Donations welcome to help Keller scholarship blossom

By Alex Fiore

Sunflower heads are made up of nearly 2,000 separate flowers. These flowers are not particularly impressive individually, but become something beautiful when put together.

This can be seen as an apt analogy for the NIU community, who has come together since the death of NIU freshman Antinette “Toni” Keller.

While Keller’s sunflower tattoo has become a symbol of her spirit, the NIU Foundation has produced something more tangible to honor her memory.

The Antinette “Toni” Keller Scholarship Fund has been created and will be awarded annually to an incoming freshman studio art major starting Fall 2011, said Richard Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts .

“Toni was an extremely special person,” Holly said. “Everyone who knew her had only exceptional things to say about her.”

Holly said he had been receiving requests from students and his department for ways to honor Keller, and a scholarship was a logical choice.

“We need to do something like this,” he said.

Students are impressed with the scholarship as well.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said freshman undeclared major Laura Feit, who was also a friend of Keller’s.

Feit said in these tough economic times, it was nice for the university to reach out to prospective students.

Before the scholarship fund could become a reality, the NIU Foundation had to approve the idea, said Michael Malone, vice president of the Division of University Advancement.

“We checked with [Keller’s] family, and they thought it was an appropriate way to honor her,” he said.

Malone said he was glad the scholarship fund was established.

“It was gratifying to be able to help in any way,” he said.

Holly said the decision to give the scholarship to a studio art major was reached because that was Keller’s major.

Holly viewed the establishment of the scholarship as a good way to honor Keller, as well as a gift to future students.

“Students for generations will be able to benefit from this,” he said.