February 6, 2017
Robert Eller contacted the Cedar Falls Community Foundation in 1998 with his dream of assisting University of Northern Iowa students to travel abroad. With the help of his attorney and the Foundation, a fund was established and a committee chosen to review student applications and choose recipients. In order to see the fund grow more quickly, Mr. Eller chose to fund the scholarships himself for the first few years, allowing the invested principal time to grow significantly without withdrawal while still putting his dream into immediate action.
As the years passed, Mr. Eller not only funded scholarships, but added to the funds invested in the Robert Eller Study Abroad Scholarship Fund. He worked with the Cedar Falls Community Foundation and the UNI Study Abroad Center to update student eligibility requirements and asked the University of Northern Iowa Emeritus Association to take on the responsibility of working with the Foundation to review applications and choose student recipients.
Two application rounds were established, Fall and Spring, through the UNI Study Abroad Center. Applications for the scholarships continued to increase, and as the Eller Study Abroad Scholarship Fund grew, it became possible to award multiple scholarships each round.
Mr. Eller enjoyed receiving postcards from the traveling students, and for as long as he was able, attended the presentations students made upon their return, to the University of Northern Iowa Emeritus Association.
Robert Eller died Saturday, February 20, 2016 at the Western Home Communities South Cottage, Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was born February 14, 1926 in Janesville, Wisconsin, son of Benjamin and Winifred MacMillan Eller.
Robert served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He earned an undergraduate and masters degree in Education from the University of Iowa. He was employed at the University of Northern Iowa for the remainder of his professional career, where he was in charge of audio visual services, working with as many as twenty student assistants at one time. The close relationships he developed with his students and his own rewarding travel experiences were the motivating factors in establishing his scholarship fund. Bob retired from UNI in June 1991.
The Robert Eller Study Abroad Scholarship will continue to assist UNI students to study abroad. It is a permanent tribute to one educator’s dreams for the students he taught.