Personal Giving Stories

Balbachs Give Back in a Major Way

Peggy (’64) and Hal (’61, ’65) Balbach
Peggy (’64) and Hal (’61, ’65) Balbach

When looking at our lives and professional careers, we realized we owe virtually everything to the education and support we received from the University, and we are focusing our gift on its library with the majority of our estate assets.”

—Hal Balbach

One of Harold (Hal) Balbach’s lasting memories at Illinois was in the early 1960s when he and his new wife, Margaret (Peggy) Kain Balbach, went to the library in search of a dissertation printed in 1943 in France (during WWII) for Peggy’s research on paleobotany. With only a few copies in existence, they were beyond impressed when the librarian returned with not only the dissertation but a stack of related materials she thought might be helpful. 

Over the next 50 years, Hal and Peggy learned firsthand the value of a world-class education and the vital role a premier library plays. As a result, the couple established an estate gift with the majority of their assets to help ensure the continued excellence of the University Library.

After obtaining her Ph.D., Peggy began her career as a faculty member at the U of I’s Navy Pier and Circle campus. In those years, and during stints at the Urbana campus, she co-authored and authored A Laboratory Manual for General Botany and The Plant World, which are still used today. She then moved to Eastern Illinois University and after a change in botanical emphasis, in 1973 she embarked on a long and distinguished tenure at Illinois State University. While there, she founded the horticulture-agribusiness program. Dr. Balbach retired from ISU in 1994 and passed away in 2015.

Hal also spent time at Eastern Illinois University but then joined the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in 1972. There he developed environmental assessment tools and undertook complex controversial environmental assessment tasks for the Army and DoD involving chemical weapons and biological warfare. Dr. Balbach has authored or co-authored more than 200 technical reports and eight textbooks and book chapters, and he has presented the results of his research around the world.

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