarence Wyatt


“All of us at Monmouth College are very grateful for the gift from Jane Turnbull-Zaleski, her husband Steve Zaleski, and their daughter Sarah Zaleski Degarmo,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “Not only is the size of their gift extraordinary, but so is their desire to talk with the College about its areas of greatest need and where their philanthropy can have the greatest impact. Their generosity comes from their long family connection to Monmouth and honors that legacy. Finally, their gift is a sign that the momentum and raised sights generated by the Light This Candle Campaign are continuing.”

Monmouth recently concluded the Light This Candle Campaign, which raised more than $80 million, more than $5 million more than its goal.


Long-standing connections to Monmouth

After graduating with a double major in art and education, Degarmo received a master of fine arts degree from Bradley University, where she was awarded the Caterpillar Master’s Fellowship for demonstrating superior academic achievement. She now teaches art at Geneseo High School.

TURNBULL BROTHERS: Siblings Theodore (left) and David Turnbull graduated from Monmouth in 1941 an... TURNBULL BROTHERS: Siblings Theodore (left) and David Turnbull graduated from Monmouth in 1941 and 1936, respectively.While she was a student at suburban Glenbrook North High School, Degarmo had a “really good interview” with longtime admission representative Peter Pitts that helped convince her to attend Monmouth. But the College was already on the family’s radar, as Jane’s father, Theodore Turnbull ’41, and uncle, David Turnbull ’36, both graduated from Monmouth, among other family members.

Theodore became a doctor of internal medicine, while David earned a doctorate and was a physical chemist for General Electric who also taught at Harvard University.

“Monmouth was a stepping stone to their lives,” said Jane. “Part of the reason behind this gift is giving back to a great small college that’s given a great education to our family history.”

The family’s history in America spans nearly two centuries. Eventually, many of Jane’s Scottish ancestors settled in Elmira, Illinois – a Stark County community a few miles southeast of Kewanee – and are buried in the cemetery there. They attended Elmira United Presbyterian Church, so Monmouth College appealed to many in the family, due to its Presbyterian and Scottish heritage and its proximity to Elmira.

“Monmouth was a stepping stone to their lives. Part of the reason behind this gift is giving back to a great small college that’s given a great education to our family history.” Jane Turnbull-Zaleski


Jane’s family connection to Monmouth College was so strong that she considered attending, as well, despite the fact that, by then, her family lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Creating a plan

Once it was determined that the family would make a gift, they needed to decide where the funds would be directed. They received assistance in that process from Monmouth Vice President for Development and College Relations Hannah Maher.

“I asked Hannah, ‘What is your biggest need? What do you need for the College?’” said Jane.

“We weren’t arrogant enough to say, ‘Here’s what you need,’” said Steve. “It was about asking the question, and if those needs fit what we believe, then go for it.”

“The guidance that Hannah gave was wonderful. She wove our gift in the direction where there was the most need. She came up with a really good plan, and it was simple for us to do.” Jane Turnbull-Zaleski


“The guidance that Hannah gave was wonderful,” said Jane. “She wove our gift in the direction where there was the most need. She came up with a really good plan, and it was simple for us to do.”

The family came to campus in late February and discussed the proposal with Maher. They also met with some of Monmouth’s physics faculty, toured the observatory and saw the telescope, and met with Stacy Lotz, who was one of Degarmo’s art professors.

“This is our way of giving back to the gift of education that was given to my family. Education is everything. It gives you the stepping stones for life,” said Jane, with Steve adding, “And it can’t be taken away.”

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