The Judith E. Everson Professorship in English honors Everson, an emeritus professor who taught at the university for 31 years. Everson’s former student, Cheryl Peck, who served as director of public relations at UIS from 1992 to 2009, donated $500,000 to establish the fund. The distinguished professorship serves as a tribute to Professor Everson’s extraordinary gift for teaching that opened up new worlds of possibility and accomplishment for her students, Peck said.
“Her devotion to her students inspired us to reach beyond our fears as midlife learners and to ask more of ourselves than we had ever thought possible,” said Peck. “The result was a new-found confidence that swept me on to further literary exploration and set me on a path of lifelong discovery in books and writing.”
Peck, who earned her B.A. in Literature in 1986 and M.A. in English in 1989, describes Everson as an “engaging tour guide,” who introduced her to the aristocratic worlds of Wharton and James, and made accessible Faulkner’s stream of consciousness narration, Hemingway’s spare writing style, and Dreiser’s literary naturalism.
In response to the gift, Everson said, “We’re often told that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. This was certainly the case many years ago when Cheryl Peck and I had our first meeting of the minds here on campus. If, as she kindly says, I helped to make her a better student, I can return the favor and say that she made me a better professor, which is what superior students always do for their teachers.”
As a charter faculty member, Everson came to Springfield in 1970 when Sangamon State University (SSU), now the University of Illinois Springfield, was still under construction. She taught courses in English, History and Public Speaking until her retirement in 2001. Everson has remained active on campus and was honored with the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award last year.
“It is my sincere hope that future students of English will be similarly inspired by the faculty who occupy the Everson Professorship in years to come,” said Peck.
Everson added, “Through this far-sighted gesture, (Cheryl) is making sure that there will be continued vitality in the department and on the campus that we both cherish.”
Before coming to UIS, Peck was assistant to the chancellor at the Illinois Board of Regents for nearly four years. The BOR was the governing board for SSU, Northern Illinois University, and Illinois State University.
Peck’s professorship, a planned gift, will add to UIS’ other distinguished faculty positions:
- The Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies
- The Ameren Professorship of Business and Government
- The PNC Distinguished Professor in Banking and Finance
- Two Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professorships in Liberal Arts and Sciences
- The Wepner Distinguished Professorship of Political Science
- The Hanson Professional Services Faculty Scholar