President Reagan’s brother and sister-in-law leave estate gift to EC

Feb 07 2014

Eureka College has received a bequest totaling $1 million from the estate of J. Neil and Bess Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s brother and sister-in-law.

The bequest was made public during a meeting of the Eureka College Board of Trustees Feb. 7. The announcement was made in conjunction with the 103rd anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan and the 159th Founders’ Day of Eureka College, both which fall on Feb. 6.

Reagan bequest

“The gift from Neil and Bess Reagan is a testament to the important and enduring relationship between the Reagan family and Eureka College,” said Eureka College President J. David Arnold. “Their love for and generosity towards Neil’s alma mater will allow the couple’s legacy to continue helping future generations experience the same learning, service and leadership opportunities that Neil and Ronald experienced.”

J. Neil Reagan died in 1996 at age 88. Like his brother, the Illinois native moved to California. He had a career in advertising and marketing, including being a senior producer for CBS and senior vice president of advertising agency giant McCann-Erickson. Bess Reagan died in 2010 at age 102.

More than 100 objects and photographs from the collection of Neil and Bess Reagan were given to Eureka College and are part of the Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center and Archives in Melick Library.

Neil Reagan, nicknamed “Moon,” followed his younger brother to Eureka College and graduated in 1933, a year after “Dutch,” as Ronald Reagan was known in his youth. MORE

The brothers were members of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and played football. Later, each served several terms on the Eureka College Board of Trustees and helped raise funds to improve and sustain Eureka College. The Reagan Physical Education Center, dedicated in 1970, is named for them.

The college’s Board of Trustees will determine how to best use the bequest funds, Arnold said.