1949 graduate leaves $3.8 million estate gift to Millikin University

Center for Theatre & Dance

Although the late Mary V. Linder had lived in Pekin, Ill., since 1970, she never forgot her Decatur roots — especially Millikin University. Upon her death, the Millikin graduate left the bulk of her estate to Millikin, a gift of gratitude sparked by her fond experiences with the University and her decades living in Decatur. Mary died in 2016, and a check for $3.8 million was recently presented to Millikin after conclusion of the estate settlement. Previously, Mary’s estate had gifted more than $1 million to Millikin; it was used to help fund construction of the University Commons and the Exercise Science and Sport Pavilion at West Towne Square.

“The amazing generosity of Mary and her late husband, Ralph Linder, both class of 1949, will not be forgotten at this University,” said Millikin President Jim Reynolds. “Their lives reflected how the Millikin Performance Learning experience can lead to a full and successful life. Although they led relatively quiet, hardworking lives, they were committed to making a difference for Millikin and their communities, just as Mary’s final gift will make positive change at Millikin.”

In their honor, the University immediately named the veranda on the west side of the Center for Theatre & Dance overlooking Millikin’s quad The Mary V. Linder ’49 and Ralph A. Linder ’49 Veranda.

The veranda serves as a daily reminder of a couple who received a 2010 Alumni Loyalty Award in recognition of their long and faithful service to the University. Together, they provided generous financial support to Millikin for several decades, including the establishment of the Mary Singleton Linder Scholarship for deserving students.

Both Mary and Ralph grew up in Decatur. As Millikin students, Mary joined Alpha Chi Omega sorority, and Ralph was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. They married in 1948, shortly before the start of Mary’s senior year, and went on to raise two children and enjoy nearly 63 years of married life before Ralph died in 2011.

Mary completed her bachelor’s degree in English literature and, not surprisingly, especially loved reading. She taught for eight years at Decatur’s St. Teresa High School, was a longtime member of the American Association of University Women, a board member and volunteer for the Pekin (Ill.) Hospital League, a 40-year member of Chapter A.S. of PEO and a faithful member of Pekin’s Grace United Methodist Church.

A World War II Army Air Force veteran, Ralph earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration before working for Caterpillar for 32 years, first in Decatur and then in Pekin. He retired in 1988 from Caterpillar Inc., where he was a computer equipment analyst. After Ralph passed away, Mary never wavered in her support of the University they both loved.

Ralph was also community minded. He was a charter member and past president of the Decatur Chapter of AMBUCS, and he helped found Decatur’s Easter Seals chapter. He completed a two-year term on the Illinois State Board of Governors and was a lifetime emeritus member of the Institute of Management Accountants. He also was a past president of the Pekin Community Concerts Association and the Rotary Club of Pekin.


For further media information, please contact Millikin University Writer Kendall Trump at 217.424.3599 or ktrump@millikin.edu.