John “Jack” McCoy ’59 and Barbara Witzeman McCoy ’60 of Decatur are co-recipients of the 2017 Alumnus of the Year award, the university’s highest alumni award. This award is presented in recognition of their strong commitment and dedication to Millikin over many years, both through service and generous financial support.
People like the McCoys don’t come along every day. They truly enjoy giving back to their alma mater and to their community. When asked, “When not supporting the Big Blue, what is your favorite thing to do?” the McCoys answered in their true philanthropic spirit:
“Funding scholarships [at] St. Teresa High School and Richland Community College, Knights of Columbus activities, St. Thomas Church, Frontier activities, St. James Church, Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts, St. Patrick Grade School, … SAE House Corporation, Special Olympics, Kiwanis …”
When it comes to giving back, they truly are “The Real McCoys.”
The couple met as students at MU and celebrated their 56th anniversary last June. Jack earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Millikin and a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Purdue University. While at Millikin, he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and lettered in track and cross country. Barbara earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Millikin, and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She also earned a master’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University.
Jack was a practicing pharmacist for 50 years and is now retired. Barbara retired from teaching Spanish at Decatur’s Eisenhower High School in 2001, but continued to teach Spanish at Decatur’s MacArthur High School until 2007, when she retired after 42 total years of teaching.
It’s easy to see why Jack and Barbara received MU’s Alumni Loyalty Award in 2007. Jack served a three-year term on Millikin’s alumni board, where he served as both first and second vice president. Jack has been a frequent and dedicated phonathon caller for the Millikin Fund, and Barbara serves as a class agent fundraiser for the class of 1960. They have also demonstrated their loyal support of the university through gifts to the Millikin Fund, two capital campaigns and the SAE Endowment for Excellence. Other generous contributions have helped fund improvements and renovations to Staley Library, Shilling Hall, Perkinson Music Center and Albert Taylor Theatre.
Enthusiastic supporters of Big Blue athletics, the McCoys are members of the Big Blue Club, Millikin’s athletic booster organization, and Jack was a member of the Quarterback Club for 50 years. They also regularly contribute to one of Jack’s favorite projects, “The Best Seat in the House,” which was introduced in 2009 as a way for alumni and friends to name seats in Griswold Physical Education Center. Through this initiative, Jack and Barbara have named more than 60 seats in Griswold in honor of alumni, coaches and friends of Millikin who have been influential in the history of Millikin athletics, particularly basketball. In 2015, Jack expanded the program to create “The Best Seat in the House – President’s Box” at Frank M. Lindsay Field. To date, the McCoys have honored nearly 100 alumni, coaches and friends of Millikin who have been influential in MU football.
Barbara and Jack are also members of the Millikin Associates, the Investors Society and the College of Fine Arts Patrons Society.
Through their scholarship endowments, the McCoys’ generosity will benefit countless students for years to come. To date, Jack and Barbara have established 23 scholarships at Millikin, including the Everett Burk Witzeman Scholarship in memory of Barbara’s father. They have also honored 11 members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon by endowing awards bearing their names. These awards honor SAEs whom Jack felt had a very positive influence on him during his MU tenure. The McCoys also honored seven Pi Beta Phi members, many of whom were classmates of Barbara’s and/or had a positive influence on her career at Millikin, by endowing awards in their names. They have also endowed four additional scholarships named for relatives, and one in particular, the Davis-Raycraft Pre-Pharmacy Scholarship, honors the historic campus pharmacy, individuals and family members connected to that business.
The couple has established scholarships at St. Teresa High School and Richland Community College, including the Elfreda Virginia Jacobson Witzeman Scholarship, established in honor of Barbara’s mother. They have also established numerous scholarships at Purdue University, where Jack earned his pharmacy degree. At Purdue, they are members of the President’s Council, the Dean’s Club, the John Purdue Club, the R.B. Stewart Society and are life members of the Alumni Association.
The McCoys are actively involved in numerous organizations within the Decatur community. For example, anyone who has played in the Northwest baseball or softball leagues has benefitted from the McCoys’ philanthropy and from Jack’s leadership. For more than 40 years, Jack coordinated Northwest’s summer leagues, impacting the lives of more than 1100 Decatur-area children each year. He has served as president of the organization for 33 years.
A loyal member of the Knights of Columbus, Jack was a faithful navigator of the Fourth Degree Assembly 211 for the 2004-05 term, and a Grand Knight of the Third Degree, Council 577, in 2013-15. He is also a member of the Elks USA 401 Decatur and Moose General Assembly Illinois Lodge 684. Barbara has served as secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary of Decatur Council 577 since 2004 and was vice president in 2007-08. The McCoys have been active members of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Decatur since 1957.
Jack has also served as president of the Early Bird Kiwanis, a member of the foundation board for St. Teresa High School, and has received a Masonic Community Award. He has been a scoutmaster and cubmaster for Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, and is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Lincoln Trails Council Executive Board. Jack has received the Baden-Powell Boy Scout Award. He is also a past president of the Midstate Pharmacist Association, the Illinois Delta SAE alumni association, the Illinois Delta SAE House Corporation, and also serves SAE as an alumni adviser. He was a province archon for the State of Illinois SAE for four years and received four Alumnus of the Year awards from the Illinois Delta Chapter.
Barbara was an active member of the PTAs for several local schools, and holds memberships in the Retired Teachers Associations of Illinois and Decatur.
The McCoys have six children: sons John and Michael, daughters Cathy and Kimberly, and late sons Brian and Daniel. Millikin relatives in their family include Barbara’s cousin, Jim Witzeman ’55; his wife, Pat Soelle Witzeman ’57; Barbara’s late cousin Jim Williams ’48; his wife Emmy Lee Buchmann Williams ’48; Jack’s great-niece Crystal Kaye McCoy ’12; and Barbara’s late father, Everett Burk Witzeman ’27. Jack’s son John and daughter Cathy also attended MU.