Auction proceeds will continue to fully fund ACES scholarships

In 1943 the late Illinois senator Harry G. Wright gifted farmland in DeKalb County to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to be used to promote agricultural education and fund agricultural scholarships and fellowships in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

The increase in land values in that area in the intervening years has led the Board of Trustees to approve the University's plan to auction the Wright Farm and use the proceeds for continued funding of the programs the senator wished to support.

After a thorough and competitive search, the University decided to partner with Westchester Auctions, LLC to manage the transaction. "We are very excited to work with Westchester Auctions," said Kevin Noland, director of agricultural investments at the University of Illinois. "Westchester has a proven track record of success and a wealth of market and industry knowledge. We are confident Westchester Auctions will play a critical role in helping maximize the value of the University's asset base to ensure continued support of our agricultural instructional endeavors." The public auction, consisting of 893 acres split into twelve tracts, will take place Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 1 p.m. at South Pointe Centre in DeKalb, Ill.

Proceeds of the sale will be used to continue the history of fully funding the "Harry G. and Harriette A. Wright Scholarships and Fellowships" for students in the College of ACES on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. The University will also use a portion of the proceeds from the auction to reinvest in future agricultural land acquisitions to continue providing educational opportunities for students, faculty and alumni. Finally, some of the proceeds may be used in supporting the considerable expense of moving the College of ACES South Farms to its new location south of the University of Illinois campus at Urbana-Champaign.

"All proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in agriculture, specifically supporting the College of ACES" said Noland. "The Wright Farm Endowment will continue to be a great asset for the University of Illinois through fully funding agricultural education scholarships and fellowships and contributing to the substantial costs of relocating the College of ACES South Farms."

As Senator Wright intended, the gift of land was used by the University's Board of Trustees to establish the Harry G. Wright and Harriette A. Wright Endowment to promote agricultural studies primarily through the funding of agricultural scholarships. The farm has been leased to several families who have worked hard to care for and maintain the land. Income from the farming operations has always been directed to agricultural programs according to Senator Wright's wishes.

Noland noted farmland in DeKalb County, especially the Wright Farm location, has acquired a premium value not only because of its agricultural value, but also due to an urban influence in the area. Consequently, Wright Farm has appreciated more rapidly than the average of the University's endowment farm portfolio.

"Farmland will continue to be a key part of our overall investment strategy and, even with this sale, the University of Illinois will still own a substantial amount of Illinois farmland," Noland said. "The sale provides the opportunity to expand the use of Senator Wright's gift to accomplish more than anyone ever thought possible."

Westchester Auction's marketing ability and close ties to the agriculture community will ensure a smooth execution of the Wright Farm auction, according to Fred Hepler, executive vice president of Westchester Group, Inc. "Farmland prices are favorable in the Midwest due to the increase in demand forcorndriven by the ethanol boom," Hepler said. "The current market situation sets the stage for the University to have a successful sale. We are thrilled at the opportunity to work with the University of Illinois on this unique opportunity to advance the school's educational opportunities in agriculture."

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