SIU Foundation shatters records for fundraising, scholarships

SIU Chancellor Austin Lane addresses the crowd during the final Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois at Walker's Bluff on May 4, 2024.
SIU Chancellor Austin Lane addresses the crowd during the final Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois at Walker’s Bluff on May 4, 2024.

By Jeff Wilson

The SIU Foundation shattered its records for fundraising and scholarships awarded during Fiscal Year 2024.

Supporters of Southern Illinois University Carbondale donated nearly $47 million in FY24, a whopping 51 percent increase over FY23. The SIU Foundation awarded an incredible $5,406,133 in scholarships. More than 1,840 students benefitted from these scholarships, meaning that 16 percent of all SIU students received a Foundation scholarship this fiscal year.

“These outstanding numbers are a testament to the strength of the Saluki spirit that stretches around the globe,” said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation. “Our alumni and donors are making a tremendous impact on students, faculty, and the community.”

The SIU Foundation has increased the amount of scholarship dollars awarded to students each of the last five years. The FY24 total represents 127 percent growth over the amount awarded in FY19.

“I am extremely grateful. Alumni and donors have changed my life,” said SIU senior and scholarship recipient Chloe Dennison. “I have always been afraid of student loans, and these scholarships have allowed me to dedicate myself to being the best student and the best nurse I can be.”

The Imagine SIU 2030 fundraising campaign is progressing well with $341,740,750 in commitments toward its $500 million goal. It is the fifth largest campaign in Illinois public university history.

The most recent fiscal year was highlighted by three major gift announcements:

  • John and Jayne Simmons announced a $10 million gift to the law school, which was then named Simmons Law School
  • Roger and Sally Tedrick announced a $6 million gift toward a new welcome center to be built on campus and named the Tedrick Welcome Center
  • James Franklin Sharp made a $1 million gift to the former University Museum, which was named Sharp Museum in his honor

The SIU Foundation also hosted multiple events, engaging alumni and friends across the country.

In its third year, the Saluki Takeover Tour made stops in Chicago, Springfield, Nashville, Florida, St. Louis, Southern Illinois, and Hollywood. The initiative takes SIU on the road and connects alumni with university leaders. This year, more than 1,500 alumni gathered for 14 Chancellor’s Receptions.

Overall, the number of stops on the Saluki Takeover Tour doubled over the previous. The Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois included visits to Illinois’ southernmost 17 counties, more than 20 school visits, and six Chancellor’s Receptions. It was capped by a Southern Illinois Celebration on May 4 at Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort, which was attended by more than 400 people.

The Saluki Takeover Tours have brought together thousands of alumni and friends, forged partnerships with high schools and community colleges, engaged dozens of donors, and raised $1.2 million. Fiscal Year 2025 will feature more takeover tour stops than ever before. Watch highlights from previous takeover tours at siuf.org/takeovers.

During the eighth annual SIU Day of Giving, the Foundation raised more than $3.1 million from 2,669 donors. SIU Credit Union kicked off the Day of Giving by donating $35,000 in total, designating $20,000 to New Student Programs and $15,000 to Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center.

Leading the way with 670 donors was the Balancing Education, Experience, and Reality (B.E.E.R.) Scholarships, driven by the Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s Facebook group. Nearly $45,000 was raised for the endowed scholarship fund. The College of Business and Analytics raised almost $765,000, the most of any college, school, or unit.

“In its role as an accelerator, the SIU Foundation has led the way on multiple initiatives, increasing engagement with alumni and philanthropic support that is making a major difference,” Kupec said.

To learn more about the SIU Foundation, visit siuf.org.

Morefield scholarship fund powered by planned gift

Eclipses reconnect donors to campus, region

Kevin and Denise Morefield watch the solar eclipse in Australia in 2023.

By Jeff Wilson

Between the two total solar eclipses that crossed over the Southern Illinois University campus, Kevin and Denise Morefield made an astronomical impact of their own – a generous planned gift to establish the Morefield Opportunities Scholarship Endowment Fund.

Established in 2021, the scholarship fund benefits Murphysboro graduates in need of a financial boost.

“Our scholarship is about helping others have the same opportunity I had,” Kevin said. “My choice to attend SIU changed my life profoundly, so we decided to pay that forward to others.”

The Morefield’s planned gift is a bequest, which means they have indicated the amount they will direct to SIU through their estate plan. They also decided to partially fund the scholarship while they’re both still living.

“Planned giving is a worry-free and easy way to give back. The endowment will keep giving in perpetuity with funds that, by definition, we didn’t need,” Kevin said. “After making the decision to contribute, I found myself thinking often about the lives the scholarship would affect. That led us to start early and partially fund the scholarship so we could see some of the impact in our lifetime.”

Kevin, a graduate of Murphysboro High School, received his bachelor’s degree from SIU in cinema and photography in 1985. That passion for photography has led him around the globe chasing eclipses. As fate would have it, that trek has brought him back to SIU twice, once in 2017 and again in 2024.

Photo by Kevin Morefield: Capturing the first and second diamond ring during the total solar eclipse across Southern Illinois on Monday, April 8, 2024.

“This was my eighth total solar eclipse. I have witnessed them in the outback of Australia, the polar Arctic, an atoll in the South Pacific, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and in Antarctica,” he said. “For there to be two over my hometown and alma mater is mindboggling and truly unique.”

After witnessing the grandeur of solar eclipses worldwide, the opportunity to be part of two so close to home was particularly powerful.

Kevin and Denise Morefield are pictured with Kevin’s mother, Betty Morefield (left), celebrating the 2024 eclipse at PK’s.

“The way SIU embraced these events is heartwarming. Eclipses always bring together a diverse group of people all with a common goal. That kind of broad feeling of community is rare and should be treasured,” Kevin said. “If someone had told me back in 1984 that 40 years later, I would be having a beer at PKs while everyone talked about total solar eclipses, I would not have believed it!”

To learn more about making a planned gift, visit siufgiving.org.

Saluki Takeover Tour rolls out red carpet in Hollywood

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane addresses the crowd of nearly 100 alumni at the inaugural Saluki Takeover Tour Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD – The Saluki Takeover Tour headed west for a stop in Hollywood on Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20.

Nearly 100 alumni and friends gathered June 20 at The Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood to celebrate the Saluki spirit during the Chancellor’s Reception.

“I can’t tell you enough how wonderful it is to see each of you doing so well, and we have some heavy hitters here,” said Dr. Austin Lane, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “I’ve heard about what you are doing out here. It’s amazing work.”

A highlight of the Saluki Takeover Tour in Hollywood was featuring the revitalized Hollywood Studies program, which will offer internships to SIU students who are seeking firsthand experience with film and television industry companies. During the takeover tour, SIU alumni facilitated tours of both Netflix and Warner Bros.

“The energy our alumni brought to the Hollywood events was incredible,” said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor of development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation. “It was wonderful to see so many inspiring Salukis together in one room so far from campus.”

Three SIU alumni have been particularly instrumental in coordinating this initiative, Robert Dennis ’84, Diane Eaton ’80, and Todd Abrams ’90.

“I’m so grateful to each of you for what you have been doing in the industry and for our students, in particular,” said Dr. Hong Cheng, dean of the College of Arts and Media.

Students and faculty from the College of Arts and Media met with industry leaders, including SIU alumni Bob Odenkirk and Mike Dopud, during the takeover tour on June 19.

“Our students are so appreciative of you taking time to tell them how you got from Carbondale to here,” Lane said. “Our students don’t make a four-year decision; they make a 40-year decision. The information they get from you is going to help them 40 years from now.”

Spearheaded by the SIU Foundation, the Saluki Takeover Tour began in 2021 and has expanded its reach every year. During FY24, there have been takeover tours in Chicago, Springfield, Nashville, Florida, St. Louis, Southern Illinois, and now Hollywood. Looking ahead, more stops will be added to the Saluki Takeover Tour schedule.

Technical Service Center naming honor Missavage’s legacy

Family honors longtime director, professor with $500K gift

Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right) John Brajkovich, Dennis Missavage (Brother of Roger Missavage), Dean Liu, Arlene Liss (Sister of Roger), Gene Liss (Arlene’s Husband and Brother-In-Law of Roger), and Jason Fairfield

By Jeff Wilson

Roger J. Missavage, a longtime professor at Southern Illinois University, was an outstanding faculty of the College of Engineering. He was director of the Computer Assisted Instruction & Research Laboratory for 29 years.

When Roger passed away in November 2021 at age 71, his brother Dennis Missavage, and sister and brother-in-law, Arlene and Gene Liss, established the Roger J. Missavage Endowed Fund for Engineering Education with a $500,000 gift in Roger’s memory.

Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics

On April 19, 2024, Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, hosted a dedication of the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center. The center will bolster information technology initiatives within the college.

“This is an exciting moment for this college,” Liu said. “Technology is the foundation of our college. The funds from this endowment will cover the technological needs of this college. Our students, faculty, and staff will benefit from this endowment in a significant way.”

Roger Missavage, a Herrin, Illinois, native, graduated from SIU in 1978 with a degree in engineering and added a master’s degree in mining engineering in 1991. He taught multiple courses at SIUC, including mechanics of rigid bodystatics, mechanics of rigid bodies-dynamics, rock mechanics principles and design, and analysis and design of mine excavations. He was also a Professional Engineer, which requires licensure from a state board of registration to practice engineering. He provided outstanding information technology support to the college for a long time.

John Brajkovich, director of the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center, gave a tour of the facility.

John Brajkovich, who will manage the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center, was a student worker for Missavage and a former colleague.

“He was just a guy who would help you with anything you needed,” he said at the dedication. “He would make loans to students if they were having problems. Anything he could do to help. A very charitable man. A very giving man.”

Liu credited Roger Missavage with being influential in many of the college’s advancements in information technology and facility and philanthropic support.

“The Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center will permanently establish Roger’s legacy at our college and SIU,” he said.

SIU’s cannabis research: An opportunity to lead

By Jeff Wilson

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, SIU has positioned itself on the forefront of the research that will drive it even further.

Dr. Jose Franco Da Cunha Leme Filho leads SIU’s Cannabis Science Center in the College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences (CALPS).

“We want to attract more students to horticulture, plant biology, agronomy, and other research-intensive initiatives,” he said.

This fall, CALPS will begin offering a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with a specialization in cannabis science, as well as a minor and certification. As the college moves forward with cannabis research, it faces numerous challenges. There are very few federal grants available to support the research, which means its expansion relies heavily on donations and collaboration with private companies.

“It’s a big challenge,” Dr. Leme said. “We are relying on partnerships with the private sector to advance toward our goals.”

SIU’s research only works with low-THC cannabis plants, and Dr. Leme is unable to accept monetary donations from companies that focus on recreational or medical marijuana, which compounds the challenge.

Dr. Leme has secured equipment donations from companies such as AC Infinity, which donated controlled-environment growth units that now fill the limited lab space used for cannabis research in Life Science II.

“I am very appreciative of SIU,” he said. “The university has been very open-minded in creating these opportunities. What we’re doing is the best in the state. We are the ones to collaborate with.”

Now, the goal is to expand, but that requires resources. Dr. Leme has created a plan to establish a new controlled-environment agriculture lab in the basement of McLafferty Annex.

“We would be starting from the ground up,” he said. “Currently, we have more equipment than we can fit in our space. We’re crammed into many small labs, which we’re happy to have, but we need more space. A company could come in and put its name on a new, state-of-the-art lab space.”

With more than 20 students currently working on the research, with more room, Dr. Leme said that number could double or even triple. Plus, a controlled-environment agriculture lab space would support more than cannabis research and include other indoor-production crops.

“Collaborating with private companies, we can help introduce them to academia and students,” Dr. Leme said. “We will provide reliable information and show the legitimacy of cannabis research and combat negative stereotypes that exist.”

To learn more about the program or how to support it, contact Dr. Leme at jose.leme@siu.edu or CALPS Director of Development Susan Graham at susang@foundation.siu.edu.

Dennis documents eclipse, connect with scholarship recipients

Left to right: Robert Dennis, Dorcas Brou and Ethan Grimm

By Jeff Wilson

Robert Dennis ’84 embarked on a unique journey to capture the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

His decision to travel to SIU for the eclipse was motivated by both professional and personal reasons. Invited to participate in the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative, Dennis seized the opportunity to witness the eclipse on campus, reconnect with SIU, and engage with students who have benefited from scholarships he has established.

“Several locations were considered, but Carbondale was the obvious choice … to experience the event on campus, come home so-to-speak, and visit with students in my old stomping grounds,” he said.

Equipped with an arsenal of photography gear, he immersed himself in the eclipse photography experience. Describing the thrill of the clear skies during the eclipse, Dennis was excited to photograph such a phenomenon at his alma mater.

“It was a bit overwhelming at times,” he said. “You could feel the crowd’s excitement like electricity in the air.”

Connecting with Scholarship Recipients

During the eclipse, Dennis connected with scholarship recipients Ethan Grimm and Dorcas Brou, sharing memorable moments and capturing a selfie together. Through interactions with students throughout the event, Dennis witnessed their enthusiasm and dedication to their craft.

“I shared my work on the day with many of the CAM (College of Arts and Media) students,” Dennis said. “It was a true pleasure to engage in their enthusiasm as they worked on the production.”

Dennis hopes that scholarship recipients will remember the privilege of witnessing such a rare astronomical phenomenon and be inspired to give back to their university.

“I encourage each recipient to reach back to the school during their careers … to bring others along to share in their success, and give back often,” Dennis said.

Beyond the eclipse, Dennis remains committed to supporting scholarship recipients throughout the year. From phone conversations to social media interactions, he maintains a connection with students, offering guidance and mentorship.

Pride of Little Egypt: SIU Athletics Announces NIL Collective

Pride of Little Egypt

CARBONDALE – The Southern Illinois University Athletics Department is announcing the launch of its Name, Image and Likeness collective, Pride of Little Egypt.

The collective will support student-athletes in all 17 of SIU’s athletic programs. Alumni and friends can choose a monthly membership or a one-time contribution at www.prideoflittleegypt.com.

“We are thrilled about the direction of Saluki Athletics, and Pride of Little Egypt collective is a major piece of that bright future,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Leonard. “This is how we recruit and retain the best players and bring championships to Carbondale.”

Working with Student Athlete NIL (SANIL), Pride of Little Egypt will allow SIU’s student-athletes to leverage their name, image and likeness. Pride of Little Egypt will work in unison with various SIU supporters to create marketing plans that maximize student-athlete earnings while ensuring that the university’s best interests remain protected throughout.

“This is an opportunity for Saluki Nation to enhance our student-athletes’ experience. It’s one of the top factors in today’s college basketball environment,” said Saluki Men’s Basketball coach Scott Nagy.

Pride of Little Egypt is independent from Southern Illinois University, and the university does not receive any financial benefit from the collective. NCAA rules allow alumni, fans and other donors to compensate student-athletes through the collective, but such compensation:

  • may not be considered “pay for play,”
  • must be in exchange for services provided by the student-athlete, and
  • may not be a recruiting inducement for a student-athlete to enroll or continue to attend SIU.

“Our staff and student-athletes are thrilled about the possibilities provided by Pride of Little Egypt,” said Saluki Softball coach Jen Sewell. “Our recruits and current athletes are excited to advance their personal brand and connect with the SIU community.”

Saluki Athletics has recently experienced a run of high-level success, including the men’s golf team winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship; softball earning the MVC regular-season title; and two Saluki Football players signing NFL contracts.

Little Egypt, a nickname attributed to Southern Illinois about 200 years ago, was the inspiration for SIU’s choice of the saluki, the royal dog of Egypt, as its mascot in 1951.

Student-athletes are available to do social media posts, attend events, sign autographs or participate in a variety of other marketing activities. Potential partners should contact SANIL at billyray@studentathletenil.com.

Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois engages students, educators, alumni

Granada Theatre, Mount Vernon, Saluki Takeover Tour
The Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois began Wednesday, April 24, at The Granada Theatre in Mount Vernon.

By Jeff Wilson

The Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois visited multiple high schools and community colleges and hosted six receptions for alumni and community members.

Chancellor Austin Lane, Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Wendell Williams, Director of Admissions Sarah Jiter, and many others traveled to high schools in Benton, Carmi-White County, Mount Vernon, Marion, Johnston City, Gallatin County, Harrisburg, Murphysboro, Chester, Hardin County, Du Quoin, Vienna, Meridian, Cairo, Anna Jonesboro, Cobden, Massac County, Carterville, Carbondale, and Joppa,  meeting with administrators and visiting with students who have committed to attending SIU in the fall. The group also visited John A. Logan Community College, Southeastern Illinois College, and met with other educators around the area.

The Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois ended Saturday, May 4, at Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort in Carterville. Attend by 400 Salukis, the event included welcomed incoming students with an SIU hat ceremony.

Chancellor Austin Lane speaks Saturday, May 4, at Walker's Bluff Casino Resort.
Chancellor Austin Lane speaks Saturday, May 4, at Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort.

“Southern Illinois is a very large area, and we have been all over,” Lane said. “It has been amazing to see all the students and administrators from Chester, to Mount Vernon, from Pope County to Cairo.”

The evening included the SIU Day of Giving trophy presentation, which honored the groups that performed the best during the Day of Giving on Feb. 28. Those groups were: the Balancing Education, Experience, and Reality Scholarship (B.E.E.R.) group, College of Business and Analytics, Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center, School of Law, School of Medicine, and WSIU Public Broadcasting.

Guests also heard remarks from Williams, Athletic Director Tim Leonard, and men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy.

Chancellor Lane addresses crowd at Alto Vineyards
Chancellor Austin Lane (from left), Sarah Jiter, director of Undergraduate Admissions, Carl Franks, associate director of freshman recruitment, and Hannah Lunon, admissions coordinator for Southern Illinois, speak to the crowd Monday, April 29, at Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass.

One of the programs being highlighted by Lane and his staff is the Saluki Commitment, which guarantees that tuition and mandatory fees are fully covered for four (transfer students) or eight (freshman students) consecutive  semesters at no cost to students or families.

Recipients must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be a first-time incoming freshman enrolling full-time on-campus in the fall 2021 semester or later.
  • Have a cumulative high school GPA of 2.75 or higher.
  • Have an annual family income less than $103,040 with assets less than $50,000 based on your FAFSA.
  • Be an Illinois resident who attended an Illinois high school.
  • Be a dependent student under age 24.
  • Be eligible for federal financial aid.

“There is no reason in the world for a student from any county in Southern Illinois to attend any other university than the one in their backyard,” Lane said Wednesday, May 1, at Fat Edd’s Roadhouse in Metropolis. “You’re not going to find another school that’s close to you that’s an R2 higher research institution. We’re soon to become an R1 institution. That’s our goal.”

Alumni and friends have gathered for five Chancellor’s Receptions at The Granada Theatre in Mount Vernon on Wednesday, April 24, Morello’s in Harrisburg on Thursday, April 25, St. Nicholas Brewing Co. in Du Quoin on Friday, April 26, Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass on Monday, April 29, and Fat Edd’s Roadhouse in Metropolis on Wednesday, May 1.

Dozens of Salukis have come to each event to meet Chancellor Lane and other SIU leaders.

Chancellor Austin Lane at Fat Edd's Roadhouse in Metropolis
Chancellor Austin Lane addresses the crowd Wednesday, May 1, at Fat Edd’s Roadhouse in Metropolis.

“We want students to know they can come from Mount Vernon, Benton, Carmi-White County, or anywhere else and launch to the world,” Lane said to a crowd of nearly 50 guests Wednesday, April 24, at The Granada Theatre in Mount Vernon. “You don’t have to leave and go anywhere. We have an advantage right here in our backyard.”

At each reception, SIU leaders were met with excitement from alumni and friends from across Southern Illinois.

Nick Hill
Saluki Football coach Nick Hill speaks Friday, April 26, at St. Nicholas Brewing Co. in Du Quoin.

“I don’t know the last time we’ve had an event like this with boots on the ground, going and seeing high school students, giving out scholarships. That’s what it’s going to take,” said Saluki Football coach and Du Quoin native Nick Hill during the reception Friday, April 26, at St. Nicholas Brewing Co.

The Office of Innovation and Economic Development at SIU and the Small Business Navigator Program are partnering with local organizations to offer Business Resource Meet Ups. The purpose of these events is to provide valuable

insights into the Advantage Illinois Loan Program, along with detailed information on the services of the Illinois SBDC and the Illinois APEX Accelerator program at SIU. Events have already taken place at Innovation Hub in Mount Vernon, MAN-TRA-CON in Marion, Morello’s in Harrisburg, Alongi’s Italian Restaurant in Du Quoin, First Missionary Baptist Church in Cairo, Vienna High School, Carbondale Civic Center, and United Methodist Church in Golconda.

Chancellor Austin Lane speaks at Morello's in Harrisburg
Chancellor Austin Lane speaks to a crowd of alumni Thursday, April 25, at Morello’s in Harrisburg.

“We’re preaching pride in the region. We’re preaching legacy. We’re preaching accessibility,” said Lane on Monday, April 29, at Alto Vineyards. “All of those things are keeping our students here at home. We have some wonderful Salukis coming in.”

For more information, call 618-453-4900 or email siuf@foundation.siu.edu.

For more photos and video highlights from the Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois, visit the SIU Foundation on Facebook. 

Chancellor Lane with Benton students
Benton students
Carmi-White County students
Carmi-White County students
Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon students
Chancellor Lane and Wendell Williams at Harrisburg High School.
Harrisburg High School
Visit to Chester High School
Chester students
Chancellor Lane meets with Murphysboro students
Murphysboro students
Hardin County students
Gallatin County students
Anna Jonesboro students
Anna Jonesboro students
Cairo students
Cairo students
Du Quoin Students
Du Quoin students
Johnston City students
Johnston City students
Meridian students
Meridian students
Vienna students
Vienna students
Cobden students
Cobden students
Massac County students
Massac County students
Carbondale students
Carbondale students
Carterville students
Carterville students
Joppa students
Joppa students
Marion students
Marion students
Pope County students
Pope County students

 

Passion drives Mallory, GRO Community

Aaron Mallory and GRO Community
Aaron Mallory (second from left) and the GRO Community team at the Saluki Ball.

By Jeff Wilson

Aaron Mallory is implementing the skills he learned at Southern Illinois University to advance the mission of his organization, GRO Community.

A mental health service provider, GRO Community specializes in trauma-informed treatment for boys and men from low socio-economic groups and/or Black and Brown communities. One of its keys focuses is curbing gun violence among these groups in Chicago and beyond.

A 2010 graduate of SIU’s College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, Mallory favors a proactive, process-driven approach to combating these issues.

“We are supporting marginalized communities from a different approach,” he said. “We want to use economics and systems to create change. We want to solve the gun violence issue, which greatly affects Black youth and is heavily intertwined with mental health.”

Mallory came to SIU from Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in Chicago, and he had to prove himself to stay enrolled.

“I wasn’t the best student in high school, but I wasn’t the worst either,” he said. “Getting into SIU was one of the best things that happened to me. I took University 101 and was able to ground myself in the college experience. I learned life skills and lessons and finished my first year with a 3.7 GPA.”

He joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, took part in the Saluki Summer Bridge program, and the Success in Engineering Through Excellence in Diversity program. He eventually became the vice president of Kappa Alpha Psi and received internships with John Deere and Boeing.

“SIU really gave me my foundation. I learned how to navigate business and people,” Mallory said. “My experience at SIU was love. It’s a very diverse environment. It really cultivated the passion within me.”

Returning to Chicago after graduation in 2010, Mallory knew he wanted to be involved in mentoring kids. He earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago.

“I had a job, but it wasn’t my passion,” he said. “I started working on GRO Community full time on March 13, 2020. It grew like crazy. Within a year, we had 10 staff members. Now we have 80, and we’re aggressively hiring now. I am trying to create a pipeline of students from SIU to come work for us. Currently, there are nine Salukis on the staff.”

It was that SIU connection that led GRO Community to become the Cocktail Reception Sponsor for the second annual Saluki Ball in Chicago. With a $10,000 donation to the ball, which raises funds that bridge the financial gap for SIU students, Mallory and GRO Community were among the event’s most notable backers.

“Originally, I was going to buy a table, but then I went online and saw testimonials from students impacted by these funds, and I knew we could do something bigger than that,” Mallory said. “SIU has been really good to me, and I wanted to show appreciation.”

Saluki Takeover Tour: Join the celebration Saturday at Walker’s Bluff

Southern Illinois Celebration, 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Walker's Bluff Casino Resort

Event is free and open to the public

By Jeff Wilson

CARBONDALE – After traveling to each of Illinois’ 17 southernmost counties, including more than 20 school visits, the Saluki Takeover Tour of Southern Illinois will close with the Southern Illinois Celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort.

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane, the event will recognize incoming SIU students. There will also be SIU Day of Giving trophy presentations, a celebration of the university’s recent successes, and a chance to thank our local partners. Many representatives from SIU will be in attendance, including new Saluki Men’s Basketball coach Scott Nagy.

To register, visit https://siuf.org/southern-illinois/walkers-bluff.php. Attendees will receive two complimentary drink tickets, and hors d’oeuvres will be served. This is your chance to join with SIU’s leaders, Saluki alumni and friends, current and future students, and many others for an evening of Saluki pride.

“Saluki spirit is evident everywhere we go, but it has its roots right here in Southern Illinois,” said Chancellor Austin Lane. “These takeover tour events are a terrific opportunity for our local alumni and friends to engage with our leadership and share their Saluki experience with others.”

Lane and many others traveled to local high schools in Anna Jonesboro, Benton, Cairo, Carbondale, Carterville, Carmi-White County, Chester, Cobden, Du Quion, Gallatin County, Hardin County, Harrisburg, Johnston City, Joppa, Marion, Massac County, Meridian, Mount Vernon, Murphysboro and Vienna, meeting with administrators and visiting with students who have committed to attending SIU in the fall. There have been visits to John A. Logan Community College and Southeastern Illinois College.

Alumni and friends have gathered for five Chancellor’s Receptions at The Granada Theatre in Mount Vernon, Morello’s in Harrisburg, St. Nicholas Brewing Co. in Du Quoin, Alto Vineyards in Alto Pass and Fat Edd’s Roadhouse in Metropolis. Dozens of Salukis have come to each event to meet Chancellor Lane and other SIU leaders.

“We want students to know they can come from Mount Vernon, Benton, Carmi-White County, or anywhere else and launch to the world,” said Lane at The Granada Theatre in Mount Vernon. “You don’t have to leave and go anywhere. We have an advantage right here in our backyard.”

“I don’t know the last time we’ve had an event like this with boots on the ground, going and seeing high school students, giving out scholarships. That’s what it’s going to take,” said Saluki Football coach Nick Hill on Friday, April 26, at St. Nicholas Brewing Co. in Du Quoin.

The Office of Innovation and Economic Development at SIU and the Small Business Navigator Program partnered with local organizations to offer Business Resource Meet Ups. These events provided valuable insights into the Advantage Illinois Loan Program, along with detailed information on the services of the Illinois SBDC and the Illinois APEX Accelerator program at SIU. Events have already taken place at Innovation Hub in Mount Vernon, MAN-TRA-CON in Marion, Morello’s in Harrisburg, Alongi’s Italian Restaurant in Du Quoin, First Missionary Baptist Church in Cairo, Vienna High School, and Carbondale Civic Center.

“We’re preaching pride in the region. We’re preaching legacy. We’re preaching accessibility,” said Chancellor Lane on Monday, April 29, at Alto Vineyards. “All of those things are keeping our students here at home. We have some wonderful Salukis coming in.”

For more information, call 618-453-4900 or email siuf@foundation.siu.edu.

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