Alumnus honors Werlichs with $525K in donations

Assistantship, scholarship named for longtime professor, family

SIU Morris Library

Most worthwhile college experiences include connecting with others. Some of these interactions are fleeting, but some make a lasting impact.

One such connection from decades ago inspired an SIU alumnus to ensure that impact stretches decades into the future. With two gifts, totaling $525,000, he and his wife have honored Dr. David Werlich and his family.

“I don’t think I would have ever finished my graduate degree without their support,” said the alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous. The first is a $425,000 gift that will establish the Werlich Family Graduate Assistantship in Digital Humanities at Morris Library Endowment Fund. The other is a $100,000 donation that creates the David P. Werlich Graduate Scholarship Endowment Fund in the Department of History.

Dr. David Werlich, an emeritus history professor, taught courses in Latin American history. However, it wasn’t his classes that inspired such a philanthropic gesture.

“I never took a class with Dr. Werlich, but I knew his son, Tom, and we went to graduate school at the same time. When I was there, all my undergrad friends had left, and I felt kind of alone,” said the alumnus. “That’s when we became extremely good friends. He introduced me to his family, and I ended up spending a lot of time at his home in Carbondale.

“Dr. Werlich would talk about a lot of things – history, politics, and particularly South America. The Werlichs were very good to me. It was like having a second family. It was vital for me.”

THE WERLICH LEGACY

A recipient of five assistantships during his time at SIU, the alumnus felt it was important to give other students similar opportunities. The Werlich Family Graduate Assistantship will help the library with its digitalization project.

Graduate students will be able to apply for the assistantship and receive it multiple times to help SIU and Morris Library develop future leaders in the field of digitalization.

“This gift will allow us to bring more of the treasures held in the Special Collections Research Center to our students and faculty in a digital format that leads to a deeper engagement with the actual documents,” said John Pollitz, dean of Library Affairs. “It promotes collaboration with the history department directly but will and provides the foundation for more digital humanities projects across campus.”

Pollitz shared his experience with Dr. Werlich, which makes this donation that much more meaningful.

“I took two classes in Latin American history from Dr. Werlich. They had a real impact on my life,” he said. “Many things about Dr. Werlich’s teaching have stayed with me since those times. He made the subject come alive and exciting. The idea of honoring this wonderful professor and making the library part of this gift was a high point in my life as a librarian.”

The David P. Werlich Graduate Scholarship will benefit a student in the Department of History who is focusing on Latino Studies.

“Dr. Werlich’s career at SIU spanned four decades and left a deep imprint on the teaching of history to thousands of students,” said Dr. Jonathan Bean, professor of history at SIU. “Under his leadership, SIU hired a new generation of history professors to reinvigorate the field.”

Dr. Bean, too, was directly impacted by the career of Dr. Werlich.

“He was famous for his wicked sense of humor, and he was popular as an instructor,” he said. “He was also mentor to students and faculty in ways that went beyond the imparting of advice. I am indebted to him for his mentoring – he made my early years at SIU a pleasure and his mentoring is something I aspire to pay forward to the next generation. The ripples of his influence will be felt for years to come.”

‘THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES’

After years of making smaller scale donations, including spreading funds to multiple areas during recent SIU Days of Giving, a conversation about something more substantial began.

“I was donating to a wide variety of causes, but I had not committed to a larger donation,” the alumnus said. “I knew I wanted to honor Dr. Werlich and his family.”

Both projects are forward-thinking in their nature, considering the value of digital records and understanding the importance of diversity, particularly that of the Latino culture.

“It’s important for the future success of the university. We want kids who are interested in focusing on these things,” he said.

The spirit of what Dr. Werlich was able to do for this particular alumnus is reflected in his generous donation.

“This is what it takes to have extras at the university,” he said. “There’s an element of feeling good about helping people out. It’s not easy out there.”

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Family honors alumnus’ wishes, memory: Youchoff fund will help students finish

Johnny Youchoff stands in front of Saluki Stadium next to the King Tut pyramid memorial.

Seventy years after Johnny Youchoff ’s graduation from SIU, his family is honoring his memory by establishing the Johnny Youchoff and Mary Agnes Youchoff Finish Line Endowed Scholarship.

His cousin, John Savio, and John’s wife, Anita, donated $250,000 to create this endowed scholarship honoring Youchoff and his wife, Mary Agnes. The term “finish line” refers to the goal of the fund, which aims to help students complete their degrees.

The scholarship is designed for SIU juniors and seniors who are graduates of his former high school in West Frankfort or his mother’s high school in Christopher and have experienced a major life event that may prevent them from graduating.

“Johnny had every sticker the SIU Alumni Association had sent him on his garage wall,” said John Savio. “He hoped to be a member of the Alumni Association for at least 50 years, and was proud to exceed that goal.”

Youchoff, a West Frankfort native worked at his family business, Heights Bakery, as a youth and graduated from Frankfort Community High School. At SIU, he majored in geography and graduated in 1952. In May of 2021 he passed away at age 91 and was buried with his SIU 150th anniversary pin.

“Education was very important to Johnny, and he was particularly eager to help students from his and his mother’s hometowns,” Anita Savio said. “He would love that his legacy will be supporting these students on the brink of completing their degrees.”

Family Memories

John Savio never lived in Southern Illinois, but as a youth he and his parents often visited his grandmother, and aunt and uncle there.

“That was a vacation our family took every summer for at least a week, sometimes 10 days. I had so much fun with Johnny and his brother Louis,” said John Savio, a longtime Michigan resident. “We would go fishing, boating and hiking, and travel all around the area … to Crab Orchard, Cave-in-Rock, Shawnee National Forest.”

After earning his degree, Youchoff joined the Army and served proudly during the Korean War. Upon his return he went to work at General Motors in Atlanta, and, before meeting his wife-to-be, spent his evenings studying law at John Marshall Law School.

“That was the kind of guy Johnny was,” John Savio said. “He had no interest in practicing law and never mentioned his degree. I didn’t even know he went to law school until I saw the diploma on his wall about 10 years ago. Even at SIU, he studied Russian for the fun of it. He just loved learning.”

Always a Saluki

Through the years, Youchoff never lost his Saluki spirit. Although he lived in Georgia and Tennessee, he followed Saluki Athletics closely, particularly Saluki Men’s Basketball. For years, until Mary Agnes became ill, they would travel to Carbondale for the SIU Homecoming games. Later, it was a 2014 trip to campus that reignited his plan to help students.

“After so many years, Johnny wanted to visit his alma mater,” Anita Savio said. “So, he and John went on a road trip to SIU, where they ran into the associate athletic director of marketing. Their conversation brought back many great memories, reminding him of how much he loved the school.”

Youchoff then began working with the SIU Foundation on making a large-scale gift, but, due to life-changing events, it was never finalized. The Savios knew it was important to make this dream a reality.

“He had talked often about doing this,” John Savio said. “I reached out to the SIU Foundation and had lengthy discussions about what this fund would be. Of course, Johnny passed away before it came to fruition.”

Now, with the establishment of his fund, John and Anita Savio are confident that Youchoff would be pleased with the outcome.

“He really wanted to make sure that other young people could benefit from an education like he received at SIU,” Anita Savio said. “We are thrilled that we are able to fulfill this wish in his honor.”

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Saluki love story leads to scholarships

Nick and Amanda Martin are paying it forward by establishing the Martin First-Generation Agricultural Student Scholarship.

Two $500 scholarships will be awarded annually to support first-generation students studying agricultural sciences who are also members of Sigma Alpha sorority or Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.

Nick graduated from SIU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science, and Amanda earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 and master’s degree in 2008 in agribusiness economics.

Amanda grew up in the small town of Du Bois, Illinois, and credits her agriculture teacher for igniting her love of agriculture.

“I got involved in FFA in high school, and I fell in love with the service mindset,” Amanda said. “Farmers work every day making sure we can all live.

They are literally responsible for feeding and clothing the world. It is a noble profession.”

Nick fondly remembers helping his grandfather with his farm and working on other farms.

“I initially majored in architecture at SIU but it just wasn’t the right fit,” Nick said. “I talked to Karen Midden in SIU’s Department of Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems, and she helped steer me to a major in agriculture. Like Amanda, I fell in love with agriculture, especially landscape horticulture.”

SALUKIS IN LOVE

Nick and Amanda met through the Agbassador program, which is a student recruitment organization comprised of 12 outstanding students selected by faculty, administrators, and students. Students serve as speakers and present at high schools, community colleges, and attend career fairs and open houses across the country.

“Our advisor was Lucas Maxwell, and he would drive us to conferences and recruitment activities, so we had a lot of van time,” Amanda said. “I met Nick Martin through this organization and our team was always together. The longest journey was to the University of Florida for the national agriculture ambassador conference. I figured if we could stand someone for that long of a trip, then that’s a good indication that we’d get along.”

After their graduation, the Martins stayed in touch with Maxwell, and they developed a strong friendship that still exists today.

“We knew exactly who we wanted to officiate our wedding, the mentor that was with us from the start. Lucas became ordained online so he could officiate our wedding,” Nick said. “We got married in a historic little church called Kornthal Church in Jonesboro that sits in the middle of farmland. We felt it was appropriate to get married in the middle of such a big agricultural area. It felt natural and right to us.”

The wedding reception was basically a Saluki alumni event, Dean Gary Minish even gave a speech.

After leaving Carbondale, Nick and Amanda moved to Auburn, Alabama, where Nick graduated from Auburn University in 2011 with a master’s degree in forestry. During this time, Amanda served as the coordinator of recruitment for the Department of Poultry Science. They moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Nick joined Bartlett Tree Experts, the world’s leading scientific tree and shrub care company. During this time, Amanda served as a middle school science teacher as part of the TEACH Charlotte program. Nick was then able to transition to a remote position in 2012, so Amanda could pursue her Ph.D. in higher education administration, which began at Auburn University. While enrolled in classes she worked with the Auburn University College of Agriculture as the coordinator of recruitment and alumni relations. Another door opened for Amanda and the team moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2016. Amanda finished her doctorate at LSU and became an Assistant Dean for the LSU College of Agriculture.

The couple recently moved to Algonquin, Illinois, where Amanda works with the executive team at the American Egg Board at the Chicago headquarters. Amanda’s background within agriculture and education, continue to guide her professional career. She assisted with the White House Easter Egg Roll, and her current focus project is on developing the college internship program. Nick is now the vice president of Bartlett Consulting where he leads an international team throughout the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. His work has taken him to numerous university campuses in the U.S., several U.S. Army bases, oil refineries in Canada, hurricane-ravaged properties in Florida, the historic mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, and his all-time favorite, several royal properties in the United Kingdom including Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace.

GIVING BACK

The impetus behind establishing the two $500 scholarships is due to a $500 scholarship Amanda was offered through the SIU College of Agriculture.

“No one in my family had gone to college, and it just wasn’t on my radar,” Amanda said. “So, when I received that scholarship offer, it made me feel like someone believed in me. I felt for the first time that I could be successful, and it was enough to make me commit. We would love to grow our scholarship and help more students in the future.”

Nick says he hopes more people give back to SIU in whatever capacity they have.

“With our careers, we don’t have a lot of time to volunteer, but over the years we saved and what we can give just might help a student out with paying for books,” he said. “Whatever you can do to help out is important.”

Nick was recently honored at last year’s Ag Banquet and received a MidCareer Alumni Award.

“It was great to be back in Carbondale last fall to receive such a great honor. We would love to get more involved with SIU now that we live in Illinois,” he said. “We have plans for attending Homecoming and going to a football game. We love being back in the place where we fell in love.”

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Saluki Friendship Leads to Major Donation

Gift reinforces fund that support students with disabilities

Gail Mrkvicka headshot

When Gail Mrkvicka, ’64 and ’66, befriended Jim Greenwood they had an instant connection.

“Jim was such a positive person,” Mrkvicka said. “Even though he was confined to a wheelchair, I never heard him once complain. Instead, he was probably one of the most positive people I have ever met in my life. He never let his disability keep him from doing anything – whether it was attending sporting events or going to Shryock Auditorium. The physical challenges never seemed to affect his college years, and he was one of the most popular and magnetic students I ever met. He became one of my closest friends while at SIU.”

Both Greenwood and Mrkvicka worked as resident fellows, he at Thompson Point and she at Kellogg Hall.

“I remember we would always eat lunch together at the cafeteria in Lentz Hall. We also used to hang out and get coffee at the coffee shop at University Drug Store,” Mrkvicka said. “We really enjoyed each other’s company, and we would share our challenges of being resident fellows. Both Jim and I stayed at SIU, got our bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Jim and I both received our master’s degrees in higher education administration.”

Upon graduation, their paths went in separate directions. Mrkvicka eventually became a dean at Russell Sage College, a small women’s college in Troy, New York. She later worked for the city of Rensselaer, New York, as a grants administrator.

A Friendship Rekindled

Mrkvicka grew tired of the harsh winters and was battling health issues in 1999 when a friend suggested she relocate to Sarasota, Florida.

“Florida sounded really good to me at the time, and it has proven to be a great place to retire,” she said.

Soon after she moved to Sarasota, Mrkvicka recalls reading the local newspaper where she saw a photo of a vaguely familiar face.

“I hadn’t seen Jim Greenwood in years, but in the photo that accompanied the article, the man had a SIU baseball cap on. I knew then that had to be Jim,” she said.

She reached out to Jim, and they renewed their friendship along with Jim’s wife, Martha.

“Jim came to SIU from Maine, partly because SIU was one of the few institutions that provided access to students with disabilities in the 1960s,” Mrkvicka said. “He loved SIU and was a life member of the SIU Alumni Association and was active in its Central Florida Chapter.”

SIU has been an advocate for people with disabilities since the 1950s, when Delyte Morris tasked Guy Renzaglia with equipping campus with necessary improvements. Renzaglia helped make SIU one of the few universities at the time to provide services for the blind, deaf, and persons using wheelchairs.

A Commitment Reinforced

In 2013, the Greenwoods established the Jim and Martha Greenwood Fund, created through their estate. It provides $1.3 million in scholarships for students with disabilities who are studying science and engineering. The first scholarship was awarded in 2014.

“The Greenwoods left a powerful legacy by supporting the university that welcomed him in the 1960s, well before the Americans with Disabilities Act required campuses to be accessible,” said SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec. “It is the generosity of people like the Greenwoods for which we are forever grateful. He and his wife’s substantial gift make it possible for other students with disabilities to attend SIU.”

Mrkvicka recently decided to make a $1 million estate gift to the Jim and Martha Greenwood Fund.

“Like Jim and Martha, I just want to make the lives of students with disabilities easier while they attend SIU,” she said. “I don’t want them worrying about paying tuition or renting books. I just want them to enjoy their college years like Jim did.”

Matt Solverson, president of the SIU Foundation, said Mrkvicka’s gift will broaden the Greenwoods’ fund and continue SIU’s national reputation for assisting students with disabilities.

“Fortunately, when he came to SIU, our facilities and staff were able to accommodate him and provide an outstanding educational experience, which he remembered for the rest of his life,” Solverson said. “Ms. Mrkvicka’s gift is a great testament to the lifelong friendships that SIU cultivates.”

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Meet Scholarship Recipient Kierra Greer

Kierra Greer stands in front of SIU clocktower with hands on hips, smiling and wearing a graduation cap.

Kierra Greer is a psychology major who is graduating in December 2022.

Why did you choose SIU?

I chose SIU because SIU chose me. When the other schools didn’t give me a chance, SIU did. I have been 3.8 GPA student since.

What would you tell a prospective student about SIU?

I will tell them that SIU is here to support you along the way. Whatever your goals are, there’s a group of people at SIU waiting to help you accomplish them.

What inspired you to choose your area of study?

My passion to help others and see them become the best version of themselves is what sparked my interest in psychology. Also, I want to be a part of effective solutions for the youth when it comes to the heavy burden of mental health issues.

Kierra Greer holds her one-year-old son in front of the SIU Banterra Center.

What motivates you as a student?

My son motivates me! I’m a first-generation college student. I want him to follow in my footsteps and know that if mommy can do it, so can he.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?

My most memorable time at SIU was this commencement photoshoot with the First Saluki Center. As I was taking the photos in areas that meant the most to me, I got emotional. Success is not always easy, and to overcome obstacles as a single mother has been a blessing.

Have you received any scholarships as a student? Do you know the name of your scholarship(s)?

Yes, I received the Fred W. Samson Scholarship.

How has this scholarship benefited your academic and professional goals?

It has allowed me to start the next phase in my education journey. It also removed the stress of financial burdens, which helped me focus on my academics more.

What would you say to convince a potential donor that establishing a scholarship fund is important?

Students are the future, and many of us want to be a positive change for the future. Sometimes all we need is a helping hand to make it through. Your help would change someone’s life forever as well as their community.

How will you continue the legacy of your scholarship?

I’m going to continue my education this spring at SIU to pursue my master’s in counseling and rehabilitation, so that I can become a licensed therapist.

Kierra Greer holds hands with her son and walks up the steps of the SIU Banterra Center.

How would you like to give back to SIU one day?

I would like to create a scholarship for single mothers just like me who are going to school, succeeding, and trying to overcome obstacles.

What kind of doors have opened for you because of the scholarship?

I will be able to start my master’s program next spring with the release of my transcripts and degree.

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Meet SIU Foundation Student Caller Adam Sher

Male with short brown hair slightly smiles while wearing a maroon Southern Illinois Salukis sweatshirt with a hood.

The SIU Foundation has a team of dedicated students who call alumni in hopes of raising support for a variety of university funds. Adam Sher of Farmington Hills, Michigan, is one of those students.

Sher is a sophomore studying electrical engineering.

“My automotive teacher in high school was an SIU alum and recommended the university to me when I showed interest in engineering,” Sher said.

Sher has been on the student caller team since January 2022.

“I was nervous when I first started calling. An alum answered and after a little bit he said no. I started to say, ‘I’m sorry but I have to ask again.’ The alum told me to never apologize for asking. His words really stuck with me and helped me improve in my first month,” Sher said.

When Sher is not calling alumni, he enjoys rock climbing at the Student Recreation Center and playing board games.

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The George Bates Foundation Continues its Philanthropy to SIU and the Southern Illinois Region

Left to right: Dr. Bruce DeRuntz, Director of Development Jason Fairfield, Dr. Mike Murray, Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, and SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec

By Rebecca Renshaw

The College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics received $50,000 from a longtime supporter of the university.

Dr. Mike Murray, trustee of the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, presented Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu with a $50,000 check to go toward the George A. Bates Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship supports the college, the Leadership Development Program and the STEM Research Center.

“Dr. Murray and the George Bates Memorial Foundation have been great supporters of our college,” Dean Liu said. “These scholarships are important to our college, and we are deeply grateful to the Bates Foundation for its history of partnering with SIU.

“We have the passion and the dedication. Not only that, we deliver. We are working on enrollment growth and retention as well as the student activities. This generous gift will help us achieve our goals.”

Bates was a successful stock market investor and avid big game hunter. He was born in 1903 in the Chicago area, and resided in Cary until his death. The Bates Foundation was formed when he passed away in 1989. The foundation provides funding to numerous charitable organizations, as determined by its board of trustees. Along with SIU, the foundation supports The Hope Light Project, a cancer awareness organization, also located in southern Illinois.

“Mr. Bates believed in supporting education,” Murray said. “It has been an honor to be a trustee for the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, and it was a privilege to deliver this check.”

Other organizations the foundation has supported in Southern Illinois include Brehm School, SIH Cancer Institute, the Poshard Foundation, Saluki Kids Academy, and Lead SI. The foundation supports eight different charities and has donated over $3 million dollars in the last 10 years. A total of $6 million has been donated since its inception.

“It is my hope that more people in this area recognize that a Chicago-based foundation cares deeply about the Southern Illinois region and its residents,” Murray said.

Murray was instrumental in securing funding from the Bates Foundation. As a close friend and confidant of Bates, Murray was aware of Bates’ philanthropic tendencies. He submitted a proposal for support in 1997 while working as a central development officer for the SIU Foundation. Now, as a Bates Foundation trustee, he continues to provide funding to scholarships at the College of Engineering.

“The SIU Foundation appreciates the long-time support Mike Murray and the Bates Foundation has given to SIU. Support from organizations such as the Bates Foundation is integral to advancing our academic mission,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “These types of gifts show a truly inspiring commitment to higher education and the Saluki spirit.”

The Bates Foundation looks for two things when deciding to support an organization: Dedication by the organization to the mission and passion for the cause of those representing the organization.

“I know Dean Liu and know Matt Kupec very well,” Murray said. “I have no doubt this money will be put to good use.”

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Alumnus pays it forward with an endowed scholarship for East St. Louis graduates

Darius Robinson and his wife Norlander

Darius Robinson ’95 ’98 recently established an endowment at SIU for students graduating from East St. Louis High School. Robinson graduated from SIU with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and a master’s degree in manufacturing systems.

Robinson said his father was a contributing factor in deciding to establish the scholarship.

“My father, Johnnie Robinson, was a big giver in terms of leadership, discipline, and being a role model. He was my baseball coach in East St. Louis when I was eight years old until I reached 18 years of age. There were a lot of kids on the team who did not have a father figure, so I learned to share my dad with the rest of the team. What is remarkable about my dad is that he did not get paid for that, and he gave many hours to bridge the gap for so many young people,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s father always taught him that when you come home from work, you don’t just come home and focus on yourself.

“You make yourself productive by helping others. He taught me that giving back is how you make a difference in your community and in your life,” he said.

In 2016, Robinson joined I AM ABLE, a not-for-profit Chicago charity that enriches the lives of students from 8th grade through college who aspire to become medical doctors. In addition, Darius joined the Sister Cities Committee of Hanover Park. As a Sister Cities Committee member, Darius volunteers to support an elementary school in Cape Coast Ghana, West Africa. In addition to Cape Coast Ghana, volunteer support is given to an elementary school in Zacatecas Mexico. He volunteers on the weekend and often travels to other countries to help local schools with supplies and needed assistance. Robinson said that by volunteering and through the SIU scholarship he established, he can help a student want to be a better person and get an education so that it gives their life purpose.

“I hope this example of how I am living my life spurs others to pay it forward in their communities and create a cycle of giving back to others,” Robinson said.

Robinson and his wife, Norlander, reside in Hanover Park, Illinois, where Robinson works as an operations manager for Menzies Aviation. His role is to manage the jet fuel and hydrant system that is used to fuel the aircrafts at O’Hare International Airport.

“SIU prepared me well for my career. Most of my professors were industrial engineers and they did a great job of teaching me how to analyze a situation and how to trouble shoot and achieve my objectives,” Robinson said.

When Robinson is not volunteering, he enjoys studying ancient history and religion.

“I consider myself a life student. I’ve made several trips to the pyramids in Egypt and by going through the tombs, I learned how Africans contributed to the world by building the pyramids. I am fascinated by history,” Robinson said.

Kruse: Donors Drive SIU School of Medicine Forward

SIU School of Medicine Dean Jerry Kruse portrait in courtyard

If you talk to Dr. Jerry Kruse for more than a few minutes, you’ll recognize that his life passion is reflected within the mission of SIU School of Medicine, which he has led since 2015. That mission is “to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.”

Kruse, who has been with the school since 1984, said it was founded to improve the health of central and southern Illinois residents.

Kruse is proud of the advances the School of Medicine has accomplished over the past few years, and he is hopeful for continued improvement with the help of loyal alumni and donors.

“We have been very successful raising scholarships for our students, and we are continuously easing their burden by increasing the number of scholarships we offer each year,” Kruse said. “Yet, our medical students still graduate with significant debt. The median debt is $210,000 so we still have a way to go to produce a balanced workforce.”

Kruse said there are several sectors of healthcare that are rapidly growing, and the SIU School of Medicine is committed to meeting the needs of those sectors.

“The care of women of childbearing age and children has come into focus for us, and we have put significant resources to improve that sector,” he said. “In fact, we are partnering with Community Foundation Springfield-Nurse Family Partnership where physicians and nurses work together to identify women with highest pregnancy risks. We are very pleased with partnerships such as this one and are always looking to partner with other quality like-minded agencies.”

The School of Medicine is also experiencing growing pains, and Kruse recognizes the opportunity for expansion.

“Our student base is growing, and our current educational building is reaching 50 years in age. We are to the point where a new facility is needed. Donors would have the opportunity to honor those close to them by naming lecture halls, reception areas and cafeterias,” he said.

He also said that the school has been successful in receiving named lectureships, endowed professorships, and endowed visiting professorships but that there is always room for more endowments.

“We really appreciate those who have partnered with us in the mission we have developed,” he said.

The school offers an M.D., a master’s degree, and doctoral degree in various biomedical sciences, including a master’s degree for physician assistant students, as well as advanced training in clinical specialties (17 residencies and 13 fellowships). There also is a small number of SIU students each year who pursue combined degree programs in law and medicine, or in medicine and public health.

To support the SIU School of Medicine, visit siumed.edu/foundation/ways-give.

Dr. Kelly Higgins: SIU Foundation Board Member and Loyal Supporter of SIU

Dr. Kelly Higgins HeadshotIt has been over 20 years since Dr. Kelly Higgins graduated from SIU School of Medicine, but her loyalty and commitment to the university are what brought her to the SIU Foundation Board of Directors.

“SIU gives students so many opportunities to change the course of their life. I just want to support it in any way I can,” Higgins said. “I got my undergraduate degree here, and I went on to get my medical degree from the SIU School of Medicine. You could say that my blood runs maroon.”

She graduated from SIU in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in physiology and a minor in chemistry. During her time as an undergraduate at the Carbondale campus, she was a member of the Saluki Softball team from 1992 to 1994 and a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

After graduating from SIU School of Medicine in 2001, she completed her residency training in internal medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and served as chief resident for the Department of Internal Medicine from 2003 to 2004. She then practiced medicine in Memphis and Springfield, Illinois, before relocating to Carbondale in 2012. Dr. Higgins practiced medicine at Shawnee Healthcare for seven years before leaving clinical practice in 2020. During her time as an internist with Shawnee Healthcare, Dr. Higgins served as the assistant dean of students for the SIU School of Medicine on the Carbondale campus from January 2016 until June 2017. She also served as a clinical mentor to SIU School of Medicine first-year medical students and was voted Mentor of the Year for 2017-18.

Dr. Higgins is working as an adjunct assistant instructor in the Office of Education and Curriculum at SIU School of Medicine.

Dr. Higgins resides in Carbondale with her husband, Dr. Jeff Lehman, who is also a graduate of SIU School of Medicine Class of 2001, and two children, Lauren and Will. She is a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association. Dr. Higgins and her family enjoy attending SIU sporting events, and she enjoys coaching her daughter’s softball teams. Dr. Higgins is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Council and the Women’s Leadership Council Board of Directors, and will start mentoring students when this year’s program launches.

“We’ve been season ticket holders for SIU football and basketball for over 10 years, and we love watching our Salukis compete with some of the strongest teams in the nation,” she said. “The football team’s recent success has energized the university and the community, especially the win against Northwestern. We’re looking forward to a strong finish.”

Dr. Higgins is always encouraging others to give back to SIU and helping students. In July 2021, she was asked to become a board member for the SIU Foundation.

“I received a fantastic education from SIU, and the SIU Medical School is nationally recognized for its many achievements,” she said. “I encourage everyone to continue to support the university’s vision. Getting involved with the university and the SIU Foundation is a great way to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”