Remembering the past and building a better future

Gene and Laura Basanta have always been interested in society and what is going on around them, particularly societal injustices. When they came across information while researching their ancestors, they knew they needed to act.

In late 2021, the Basantas established a $25,000 scholarship fund for Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color (BIPOC) students studying agriculture at SIUC. In 2022, they donated another $25,000 to the scholarship.

“Recently, we began researching our ancestries. I come from a deep farming background and our farmland is still actively being farmed,” Laura said. “Doing some research, I discovered that in the will of my fourth great-grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran, there is a listing of his property, which included slaves. Just reading the names, ages, and gender of those individuals listed next to curtains, a ladle, and a mule was deeply disturbing to me.”

Both Laura and Gene’s ancestors came from an agrarian background. Laura’s ancestors have been farming in Kentucky for 150 years and Gene’s ancestors owned a sugar plantation in West Indies in the 1800s.

Gene, who is the SIU School of Law’s Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law Emeritus, made a similar discovery when he began searching his family roots. Like Laura, his ancestors owned several slaves.

“I learned my family operated a sugar plantation in Trinidad. Slaves fueled the operations of such plantations. While Laura and I honor and revere our ancestors, we also must acknowledge that our current privilege came in part from the work of enslaved individuals,” Gene said.

Supporting the future of ag

The Basantas have an interest in agriculture and are aware that SIU’s College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences is making great strides, especially through its sustainability programs.

“As we reflected on what we learned, we knew we had to do something and a scholarship for Black students at SIU seemed appropriate,” Laura said. “And because we both love agriculture, we turned to Dean (Eric) Brevik from the college and talked how we could set up an agriculture scholarship.”

Gene said the scholarship gives he and Laura personal satisfaction, and they hope it makes a difference in the lives of students.

“We want to give students opportunities to do great things. We know that our faculty accomplishes important work,” he said. “But when students go and accomplish greatness, that is the greatest satisfaction of all.”

Dean Brevik is thankful for the support of the Basantas.

“We are very grateful to the Basantas for supporting minority students who want to major in agriculture,” he said. “It is very important that we have a diverse agricultural workforce.”

SIU legacy

The Basantas have a long history with SIU and the Carbondale community.

Beyond his emeritus title, Gene was a professor in the Department of Medical Humanities at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He also founded SIU’s Center for Health Law & Policy. In 1989, he helped create the law school’s M.D./J.D. program. He served as interim dean for the law school in 2002.

Laura and Gene moved to Carbondale in 1980 and began establishing their family. Prior to their move, Laura received a BFA from Louisville School of Art and has produced art while working and raising their children.

Both have served the community with many groups, including The Varsity Center, Women’s Center, Carbondale Community Arts, and the General John A. Logan Museum.

Learn more about making a similar impact at

Remembering John Jones: Scholarship endowed, degree awarded

Professor-student bond inspires fundraising effort

Black and white photo of John Jones.

Image of John Jones.

By Jeff Wilson

When John Jones entered his first class with professor Brad Hagy he made an immediate impression.

“He sat in the front row,” said Hagy, a senior lecturer of information sciences and technology at SIU. “He was a model student and was going to do anything to further his future.”

Jones, who worked in IT for the SIU Foundation, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.  In Jones’ memory, Hagy donated $10,000 to establish the John E. Jones Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit non-traditional students who are majoring in Information Technology (ITEC).

With the large donation from Hagy and support from numerous donors through the SIU Foundation’s crowdfunding platform, SalukiFunder, the scholarship was recently endowed with $25,000. The scholarship will produce a $1,000 scholarship each year.

During the 2022 Spring Commencement, Jones was honored with a posthumous Bachelor of Science from the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics. Members of Jones’ family attended the ceremony to receive his degree.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and share your pride in his accomplishments,” Chancellor Austin Lane said.

To make a gift to the John E. Jones Memorial Scholarship, visit

‘He wasn’t just a student’

The 37-year-old Jones was one semester away from earning his bachelor’s degree in information technology. He made straight A’s and was on the Dean’s List every semester.

“I want to promote what John loved,” Hagy said. “He was working to better his life. I want to help students like John.”

Jones had started his college career in 2002, but he left school after his father passed away. He returned to SIU more than 14 years later determined to get his degree. In an email to Hagy after the Spring 2020 semester, Jones shared his appreciation.

“The one thing that we all lose is time, and there is not a way to get that back,” Jones said in the email. “So, in my journey, I was fortunate enough to meet people at SIU that reminded me of myself as a young man fresh out of high school living carefree and people that are willing to help anyone who gives their time to learn. Mr. Hagy you have made this transition from working full-time to full-time student one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Reading that message, in which Jones goes on to express his hopes for the future, Hagy can’t help but become a bit choked up.

“John understood time,” he said. “He knew he had lost time, but he was still willing to go back and get his degree. In that email, he was speaking from his heart and for his future.”

Hagy spoke at Jones’ memorial service and has remained close to Jones family, to the point that Jones’ mother gifted a pair of blue and white Air Jordan from his shoe collection that matched the color of Jones’ motorcycle. They were both members of the Carbondale Eagles 2569 Eagle Riders motorcycle club that has an annual charity ride for the Southern Illinois Special Olympics.

“Those shoes are now on the shelf in my office,” Hagy said. “He wasn’t just a student. He was a great person, a friend.”

John Jones, 1983-2021

Born and raised in Carbondale, Jones exceled in math and information technology. More than anything, Jones is remembered as a family man.

He is survived by his son, Jerald Cameron Jones; and fiancé, Tamara Buchannan-Boens; and her sons, Christopher Buchannan, Warren Eanes, and Dominique Boens. He is also survived by his mother, Debra Johnson-Jones; sister, Raven-Iman Jones; grandmother, Barbara Sanders; and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Jones enjoyed participating in American Poolplayers Association competitions, riding his motorcycle with his fellow Eagle Riders, shooting targets at the gun range, and working on and building computer/robotics systems.

After his planned graduation, the SIU Foundation was set to make Jones a full-time member of the IT staff.

“We thought the world of John,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “He was liked by all. His words and his actions were always consistent. Everyone at the Foundation was deeply saddened by his untimely passing. Professor Hagy’s inspiring gift is a testament to their connection and the impact they had on one another.”

Pictured left to right: Brad Hagy and Matt Kupec

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Day of Giving trophies awarded: B.E.E.R. Scholarship donors, COLA, Law, Medicine, and Athletics honored

By Jeff Wilson

The SIU Day of Giving trophy presentation has become a tradition that puts an exclamation point on the annual fundraiser.

Each year, the SIU Foundation hands out five trophies honoring areas of campus that performed the best during the Day of Giving, but this year a sixth trophy was added. The winners are:

  • College of Liberal Arts: Largest Dollar Amount Raised, Academic Unit
  • School of Medicine: Most Individual Gifts, Academic Unit
  • College of Liberal Arts: Largest Average Gift
  • Saluki Athletics: Largest Dollar Amount Raised, Non-Academic Unit
  • Balancing Education, Experience & Reality (B.E.E.R.) Scholarship: Most Individual Gifts, Non-Academic Unit
  • School of Law: Highest Alumni Participation Rate

SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec kicked things off by expressing his appreciation for everyone involved in the Day of Giving and his excitement for the future of the Forever SIU fundraising campaign.

The most recent goal for the Forever SIU campaign was $200 million, but the Foundation recently surpassed that goal early, and the campaign was extended to 2028.

“This year, we set a Day of Giving goal of $3 million, and in typical Saluki fashion, we surpassed expectations by raising more than $3.5 million,” he said. “At the end of the Day of Giving, we kicked off the Saluki Takeover Tour in St. Louis, and Chancellor (Austin) Lane announced to the world that we would raise that goal to $500 million.”

The success of the Day of Giving and the extension of the Forever SIU campaign fit perfectly into the Imagine 2030 strategic plan set forth by Chancellor Lane.

“We don’t get to 2030 without your support, your energy, and your stories,” he said to the crowd gathered at the front steps of Shryock Auditorium. “I can feel the passion, the excitement, and the energy. We can get there, and that’s because of you, our alumni.”

President Dan Mahony and Chancellor Lane both came to SIU when the Day of Giving goal was a bit more modest.

“When I first came to SIU, the Day of Giving goal was $1 million, and we shot past that. At the time, Matt (Kupec) told me we could do even better, but I never envisioned we would be at $3.5 million,” he said.

Andrew Balkansky, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, received two trophies during the ceremony. The college raised $723,265 on the Day of Giving and had the largest average gift.

“We made this a priority from Day One,” he said. “It takes a great team, and we have that here.”

Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean of the School of Medicine, accepted his school’s trophy and promised to take it to locations across the state. The school had 372 individual donors.

“The best thing is the spirit of working together,” he said. “This will be a true traveling trophy.”

Saluki Athletics finished with a Day of Giving total of $109,645. Kupec, who is also the interim athletic director, was handed his department’s trophy by Chancellor Lane.

“The future of Saluki Athletics is incredibly bright,” he said. “You know what SIUC stands for – Southern Illinois University of Champions.”

The School of Law earned the new Saluki Spirit Award, which honors the academic unit that saw the highest rate of alumni participation during the Day of Giving.

“Res ipsa loquitur. That’s Latin for ‘It speaks for itself,’” said Camille Davidson, dean of the School of Law. “We may be small, but we are mighty.”

Represented by about 15 alumni, the group known for the B.E.E.R. Scholarship was honored with a trophy for the fourth consecutive year. This year, 698 individuals made a gift to the scholarship fund.

“The amazing thing about this one is how many people donate to it,” said Jim Raffensperger, who represented the group. “Small donations make a large difference. This year, there were six B.E.E.R. Scholarships awarded from this fund. Amazing.”

For more about the Forever SIU campaign, visit


SIU Credit Union Makes First Corporate Gift for SIU Day of Giving 2022

Pictured left to right: Leah Weil, Emily Spann, Rachel Brewster, Jennifer Jones-Hall, Mark Dynis, Chancellor Austin A. Lane, Jeffery Burgin, Kim Babington, and Matt Kupec.

The SIU Day of Giving simply wouldn’t be as special without the support of the SIU Credit Union. This is the sixth year that the SIU Credit Union has kicked off the day with a gift.

This year, they presented SIU with a check for $35,000. The first donation of $20,000 will benefit SIU’s New Student Programs and the second donation of $15,000 will go to SIU Touch of Nature’s Dawg Days program.

The SIU Credit Union was represented by Kim Babington, vice president of community outreach and Mark Dynis, marketing director.

Chancellor Austin Lane received the donations from the group and said he appreciates the support SIU Credit Union has consistently demonstrated.

“This generous gift goes a long way toward helping us recruit students. It is this type of gift that will help us continue our trend of increased enrollment for the freshman class,” he said.

Jennifer Jones-Hall, SIU dean of students, was ecstatic about the donation.

“SIU Credit Union is consistently so good to us, and we love how they continue to show up and support our students. They are great leaders in our community,” she said.

Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation, said the SIU Credit Union’s continued support of the Day of Giving is inspirational.

“The SIU Credit Union is an amazing partner of SIU. We appreciate how they always help us launch our SIU Day of Giving with the first gift of the day,” he said.

Tom Brummer, director at Touch of Nature, appreciates the ongoing support.

“We are honored the SIU Credit Union is recognizing the value of the work we do here at Touch of Nature,” he said.

Pictured left to right: Leah Weil, Tom Brummer, Mark Dynis, Chancellor Austin A. Lane, Jeffery Burgin, Matt Kupec, Kim Babington, Sara Bond, and Brian Croft.

The SIU Foundation is encouraging others to follow the SIU Credit Union’s philanthropic lead and help make an immediate difference in the lives of current and future Salukis. To make your gift, visit and give to your favorite SIU initiative.

Siblings Support Saluki Family: Brother-sister duo make gift to name Guida-Moller Family Alumni Center

Julie Guida and Scott Moller

When considering the opportunity to make a transformational gift to SIU, the idea of naming the Alumni Center made perfect sense to Julie Guida and Scott Moller, siblings and proud SIU alumni.

With their $500,000 donation, the C-wing of Woody Hall will be named the Guida-Moller Family Alumni Center. The funds will be used to support the SIU Alumni Association, its scholarships, and programs.

“We feel fortunate to give back to the university that gave so much to us,” Moller said. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to commemorate our time at SIU with this naming.”

In 2019, the Alumni Association moved into a newly renovated space in Woody Hall. The center includes amenities that allow the Alumni Association to continue its mission of connecting with alumni and current students and sharing the success of SIU with the world.

“Woody Hall is an iconic building on campus. It is centrally located and once served as a female dormitory,” Guida said. “While we attended, the building housed class registration and the bursar’s office. I definitely spent my fair share of time in Woody Hall.”

Guida and Moller can’t help but laugh when talking about their experience as students inside Woody Hall.

“We both remember the ‘Woody Shuffle,’ which was the term used to describe the rigmarole students were put through to put together a semester class schedule,” Moller said. “The experience was nerve-racking.”


Guida, who graduated in 1979, and Moller, who graduated in 1985, both earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism with specializations in advertising. Moller later returned to SIU to earn his Master of Business Administration.

Both worked at the SIU Arena, in what was an 11,000-seat facility at the time, marketing events and selling tickets to some of the university’s biggest shows. Guida worked as promotions director from 1979-81. Moller worked part-time in the ticket office from 1980-83 and then as promotions director from 1984-86.

“At the time, the arena was the mecca of Southern Illinois entertainment,” Guida said. “Working there was probably just as good an education as my classes. People from throughout the region came to the Carbondale campus to see the most popular entertainers of the time.”

Guida and Moller promoted some of the biggest rock ’n’ roll and country tours of the day, including REO Speedwagon, Elton John, ZZ Top, Kenny Rogers, Foreigner, Hall & Oates, Alabama, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and more. Other entertainment acts included Ringling Bros. Circus, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Sesame Street Live. When you combine their tenures as promotions directors, the duo brought more than 250,000 people to the SIU campus.

Guida recalls Bruce Springsteen’s love for playing to live audiences. In fact, as the night wore on, Springsteen just kept playing and playing one song after another.

“We thought we might have to turn the lights on inside the hall to get him to end his performance,” Guida said with a laugh.

Moller was a Sammy Hagar fan and enjoyed the fact that he promoted him first as a solo performer and then later as a member of Van Halen.

Guida also worked in sales for the Daily Egyptian. Moller worked for Campus Services and held off-campus jobs at the University Mall, WTAO Radio, and WSIL-TV3.

“We worked hard and played hard,” Moller said. “We had multiple jobs and an active social life. Julie and I were definitely all in. I encourage all college students to make the most of their college years.”


After leaving SIU, Guida went on to work at the St. Louis Checker Dome, and then for a motorsports event promoter. Moller worked for a concert and theatrical promoter in Houston.

In 1987, they teamed up and founded Marketing Werks, a consumer-based marketing firm, and grew it into a $100 million-plus company. The firm developed strategy and execution for experiential marketing campaigns for some of the world’s largest brands, including Verizon, Walgreens, Hershey, LEGO, PlayStation, Bridgestone, Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, and many others.

“At its height, we employed more than 200 full-time professional service employees at our headquarters in Chicago and offices in New York City and Southern California,” Moller said. “We also contracted with 3,000 field staff to implement programs for the agency’s clients.”

Marketing Werks was regularly recognized in numerous industry and business publications. Crain’s Chicago Business chose it as one of Chicago’s 50 Fastest Growing companies for five years running. Promo magazine and Event Marketer magazine consistently ranked Marketing Werks as the top independent experiential agency in the U.S. The Chicago Tribune included the company several times in its annual list of Best Places to Work.

“We took the information we learned in class, combined it with the real-life work and social experience we had in Carbondale, and applied those learnings to our life and work after SIU,” Guida said. “SIU offers students hands-on experiential learning that has lifelong value.”

They sold the company in late 2013.

Today, Guida splits her time between Newport Beach, California, and Chicago. She is an active board member of Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center. Moller resides in Chicago. He is a principal of AKA Partners, a marketing communications firm. He also serves on the SIU Foundation Board and SIU Alumni Association Board.

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Celebrating a life well lived: Scholarship honors lifelong business professor

Marvin Tucker

High school sweethearts Patricia and Marvin Tucker from Paducah, Kentucky, enjoyed a life well lived. Married young, the couple attended Western Kentucky State University together, where they both received bachelor’s degrees. Following that, they moved to Indiana where Marvin earned his master’s in accountancy. Upon graduation, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Alabama.

“Legendary football coach Bear Bryant and (quarterback) Joe Namath were making history at Alabama,” Patricia said. “Marvin and I got $1 tickets to every game, and we got to watch two iconic figures change college football forever. It was a magical time.”

Marvin received his Ph.D. in accounting in 1966 and was courted by several universities. He chose SIU because of its midwestern values and proximity to hometown Paducah.

Marvin began his career as an assistant professor but quickly rose through the ranks to become full professor. During that time, he helped establish, and later directed, the university’s Master of Accountancy program.

“Marvin loved SIU, loved his students, and he loved that program. He was one of the few professors who had extended office hours – his door was always open to students. The students loved Marvin,” Patricia said. “His goal was always to try to change the life of a student who may not have had the ability to do it on his or her own.”

Marvin had numerous scholarly publications, and he co-authored three books. He was a member of the National Association of University Professors, the American Management Association, the Illinois Retired Teacher Association, and the American Accounting Association.

The Tuckers embraced the Carbondale community. Marvin coached Little League while their three sons were growing up. Marvin also loved his church and church family, serving as deacon and greeter at University Baptist Church. He was also active in the hospital auxiliary. The family thrived in their neighborhood, enjoyed the schools in Carbondale, had season tickets to Saluki football games, and often went to the Rec Center to swim and rock climb.

When Marvin retired from SIU after 32 years, he and Patricia drafted their will.

“We gave a copy to the dean of the SIU College of Business at the time. In the will, Marvin stipulated that if he predeceased me, I would set up a scholarship for the SIU Master of Accountancy program. He wanted the decision of choosing the scholarship recipient to come from the faculty so they would know the students and their backgrounds,” Patricia said. “It was quite a bit of money, but while I was Marvin’s first love, SIU was definitely his second love. We both felt good about our decision to give back and help future students succeed. We lived a blessed life, and I thank God for it every single day.”

Terry Clark, dean of the College of Business and Analytics, shared his appreciation for the Tuckers’ generosity.

“The Tuckers’ gift to the College of Business and Analytics is visionary. Its impact on the lives and careers of students will resound for generations. Marvin had an outstanding career with our college,” he said. “His kindness and dedication linger with us. We are so grateful for Marvin and Patricia’s generosity. Through this scholarship, he and Patricia continue to reflect the spirit of giving that has been their legacy.”

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

New Name, More Hope: Major gift to School of Medicine will transform Alzheimer’s care, research

Erin R. Hascup, Ph.D., (center) who serves as the center’s director and as a part of the faculty in the Neuroscience Institute at SIU School of Medicine, is surrounded by her colleagues.

“As longtime Springfield residents, we’re proud of the impact the School of Medicine has had on the community,” Dale Smith said.

That impact prompted Dale and his wife, Deborah, to donate a substantial financial gift to the Alzheimer’s Center at SIU to expand research, enhance programming and improve care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and assist their caregivers.

“The efforts of the Alzheimer’s center inspired us to give and hopefully create a consciousness within the community around the breadth of research and patient care we have here,” Dale Smith said. “Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, and we hope our gift can help researchers at SIU Medicine produce better clinical outcomes that improve our community, one family at a time.”

The center is now named the Dale and Deborah Smith Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at SIU Medicine. This gift will transform the health care of people throughout Illinois and beyond.

The center provides clinical care, research and community programs throughout 93 Illinois counties. Since 1986, its employees have diagnosed, treated and educated Illinoisans with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions and their families. In the past year, the center, along with its Memory and Aging Network, has served more than 4,000 patients and their families. The National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health has awarded more than $7.2 million in grants to the center for Alzheimer’s-related research in the past three years.

“This gift from Dale and Deborah Smith will continue to propel research at SIU that may translate into novel treatments and interventions for patients in the future,” said Jerry Kruse, M.D., MSPH, dean and provost at SIU School of Medicine. “It will also provide much needed clinical, educational and community support for those with Alzheimer’s and their families.”

Despite decades of pharmaceutical development and drug testing, Alzheimer’s disease continues to be incurable, and prevention may hold the greatest hope for combating this disease. The research team is focused on discovering ways to stop the progression. In addition to a better quality of life, early and accurate diagnosis and timely intervention could save up to $7.9 trillion in medical and health care costs, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Erin R. Hascup, Ph.D., serves as the center’s director and as a part of the faculty in the Neuroscience Institute at SIU School of Medicine. She is an associate professor in the Departments of Neurology and Pharmacology.

“What we want to do is understand the changes that are occurring across disease progression, including in the very early stages,” she said. “Many have Alzheimer’s for up to 30 years prior to cognitive decline, so we want to intervene earlier to slow or stop disease progression and improve patient outcomes and quality of life.”

The center’s Beyond the Medical Center program also focuses on creative ways to improve the quality of life for both patients and caregivers through art therapy, music therapy and movement for individuals with dementia.

Springfield-area caregiver Janet Scott and her husband are two of the more than 4,800 patients and caregivers who have participated in one of these programs in the last two years.

“I cannot imagine what my life would be like had we not come here,” she said. “SIU has meant everything to me. They’ve been like my third arm; I’ve depended on them for so much.”

Currently, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. Illinois communities will continue to be impacted by various forms of dementia as the population ages, and the Smiths are eager to be a part of the solution locally and beyond.

Gifts received by the SIU Foundation support the growth of the School of Medicine, including its medical research efforts.

For those interested in donating, visit

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Saluki Spotlight – Q & A with Dr. John J Cooper

Dr. John Cooper, he is an SIU alumni from the IMAE (IT) programDr. John J Cooper, a three-degree alumnus of SIU Carbondale, is now a professor and recruiter for the university’s Industrial Management and Applied Engineering (IMAE) program.

He received degrees in Industrial Technology (now IMAE) in 2004; Manufacturing Systems (now Quality Engineering and Management or QEM) in 2006; and Workforce Education and Development in 2011.

As both a professor and an alumnus of SIU, Dr. Cooper’s perspective is a unique one. So, we sat down with him to get his views on everything from SIU, to Extended Campus, and the importance of philanthropy.

Question: What did you like most about the SIU IMAE (and beyond) programs when you attended? 

Answer: To say my experience at SIU was life altering is no exaggeration. There were so many opportunities for growth as an individual that I found I learned as much, if not more, from my SIU experiences outside my classes as I did from the many subjects I studied. I had an opportunity to teach numerous classes and labs as a Teaching Assistant, serve as a manufacturing lab consultant for an award-winning SIU Robotics Team, present my research at a national conference, and so much more. None of these things would have been possible though without the support and guidance of the wonderful IMAE faculty and staff.

Q: What do you like most about your job, especially at your location?

A: My office is located at Daley College in Chicago. This area, Cook County, has the most manufacturing jobs of any county in Illinois and I see so much opportunity for those seeking direction as to career path possibilities. I really enjoy raising awareness of what is available academically and by extension, showing students the pathway to these life-changing opportunities in this well-paying field. Giving hope and a sense of direction to those trying to find their way, whether they are new to the world of work, seeking advancement opportunities in their current career field, or mid-life career changers like myself, is exciting stuff. To see someone’s eyes light up with a renewed spirit and sense of relief after struggling to find their way and have them come back after graduation and say I got a great job because of SIU, “Thank you!” is intoxicating. This is much so much more than just a job. We are changing people’s lives.

Q: What’s it like to interact with students all over the country to help them achieve their goals?

A: I have found that no matter where a student may be located geographically, there is a universal truth they all have in common. They want to get away from working two or three jobs with no benefits just to get by. They want a career with advancement opportunities, a living wage that provides them a healthy work/life balance, doing work they are proud of, and they aren’t afraid of the commitment and hard work needed to make these things happen. Having been in their shoes for many years, I feel privileged to now be part of a team in a position to support and nurture their dreams to fruition.

Q: What does being a Saluki mean to you?

A: When I reflect on my life, I remember growing up with a belief in two commonly accepted facts, education and hard work are the keys to success. I had attained a certain level of success before I came to SIU, but had hit a ceiling on my assent up the career ladder because my associate degrees from the local community colleges only took me so far. I had lots of ambition but no access to a bachelor’s in my rural location, so I spent many frustrating years locked in a dead end job with no potential for advancement. When my life circumstances unexpectedly changed and I was able to attend SIU and earn my bachelor’s degree, it was like the opportunities I had longed for previously, and so much more, were now within my grasp. When recruiting I say, “I am the poor kid who never thought I could go to college and now I am a university professor. SIU has definitely changed my life! Thank you, SIU!” Yes, it’s great to be a Saluki!

Q: Would you ever recommend any SIU Extended Campus, online or on-campus programs to another person?

A: Absolutely! Of course I know the high caliber of instructors in the IMAE and QEM programs and what those programs have done for me personally, so I recommend them without hesitation. Even though I don’t know all the instructors from the other Extended Campus programs, I do know that since SIU is an accredited institution, all instructors for our programs are highly-qualified so I am confident in the quality of those programs as well. But to take it a step further, as a recruiter for many years, I have had the opportunity to compare tuition rates with other universities and have found no other school more affordable than SIU. Plus, SIU has over 700 scholarship opportunities that make earning an advanced degree from SIU more affordable than ever. SIU is a great school, and we have thousands of graduates worldwide who couldn’t agree more!

Q: Would you recommend that others donate to SIU?

A: I would definitely recommend anyone seeking a worthy cause to donate to SIU. Growing up in a low-income home, I didn’t know there was money available for poor kids like me. Without the financial assistance I received, my life could have gone very differently. Your donation can make a huge difference in someone’s life. I know firsthand what a difference these donations can make.

Q: Would you ever consider giving back to SIU Extended Campus programs? If so, why?

A: Yes, I would. I believe there is a need for more outreach to underserved areas. Although I had heard of the IMAE program, I had no access to it because I lived in such a rural area. I would have enrolled in the program 15 years earlier than I did if local access had been available. The list of available online programs through Extended Campus continues to grow to reach those underserved areas, but more needs to be done.

Q: If you had $1,000 dollars to give to SIU, where would you decide it should go?

A: Without a doubt, I would give it to the IMAE program in the form of scholarship money for low income students. Not only does this degree open career opportunities to well-paying jobs, but there is so much need from low-income students like I was who just need a hand up.

To learn how you can donate to SIU Extended Campus, click here.

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Hamilton County graduate receives Don and Edith Braden Scholarship

Brandon Peters, a freshman in aviation management, received the Don and Edith Braden Scholarship.

Brandon Peters, a freshman in aviation management, received the Don and Edith Braden Scholarship.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Brandon Peters, SIU freshman and recipient of the Don and Edith Braden scholarship award, graduated from Hamilton County High School in 2020 and is pursuing a degree in aviation management from SIU.

“I was accepted into other universities, such as Purdue and Western Michigan, but SIU just fit me better,” he said. “Plus, it is closer to my family. I also chose SIU because its aviation program is also one of the top programs in the nation.”

Peters recently spoke to his scholarship donor via a conference call and thanked him for the scholarship.

“It costs quite a bit to go to the aviation program, and I told Mr. Braden how thankful I was for his help. So many students here have significant financial debt, and I wanted him to know that with his help. I will graduate with minimal debt,” he said. “I am thankful for people like Mr. Braden who lend a helping hand to students like me.”

Peters also comes from Braden’s parents’ hometown.

“I played as a point guard for Hamilton County High School’s basketball team for all four years. I was fortunate enough to win the Jerry Sloan Award last year, and Mr. Braden actually knew Jerry Sloan (Hall of Fame NBA coach), so we had that shared connection,” he said.

Peters hopes to become a certified flight instructor and someday teach at SIU. Once he accumulates enough hours, he plans to become a commercial airline pilot.

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Donor fulfills parents’ dreams with scholarship fund

Don and Edith Braden

Donor Wayne Braden honored his parents, Don and Edith Braden, by establishing a scholarship in their name.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Wayne Braden isn’t an SIU alumnus, but he certainly has the heart and spirit of a Saluki. Braden recently donated $25,000 for an endowed scholarship and made a $1 million planned gift commitment to honor his parents, Don and Edith Braden, who were from rural southeastern Illinois. The scholarship is to be awarded to a student who graduated from Thompsonville High School or Hamilton County High School in Illinois.

Braden’s parents grew up in Hamilton and Franklin counties in the early 1900s. Both attended one-room schools, but Edith was not able to attend high school as the nearest school was too far for her to travel on horseback or foot. Don was a good student and his father intended for his son to attend SIU and had even saved to begin his education. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 caused their bank to fail and all of Don’s college funds were wiped out. Don and Edith married, and they eventually settled in Detroit where they worked in auto factories.

“Even though their circumstances were beyond their control, my parents deeply regretted not receiving a higher education,” Wayne said. “I think that is why it was important to them that my sister Judy and I got college degrees. Turns out, we both went on and achieved advanced degrees.”

A few years ago, after the Bradens had both passed away, Wayne and Judy began looking for a way to honor their parents and their commitment to education.

“Our attorney suggested that many people establish scholarships in the name of their parents to honor them and we thought that was an excellent idea,” he said. “My dad would have chosen to go to SIU, and he had plans to study engineering. We all know how SIU serves the Southern Illinois region where my parents grew up, so it just made sense to choose SIU for a scholarship in their name. I figured that if we gave a scholarship to a young person from McLeansboro, it would be as if we were looking out for my parents’ neighbors. Looking out for your neighbors was important to my folks, so I wanted to continue looking out for their community.”

Wayne said he has donated to charitable organizations much of his adult life and has been involved with the Salvation Army for several years.

“Charitable gifts are wonderful, and everyone should give back,” he said. “This scholarship in honor of my parents means so much more than just giving to an organization. I recently did a conference call with the young man who is the recipient of my parents’ scholarship. Realizing I was helping him accomplish a very important goal felt deeply satisfying.”

Wayne Braden currently lives in Portland, Oregon, and his sister, Judy Braden Armstrong, resides in Maryville, Michigan.

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.