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NIU Foundation honors CME Group Foundation with High Impact Philanthropy Award

November 8, 2017

For its generous support in providing financial assistance toward degree completion to a diverse group of transfer students, the CME Group Foundation is this year’s recipient of the Northern Illinois University Foundation’s High Impact Philanthropy Award.

Sparking the foundation’s decision was a $500,000 grant to NIU that provides scholarship support for two years to 13 Pell Grant-eligible undergraduate students.

All students are from area community colleges, come from underrepresented minorities and are interested in pursuing careers in the financial industry.

Catherine Squires, vice president of University Advancement and president and CEO of the NIU Foundation, said CME Group Foundation’s example “provides inspiration for other funders and foundations to determine how best they too, can make a difference in helping students become a part of their future workforce.”

The organization and its leadership will be honored at the NIU Foundation’s Red and Black gala on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace, IL.

Kassie Davis, executive director of the CME Group Foundation, said the commitment stems from the organization’s “focus on supporting education from cradle to career.”

“As the price of college increases, putting it out of the reach of many students, we thought this would be the best use of our resources,” said Davis. “We also want to include as many CME Group Foundation scholars in the company’s summer intern program as are interested. Having real-world experience as an industry leader will make these scholars even more valuable as they begin their careers.”

Besides free schooling, the students are entitled to special support services, including research experiences, networking opportunities, leadership development, business etiquette instruction and personal branding workshops.

They are housed together in a living-learning community so they can socialize and study with each other and have greater access to professors in their disciplines. Majors that qualify for the program include computer science, applied math, economics, finance, and operations and information management.

Each of the students — eight men and five women — has maintained a minimum 3.25 grade point average and has demonstrated financial need.

In remarks they shared upon being selected, common themes emerged: gratitude, a boost in their academic and overall confidence, and a determination to build upon the work ethic that had been instrumental in their selection.

Diego Gonzalez, who moved from Mexico less than four years ago, expressed his deep appreciation while noting that he has endured many cultural, academic and economic struggles.

“I never gave up and have persisted because my education is the only thing that is going to get me to the part of life that I have dreamed about,” said Gonzalez. “This scholarship has given me faith and hope that I can accomplish everything I set my mind to.”

Valentina Charria called the scholarship a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has been given to me to be successful. I am going to cherish it by excelling in my classes and continuing to work hard.”

Another recipient, Jesus Martinez, has vowed “to work even harder to show that it was a wise decision to grant me the scholarship, and show that I’m a good investment for the future of the community.”

The NIU Foundation’s criteria for selecting a High Impact Philanthropy Award recipient spells out several elements: a major gift that has a significant impact at NIU, is transformational, acts as a catalyst for other giving at the university, and which supports particular, focused fundraising efforts of the development program.

On all those counts, the CME Group Foundation was a standout, said Squires.

“CME’s philanthropy is a model for how corporate philanthropy promotes and supports student career success,” Squires said.

Davis, who has served as executive director of the CME Group Foundation since its inception, said the group strives to be a leader in helping students from Illinois’ low-income communities. That support includes helping them from early childhood through college and into careers in the financial as well as other sectors.

“It takes many players to achieve this goal, including talented teachers and principals, professors and deans, and the advisers and mentors who provide much-needed support,” said Davis. “The foundation is just a small part of this ecosystem, but we want our resources to leverage other support.”

The CME Group Foundation was created in 2008 and endowed with a $16 million gift from the CME Trust, which the Chicago Mercantile Exchange established in 1969. It is online at

For more information or to register to attend the NIU Foundation Red and Black, visit

Red and Black is NIU’s signature fundraising event dedicated to raising critical funding for scholarships for NIU’s talented, hardworking students. To make a gift, visit Choose the “Student Scholarships” option or call 877-GIV-2-NIU or 877-448-2648.

For more information, contact Stephanie Poulos at 815-753-1679 or [email protected].