Barrick Hopes Gift Brings Good Fortune To Others

By Rebecca Renshaw

In Bob Barrick’s life, everything has been earned. But it has also been founded on his educational experience at SIU.

To give back, Barrick has donated $250,000, including $100,000 for scholarships, to make a difference for future students. His gift will benefit SIU’s Enrollment Management office. He’s also committed another $150,000, which is yet to be allocated.

“SIU holds a soft spot in my heart,” he said. “It contributed to my success in life. If I can help one or two others in life, then that’s what it is all about.”

Barrick grew up in Lincoln, Illinois, and had family living in Marion. After a short stint at Bradley University, he decided to come to Southern Illinois.

Barrick was the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree, graduating from SIU in 1962 with a degree in marketing. He worked his way through college as a soda jerk at Thompson Woods.

At the time, ROTC service was mandatory for all male students, so Barrick spent three years on an American base in Japan doing financial work after he graduated.

“I was away from home for three Thanksgivings, three Christmases, and three New Year’s. I was extremely homesick by the time those three years were up,” he said.

After his service, Barrick worked for oil companies across the Midwest, ending up in Detroit. Over the years, he has expanded his investment in oil companies through his business, Barrick Enterprises.

“I worked my butt off. No one gave me anything,” he said. “College education is very important. I want to help open the door to get others to go to college. It’d be great to help some kid from Lincoln go to college.”

Barrick, 79, is acutely aware of his good fortune and hopes his gifts to SIU will help others experience a life as fulfilling as his own.

“Life is short. I’ve been blessed more than I should,” he said. “If God lets me get out of bed, it’s time to do something nice that day. You can’t just lay at home all day.

“When I talk to the big guy upstairs, he’s been pretty fair to me.”

 

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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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Arena puts SIU on the esports map

By Jeff Wilson

Walking into Student Center’s northside entrance, the blue light is eye-catching. It draws attention to one of the university’s newest attractions – the SIU Esports Arena.

Esports feature competitive multiplayer video game matches. Already popular across the globe, the draw of esports is still growing. A February report from Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm, estimated global esports revenue would hit $1.1 billion in 2019. In July, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million playing Fortnite, one of the most popular video games featured in esports.

With the new arena, SIU has a spot at the forefront of the esports market.

“The Esports Arena adds a new opportunity for our students to engage with each other while playing competitive or recreational video games,” said Tena Bennett, Student Center director.

The arena’s entrance is located in the Bowling & Billiards area of the Student Center, and it’s open to students, faculty, staff and community members for a small fee. It can also be booked for groups or parties. For more information, email esports@siu.edu.

SIU Esports also has a registered student organization, which will compete with other universities. The hope is to expand the team and its ability to compete in the future.

Of course, as is the case with all technology, there is a constant need for upgrades.

“In efforts to keep the SIU Esports Arena competitive among other universities, schedules have been implemented for equipment replacements including arena digital displays, gaming PCs, peripherals, chairs and controllers,” said Brandon Macier, assistant marketing director for the Student Center. “Annual software upgrades and new game licensing are also a continual expense as new games are released.”

To support the esports initiative and help the arena thrive, visit siuf.org/esports.

“By donating to the Esports Arena, you are supporting students and adding to the dynamic culture we strive to build and maintain on our campus,” Bennett said.

 

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Alumnus strengthens commitment to automotive tech

Swartz, with help of matching gift program, offers scholarship

By Jeff Wilson

For Neil Swartz, it was a unique homecoming.

A 1978 graduate of SIU’s automotive technology program, Swartz is one of many alumni who remembers the program’s previous home, the old military barracks in Carterville.

Of course, now automotive technology students spend their days at the Transportation Education Center at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro. In late August, Swartz walked around TEC for the first time.

“It is like an island paradise,” Swartz said. “This is my first time back here. It’s overwhelming. It’s even more impressive than I could have imagined.”

A strong supporter of the program, Swartz played an integral role in the planning process of the facility. He served on the SIU Automotive National Advisory Board for 20-plus years and secured the first corporate donation for TEC.

“I championed Toyota’s corporate donation,” said Swartz, who has worked for Toyota Motor North America since 1985 and is vice president of the company’s Parts Supply Chain. “It demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to the communities we serve, higher education and automotive excellence.”

More recently, he funded an endowed scholarship. The Neil Swartz Scholarship Endowment Fund is awarded to an automotive technology student.

Toyota matches his gifts so as Swartz adds thousands of dollars each year to his fund, Toyota generously donates the same amount dollar for dollar. Many companies, both large and small, offer similar matching gift programs to employees.

“More donors need to take advantage of matching gifts,” Swartz said. “It benefits the students, the university and ultimately Toyota because SIU is home to the best automotive technology program in the country. I’ve stayed connected because I believe in the commitment the program has to its students.”

He encourages alumni to stay connected, return to campus and give back when they can.

“I know what my education at SIU meant to me. I have a lot of gratitude to SIU, particularly the automotive program. It allowed me to learn, grow, and have a successful career,” Swartz said. “However, I believe you’re not truly successful until you can give back.”

For more information about matching gift programs or setting up an endowment, visit siuf.org.

 

Posted in Donor StoriesHigher EducationIllinois Higher EducationSIU

Grant Opens Door to Podcasting

SIU English department podcasting lab.

SIU English department podcasting lab.

By Rebecca Renshaw

It’s hard telling students in a creative writing class to be innovative if they are limited to methods taught only in the pre-internet era. That’s what English professor Pinckney Benedict was forced to do without the necessary technology at hand. When Benedict learned his department received a $7,500 grant from the SIU Foundation to purchase podcasting equipment last spring, he was thrilled.

“The money did not just help. I have no idea what I would have done without it,” Benedict said. He was scheduled to teach two podcasting classes last spring with minimal equipment. “It was going to be tough putting together the program, so the funds utterly changed what we were able to do.”

Benedict, a Princeton graduate who was taught by such greats as Joyce Carol Oates, long ago realized that captivating fictional writing is not just for the standard page. He believes writing using the latest technology is the next step and that podcasting is a growing outlet.

“Our stories should be tellable across the spectrum of technology and time,” he said.
The foundation’s funding resulted in two of Benedict’s students, who took his podcasting class last spring, to win awards for their creative works in the prestigious Missouri Review, one of the country’s oldest and respected literary magazines.

Miller Audio Prize
Mandi Jourdan, a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Vandalia, Illinois, won first place in the prose category of the Missouri Review’s Miller Audio Prize. Jourdan is extremely grateful to the foundation for the equipment it provided.

“Before we received the grant from the foundation, we were working with just one microphone in a corner of a professor’s office,” she said. “Without the podcasting equipment, I simply would not have won first place.”

Will Holcomb, also a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Kirksville, Missouri, received runner-up from the Missouri Review in the humor division.

Holcomb says that he came to SIU because he was looking for a workshop environment, and he heard great things about the SIU program.

“I am working on projects here that I never thought I could get near. Professor Benedict has been critical to my success. Without him, there would not be much of a fiction writing program at SIU. This entire podcasting experience is extremely worthwhile, and I have to thank everyone for giving me this experience,” Holcomb said.

Donations Transform Education
Benedict encourages other donors to help, regardless if their donations are large or small.

“While the foundation’s grant of $7,500 is certainly not a million dollars, it transformed the writing program here at SIU. We are doing things now we could never have done before, winning prizes we could never have received without it, and it has pushed us into new territories, such as podcasts and 360 film making,” he said.

In fact, based on the success from this initial foundation grant, an English department alumnus recently made a gift to launch a technology fund for the department, encouraging the continued use of more innovative technologies to teach writing and 21st century storytelling.

“I would encourage everyone to give a relatively modest gift to whatever fuels their passion. For me, personally, that $7,500 gift changed the direction of my research and my teaching,” Benedict said.

Want to learn how you can contribute?
If you would like to learn how to give, please visit siuf.org.
To listen to the one-minute trailers for the winning podcasts, visit anchor.fm/siuc-mfa-podcasting.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Day of Giving Makes Library’s Digital Scanner Dream Come True

Student uses SIU Morris Library SIU Morris Library Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Morris Library received 53 acts of kindness last March during SIU’s 3rd annual Day of Giving.

“We had gifts of all sizes, and we appreciated each and every one of them,” said Dean John Pollitz.

The total of those gifts amounted to $17,865, a steady increase in giving to the library since the university started the 24-hour online campaign in 2017. During that first year, the library received $4,000. Pollitz hopes the donations continue to rise as the event progresses.

“The SIU Day of Giving is an extraordinary event as it draws alumni, staff and students together for a unifying cause,” he said. “I’m not sure how we are going to top last year, but I’m sure hoping we can do it again this coming March.”

The increase in donations allowed for the purchase of a scanning machine that is drastically changing the way students and professors approach their research – free of charge.

With the Day of Giving funds, Morris Library purchased the Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system. Associate Professor of Reference and Instruction Josh Vossler said the versatile system makes digital scanning and organizing research very simple, while also being easy on original materials. Documents and books are placed face-up, and an overhead digital scanner takes a picture. It adjusts automatically for the natural curve of bound books so users won’t have to crush the spine of a book to get the full image.

“A typical scanner takes 40 seconds to scan one page. This machine can scan in 3.5 seconds per page,” Vossler said. “It’s a game changer as far as time goes. This will save students and community members thousands of hours each year.”

Using the touch screen, users can edit and convert the image into a variety of formats. More importantly, the system identifies all of the scanned characters and allows the image to become searchable.

“Another benefit is that it is compatible with accessibility software features,” said Vossler. “There are so many positives that this machine brings. We are beyond grateful to the donors who helped us purchase this station.”

Pollitz thanks all of the donors who made this acquisition a reality.

“This is what can be accomplished through collaboration and a giving heart. I believe this new system will help our students and faculty become more productive than ever before possible,” he said.

How to Give to Morris Library

If you would like to help maintain Morris Library as one of the top 100 research libraries in the nation, please visit siuf.org and make a gift today.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Money raised by kayak trip already being put into action

Nearly 300 donors contributed to $25,500 SalukiFunder campaign

By Jeff Wilson

Every journey has three parts – a beginning, middle and end.

With the presentation of a $25,500 check to the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature, it would be easy to assume a journey that began months ago had officially ended. Instead, it’s just another step of an ongoing process.

“If it wasn’t for this money, we’d have to rely on volunteers to run the program,” said Touch of Nature Director J.D. Tanner.

The funds were raised by Greg Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator, who hosted a Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder campaign while kayaking down the entire Mississippi River. Now, he’s working on putting that money to good use.

“We’re in the process of planning our events,” Nejmanowski said. “Not only do we provide the experience, we also provide food, transportation, necessary permits and guidance during each Veteran Adventures event.”

Two events are already planned. The first is a sporting clay event Oct. 26 at Rend Lake Shooting Complex in Whittington. The second is a pheasant hunt Nov. 30 at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. These events are open to all active military personnel and military veterans. For more information on these and future events, follow Veteran Adventures on Facebook.

“Greg’s journey represents his passion for outdoor education and serving veterans,” Tanner said. “His success speaks to the quality of outdoor education that SIU provides.”

Nejmanowski began his journey in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota and finished in early August in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, he met some alligators, new friends and inspired 289 donors to support his cause.

“A lot of people touched me during this process,” he said. “I’ve been inspired by those that supported my trip, supported the cause and supported veterans.”

Preparing for the excursion was just as taxing as the trip itself, even with support from the Touch of Nature staff and Wilderness Systems, an outdoors company that supported Nejmanowski from the beginning.

“Just as much went into the planning as the paddling,” he said.

Tanner and Nejmanowski were both thankful for the donations, but both are equally aware of the continued need for support.

“We encourage anyone interesting in contributing to take a look at what Touch of Nature has to offer,” Tanner said.

To support Veteran Adventures, email veteranadventures.siu.edu or call Nejmanowski at 618-453-1121.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Kayak trip ends; fundraiser continues

By Jeff Wilson

Nejmanowski reflects on his journey, the power of the great outdoors

Seventy-three days and a handful of alligators later, Greg Nejmanowski’s kayak trip down the Mississippi River was over.

He dropped his kayak in the water in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota, and it came out earlier this month in the Gulf of Mexico. The trip, called Paddle for Patriots, is a fundraiser for the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature. The goal is to raise $25,000, and there’s still time to donate at https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

“It’s been worth it,” said Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator. “This trip has inspired me to continue helping vets, to serve those who served us.”

Other than a couple of close calls with recreational boats – including one instance when he thought he was going to have to abandon ship – Nejmanowski said the trip went well. Floodwaters complicated things a bit and forced one of his planned events to be moved from Grand Tower to Chester, but he said the high water also led to less river traffic.

“It went smoothly, but it was hard,” he said. “Had I not had an inspiration, a passion, it would’ve been much harder.”

The expedition started slowly, but picked up steam as he passed St. Louis. From that point on, it was mostly open water. Nejmanowski set up camp each night on sandy beaches, largely in areas inaccessible by land because of the flooding.

“It was kind of nice living on the minimum, and the simplicity of it,” he said. “So much wisdom comes from simplicity.”

Making a few friends along the way

The vast majority of the time, Nejmanowski was by himself. He did, however, have run-ins with a few alligators and several people along the way, including one particularly special family.

“It’s such a rush being in the water with an alligator, at their level,” he said. “They’re not really all that interested in you, but they will come check you out.”

As he neared the final section of his trip, he met the Leedom family in Louisiana. It wasn’t a planned meeting. They saw Nejmanowski walking by the river and asked if he needed a ride. The father, wife and son took Nejmanowski back to his kayak and along the way, they struck up a conversation.

“I told him what I was doing, and come to find out, the father was a Vietnam veteran,” Nejmanowski said. “He told me to take his number and call him if I needed anything. The next day I needed some water, so I called, and ended up having lunch at their home.”

The Leedoms asked to be notified when he was about to finish his trip, and Nejmanowski obliged. They were waiting at his final stop to help him celebrate.

“The kindness of humans, ya know?” Nejmanowski said. “We’re now friends for life.”

The healing power of nature

After more than two months on the river, Nejmanowski entered the final stretch of his trip. He took the Atchafalaya River through southern Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico.

“It wasn’t something I could see for a long time,” he said. “I basically went around some trees, and then boom, there’s the Gulf of Mexico. It was so beautiful. There was the prettiest sunset that night.”

Nejmanowski is a firm believer in the healing power of nature. His kayak trip only strengthened that belief.

“Being outdoors has great therapeutic benefits,” he said. “That’s what Veteran Adventures is all about, and I wanted to put it on the map.”

The program offers outdoor activities to veterans, including hunting, hiking, backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and more. The program is funded through grants and private donations, and it recently lost a large state grant.

Through Paddle for Patriots, Nejmanowski hopes to not only fund Veteran Adventures, but bring awareness to the scourge of veteran suicide. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans die each day from suicide. That’s approximately double the suicide rate of non-veterans.

“I feel empowered as an individual,” Nejmanowski said. “This trip inspired me to learn more about what nature and outdoor experiences can do to improve people’s quality of life.”

For more information about Paddle for Patriots and Veteran Adventures, search for Paddle for Patriots on Facebook or visit veteranadventures.siu.edu.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Cybersecurity program booming

SIU Cyber Security Dawgs

Welcome to a series of stories celebrating SIU’s 150th anniversary.

A growing number of attacks on computer networks worldwide has increased demand for university graduates with expertise in cyberdefense and cybersecurity, areas that barely existed just a decade ago.

This call comes as no surprise, as cyber criminals now show increasing new levels of ambition and sophistication – from multimillion-dollar bank heists to overt attempts at disrupting large networks that support production efforts for critical utilities.

SIU has responded to this demand by offering a specialization in cybersecurity through its School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, and students typically have jobs lined up before they graduate because of high demand.

A point of pride for the program is the Security Dawgs cyberdefense team, a student organization that gives students hands-on experience through participation in cyberdefense and cybersecurity competitions. The team consistently earns first- or second-place honors in the state’s annual college cyberdefense competitions.

Despite these strengths, the program is in need of financial support to help educate tomorrow’s cybersecurity experts and industry leaders, according to Tom Imboden, associate professor of information systems technologies.

“Investments in equipment and opportunities will keep SIU students in the forefront of the industry,” he said. “For example, we received a grant a few years ago to acquire a remote-access solution that allows SIU to host virtual machines with curriculum content. This gives our students all of the software needed to provide an environment where students can complete lab exercises for the information technology courses they are enrolled in.”

Upkeep to the servers is essential, but costly.

“Our servers are now five years old and need to be upgraded,” Imboden said. “New servers cost around $6,000 each, and they come with an annual fee of $3,000.”

The Security Dawgs also need support getting to, and participating in, competitions.

“Typically, the team has only three weeks’ notice informing them they are invited to compete in the state or regional competitions,” Imboden said. “Ensuring that we have transportation and lodging for 10 students is a challenge. These competitions help put SIU, the program and our students on the map.”

To learn more about the information technologies program, visit isat.siu.edu/. To learn more about the needs of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, visit http://foreversiu.org/colleges-units/applied-sciences-and-arts.php.

 

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