Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

David Graf
David Graf


Grafs announce challenge gift
for NIU scholarship fund

September 17, 2007

by Joe King

Diane Graf spends her summers in the north woods of Wisconsin.

The rest of the year, she joins her husband David in the United Arab Emirates, where he is dean of a business school. No matter where you find the two of them, however, their hearts and their thoughts don’t stray too far from Rockford and Northern Illinois University.

“Rockford is our home and NIU was a huge part of our lives,” says Diane, explaining that the couple has spent nearly 15 years living in the Rockford area. Much of that time came during the 12 years that David served as dean of the NIU College of Business, where Diane not only taught but also earned her undergraduate degree.

The couple works to give back to both the Rockford and NIU communities through the David and Diane Graf College of Business Rockford Endowed Scholarship, which they are now trying to build by offering a challenge gift of $10,000 a year for the next five years.

Each year, the fund provides a partial scholarship to a freshman business student who enrolls at NIU’s main campus in DeKalb, and another to a transfer student who enrolls in the university’s bachelor’s of science in business administration program, which is taught exclusively at NIU-Rockford.

First preference for scholarships is given to students from Rockford, but students from surrounding towns also may apply. Past winners of the scholarship have included top students from Rockford Jefferson High School, Hononegah High School and Freeport High School.

“When selecting recipients, we try to identify students with a passion for business, who have excelled in their preparation for college and who have a strong history of extracurricular activities,” Diane says. “Both David and I were always impressed by how well-rounded the students at NIU were, and those are the types of individuals we hope will benefit from these scholarships.”

The fund was begun with gifts from the Grafs and the College of Business’ NIU Rockford Alumni Club in 2005, when David departed NIU to become dean of the College of Business and Economics at United Arab Emirates University. It currently has about $75,000 in assets and has provided support to six students. Looking to increase the impact of the scholarship, the Grafs have announced a challenge gift, pledging up to $10,000 a year in dollar-for-dollar matching funds for every gift made to the scholarship fund or to the NIU College of Business.

The Grafs have committed to giving $50,000 over five years.

“This carries on our commitment to the NIU College of Business, which has been such an important part of our lives, and it allows us to support the Rockford community, which means so much to us,” David says. “We hope that others who share our love for Rockford and for NIU will take up this challenge and help us grow this scholarship fund so it can benefit many more students and provide ever greater support.”

To learn more about the David and Diane Graf College of Business Rockford Endowed Scholarship, or to apply, contact Sue Braffet in the NIU College of Business at (815) 753-1433 or