Alumnus gives gift of future UI scholarships

DANVILLE – For the second time this school year, a Danville High School graduate has designated almost a quarter-million dollars to help future graduates further their education.

Ronald G. Rigoni, a 1952 graduate of Danville High School and 1956 University of Illinois graduate, has given a bequest of $233,875 to fund scholarships for deserving Danville High students who will attend the UI. The benefit, which will begin after his death, has been arranged through a deferred gift arrangement with the UI Foundation.

"It's just remarkable how generous people can be," said Mark Denman, associate superintendent of Danville schools.

In October, Dr. Ron Gillum, a 1956 graduate of Danville High, set up a $250,000 endowment through the Danville Community Public Schools Foundation to support academic opportunities, not only for Danville High School students but also for middle and elementary school students in Danville.

Rigoni, who is retired from corporate sales marketing and lives in Sarasota, Fla., was probably best known as a Danville High School athlete, Denman said.

A three-sport star, Rigoni was a member of the school's 1950 boy's basketball team, which placed second in the state. Individually, Rigoni was a first-team unanimous pick on the all-state basketball team his senior year and a third-team pick his junior year.

He also was an accomplished student, Denman said.

Rigoni said he places great importance on education.

"Although there are many worthy causes in the realm of charitable giving, supporting educational opportunities for young people might very well be difficult to top," said Rigoni, who explained why he chose his alma maters for his donation. "It is given as an expression of gratitude for the fine educational platform they provided for me. I'm confident that a worthy DHS student who probably shares my views, but might be a little short on financing, will appreciate the opportunities offered by an outstanding university."

Upon graduating from high school, Rigoni received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he played on the football team until receiving a shoulder injury that required surgery. Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War, was one of Rigoni's teammates. He also knew legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, who was an assistant to West Point Head Coach Red Blaik at the time.

Rigoni left the academy in January 1953, enrolled at the UI, graduated, entered the Navy and then completed a graduate degree in a Phoenix business school. He began a career in sales and marketing that led him to jobs with Dow Corning, Sunbeam Corp. and Alcan Aluminum in Florida. But Rigoni said his true passion is the stock market, which still takes up a lot of his time.

His advice to current student athletes is to concentrate on academics, which will score all the points in the long run.

Denman said Rigoni's extremely generous gift will benefit many Danville High School students in the future.

"His name, well associated with the high school for over the past 50 years for his accomplishments as a student and an athlete, will be remembered even longer for his significant investment in future DHS students," he said.

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