North Central College has named a historic Naperville property in honor of William and Mary Abe of Naperville in appreciation for their generous support of the College.
The property at 48 E. Jefferson Ave. was named Abe (pronounced ah-bee) House during an unveiling ceremony Nov. 12. Bill Abe, a 1950 alumnus of North Central, and Mary (Bomberger)—a 1952 alumna of the College—attended the surprise unveiling with other family members.
"(This) name embodies values we cherish—a lifelong commitment and loyalty to North Central College and Naperville like few others, and a generosity of spirit over more than a third of the College's history,” North Central College President Harold R. Wilde said.
The property is designated a Naperville historic landmark and considered an outstanding example of Prairie School architecture. The home is one of three in Naperville designed by architect Harry Franklin Robinson—a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright—and was built in 1916 for Ruliff Truitt, a prominent Naperville doctor. The home remained in the Truitt family until 1984, when it was acquired by Jeffry and Barbara Knuckles. The College acquired the property in 2006. The building houses the College’s Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values Program.
“Bill and Mary have always supported the College at the highest level,” says Rick Spencer, vice president for institutional advancement. “Their name is on a building that is a great entry point between the campus and downtown Naperville.”
Abe, a native of Appleton, Wis., has served on the North Central College Board of Trustees for 45 years, since 1966. He’s served on the College’s Alumni Board for even longer—since 1962. The College awarded Abe its Outstanding Alumni Award in 1976 and the Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service in 1997.
He recently retired as senior vice president for investments for Chicago-based Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., after working for the firm for 60 years through various mergers and acquisitions. Mary’s family has lived in Naperville for six generations, and she worked for Northern Trust Bank before leaving to raise the couple’s three children.
Abe’s extensive community involvement includes being a charter member of the Naperville Kiwanis Club and the Naperville Jaycees, which awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. His 15 years of service on the City of Naperville Electric Advisory Board helped lead to the establishment of Naperville’s own electric utility, which has saved money for residents and customers.
Bill and Mary have been members of Naperville’s Grace United Methodist Church for more than 50 years and Bill played a significant role in the relocation and building of the church at its Gartner Road location. He’s held numerous leadership roles within the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Bill Abe has served as treasurer for the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. Earlier this year, he was awarded the 2011 Outstanding Service Award by the Council of Independent Colleges. Other honors include the 1994 Citizen of the Year Award from Naperville American Legion Post No. 43 and the 1996 George F. Hixson Award from the Naperville Kiwanis.
Bill and Mary Abe, their three children—John, Peter and Jane—and five grandchildren all reside in Naperville.
“North Central College is near and dear to our father’s heart,” Jane Abe says. “Our parents met there, our grandparents and uncles went there. This is a special honor.”
North Central College is planning numerous Sesquicentennial events and projects throughout 2011 and into 2012. Visit northcentralcollege.edu/150 to learn more.