The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

April 8, 2009

DHS alum makes sizeable donation

DANVILLE — Dr. Ron Gillum, a member of the Danville High School class of 1956, fondly recalls his years growing up in Danville.

The Norman, Okla., resident has been involved with class reunions for many years, but this week, he’s honored as a philanthropist.

Although his career and travels have taken him far from his Midwestern hometown — around the country and even to Ethiopia — the stories of some of the inspiring people he knew in Danville have never faded in his mind.

One of them is about a classmate who had an uncertain future.

The boy’s circumstances — if anyone had known about them at that time — might have led some to doubt whether he’d be successful.

The young man was kicked out of his parent’s house when he was in high school. Having nowhere to go, he found a room at the YMCA. He got a job in Danville and continued to attend DHS, living at the “Y” the whole time.

His circumstances were mostly unknown to teachers and others at school.

“He didn’t say anything,” Gillum said. “Nobody understood or realized what was going on.”

After he finished high school, he went to Danville Area Community College and worked his way through Eastern Illinois University, where he earned a degree.

He moved to Texas, married and had a family. He started a temporary employment business in Houston, which grew to be a successful company.

The young man from Danville eventually became a millionaire.

“This guy worked for everything he got,” Gillum said. “I wish some of these kids here knew that you don’t have to start out with parents who can give you everything.”

The story of the now deceased classmate, whose name Gillum withholds out of respect for his family, illustrates one of the reasons Gillum has chosen to give a sizable gift — $250,000 — to the Danville Public Schools Foundation.

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