A love of teaching inspires others

Lida and her class at Tamaroa Grade School where she began her teaching career.

Lida Lisenby Taylor’s life and commitment to education are being remembered through a scholarship fund set up by her daughter, Cynthia Taylor Rice.

The Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship Fund is awarded to a student enrolled in the school of education and majoring in teaching, counseling, or administration. The student must be a graduate of DuQuoin High School, Pinckneyville High School, or Tamaroa Grade School.

The scholarship was created by Rice in honor of her mother, who strongly believed in the power of an education.

“She came from a family of educators. My mom began her teaching career in Tamaroa after graduating from SIU in 1942. She was offered a position in DuQuoin where she taught English and Latin until her retirement in 1968,” Rice said.

Rice said that through the years she has met many of her mother’s students and they would share how important Latin and her mother were to them throughout their lives.

Lida and her roommates in front of their Carbondale boarding
house when it was Southern Illinois Normal.

“I had one of her former students tell me what an influence my mom had been on his life. He said my mother wasn’t just a teacher but an educator of the highest degree. His message and the many letters she received from scholarship recipient students have made me very proud of my mother and her influence on others,” Rice said.

When Taylor passed away in 2003, Rice went through the process of cleaning out her mother’s home.

“I found Latin projects and posters and memorabilia throughout the house. She had Roman chariots and Parthenon replicas everywhere. I remember one of her biggest projects was throwing a Roman banquet for the students. They wore togas and drank Roman punch. She pulled out all the stops for her students,” Rice said.

Rice said the scholarship is a way for her mother to continue to influence future educators.

“There are not too many things in the world that are more important than being a teacher and loving what you do. That philosophy very accurately describes my mother and her love of teaching,” said Rice.

Meet Jamie Newton, recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education is a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. Newton looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” Newton said.

Newton is grateful for the Lida Lisenby Taylor scholarship and how it has lessened the burden of her student loans.

“I would like to tell Mrs. Rice how thankful I am that they have so graciously chosen me to be the recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. I feel so grateful to have her support because she has helped give me the opportunity to further my education at SIU. The scholarship has definitely helped lift some of the weight of student loans,” she said. “Although Mrs. Rice does not know me personally, she will always be a part of my journey throughout college and into my future career. Her contribution has left its mark on my life and will affect the students that I will one day teach.”

Newton hopes others will follow in the path of Mrs. Rice and give to students who need financial assistance.

“For many students like me, scholarships help pursue our dreams and lessen the burden of student loans. Being the recipient of a scholarship, I understand how it comforts us to know that we don’t have to be alone while trying to pursue our dreams,” she said. “I also hope that someday I will provide the same sense of relief that I have felt after receiving a scholarship.”

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Putnam: Promoting a University of Access

It’s been 40 years since Adaire Putnam graduated from SIU, but her continued affinity for the school and its students is what brought her to the SIU Foundation Board of Directors.

“SIU is a tremendous place. It’s very important to me,” Putnam ’81 said. “My husband and I sent our two kids to SIU as students, but it wasn’t until recently that I became more involved on campus.”

It was a fellow alumnus who urged Putnam to join the SIU College of Business Advisory Board. She eventually became the chair of that board and was later elected to the SIU Foundation Board.

“The work done by the SIU Foundation is very powerful,” she said. “Our donors are investing in the future.”

Since joining the SIU Foundation Board in 2015, Putnam said she’s been excited by what she’s witnessed.

“I’m passionate about helping first-generation students, especially those of limited means,” she said. “Through scholarships and other programs, we’re able to help ensure that SIU is a university of access. I encourage alumni and others to continue to support the university’s vision.”

From then to now

After transferring to SIU following one year at Illinois Wesleyan, Putnam graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications in just two years. During this time, she also worked as an administrative assistant in the Department of Anthropology.

“Coming from a big city high school in Chicago, SIU was a good fit for me,” she said. “I was able to achieve my goals thanks to the dedicated faculty and outstanding courses.”

Directly thereafter, she started her lifelong career in corporate communications. She has worked for a number of large, global companies, including Edelman and Ketchum public relations agencies and Kellogg Company.

Currently, she’s the owner and president of Putnam Communications, helping companies advance and protect their reputations.

Through the years, she’s spent time living and working in Chicago and Michigan, but nowadays, she works and lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

“I’ve been working remotely long before the pandemic took it mainstream,” she said. “If I need to be in the U.S. for a meeting, I’m just a short flight away.”

While Putnam doesn’t live near SIU these days, her connection to the university has never been stronger.

“It’s never too late to get involved,” she said. “This is where I feel I can make a difference.”

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A family legacy of teaching

Marilyn Black smiles as she signs her gift agreement for the Marilyn A. Black Scholarship in Elementary Education.

The legacy of teaching runs strong in Marilyn Black’s family. Black, a 1960 alumna from the SIU College of Education, learned about the value of teaching from her parents, who were themselves graduates of the SIU College of Education. Black’s father was a school superintendent and her mother was her high school English teacher. “Education was important to them,” said Black.

At SIU, Black benefitted from a scholarship that helped her reach her goal of becoming a teacher, ultimately teaching in the Carbondale elementary school district for over 20 years. Black and her late husband, Frank, had three children who all attended SIU.  Marilyn loved teaching and inspired two of her children to become educators as well.

In recognition of the importance of teachers, she recently established the Marilyn A. Black Scholarship in Elementary Education, saying simply, “Somebody helped me, so I want to help now.” Her scholarship will support aspiring elementary education students to reach their goals of becoming teachers, just as Black did.

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The last act of a giving heart: Hill, longtime SIU supporter, passes away at 104

Anne Hill, 104, long-time donor, alumna, and former SIU staff member, passed away Monday, Feb. 15. One of her last acts was to endow a scholarship award through the School of Music honoring her uncle – the Carl Deis Music Composition Award Endowment.

She believed in the importance of the arts, and she had been involved in the local art scene since 1979.

Recently, she made her greatest impact with a $25,000 donation to the SIU College of Liberal Arts. The Carl Deis Music Composition Award Endowment, named after Hill’s uncle, who was a well-known composer, will benefit students in the School of Music.

“I have no idea what kind of music will develop in the next 25 years, so I leave that up to the students to set the pace,” Hill said in the weeks before her death.  “That makes an opportunity for them to advance the state of music in a way that will be directed by their prize-winning compositions.”

Hill came to SIU as an employee in 1979, retiring in 1981. It was then that she set out to obtain her master’s degree in English. She graduated in 1986.

During her time in Carbondale, she was active in many university and community organizations, including the American Association of University Women and the John Thomas Strings Program. She has also been a donor to the McLeod Summer Playhouse and WSIU. She also helped establish the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society.

“My grandfather immigrated here – he played trombone in the New York Symphony – because America needed music and musicians. This is still the case. We need to build audiences, too,” she said in a 2015 SIU Alumni magazine article. “I continue to enrich my own life in this community because I have made wonderful friends through the programs we have been able to serve in and support.”

It isn’t the first time Hill has given to the university and its students, but by endowing a fund, those gifts are made sustainable and will be given each year.

To read her full obituary, click here.

Alumna Honors Parents Through Gift to the Saluki Alumni Plaza

By Rebecca Renshaw

Whenever Karen Bedwell Herhahn receives marketing material for SIU Carbondale, the photo of the iconic Pulliam Hall is most often prominently featured. However, Bedwell Herhahn does not see just the clock tower of the building—instead she sees University School where she went to junior high and high school. Fond memories of her formative years spent in that building always spring to her mind.

So last year when reviewing the plans for the new Saluki Alumni Plaza statue featured prominently in front of Pulliam Hall, she felt moved to donate $2,000 to the Plaza.

“I spent a lot of time in U-School looking out over SIU campus and it carries a special significance to me. My Father, R. Ralph Bedwell, was recruited by President Delyte Morris to serve as the Director of the newly developed Small Business Institute. Knowing the importance of a good education, my parents sent all of their children to University School. We had opportunities that did not exist in typical small-town schools.”

The primary purpose of University School was a place to do special research and observation. In 1951, the school building was completed. Lower classes, nursery, pre-school, etc., featured two-way glass for student teachers training. Juniors and seniors were able to enroll in university classes. Many of the instructors had their Ph.D.’s. An Olympic size pool, a large art and industrial arts wing with classrooms, an exceptional music program along with top academic programs were available to students. The last high school class to graduate was 1968. Grades nursery through 6th grade were closed in 1971.

Bedwell Herhahn currently sits on the College of Business and Analytics Dean’s External Advisory Board. Members of the Board address and make recommendations on strategic planning, the curriculum, development, and other critical issues.

In the early 2000’s, Bedwell Herhahn made a deferred gift of nearly $150,000 in honor of her parents and established the R. Ralph and Elnora J. Bedwell Endowment for Small Business Development. The purpose of the endowment is to support seminars for the small business community in Southern Illinois.

“Even though I completed all three of my college degrees at other universities, no other university has ever held my loyalty and fond memories like SIU Carbondale,” said Bedwell Herhahn.

 

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SIU School of Law Alumna Extends a Helping Hand Once Again

Earlier this year, Beth Boggs, ’91 SIU School of Law alumna, and a partner of Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, donated 10,000 meals and face masks to students in the St. Louis public schools. A feature article on Boggs efforts can be read here.

Now Boggs is giving back again – this time to her alma mater, The SIU School of Law.

Recently, Cindy Walker, development officer for the law school, searched for a way to raise $27,600 to pay for AdaptiBar software to help with the third-year law students’ bar study.

“When I asked the Board of Visitors at the law school to help us fund this need, Beth stepped right up and donated $20,000 and helped raise another $1000.  Other board members then donated the rest,” said Walker.

“We have so many remarkable and loyal alumni,” said Camille Davidson, who took over as dean in July.

“Beth Boggs is a perfect example of the amazing SIU School of Law alumni who are willing to pay it forward and help us meet the needs of our students.”

SIU School of Law Alumna Gives Love and Hope Through Free Lunches

By Rebecca Renshaw

Life, at least for now, has changed dramatically across the United States as we face the coronavirus pandemic along with the rest of the world.

The shelves at our grocery stores often stand empty. Our favorite restaurants and entertainment venues are either closed or operating in much different ways than before. Our arenas are quiet and the crowds are gone. Around our interstates and neighborhoods, we’re spotting signs and messages that remind us of really just how different life feels now.

But, in St. Louis, if you are paying attention, there’s also a lot of love and hope being extended. From teddy bears in windows and messages of hope written in chalk on sidewalks, although we’re apart, we’re finding ways to remain deeply connected.

Beth Boggs, ‘91 SIU School of Law alumna, and a partner of Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, has committed to such love and hope by making sure students in North County School District in St. Louis receive free lunches and facemasks each week.

Boggs says she has sponsored and helped a food pantry in St. Louis, Ritenour Co-Care, for several years. One of her colleagues, Angela Gabel, serves on the pantry’s board of directors. Boggs and Gabel had a meeting in early March where they determined they had to do something for the pantry as it began to face higher demands for food. From that day forward, they have seen an incredible coming together in the community.

Through her connections in St. Louis business and civic affairs, Boggs encouraged others to join their efforts. Wallis Oil Company agreed to put their commissary employees to work making lunches. Wallis also agreed to transport donated meals to area drop-offs each week. Boggs soon got The Orchards Golf Course kitchen staff to make lunches. The owners of JJ Twigs Pizza were able to bring back some of their employees to pitch in and make lunches for students.

“Besides all of those volunteers, we also now have a minor league team who pitches in and helps make meals,” said Boggs.

She says what is remarkable is that through these efforts, some small businesses are now able to pay their staff and put them to work.

“Through a charity that my husband, Darin (SIU School of Law ’90) and I formed in 2005 called Step It Up, we give these businesses the food to make the meals and the wages to pay their staff,” she said.

Boggs was also impressed by the generosity of her fellow alumni from SIU Carbondale. “Each spring, we host a charity golf tournament to raise funds for SIU. While several of my participants and sponsors had already paid their entry fees, not one of them asked for a return of their money when the tournament had to be cancelled. When they heard of our efforts, they collectively donated the $13,500 in fees to the University Scholarship fund. That’s the Saluki spirit that makes SIU so strong,” she said.

While the North County School District does provide one free lunch drop-off a week, many of the students can’t find the transportation to get to the drop-off point.

“The problem with the school district free lunch program is that they only drop off lunches in an area where the students would be forced to take public transportation to get to the food,” said Boggs. With the help of the school libraries, Epworth Charities and the NAACP, they now are delivering 10,000 meals to multiple locations across the county five days a week.

Boggs says she and her behind-the-scenes volunteers are not doing this for publicity. “It’s simply the right thing to do. If we can give this food with no hardship to us, then it would be wrong to ignore this major need in our city right now,” said Boggs.

Boggs said they also give out 10,000 face masks to the students and their families along with their meals.

“Of all the positive COVID-19 cases in St. Louis, 70 percent are in these hard-hit communities of color. I am so thankful for the help of NAACP’s St. Louis County president, John Bowman. While we have the resources of money and food, Mr. Bowman has the connections to get to the people who need help the most,” said Boggs.

Boggs is amazed at the touching outpouring of humanity she has witnessed during the last month.

“I recently had to go to Chicago to visit my brother who is battling leukemia. His young daughter is quarantined due to his illness and said she wished she could help. I told her that she is wonderful at baking bread, so maybe she could make a loaf and send it to the food pantry. A week later, she shipped us 25 loaves of bread. She is a shining example of spreading love and hope with whatever resources are available,” Boggs said.

Boggs and the group of volunteers will continue to give 10,000 meals and face masks each week to students through the end of May. While Boggs was reluctant to draw attention to herself, she does so only to encourage others, especially Salukis, to get involved and give back to others during this time.

“I absolutely loved my years at SIU and I found the grit and determination of the students there remarkable. I am sharing my story only in hopes that others who call themselves Salukis will join me and extend love and hope to others as well,” she said.

Many former Salukis have donated funds and time to help.

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Building A Path To SIU And Its Region

By Rebecca Renshaw

Beth Mueller had been looking for a way to honor her parents’ love of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the surrounding region for several years, but nothing seemed to resonate – until she heard J.D. Tanner, director of SIU’s Touch of Nature, speak about the multi-purpose bike path project at a meeting last fall. Part of the project includes a kids’ pump track, where children of all ages and abilities can enjoy bike riding at Touch of Nature.

“J.D.’s enthusiasm about that project is contagious. When I heard him describe the potential, what a bike path of this size could mean to the university and region, and how it could help foster a love of the outdoors for young people, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to honor my parents,” she said.

Mueller, sister Amy Frerichs and brother Jason Rausenberger were raised in southern Illinois and are all proud graduates of SIU. They recently established a gift of $35,000 in honor of their parents, Alan and Pat Rausenberger, to fund a children’s pump track at the Touch of Nature multi-purpose bike path project. Mother Pat Rausenberger passed away in 2013, and father Alan Rausenberger still lives in the Carterville home where they raised their children.

Jason Rausenberger thinks the project will be a great addition to southern Illinois.

“This will be a really neat place for Southern Illinois, and will give families a great new outdoor activity,” he said.” Growing up, we all spent a lot of time together outdoors. Doing things like this has always been a great way to hang out with my dad, whether it was him coaching our softball and baseball teams as kids, teaching us how to water ski on Crab Orchard Lake, golfing at Hickory Ridge or just hanging out on the houseboat with my parents’ dock friends.”

Mueller said the reason they chose to donate to the Touch of Nature’s bike path project, most specifically to build a kids’ pump track, is to honor their parents’ love for children.

“My mother was a second-grade schoolteacher at Streator Elementary School and Carbondale Winkler and Parrish elementary schools for several years and she related to children so well. She especially loved her grandchildren. She was the kind of grandmother who was quick to get on the floor and read a book to her grandkids in funny voices or spend hours blowing bubbles and enjoying their giggles,” she said.

Mueller fondly recalls coming into her 18-month-old daughter’s bedroom well past bedtime, where she would find her mom reading from a stack of books. Her mother would say, “Just one more book and we’ll quit.”

The Rausenberger family grew up staunch supporters of SIU and attended many Saluki sporting events.

“Our dad is a business owner in Carbondale, and all three of us kids attended SIU. It’s just part of who we are as a family, so it comes naturally to want to help the university and the region,” Mueller said. “My hope for SIU is that we find a path forward that celebrates this fantastic research university and also recognizes the unique surrounding physical environment SIU and southern Illinois offer.”

Tanner is leading an initiative to expand Touch of Nature’s Park and Trail System to over 30 miles of a natural-surface trail. Currently, there is no designated mountain biking trail in southern Illinois, with the two closest being in St. Louis and Indiana.

The trail system would attract outdoor recreation enthusiasts from across the country, increase Touch of Nature’s role in student recruitment and retention and establish the park as an economic driver for southern Illinois. Tanner believes such a bike trail could attract up to 55,000 people each year and bring $7 million in consumer spending to the region.

“We’re so thankful to everyone who shares in our mission – like the Rausenberger family,” Tanner said. “I hope people will see the value in the economic boost that this will bring to southern Illinois.”

Frerichs is looking forward to the project’s completion and says it will hold a special place in her heart.

“I’m so excited to see this come to life. Family meant everything to my mom, and it does to my dad too. My mom would spend hours on our deck in the summertime, watching my girls race their bikes on the trails in our little patch of woods, across the bridge over the creek, exploring our own little forest. I guess you could say that we had our own little kids’ pump track, so this will be really special to me,” she said.

 

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Estate planning leaves lasting legacy: Alumna makes plan to benefit future Salukis

Kimberly Omelson (left) is pictured with her roommate from freshman year (1988) at the homecoming game on October 19, 2019.

By Jeff Wilson

SIU made a lasting impression on Kimberly Omelson, and now, she plans to leave her mark on the university.

Omelson, who graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in English, has planned an estate gift that will benefit the College of Liberal Arts and Morris Library.

“You don’t have to have a lot of money in order to make a difference,” she said. “Sure, we’d all love to donate $1 million to our alma mater, but that’s not going to happen for the majority of us.”

Her uncle, Albert Hall, attended SIU in the 1960s, and the scholarships Omelson creates will be named after her and her uncle.

“I’m single, and I have no children. My parents and grandparents have all died. My only sister died and did not have children,” she said. “If I didn’t have a will and make my own estate plans, the State of Illinois would determine who benefits from my estate when I’m gone.”

Choosing SIU made sense to Omelson because of her great memories from Carbondale. She joined the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and made lifelong friends. One of those memories is when she brought her mother to Founders Day in 1990.

“My mom saw a lot that day – her daughter being acknowledged by her sorority for academic achievement. She saw I had great friends. She saw that I had something that made me truly, genuinely happy,” Omelson said. “She was diagnosed with breast cancer later that year and died in May 1991. So, she didn’t see all of my college career, but she saw the aspect of it that meant the most to me – my sorority and my sisterhood.”

Through estate planning, anyone can be a philanthropist, and the SIU Foundation is ready to help anyone make the greatest possible impact.

“It’s kind of moving to know I’m going to be able to help a kid in the same boat I was in so many years ago,” Omelson said. “Philanthropy is pretty incredible.”

To learn more about estate planning, visit siufgiving.org or call 618/453-4900.

Couple of educators: Dan & Kathy Wheeler fund scholarship for future teachers

Dan and Kathy Wheeler

Dan and Kathy Wheeler

By Jeff Wilson

Dan and Kathy Wheeler’s passion for Southern Illinois University may only be eclipsed by their passion for education.

“SIU is part of the family,” said Kathy Wheeler. “We know it’s the primary resource for students from southern Illinois to get a higher education and become teachers. That’s where our hearts lie.”

The couple has established the Bryan-Peak Endowed Scholarship, which benefits students in the College of Education and Human Services. The name of the scholarship honors the couple’s maternal grandparents, Robert and Edith Sellars Bryan and Alexander and Marvel Klasing Peak, as well as Kathy’s mother, Lou Ellen Peak Reagan.

Both families have strong ties to the region, university and education profession. The Bryans were from southern Illinois and lived most of their lives there, and the Peaks spent their adult lives in Herrin. Lou Ellen was born in Herrin, worked as a school secretary at Southside Elementary and Herrin Junior High School and was a graduate of SIU’s Vocational Technical Institute.

Dan Wheeler graduated from SIU in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies, and Kathy Wheeler completed much of her master’s program at SIU.

“Nobody in my family had ever gone to college before,” said Dan Wheeler. “I received a small teacher’s scholarship and worked at the university post office. I had to work pretty hard, so I didn’t take full class loads.”

Kathy Wheeler, a southern Illinois native, was an undergraduate at Murray State in Kentucky, but returned home during breaks and the summer. Through mutual friends, she and Dan were introduced. In June of 1967, they were married.

“I fell in love with Danny at Morris Library,” she said.

When they decided to help future educators, their affinity for SIU made a scholarship the obvious choice.

“We see SIU as continuing to be very important for the southern Illinois area,” Dan Wheeler said. “We wanted to think about something that will last beyond our lifetime. I have a blessed life and career because of SIU.”

Teachers & advocates

After a stint in the Army, Dan Wheeler began his teaching career at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Herrin. He has also taught middle school in Christopher, Illinois, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Kathy Wheeler taught English for a decade at her alma mater, Herrin High School. She has also worked with the National Education Association, National Society of Public Relations Association and as trainer and advocate for teacher’s associations across the country.

“Public education and those who provide it are crucial to America and our way of life,” Kathy Wheeler said. “Everybody gets to come through the door. People we’re supporting with this scholarship will do the best they can with whoever walks through that door. It’s so valuable to who we are at heart.”

The Wheelers are acutely aware of the issues that teachers can face.

“Teaching is an undervalued profession,” Dan Wheeler said. “People that go into it, and stay in it, are very dedicated. For us to be able to promote the profession and help those who want to be a part of it, that’s a special thing.”

For more information on how to support student scholarships, visit foreversiu.org.

 

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