Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Banterra Bank announce arena naming-rights agreement

Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Banterra Bank announce arena naming-rights agreement

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Banterra Bank, the region’s largest, locally-owned bank, announced a 10-year naming-rights agreement that will rebrand SIU Arena as Banterra Center.  The multi-million-dollar agreement, which includes a 10-year extension option, annual payments plus an affinity program, offers up to $10 million for SIU, with a $4-million guarantee for the first 10 years.  The partnership is the largest corporate naming-rights agreement in SIU’s 150-year history and the first naming right for the 55-year-old arena.

In addition to signage, advertising and promotional opportunities, the agreement includes exclusive rights to an SIU Athletics-branded affinity debit card through Banterra Bank.  Profits from the debit card initiative, which is still in development, will go to a newly established Banterra-SIU Scholarship Fund.

“The partnership represents Banterra’s commitment to the success of the university, our athletics program and the region,” said John M. Dunn, SIU chancellor. “We’re deeply grateful for Banterra’s generous financial commitment, which includes scholarship support for student-athletes. The Banterra Center will continue to be at the heart of our men’s and women’s basketball programs, attracting fans, community members and many others who support Saluki athletics.”

The naming rights partnership comes at an exciting time for SIU Athletics following SIU’s recent announcement of hiring men’s basketball coach, Bryan Mullins.

“We’ve sponsored SIU Athletics for 10 years, because we know the value of having this university in our region and the number of passionate, loyal Saluki fans among our four-state footprint and beyond,” said Jeff May, president and CEO of Banterra Bank. “We’re proud to have our Banterra name on an iconic facility such as SIU Arena, to take our partnership to an entirely new level with SIU Athletics, and to have an ongoing reminder that our company truly takes care of our communities.”

SIU Athletic Director Jerry Kill led the efforts to get SIU’s first corporate naming-right partner in the university’s 150-year history.  His said the partnership with Banterra serves as a strong example of future naming-right opportunities for SIU’s athletic venues.

“As we sought out a naming rights partner, it needed to be a company that aligned with our core values and had the brand power to take us to the next level,” said Kill. “I knew after our first meeting with Banterra’s leadership that this was a group that we wanted on our team. Both Saluki Athletics and Banterra are going to make the most of this partnership to benefit our students-athletes, customers and fans.”

Working alongside Kill and the entire athletics administration is Saluki Sports Properties, which played an integral role in helping Banterra elevate its relationship. As the university’s athletics multimedia-rights holder and local Learfield IMG College team, Saluki Sports Properties oversees athletics’ corporate partner program and has worked closely with Banterra Bank over the past ten years.

The community can expect to see updated signage with a new Banterra Center logo on arena exterior, interior, and marquee sign as well as other marketing efforts for traditional and digital advertising, promotion and business development, Kill said.  The marketing efforts will begin immediately following the May 16th announcement.

Press Conference Opening Remarks
Chancellor John M. Dunn
“This is an exciting day for SIU and SIU Athletics. Banterra Bank, like SIU, is one of the region’s largest employers. They understand the economic needs of Southern Illinois and the role that SIU plays in this region. Banterra has been a committed partner to SIU Athletics, but taking the support to a naming-rights level speaks to its commitment to the success of the University, our Athletics program and the region. As we all know, SIU is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with the themes of Saluki tradition, Saluki pride and Saluki promise. This commitment represents all three. The tradition of community support has made a positive difference since SIU’s founding in 1869. The pride in the University and its athletic programs today and the promise for a strong future are made possible by supporters like Banterra Bank. We are deeply grateful for Banterra’s contribution and the example set as the largest corporate naming-rights partner for the University. We especially appreciate not only the long-term financial commitment as part of this partnership, but the agreement to benefit a Banterra-SIU scholarship program for our students as well.”

Jeff May, President and CEO of Banterra Bank
“On behalf of Banterra I want to share with SIU and our attendees here today that our company is excited about partnership. For Banterra, this is more than a marketing or naming opportunity. SIU is a critical economic engine for the region. The main reason our Banterra board chose to do this, we saw this decision as an investment in the positive influence on our region’s economy and its growth. We are all citizens of Southern Illinois. I heard a lot of mayors’ names, but Cindy and I always call ourselves citizens of Southern Illinois because we know everybody in every town. A successful athletic program should drive student enrollment, grow the University and expand the economy regionally, and that’s our goal. Banterra has supported SIU Athletics for more than 10 years as a sponsor with Saluki Athletics. We want to take that commitment to a higher level. This naming rights agreement is a 10-year arrangement with a 10-year option. It has the potential for the school to earn $10 million, with a guaranteed $4 million contribution the first 10 years. The thing I like best about this agreement, with annual payments to the scholarship fund, is an SIU-branded Banterra Visa debit card. A good chunk of the proceeds of theses funds will go to a newly funded scholarship for students-athletes and students here at SIU. This new card will be linked to the Banterra checking accounts and we’ll also launch it with the new student-design accounts later this year with a significant portion of the profits of this account going to the scholarship fund. It’s an excellent opportunity for all the Saluki fans in the region to support the University. We see a lot of potential in this. Banterra has been supporting our communities for 40 years and we have 40 branches in the region, and I would say the majority of our team members and our customers are SIU fans. We are proud to have Banterra brand this iconic facility — the SIU Arena that is now called the Banterra Center. This partnership started many months ago and probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Jerry Kill. It was his leadership, his character, his vision for SIU and its athletic program to convince Banterra to make an investment of this size. He is also the reason we are confident, from a long-term perspective, this has a lot of value for us in the region.”

Jerry Kill, Director of Athletics
It’s a tremendous day for the Salukis. I will tell you that when I approached Jeff the first time, he fell out of his charge and thought I was crazy. I am crazy, so that’s kind of how that worked out. You have to think about this a little bit. We struggled here a little bit from enrollment, to being successful on courts and where we want to be as Salukis. We want to be in the big time. You think about what Banterra Bank has just done for us, just think about it, I call it blind faith. Jeff and I have a good relationship. We laugh about it all the time, we might have gotten this done in two days, right? We just shake hands and trust each other because I think we’re similar people. Banterra Center makes us big time. I get tired of the mid-major. We’re the big time. What they have done in blind faith, for Saluki Athletics, our University, our region, is remarkable. I can’t wait, with the hire of Bryan Mullins, that’s a good hire now (applause), with this arena packed, you will remember this day. This is what I call momentum. Remember this day, Banterra Bank is giving us the opportunity, when we look down the road 10 years from now, I guarantee you this day will be the difference in Saluki Basketball (applause). I thank Banterra’s team, what they’ve put into this and the hard work they have done, it’s been a long year to get this finished. I thank our team, because I really didn’t do too much except ask the question, I had a great team, and there’s so many involved it would take too long to mention them all. It’s a team. I want to emphasize that, too. We’re a region. We have our mayors here today — it’s going to take a team — and Banterra has jumped out there with us. We need everybody to jump in there with us. They have made a commitment and an investment in our University and our region to make our region the best it can be. This is more than a historical moment for me, this is our future. Jeff – I can’t thank you enough, and I can’t thank the people of our region enough, and all I ask for you to do is appreciate what these people have done for us today. They have started a legacy here at Southern Illinois.

About SIU Arena

SIU Arena’s construction began in 1962, and was completed in 1964 at an original cost of $4.3 million.  The 8,284-seat, multi-use facility received a $29.9 million renovation that was performed in phases over a 15-month time span and completed in 2010.  The arena is home for SIU Saluki men and women’s basketball, as well as ongoing events and it has a rich history of providing memorable concerts to the region.  This vast list of concerts ranges from Ella Fitzgerald to Elvis, Fleetwood Mac to Garth Brooks, Van Halen to The Temptations.  Family events have included performances such as Harlem Globetrotters, Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Sesame Street Live.  The arena is also used for SIU graduation, youth basketball camps, high school tournaments and other ongoing events.

About Southern Illinois University and Saluki Athletics

Excellence on the field of competition and in the classroom is the standard at Southern Illinois University and Saluki Athletics, which provides 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women. All sports compete at the NCAA Division I level within the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), except for football, which belongs to the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC), and men’s swimming & diving, which competes in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The proud Saluki tradition includes many former professional athletes, 50 Olympic athletes, and recent NCAA post-season appearances by men’s basketball, football, softball, men’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s track & field. SIU leads the MVC with 98 Academic All-Americans all-time. For more information, call 877-SALUKIS or go to www.SIUSalukis.com.

About Learfield IMG College

Learfield IMG College unlocks the value of college sports for brands, fans and universities through the representation of collegiate institutions, conferences and arenas. As a fully integrated sports marketing and solutions platform, Learfield IMG College provides access to licensing and multimedia sponsorship management, including publishing, radio, digital and social media; fan engagement, ticket sales and professional concessions expertise; branding; campus-wide business and sponsorship development; and venue technology systems.

About Banterra Bank

Banterra Bank  began as a single bank in Ridgway, Illinois in July of 1975.  Today, Banterra has nearly $2 billion in assets and is ranked in the Top Ten Percent of U.S. Charter Banks and Top Five Percent for Illinois Charter Banks, according to asset size.  Banterra has 40 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arizona.  In addition to offering a variety of personal and business banking products, Banterra provides services nationwide through specialty lending divisions including Aircraft Finance, Machine Tool Finance, Corporate, Transportation and RV and Marine Lending.  Banterra also offers Banterra Insurance for auto, home, life, business and Banterra Investment services. For more information, call 866-BANTERRA (226-8377), or go to www.banterra.com.

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Grad assistant’s canoe trip down Mississippi to begin this weekend

Greg Nejmanowski Veteran Adventures coordinator

By Jeff Wilson

Greg Nejmanowski’s expedition down the Mississippi River is about to begin. Weather-permitting, he’ll drop his canoe into the Minnesota headwaters of the world’s third-largest river on May 24.

This Paddle for Patriots trip will act as a fundraiser and awareness campaign for Touch of Nature’s Veteran Adventures program. Donations can be made by visiting the Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder page at https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

“This project has been my baby,” said Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator. “It’s definitely been a lot of work, but I think it’ll be worth it and then some.”

Veteran Adventures offers outdoor activities to post-9/11 veterans, including hunting, hiking, backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and more. The program is funded through grants and private donations, and it just recently lost a large state grant.

The 2,300-mile trip down the mighty Mississippi will begin in Itasca State Park in Minnesota and end in the Gulf of Mexico. Nejmanowski expects it to take between two and three months to complete.

There are two planned events happening along the way.

The first will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 6 at The Loading Dock in Grafton, just north of St. Louis. There will be food and drink for sale and raffles, including a free chance at a Discovery Flight, which allows participants to briefly take the controls of an in-flight airplane.

The second will be from noon to 3 p.m. June 13 at Devil’s Backbone Park. Nejmanowski said he’s still working on having food provided, but the same raffle opportunities will be available.

Between these planned events and less formal stops along the way, Nejmanowski hopes he can raise awareness not only of Veteran Adventures, but of the needs to veterans everywhere, including the scourge of veteran suicides.

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.

“We all know from anecdotal evidence how going outside can help you,” Nejmanowski said. “I feel like sometimes medicine has advanced and progressed so far that we have left nature — some of the best medicine in the world — behind.”

To get involved or support the trip directly, send an email to paddle4patriots@gmail.com. To learn more about Veteran Adventures visit, ton.siu.edu/program-areas/veteran-adventures.

 

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Mother shows appreciation for daughter’s scholarship

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

By Jeff Wilson

Dailey Wilson, J.D. ’05, received the $500 Harold Hannah Scholarship during her time as a student. She has gone on to a successful career in law, working with her father and two brothers at Wilson Law Firm, PLLC, and as the assistant county attorney in three Kentucky counties.

“That scholarship was very appreciated,” said her mother, Laura, in a letter recently sent to SIU School of Law. “At that time, we had three children in college with one attending another law school.”

With that letter, Laura sent the SIU School of Law a check for $1,000. The first $500 was earmarked to repay the scholarship, and the other $500 was meant as a thank-you for giving Dailey the opportunity to pursue her ambition.

“I think SIU’s determination that Dailey would be able to succeed in the practice of law has come to fruition,” Laura Wilson said. “I know (the school) will put the donation to good use to help someone else achieve their dream.”

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Hard Work Pays Off

Dave Baer - SIU Scholarship Donor

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

By Rebecca Renshaw

Thomas Edison once quipped, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Fortunately for SIU, 1971 alumnus Dave Baer never missed an opportunity to work.

In fact, he started early. Whether he was cutting other people’s grass or shining shoes, Baer closely followed his mother’s advice as she instilled a work ethic in him that few others could emulate.

Baer’s strong work ethic enabled him to come to SIU in the mid-1960s fully equipped to pay his own way. Upon leaving the military, he arrived on campus not certain which direction he wanted his career to take. He recalls walking by a building with a huge banner strung across the front welcoming students to learn more about what is now known as the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Curious, he stepped inside and met the dean, who helped pave the way for his entrance into the brand-new program.

“It was a great fit,” Baer says. “I already had many friends who were in law enforcement – and, coming fresh out of the military, it just felt comfortable.”

While at SIU, Baer met the love of his life, Cheryl, at the university’s bowling alley. Together, they shared more than 37 years of marriage – and also an abiding connection to the university that brought them together.

As one of the first graduates from SIU’s Administration of Justice program, Baer went on to a fulfilling 37-year career with Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, as its chief of police. His memorable achievements include working with the FBI to provide valuable information on a 9/11 attack collaborator who was later sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Perhaps Baer’s most notable achievement was his work with several state legislators to help get a law passed for private Illinois universities to create their own police departments, making Bradley the first private Illinois university to do so. Baer also served as a president of the Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and as the secretary for the Peoria County Association of Chiefs of Police. He is also a lifelong member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Beta Eta Chapter, at SIU.

After the passing of his wife and his mother, Baer retired from his position with Bradley. With time to reflect on his life and what is most important to him, he remembered the positive influence SIU had upon his life. He and Cheryl had always spoken of starting a scholarship fund but had never gotten around to doing so.

Baer realized the time was right.

“While my wife and I both received an outstanding education at SIU, my mother – who was one of the brightest women with an intelligent mind – never had the opportunity to go to college, he says. “So I wanted to help enable a young person to have that chance. My mother raised me to work hard and to give back to others. That’s why I felt so strongly about including her name in the $25,000 scholarship.”

Its full title is the David A. Baer, Cheryl A. Walker Baer and Naomi D. Baer Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship supports students in the criminal justice and criminology program.

Baer has plans to establish three more endowed scholarships in the near future. One scholarship will go to the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the other two will go to the Department of Sociology in honor of Baer’s wife.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Chris Edwards — Saluki Booster Club Athletic Scholarship recipient

Chris Edwards — Saluki Booster Club Athletic Scholarship recipient

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

By Ron Reeves

Chris Edwards, a junior on the men’s cross country and track & field team from Columbia, Missouri, received the Saluki Booster Club Athletic Scholarship for the 2018-19 academic school year. Edwards is one of the leaders of the SIU track program and a philanthropist in the community.

Chris has worked very hard for his opportunities, and he started out as an underdog.

“I was not heavily recruited out of high school,” said Edwards. “In fact, I did all of my own recruiting – most schools were not interested in a guy who had only run a 4:50 1600m going into his senior year.”

Edwards is the definition of determination and being a team player. By the end of his senior year of high school, he would go on to push nearly 29 seconds off his 1600 time and earn himself a scholarship to SIU.

“Running for a Division I school has always been a dream of mine,” said Edwards. “I will work harder than anyone; I would do anything for the team.”

Just like during his high school career, he promises to work his hardest and to bring excellence to everything that he does. Chris is also the top male volunteer in the athletic department during the NCAA Service Challenge and is on the Executive Board for SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee).

“I am very impressed with his commitment and how willing he is to help out in the community,” said Raluca Mita, academic coordinator who oversees the SAAC and the NCAA Service Challenge. “Chris has done a great job in SAAC by bringing in new ideas to every meeting and being available when help is needed at events.”

On the track, Edwards has contributed to the success of the Salukis. During the 2018 season, he helped the team by scoring in both the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Edwards was part of the indoor 7th place distance medley relay, and in outdoor finished 6th (9:16:40) in the 3000 steeplechase.

“Chris is one of the best teammates that you could ask for as he puts the team first in each of his decisions,” said Kevin Cataldo, head cross country/assistant track & field coach. “This has helped him develop as a runner and leader on the team because he is willing to put in the extra work to become a better athlete while pushing his teammates to do the same.”

Edwards will continue to help his team in the classroom, in the community and on the track. He is proud to be a Saluki and proud to have received the Saluki Booster Club Athletic Scholarship.

“My work is not finished though. While here at SIU the goal is to win a conference championship as a team,” said Edwards. “One day it will pay off.”

To see a full list of athletic endowments, click HERE.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Tilden Parks – Superfan!

Foundation Tilden Parks Donor Tilden Parks donated $400.000 to SIU.

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

By Rebecca Renshaw

Sports statisticians are fascinated by streaks. For example, Joe DiMaggio’s 56- game hitting streak with the New York Yankees is often touted as the one baseball record that will never be broken.

So far, so good on that one.

Before Joltin’ Joe, however, there was another baseball record that the record-keepers swore would never be broken. That was the amazing accomplishment of Lou Gehrig (another Yankee), who played in 2,130 consecutive games between 1925 and 1939.

But Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles proved them wrong. He competed in 2,632 consecutive games over a 16-year span to eclipse the mark set by baseball’s “Iron Horse.”

At SIU, Tilden “Tim” Parks (a ’76 Saluki alumnus) has a little streak of his own going on.

In fact, Parks just might own the record for the longest streak in sports ever – by a fan, at least. Parks officially started keeping track of his Saluki sports attendance in 1978, and he’s proud to share that, to date, his unblemished attendance streak stands at 207 home football games and 519 men’s home basketball games. That’s no misses for 40 years. When this streak began, Jimmy Carter was president of our country – and gasoline sold for less than 85 cents a gallon.

“Believe me, there were a few times I didn’t think I was going to make it, with a couple of ice and snow storms we had throughout the years,” he said. “But I’ve always had a passion for sports, and for SIU.”

“One of my favorite memories was when the SIU football team won the Division 1-AA championship in 1983. That season, students took down the goalposts at McAndrew Stadium and carried them down Illinois Avenue.”

Over the last five decades, Parks has seen such greats as Joe Meriweather, Mike Glenn, Ashraf Amaya and Darren Brooks grace the basketball court at SIU Arena. In the SIU football stadium, he has witnessed such Saluki football legends as Brandon Jacobs, an NFL running back for the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers; Deji Karim, a running back who played for four NFL teams; Carl Mauck, a former NFL player and NFL coach; Bart Scott, an NFL linebacker; Sam Silas, a former NFL lineman; and Terry Lee Taylor, another former NFL player.

“I remember my dad bringing me to my first SIU basketball game back when I was in eighth grade,” he said. “From then on, I was hooked – on basketball, football and on SIU.”

Parks graduated from John A. Logan College in 1973, then transferred to SIU and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1976.

“The country was going through an interesting time during the 1970s, what with the Vietnam War and Kent State,” he said. “It was a great time to feel as if I was making a difference.”

It was Parks’ parents, especially his father, who encouraged him to go to school. As a first-generation student, Parks saw how hard his father worked. The senior Parks quit school in seventh grade at age 12 to go to work as a timber cutter. He also bought his first animal, a hog, for $15 when he was 12 years old. Park’s uncle was a cattle trader, which intrigued him, and he eventually became one of the most successful cattle brokers in Illinois. Like his father, Parks is extremely generous, philanthropic and quick to help people in need.

Parks recently established several memorial scholarships in honor of his parents. These scholarships are dedicated to helping student workers at Morris Library, the School of Journalism and Animal Science – and, of course, the Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund.

So the next time you’re at a Saluki football or men’s basketball game, cup your hands and yell as loud as you can, “Are you here, Tim Parks?”

We know what the answer will be.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Scholarship Recipient Nicholas Oglesby

150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Scholarship Recipient Nicholas Oglesby

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

Nicholas Oglesby is a unior from Belleville, Illinois, studying physiology.

Why did you choose SIU?
SIU has been proven to get students prepared for the workforce and their career.

What inspired you to choose your area of study?
I have always been interested in the structure and functionality of the human body. The efficiency at which the body can operate is completely fascinating to me and I want to know more about it.

What was your reaction when you received the Bertrand scholarship?
I was overjoyed because without the scholarship I more than likely would not have been able to attend this year. My parents have two children in college and they cannot afford to put both of us through school.

How will the Bertrand scholarship help you make a difference in society?
Once I obtain my degree in physiology, I want to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. After I have enough experience, I am going to start my own affordable practice in East St. Louis, Illinois, where many people do not have the money or resources to get proper medical care.

Do you have a message that you would like to share with Mr. and Mrs. Bertrand?
I appreciate this scholarship more than I can express and I am determined not to let your generosity go to waste.

Why should donors consider establishing a scholarship fund for students?
Many students can not afford to pay for school but have the talent and aspirations to do great things. How will we know what people can do if they are never given a chance to show us?

Has receiving this scholarship inspired you to give back to SIU in the future?
Yes, I want to help other students just like I have been helped.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Emilyee McGiles awarded the Jane Talley Phelps Scholarship

Emilyee McGiles awarded the Jane Talley Phelps Scholarship

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

By Ron Reeves

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Emilyee McGiles, a sophomore on the women’s golf team from Orland Park, Illinois, received the Jane Talley Phelps Scholarship for the 2018-19 academic school year. McGiles is currently studying exercise science with the plan to attend physical therapy school after graduation.

“My journey thus far has exceeded my expectations,” said McGiles. “I have met so many incredible people here that help me every day, from my professors and coaches to my teammates and many more.”

McGiles has excelled on and off the course at SIU. During the 2017-18 season, she received two separate honors from the Missouri Valley Conference – Academic Honor Roll and Golfer of the Week (Sept. 20).

“I am very happy that Emilyee was selected for the Jane Talley Phelps Scholarship,” said women’s golf coach Danielle Kaufman. “It is well deserved; she works very hard and has no problem leading the team.”

McGiles’ Golfer of the Week performance was followed by her eighth place finish at the Ball State University Cardinal Classic. She finished with a career low of 220 (+4) which also ranked sixth in the Saluki record book for all-time low 54-hole score.

McGiles’ freshman year was stellar with an average of 78.2 strokes per round. She also shot a career low of 71 at the MVC championships and finished in the top-10 at three different tournaments.

“I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else,” said McGiles. “To be a recipient of the Jane Talley Phelps Scholarship is an honor and I am very thankful. Jane was an avid sports fan and I wish I had the chance to meet her. Every time I play a round of golf, I will be thinking of her.”

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Law school scholarship recipients embody Lesar’s dream

Pictured left to right: scholarship recipient Aaron Herkert and Judge Richard Mills

Pictured left to right: scholarship recipient Aaron Herkert and Judge Richard Mills

By Jeff Wilson

Founding SIU School of Law Dean Hiram Lesar and Judge Richard Mills have more in common than passion for the law. Each of them heeded the call to go above and beyond.

In 1972, Lesar saw the need for a School of Law at SIU Carbondale, and he led the charge to make it a reality. Decades later, Mills saw the need for financial support of law students, so he spearheaded the creation of the SIU School of Law Judge Richard Mills Scholarship.

“Hiram Lesar laid the groundwork for a tremendous law school. There was a dearth of legal teaching in Southern Illinois,” Mills said. “He wanted to put lawyers into this area. It was wonderful.

“In this day and age, it’s difficult to afford a graduate school education without incurring large amounts of debt. Financial support is a necessity.”

The most recent recipient of the scholarship, which benefits a second- or third-year law school student, was awarded to Aaron Herkert.

“Without scholarships like this, I wouldn’t be here,” Herkert said. “I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be a lawyer.”

The Taylorville native hopes to return to his hometown and practice criminal law.

Beyond easing the financial burden on students, Mills hopes the impact of the scholarship is felt long after the recipients leave SIU.

“It opens a lot more doors for graduates,” he said. “By relieving some of the financial stress, it can give them more personal freedom to take more career paths. They may not feel the pressure to join a large firm and can invest more time in other areas.”

Mills has been a regular speaker at the School of Law and presided over moot court competitions. In 1988, he became one of two inaugural SIU School of Law honorary alumni.

Judge Richard Mills is pictured with his wife Rachel.

Judge Richard Mills is pictured with his wife Rachel.

A Beardstown native, Mills, 89, earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Illinois College in 1951. He earned his law degree from Mercer University School of Law in 1957, and a master of laws degree from University of Virginia School of Law in 1982.

Mills is a retired U.S. Army colonel with 33 years active and reserve service. He served 14 months in Korea with the 3rd Infantry Division, 8th U.S. Army, and earned a Bronze Star. He also was a major general in the Illinois State Militia.

“Lesar’s dream was to produce competent, ethical practitioners of the law, and that’s exactly what the SIU School of Law is doing,” he said. “I’ve had 17 law clerks from SIU, and there hasn’t been a single bad one.”

Judge Richard Mills is pictured with three of his former law clerks. Left to Right: Tom Patton, Tom Wilson, Judge Mills and Judge Stuart Borden.

Judge Richard Mills is pictured with three of his former law clerks. Left to Right: Tom Patton, Judge Mills, Tom Wilson and Judge Stuart Borden.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: The right chemistry

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

By Rebecca Renshaw

Bob Gower’s personal narrative over the past seven decades offers a touching portrait of the American dream. SIU played a part in his story of accomplishment, generosity and determination. Born in West Frankfort to parents with an eighth-grade education, Gower knew that hard work was going to be his personal key to achieving success.

“I worked and paid my own way through college, which wasn’t easy to do when majoring in chemistry,” Gower said. “Balancing classes and working on weekends was difficult, but through hard work I grew up fast. I learned that success doesn’t come automatically and that I just had to persevere through the hard times.”

Gower said that his experiences at SIU taught him so much about other people. He said those experiences taught him about character, taught him about honesty, and gave him an appreciation of diversity.

“In West Frankfort, Illinois, there were no African-Americans in the 1950s. When I arrived at SIU, I met all types of people from other cultures and countries, and it was a new and stimulating experience. I learned about people, what drove them and how to work with others who did not come from my background,” he said.

While he was a senior getting his undergraduate degree, Gower was encouraged by friends to go on a blind date with freshman Mary Beth Miller.

“I remember sitting across from this beautiful young girl, sharing a soda with her when she told me she was taking a freshman chemistry course and could really use some help with it. I thought, God must be smiling on me right now. I knew I was good at chemistry and that I could help her,” he said.

Fifty-eight years later, Gower credited his wife for helping him far more than when he helped her with her chemistry class.

Gower went on to receive his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SIU in 1958 and 1960, respectively, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1963.

Upon graduation from SIU, Gower began an industrial career starting at Sinclair Oil Corporation as a research scientist.

“I quickly realized that I was just as able as some of the people running the companies that I worked for, so I asked to be moved into sales and experienced a range of business development and planning positions to broaden my background,” he said.

Gower soon rose to prominent positions in Atlantic Richfield and its divisions of the company. He became vice president of ARCO Chemical Co. in 1977 and senior vice president in 1979. In June 1984, he became senior vice president of Atlantic Richfield Co. Gower became president of Lyondell Petrochemical Co. when it was formed in April 1985 and was elected chief executive officer in October 1988. That same year, Gower led Lyondell through the largest initial public stock offering up to that time.

While Gower has had an illustrious career, he and his wife have always maintained a steadfast loyalty to SIU Carbondale’s chemistry department. Recently, Gower gave $800,000 to the department.

“SIU is moving toward being a well-recognized research institution with excellent faculty,” he said. “Beth and I would like to help it become a great research institution.”

One might think that with all of the success he achieved in his life, Gower would sit back and take it easy. Not so.

One of his current passions is the field of nanotechnology, which he has used to help develop a therapeutic, abuse-resistant opioid pain drug.

“It is currently in clinical trials, and the FDA recently gave Ensysce Biosciences a fast-track designation, which means we won’t have such a lengthy process to approval,” he said.

Gower said that opioid drugs are the only way to handle certain types of severe pain, so simply banning them from use is not the answer.

“The problem is that people quickly become addicted to opioid drugs,” he said. “We need to prevent abuse. What we have done with our drug is to modify it so that the drug is not active when taken. Only when it is in the digestive system and it meets an enzyme known as trypsin does it become activated via a two-step reaction. If a person snorts it or dissolves it and injects the drug, it will not be activated. If chewed, the reaction still will not take place until it gets to the digestive system.

Gower is also passionate about providing opportunities for underprivileged children. For the past 30 years, he has worked with Communities in School, and he headed its operation in Houston for much of that time. CIS is a campus-based, nonprofit organization providing direct services and resources to under-served children with unmet needs, many with mental health issues. By surrounding them with a community of support, CIS empowers students to stay in school and achieve in life.

“Anyone can do what I have done, or something better, or something comparable. Each of us brings our own unique set of contributions to society. Everyone is important on this stage,” he said.

To find out how you can contribute to the SIU College of Science and the chemistry department, visit foreversiu.org/colleges-units/science.