Nine days before Dr. Elaine P. Maimon’s official installation as the fifth president of Governors State University, she and her husband Mort—the other Dr. Maimon—gave their first $10,000 to the school. With that gift, they established the GSU Promise, an endowed scholarship (read as: it will keep growing and help students in perpetuity), and they kicked off a personal tradition of giving that—at the opening of their twelfth year of leadership—amounts to just over $255,000 in personal donations.

“It’s part of leadership,” President Maimon said, “both here and nationally. I cannot think of a single region that has been strong that isn’t philanthropic. And it’s something I believe in—something we both believe in.”

Mort Maimon, bespectacled and unhurried, agrees with his wife about the virtue of giving and the need for modeling philanthropy in higher education.

“I’m very uneasy about publicity,” he said. “If I had my druthers and knew we would be equally effective, I would like to be anonymous.”

But in the authentic spirit of leading, they give in hope that it will inspire others.

“We want our legacy to help establish a culture of philanthropy at Governors State University,” President Maimon said.

GSU isn’t your typical university. It sits at the top of Will County, adjacent to Cook—“where the city meets the prairie”—and for its first 45 years, served as an upper division university. It was only in 2014, under President Maimon’s leadership, that the university welcomed its first freshman class, added residential housing and competitive athletics, and became a true 24-hour campus.

Looking toward its 50th year—an important milestone for the only full-service public university in Will County—GSU continues to evolve and grow. As part of the celebration, the university’s philanthropic arm—the GSU Foundation, led by Will Davis—will launch a new initiative: Legacy Leaders.

“Legacy Leaders Society is a way to recognize lifetime cumulative support to the university through the GSU Foundation. These leaders’ individual cumulative gifts range from $5,000 to $395,000 to Governors State University,” Davis said. “Their contributions directly benefit the students--whether the donation goes to academics, the arts, athletics, or any other area of GSU as defined by the donor—and they grow the institution.  We appreciate and thank everyone who participates in giving to GSU at any level. It is a wonderful testament of leadership when the Maimons walk the talk of philanthropy. I can assure you their giving is sincere. The Maimons want anyone who works hard to achieve a higher education degree to be able to access it without financial burdens.”

Mort, like his wife, holds a degree in English. Ever the literature professor, he views his world—and giving—through metaphor.

“I was talking to Elaine this morning over breakfast,” he said, “and looking out the window at some trees. ‘There are three trees growing that weren’t even noticeable when we moved in eleven years ago,’ I told her. ‘They started as seeds, and now they’ve matured.   That’s the process of growth that giving encourages.’”