Gov. Quinn announces new facility for veterans

Veterans’ welfare was on the mind of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday as he joined Tanya Gallagher, dean of AHS, in announcing plans to construct a new facility for injured veterans and their families.

The Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education, set to be built alongside the Family Resiliency Center on Nevada Avenue, recently secured $6 million in funding from the Chez Family Foundation. No date for construction has been set, Gallagher said, as the $6 million raised is only half of the $12 million the project requires.

“This center will provide education and integrated services to student veterans — returning from our most recent conflicts who have sustained severe and multiple injuries — and to their families,” Gallagher said.

The announcement was made in the new Khan Annex of Huff Hall, the ramp into which Gallagher said was a testament to the University’s promotion of services to people with disabilities.

“Full inclusion has a long history at Illinois that began in 1948, when we were the only campus in the nation that reached out to World War II veterans who had been injured in the war and provided accommodations that enabled them to … pursue higher education.”

University alumnus Ron Chez, of the Chez Family Foundation, said he first became involved in the veterans’ center when visiting residence halls for severely handicapped students. Chez said he met with Gallagher soon afterwards, and learned of AHS’ plans for the veterans’ center.

“I was given the opportunity to do something for people who are severely handicapped and who put themselves in harm’s way,” Chez said. “It’s an honor to assist.”

He said his commitment of $6 million was a sum great enough for the college to expand the project to more ambitious goals.

“A $6 million donation to this center is exceptionally generous. I think it just shows the patriotism of people all across our state and our country. We have servants’ hearts,” Quinn said.

Gallagher said the new center will have a family-centric team approach in providing counseling, rehabilitation and academic coaching.

Quinn used the opportunity to plug his proposal for tax breaks to employers that hire veterans, a bill he wants passed into law this year. His proposed tax credits would provide up to $5,000 to veteran employers.

Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, said veterans face a lot of difficulty in finding work after their discharge.

“In the face of disproportionately high unemployment rates for veterans, we have a lot to do,” she said. “These credits can serve as a very incentivizing force for employers. For those companies that might be on the cusp of creating jobs, this might be the tipping point.”