John McGowan ’74 of Tamworth, New Hampshire, died April 4, 2022. He was 70. John studied elementary education at Illinois Wesleyan and taught third grade at schools in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before embarking on a career in the travel industry. John worked as a guide at Independence Hall, the Alamo, the LBJ Ranch, and for a touring company. In 1986, he fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming a flight attendant for TWA, and later, American Airlines and Chautauqua Airlines. He maintained homes in St. Louis and San Antonio for many years. He moved in 2012 to Tamworth, where he resided with his beloved Shih Tzu. John was most proud of his recovery from alcohol addition, and he remained involved with Alcoholics Anonymous until the end of his life. He was a devoted member of St. Andrew-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church. He is survived by two sisters, and many nieces, nephews and extended family members. You can read more here.
Mario Mancinelli of Bloomington, Illinois, died March 15, 2022. He was 99. Mario served as a faculty member in Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Music for 35 years. He was hired in 1948 to teach strings and chamber music, and conduct the student orchestra. He retired in 1983 with emeritus status. Mario attended Ohio State University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He was also a faculty member at Brevard Music Center for 25 years. He was a member of the American String Teachers Association, American Federation of Musicians, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and an honorary member of Phi Kappa Phi. Mario was an accomplished violinist and played regularly in Central Illinois orchestras. He enjoyed crossword puzzles, playing and listening to classical music, playing cards, and watching the Indianapolis 500, World Series and the Olympics. He was a longtime member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal. He is survived by two children and a granddaughter.
Evelyn Wantland died Feb. 4, 2022, in Urbana, Illinois. She was 104. Evelyn served as a professor of mathematics at Illinois Wesleyan from 1964-76 and maintained emeritus status. Evelyn attended Hollins College, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and earned a doctorate in mathematics. In addition to Illinois Wesleyan, she taught at Ferrum Junior College, Kansas State University and the University of Mississippi. Evelyn enjoyed reading, crossword puzzles, playing bridge and Scrabble, and taking long walks in Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. She was a member of Urbana’s First United Methodist Church. She is survived by her daughter, two grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
Larry Lee Ballard ’72 passed away Feb. 11, 2022 at Providence Ascension Hospital in Novi, Michigan. He was a 1968 graduate of North Greene High School and a 1972 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, where he was a member of Sigma Pi National Fraternity. He was also the first student assistant to work for IWU’s Sports Information Director, Ed Alsene. While at Wesleyan, he met his future wife, Judith Kasper, of Chicago, IL in 1970. They were married in Bloomington, Illinois on March 24, 1973 by two of his Sigma Pi fraternity brothers. Read the full obituary here.
Michael Cooper ’77 has written a new play, The Sunflower Apostle, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s first visit to America in 1882 when he was twenty-seven years old, prior to literary fame. On December 24, 1881, Mr. Wilde sailed from Liverpool, England to New York City to embark on an American lecture tour addressing audiences with his lecture entitled, “The Decorative Arts”. That spring, Mr. Wilde arrived in Bloomington, Illinois to speak at the local Durley Hall for one evening only. A progressive women’s club in town sponsored his visit and rallied a curious sold-out crowd to see him.
Michael says that “During the pandemic, I decided to write a play based upon a story I heard while attending IWU. My research proved quite worthy, and I wrote THE SUNFLOWER APOSTLE, based upon Oscar Wilde’s one-time visit to Bloomington, IL. The Alchemy Theatre produced the premiere reading of this new play on October 29, 2021, with plans now to produce a full production in their 2023 Season, after which I will submit for publication or future performances at other theatres.”
Randall Ricklefs ’73 is a senior engineer at Hexagon US Federal, contributing to the Global Geodetic Observing System, a collaborative effort of the global geodesy community to the observation and monitoring of the Earth system. Randy is also a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.
Nurse and CEO of one of the largest medical providers in Pima County, Nancy Johnson ’78 was honored as the 2021 Greater Tucson Leadership Woman of the Year. Read about it here (page 171).
Robert Donalson died Dec. 22, 2021. He was 87. Bob was a professor in Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Music for 30 years; he retired in 1994 with emeritus status. Bob felt the call to become an educator while serving in the U.S. Army in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War. He obtained a master’s degree at San Jose State University and a doctorate at the University of Colorado Boulder. He began his teaching career at Pepperdine University before landing at IWU. Bob loved beauty in all its forms — nature, art and poetry among them — but music was his emotional home. He was active in religious life and often shared his gift of music in the church. Bob was always learning and educated himself on subjects ranging from theology and philosophy, to computer science and financial investing, to home repair and carpentry. He enjoyed traveling, sports, his cats and, most of all, his family. He is survived by his wife, five children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Bob’s Celebration of Life will be held on February 12 at 1 p.m. CST and will be live-streamed at christlutheranchurchffg.org.
Warren “Twig” Smith ’72 of Carmel, Indiana, died Jan. 30, 2022. He was 71. Twig majored in business administration and was active in Sigma Chi at Illinois Wesleyan. He began his financial career at GTE, from which he later retired and began a second career as a loan officer, most recently at First Financial Bank. He was a member of Cornerstone Lutheran Church and also served on many committees and boards in the Noblesville, Indiana, area. Twig’s passions included golf, reading and playing cards, but most of all he loved spending time with his family and friends. He is survived by his wife, two children, three grandsons and sister.