UIF Student Worker Uncovers Unexpected Treasure

Dec 07, 2021 09:51 AM

UIF student worker Ava Oros holds a photo of her grandfather, U of I graduate Bill WhitfieldAva Oros had no idea what she might find when assigned the task of helping the University of Illinois Foundation (UIF) organize information around gifts of farmland through the years as their first-ever farmland student worker.

With a strong background in communications and agriculture, Oros was the perfect person for the job. Born and raised in Hettick, Illinois, she started her higher education pursuits at the University of Missouri-Columbia but soon learned it wasn’t a good fit and hoped she would one day be accepted at Illinois.

“I didn’t even tell my boyfriend or my mom that I was applying to Illinois,” Oros shares. One night at dinner she spun her computer around so everyone could see the image of Alma Mater with the words, “Welcome! You’re an Illini.”

Oros is now in her second year majoring in Agriculture Leadership, Education and Communications in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I, and follows a sister who also graduated from Illinois.

In October, as part of her UIF work building a catalog of stories to share about the impact of farmland gifts, Oros was searching through an old box of photos circa 1950, looking for images connected to farmland gifts. “In my head while looking at these beautiful pictures, I was thinking this was when my grandpa went to the U of I.” She turned the page, and staring at her was a young Bill Whitfield—her grandfather—a 1955 graduate who earned his Illinois degree in animal sciences. She couldn’t believe it and texted her mom. Oros says the photo brought tears to her mom who had never seen the photo of her father before. The family thinks the photo reflects Whitfield’s time following a trip to Greece. Upon his return, he shared details of his research with the Extension office.

Oros’ grandpa died when she was three, but she has witnessed the successful company he built—Whitfield Pre-Mix and the product, Golden Flo, which many people in the livestock industry know as a successful livestock supplement. Oros says her grandfather’s work as an inventor and successful businessman is inspiring. She hopes to gain similar success in her chosen field of marketing and communications for all things agriculture.

Meanwhile, she continues digging for the collections of history at UIF that will one day tell inspiring stories behind gifts of farmland that are supporting excellence in education at Illinois.