Passionately Transforming Lives in the Stateline Region
To give of one’s time, expertise, and financial resources makes one a philanthropist. To do so quietly and passionately to make our entire region stronger is what makes one the 2023 Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year.
Rock Valley College Trustee Robert “Bob” Trojan was honored this week by the Rockford Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. By the time he made his way to the stage to accept the award, there wasn’t a dry eye in the ballroom at the Radisson in Rockford. Little did Trustee Trojan know, his two sons flew into Rockford to present their dad with this prestigious award.
“Well, needless to say, I am shocked. I'm shocked and pleasantly surprised and pleased to receive this award,” said Trustee Trojan. “I'm grateful that my wife, Norma, and I have been able to do the things that we have done.”
Trustee Trojan was nominated for this award by the Rock Valley College Foundation and Rock River Robotics Off-Season Competition (R2OC). The annual award recognizes an individual or family who demonstrates outstanding civic and charitable engagement, exceptional generosity, and exemplary service to one or more organizations in Northern Illinois.
“Bob’s heart for our region’s youth and adult learners shines brightly and is something to celebrate,” explained Brittany Freiberg, Rock Valley College Foundation Chief Development Officer. “The RVC Foundation believes Bob’s commitment to eliminating financial barriers for our region’s residents seeking a higher education through both liberal arts and science degrees, but also those seeking a rewarding career through our technical programs and skilled trades certificates, are what makes Bob stand out as a leader in philanthropy.”
As Trustee Trojan humbly accepted the recognition, he told the crowd, “We consider it an investment. Not a donation, but an investment in the future of our young kids.”
Emcee Mimi Murphy of WTVO, shared this about Trustee Trojan in his introduction:
This individual has shared their time, expertise, and treasure throughout our community for decades. Their leadership is recognizable and known throughout our region, but their selfless giving is often done in a quiet manner. During this individual's time supporting Rock Valley College, they established not one, not two, but three endowed scholarships for deserving students pursuing careers in engineering advanced technologies and respiratory therapies. It is not unheard of that the selfless donor will help five to six students receive a higher education on an annual basis.
For those of you who know Trustee Trojan, it is evident that this honor is also a tribute to his late wife, Norma.
“Although we’re recognizing Bob today, we also want to honor his late wife, Norma Jean Trojan. Norma was also a passionate advocate and financial supporter of educational opportunities within our region,” said Brittany.
After Norma’s passing in 2021, Trustee Trojan established a memorial scholarship in her name to honor the dedicated healthcare workers who cared for her in her later years. It was important for Trustee Trojan to diverge from his other engineering and advanced technology scholarship funds to create something that would assist and empower our future respiratory care professionals.
“Our College and our region are stronger thanks to Bob’s continued dedication to educational access, creating opportunities for our future workforce, and for sharing his time and wisdom widely. We, at the Rock Valley College Foundation, are honored to know Bob and to be the beneficiary of his extreme generosity and passion,” concluded Brittany.
Trustee Trojan described the absolute joy he feels when he reads the heartwarming thank you letters from scholarship recipients. While reading these letters is meaningful to him, Trustee Trojan shared that nothing beats the impact of meeting the students whose lives are transformed through education.
Next May, the first recipient of the Norma Jean Trojan Scholarship for Respiratory Care will graduate from Rock Valley College. Trustee Trojan is honored that the student has personally invited him to her pinning ceremony in May 2024.
“That's my return on my investment -- to see the students and appreciate where their paths are going to take them into the future. So, to Brittany and the RVC Foundation, thank you,” said Trustee Trojan tearfully. And he ended with a special message to his sons, “Thank you guys for supporting me all of my crazy years.”
Our College and our region are stronger thanks to Bob’s continued dedication to educational access, creating opportunities for our future workforce, and for sharing his time and wisdom widely. We, at the Rock Valley College Foundation, are honored to know Bob and to be the beneficiary of his extreme generosity and passion.