The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire College of Business has received its largest endowment to date from a lifelong member of the community. The endowment will generate up to $80,000 annually in scholarships.
The William “Bill” Bingham Memorial Scholarship Fund, made to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation in memory of Anna K. Bingham, Dr. Roy W. Bingham and William A. Bingham, will provide numerous renewable scholarships to students in UW-Eau Claire’s College of Business. It is the single largest endowment ever established for the college.
The scholarships in this permanently endowed fund are renewable for up to four years, as long as students maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, progress toward graduating in four years and continue study in a major within the College of Business.
The scholarship’s benefactor and namesake, William “Bill” Bingham, is remembered as someone who genuinely loved the Eau Claire community. Bingham, who died in April 2021, endowed the $2 million scholarship fund with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation as part of his estate. What also stands out about this generous gift is that Bingham was not a UW-Eau Claire alumnus.
Bingham was born in Eau Claire and was a graduate of Eau Claire High School and UW-Madison. After graduation, he returned to his hometown where he spent his career in real estate, eventually running Bingham Real Estate.
Jim Chumas, one of Bingham’s longtime friends and the executor of his estate, was not surprised to learn of Bingham’s gift to UW-Eau Claire.
“Bill loved Eau Claire,” Chumas says. “He did a lot of traveling, but Eau Claire was always his home. He was a big believer in the community and a big believer in education.”
Chumas’ ties to Bingham began in the 1940s, when Chumas’ grandmother and Bingham’s mother met in Eau Claire and became friends. Over many decades of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together, the Bingham and Chumas families developed an exceptional friendship.
Chumas, a member of UW-Eau Claire’s Class of 1983, and his family have deep connections to the university; both of his parents and three of his siblings also are Blugold graduates. When Chumas was a student at UW-Eau Claire, he frequently stopped by Bingham’s home to say hello and, inevitably, the two ended up at Houligans Steak & Seafood Pub for a weeknight burger.
While Bingham nurtured deep ties to Eau Claire, he also was well traveled, and as an adult frequently visited England and Switzerland. As a result of his appreciation for travel, separate funds of the endowment have been set aside to support students’ study abroad endeavors.
Dr. Brewer Doran, dean of the College of Business, emphasizes the importance of the study abroad experience for the college’s students.
“We really encourage students to study abroad,” Doran says. “Everyone in business benefits from having a global mindset, so having a portion of the money set aside for students who want to study abroad, who might not otherwise be able to afford it — that’s very special.”
Doran added that the impact of the Bingham Memorial Scholarship Fund will be significant. She noted that while many students in the College of Business receive scholarships, most range from $200-$500 per year. Some students are able to combine multiple scholarships into substantive aid, but what sets the Bingham scholarships apart is not only the amount, but the renewability over four years, totaling up to $10,000 for some students.
“That makes a big difference in a student’s ability to plan for the future and move forward with their goals,” Doran says.”
The opportunities for College of Business students provided by this endowment are an important legacy of a man who so profoundly loved his hometown.
“It’s important to recognize the value of the university and the way it contributes to the life and economy of Eau Claire,” Doran says. “Bill’s story is a great example of wanting to do good with the money you have — and wanting it to stay local in a community that means so much to you.”
The gift noted in this piece was received by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation’s Sustaining Human Innovation Campaign, which launched in fall 2021. The campaign aims to generate sustainable funding in the form of endowments for student success, faculty investments, programs of distinction and private funding for facilities projects. The goal of the Sustaining Human Innovation Campaign is to secure more than $125 million in gifts by June 30, 2026.
For more information, please visit https://foundation.uwec.edu/.