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Impacting the Future Today

Impacting the Future Today
Jim Gisondi

Growing up in Gloversville, New York, Jim Gisondi '74, did not know of McKendree College. He attended Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Fulton County New York after high school and Jim worked for several years before enlisting in the Air Force. After completing basic training, he requested an assignment close to home, however, he was assigned to Scott Air Force Base. He was stationed at Scott AFB for the next four and a half years and that is also when he learned of McKendree.

While in the Air Force, Jim continued his education by taking night and summer classes at McKendree for the next year and a half. He knew he wanted to complete his degree, so he took advantage of "Operation Bootstrap" and was granted full-time student status to finish his undergraduate work while still serving in the Air Force.

In January of 1974, Jim enrolled as a full-time student at McKendree and made studying his primary focus. Enrolled in 21 hours of classes, Jim would leave his home on base early in the morning and return late in the evening. He made his home away from home in Holman Library studying between classes. "In fact, I got to be such a regular that the librarian let me use a small office room as my base of operations which meant that I could leave all my books, papers and supplies there unattended as she knew I'd be coming and going all day with classes five days a week." said Jim.

In April, Jim received a call bringing the terrible news that his father had suffered a severe heart attack followed by a stroke and was not expected to live through the night. Before he left for home Jim went to make arrangements to be away from his classes for an undetermined amount of time.

The response he received would make all the difference for him, "I was told 'Jim, just go home and we'll take care of everything until you get back, don't worry about a thing.'" Comforted that his studies would wait for him, Jim was able to spend his father's final days at his bedside.

When he returned to campus, Jim learned all of his instructors had made plans for him to complete his assignments, delayed tests until he was ready to take them and secured student tutors to help him learn the course work. His hard work and the support of McKendree paid off and he earned a 3.6 GPA that semester.

"I felt then, and have always felt, that McKendree went above and beyond to make this unhappy time in my life as easy as possible to experience. A situation like this where a student had to leave school for about ten days could have ended very badly, but thanks to the great folks at McKendree I was able to work through this difficult period and graduate on time." Jim said.

After graduating from McKendree, Jim married his wife of 39 years, Linda Kay (Jordan) and went on to earn an M.A. in Management/Human Relations from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. He and Linda owned and operated Gisondi's Restaurant, serving authentic Italian cuisine, in Belleville, Illinois in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

When a career move required relocation to Ohio, they closed their restaurant. Jim worked for the Department of Defense at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but he continued his passion for his Italian heritage by teaching authentic Italian cooking classes for various colleges, adult education classes, local businesses, and small groups. He still uses his cooking expertise to help local charities (hospitals, humane societies, and other organizations) raise money at auctions by donating his time and product for events, such as an authentic Italian 'Dinner for Eight." They eventually retired to Bainbridge, Georgia.

Jim never forgot his experience at McKendree. When he and Linda prepared their estate plans many years ago, they included a bequest to establish an endowed scholarship. As time passed Jim and Linda decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of McKendree students today so they could experience the satisfaction of their gift to Jim's alma mater.

Earlier this year Jim and Linda established the James D. and Linda K. Gisondi Scholarship Fund with a gift to McKendree University. They now have the opportunity to receive updates and correspondence from the students who benefit from their generosity. Jim and Linda are definitely impacting today's McKendree students with their philanthropy.