Theater injects life, art into community

SIU McLeod Summer Playhouse Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat Pick Ups

As a venue for multiple shows each summer, the McLeod Summer Playhouse brings thousands of visitors to SIU. This longstanding pillar of SIU recently wrapped up its 2017 season, bringing to a close another successful performance for a program that helps fulfill the university’s goal of providing the best for SIU students and the community at large.

“It’s a window into what we do at the university,” said J. Thomas Kidd, associate professor of theater/directing and chair of the Department of Theater at SIU.

According to Kidd, the McLeod Summer Playhouse is the only professional theater in Southern Illinois.

“It helps bring artistic life and increases the quality of life in the community,” he said.

Students also benefit greatly from the presence of a high-end theater production, and those enrolled in particular courses are offered credit for working with the playhouse. They often earn internships, which can lead to jobs within the production.

Being part of the playhouse offers important experience for graduates who plan to work in theater, film, advertising and more.

“This is a gateway degree into the entertainment industry,” Kidd said. “For many, (the McLeod Summer Playhouse) is their first professional experience.”

While the program does have an annual budget allotment, the funds don’t fully cover the costs of updating and maintaining the theater.

Kidd said the theater is in need of major upgrades, including new seats and a new sound system. Much of the backstage infrastructure has been brought up to date, but it’s the front of the house that requires improvement now.

“It’s in need of upgrades to bring it up to standards,” he said. “It needs to reflect where we are going.”

To support an endowment that fund and sustain the performing arts for students and the region, including the McLeod Summer Playhouse, visit

Grace Handlos grateful for dean scholarship

SIU College of Agricultural Sciences student Grace Handlos

By Rebecca Renshaw

Grace Handlos has set her sights high.

The junior from Salsbury, Indiana is majoring in animal science production. Throughout her life, Handlos has worked with horses. Now, she wants to become a show horse trainer.

“I love horses and always have,” Handlos said. “The College of Agricultural Sciences has made it so easy for me to achieve my dreams.”

Handlos is a dean scholarship recipient. She says she will never forget opening the envelope from SIU informing her of the scholarship award.

“When I read I received the scholarship, I was ecstatic. I never thought college could be affordable without going deep into debt,” Handlos said.

Like so many other students and faculty, Handlos says the college feels like one big family.

“Even when I first visited SIU and the college when I was trying to decide where to go to school, I sensed that they were like family,” she said.

Handlos serves as an Ag Council representative for the live-stock judging team, is a member of the honors program, and conducts research in the plant pathology program.

Earlier this year, the SIU Foundation launched Forever SIU: The Campaign for Students. The three-year campaign set a $75 million fundraising goal. Most of the money received through the campaign will go toward student scholarships.

For more information, visit For information on how to donate to the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences, visit

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Jeanne Hurley Simon Memorial Library Endowment scholarship expands horizon

Student Spotlight: SIU Morris Library Dave Whitfield

By Rebecca Renshaw

Dave Whitfield, a graduate student from Cairo, Illinois, and a Morris Library student employee, was awarded the Jeanne Hurley scholarship in May 2017. Whitfield said the scholarship has him leaning toward pursuing a master’s degree in library science after he receives his doctorate in communication studies.

Morris Library administers the endowment, created to celebrate the life and longstanding commitment to libraries and education of Jeanne Hurley Simon, wife of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. The endowment provides up to three scholarships each year to Morris Library student employees, and the goal is fostering the development of ethnic, racial, cultural and gender diversity.

Whitfield said he thoroughly enjoys his job at the information desk, especially when he gets to help community patrons and those with disabilities.

“I was a medic in the Air Force from 1990 until 1998,” he said. “In that timeframe, my work revolved around helping people. Now, 10 years later, I’m still helping people, but just in a different environment.

“Working in the library is so fulfilling because people often don’t have the vocabulary to ask how to find the things they know little about yet. It forces me to become a good listener and to establish a positive connection with people who are trying to find something in the library. If I can make them feel welcome and comfortable, we will always end up finding out what they need,” he added.

Whitfield hopes more individuals will give to Morris Library.

“This place is transformative,” he said. “When donors give to this great library, they are opening the doors of opportunity to everyone – students, faculty, alumni and the entire community. It’s just a great place of expanding minds and forging relationships.”

For more information about Morris Library’s fundraising goals, visit