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Jill (Keena), '77, and Steve Cholewa have a passion for giving back.
Jill and Steve Cholewa have self-described passion for giving back
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Updated: Wednesday 03/09/2011 16:23:05 (ET)
by Alyssa Shirek, UND Alumni Association
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It's evident from their second four-year commitment they have given to student-athletes in the University of North Dakota volleyball program. Jill (Keena), '77, and Steve Cholewa have a passion for giving back.

In January, they began funding their second $80,000 gift dedicated to impact scholarships for volleyball players. The pledge, in partnership with North Dakota Spirit | The Campaign for UND, will ultimately fund two scholarships. The commitment addresses one of the primary tenets of the campaign, which is to dedicate $100 million to UND's passionate students and student-athletes.

Jill, who lettered on the UND women's volleyball team in 1975 and 1976, came to UND with no scholarship assistance and recalls holding down a job, while playing sports and going to school full time. Because of that,she says, she wants to give what she didn't have, and provide the opportunity to get a good education while also pursuing athletic dreams.

"It's opening up doors," Jill said. "Whether you step in and take it is up to you."

The Cholewas' commitment to the university doesn't stop with its student-athletes. They also have agreed to support our innovative programs by setting up a $250,000 endowment for the sports business program within the College of Business and Public Administration. And, before the campaign's end, they intend to dedicate an additional $250,000 to the physical education, exercise science & wellness department.

Jill says her motivation for giving is to spread her passion for giving back and inspire others to do the same. But she stresses that giving back isn't limited to financial gifts.

"We hope the people who receive our scholarships will in turn assist others in whatever manner they are able, whether through tutoring and mentoring, community service or even helping to fund additional scholarships," she said. "There's so much more you have to give — encouragement or even a smile."

Jill exemplifies her generous spirit by heading up a new group — the University of North Dakota National Athletic Women's Leadership Council. The committee's purpose is to build and maintain the strong tradition of excellence for UND women's athletic programs. It will enhance the annual women's athletics budget and improve communication, involvement and support of former UND women's student-athletes and supporters.

"We're bringing them back together for UND pride," Jill said.

That UND pride is shown through the North Dakota Spirit campaign, with its goal to raise $300 million for the benefit of UND through the UND Foundation. The spirit of the campaign, Jill says, is demonstrated through the passion, integrity and competitive character of North Dakotans.

Jill, a Hillsboro, N.D., native, who put her own hardworking North Dakota spirit to the test as owner and operator of a lumber business in Madera,Calif., with her husband, Steve, for 22 years, adds 30 years of coaching to her resume. She is also a Master Gardener, Rotarian and a member of the State Center Community College Foundation Board in Madera, where she and Steve have lived for the past 28 years.

"There is nothing more satisfying than helping others celebrate their dreams and realize their potential," she says. "Making a difference in someone's life is priceless."

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