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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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: Live Long and Prosper

Robert and Patricia Dennis

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

By Rebecca Renshaw

“Live long and prosper.” Most people are familiar with the Vulcan greeting of Mr. Spock in the television series “Star Trek,” which debuted in 1966 and went off the air just one month before Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Growing up in Decatur, Illinois, Robert Dennis was fascinated by “Star Trek” and its vision of outer space and space travel.

Both the reality of the moonwalk and the fantasy of “Star Trek” fueled Dennis’ desire to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, poor eyesight and a growth spurt dashed his hopes of physically traveling in outer space.

But he could still dream about it.

“I realized right then that if I couldn’t get into space as an astronaut, then maybe I could go to California and make a movie about space,” he says.

To do that, he would have to do more than dream. He would have to learn the art and science of cinematography.

So Dennis set his sights on SIU.

During his first few days on campus, two things surprised him. The first was a professor who announced to a room full of new students that “if you are in this class to get a job in Hollywood, you may as well walk right out the door.” At that defining moment, Dennis decided that not only would he go to Hollywood, but that he would become a success as well.

The other surprising revelation was that filmmaking had little resemblance to the shows he had watched growing up.

“Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I now know that SIU gave me a deeper appreciation for film – especially experimental, documentary and independent filmmaking,” he says. “SIU opened my mind to a whole world of filmmaking that had nothing to do with my childhood dreams of ‘Star Trek.’ ”

Upon graduating from SIU, Dennis got his master’s degree from the University of Southern California, a widely respected film school that also claims George Lucas as one of its most accomplished alums. Dennis soon met his wife, Patricia, also a USC alum who now serves as senior vice president for The CW television network.

Dennis’ career included working at Lucasfilm, becoming elected as president of the Large Format Cinema Association and serving as a director of post production for HBO Pictures. Dennis also served on a post supervision team for film restoration and preservation at Walt Disney Studios as well as overseeing the 70mm “IMAX” laboratory services at Technicolor. While he and his wife forged successful careers in the challenging world of filmmaking, the couple also shares a strong commitment to the power of education.

That brings us back to Mr. Spock’s desire that others “live long and prosper.”

While Robert and Patricia Dennis have certainly fulfilled that goal, they understand that others may need a hand to do the same. Several years ago, the couple established the Robert Dennis Filmmaking Award, which is given to an outstanding SIU student filmmaker for his or her accomplishments in cinematography.

This past spring they began revamping their wills and recognized it made the best financial sense to establish a revocable family trust. With no children of their own and no extended family members to provide for, the couple determined that they wanted to see most of their estate gift go to youths who really need the help.

They both immediately thought of SIU.

“Patricia and I understand how tough this business can be for young people,” Dennis says. “Patricia listened to my stories about SIU, and the important part it played in my life. We both decided to give back to SIU and encourage students with financial help who need it to continue their filmmaking education.”

The Dennis’ estimated $1.3 million gift is the largest estate gift in the history of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

“When we finalized the trust, we sent off a note to the SIU Foundation announcing our decision – and the reaction was amazing,” Dennis says. “We often ask ourselves, ‘How is it that we turned out to be the people who have pledged this amount to the school? Why haven’t others done the same?’ We’ve already set aside resources for others. It is just the right thing to do to help kids out who can use it more than us.”

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Ameren Corporation Frankie Muse Freeman Trailblazer Scholarship

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

By Rebecca Renshaw

Longtime civil rights leader, lawyer and activist Frankie Muse Freeman passed away earlier this year at the age of 101.

Freeman, whom some would later call “Frankie Freedom” became a civil rights attorney who fought to end segregated housing and promoted equal rights in St. Louis and nationwide during the civil rights movement.

Upon her passing, Ameren Corporation established the Ameren Corporation Frankie Muse Freeman Trailblazer Scholarship. In October 2018, Ameren contributed $5,000 to the SIU School of Law. This will be the first of four payments of $5,000.

The scholarship specifications stipulate that the award be given to a full-time third-year law student in good academic standing, with specific preference given to a student who identifies as a female from an under-represented community with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and social justice.

The first recipient of this award is SIU law school student Adaku Oti. Oti is a third-year SIU law school student from Toronto who is deeply committed to humanitarian efforts. She was nine-years-old when she created a foundation in support of orphanages along the coast of West Africa. The foundation’s most recent donation has gone to the Children’s Home for the Deaf and those with Mental Disabilities in Accra, Ghana in January 2018 in hopes to advance the quality of life for the children and young adults that reside there.

“Receiving a scholarship from a company such as Ameren encourages me tremendously,” said Oti. “I am humbled they thought enough of my humanitarian efforts to help. Receiving this from Ameren makes me realize that everyone can contribute something small and it just might end up becoming something bigger.”

“We are very proud of the work of Adaku Oti, whose passion for helping those less fortunate embodies the founding mission of the SIU School of Law, which was “created in the public interest to serve the public good,” said Cindy Buys, interim dean for the SIU School of Law.  “We also are grateful to Ameren Corporation for their support of our law students. These types of scholarships facilitate our students’ success in law school and beyond,” Buys said.

To learn more about how you can give to the SIU School of Law, visit http://foreversiu.org/colleges-units/law.php.To learn more about the Forever SIU campaign, visit www.foreversiu.org.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: The power of “just a thought”

Group of donors to Balancing Education, Experience and Reality Scholarship.

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.) Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money. And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund. Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.)
Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money.
And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund.
Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29, 2019

By Rebecca Renshaw

In January 2019, Dan Giedeman, a three-degree SIU alumnus, posted this now-famous comment in the private Facebook group called “Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s.” The group, started by Craig S. Wilson in November 2018, swelled to nearly 15,000 members within three months.

Giedeman’s idea to raise money for a scholarship dovetailed perfectly into SIU’s Day of Giving on March 6. With the added excitement of the university’s 150th anniversary kickoff celebration, members of the group banded together and donated. The outpouring was phenomenal.

Jim Raffensperger, a member of the Facebook group, named the scholarship as a joke that brought a smile to many alums — The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality (BEER) Scholarship.

“I mean, what college kid doesn’t drink beer?” Raffensperger joked. The name stuck, and the group rallied behind it in a viral fashion. Nearly 1,100 people from the group donated more than $50,000 to create two endowed scholarships for students.

A ceremony on the steps of Shryock Auditorium held Friday, March 29, commemorated the creation of the scholarship. Many members of the group traveled from other states. One person who hadn’t been back to campus in over 28 years traveled from South Carolina to be part of the ceremony.

Giedeman, who traveled from Michigan, presented Chancellor John M. Dunn with a check for $50,000 from the group. Weeks after the presentation, donations continued to pour in.

Dunn presented the group of about 100 people with the Day of Giving trophy for most individual gifts for a non-academic unit. Dunn said he has always been impressed by the amount of pride at SIU, and it was evident in this group’s turnout.

“In the history of humankind, the really great people — the Mother Theresas, the Albert Schweitzers — have always reminded us that true happiness can only be obtained through giving,” Dunn said. “You represent that in spades, and I’m very, very proud of you. Thank you.”

Raffensperger said alumni came to the university for the education but left with memorable experiences, lifelong friends, and sometimes their soulmates.

“We’re all back because we came to love SIU and southern Illinois,” Raffensperger said.

Many who came to witness the celebration also took a tour of the campus, and some brought their high school children to take a look at all that SIU has to offer. That evening, a group took the trophy to several Carbondale establishments for bragging rights.

As well as raising funds for the university, Giedeman and Raffensperger said the Facebook group created a space for alumni to find opportunities to support current students with mentors and internships. The group also encourages former students to finish their degrees at the university.

The trophy will be shared among the group throughout the upcoming year. The trophy was scheduled to travel to SIU Days at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field in June.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Scholarship continues service and teaching legacy of Dr. Barb Brown

barb brown scholarship recipients

By Rebecca Renshaw

On Saturday, June 8, the family of Barb Brown held the annual garden party at the Leavitt family farm in Ellis Grove to raise funds for the Barb Brown Memorial Fund. Proceeds of the fund will be used to continue the service and teaching legacy of Dr. Brown.

Mikayla Cain was a recipient of the scholarship and attended the event. “It was a lovely event and it was nice to get to know Barb Brown’s sons and learn more about Dr. Brown,” Cain said.

The scholarship recipients received a DVD which contained a documentary about Dr. Brown’s run for state senate. Brown passed away May 5, 2016.

“Dr. Brown was a force to be reckoned among women and in southern Illinois politics. I feel so honored to receive her scholarship,” Cain said.

A senior, Cain is majoring in political science with a minor in journalism. Her plan after graduation is to serve as a congressional constituent caseworker where she will act as a liaison between constituents and federal agencies.

Cain says the scholarship will make a big difference in her life. “Since I am an independent student, this scholarship will help me tremendously. I won’t have to take out extra loans to get by,” Cain said.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Credit Union Provides Support for Touch of Nature

SIU Credit Union’s Kim Babington and staff present a $10,000 donation to J.D. Tanner, director of SIU’s Touch of Nature.

SIU Credit Union’s Kim Babington and staff present a $10,000 donation to J.D. Tanner, director of SIU’s Touch of Nature.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center received a special donation from the SIU Credit Union today at Freeberg Hall in Camp 2. Several SIU employees, staffers, and Touch of Nature supporters came out to share in the enthusiasm and attend the presentation.

Kim Babington, vice president of community outreach presented a $10,000 donation check to J.D. Tanner, director of Touch of Nature. The funds will go to support programs and activities.

“This generous cash donation is definitely an enhancement for SIU and we appreciate SIU Credit Union’s support. More importantly, we are honored the community is recognizing the value of the work we do here at Touch of Nature,” Tanner said.

The check was presented in front of staff and campers who are enjoying spending time this week at the outdoor experiential learning facility.

“SIU Credit Union supports the Carbondale community and Touch of Nature is a big part of this community. We want to contribute to all of the great programs and activities that are offered here at Touch of Nature,” Babington said.

For more information about Touch of Nature, their programs and upcoming events, visit ton.siu.edu. If you would like to provide support, visit https://siuf.org/giving/college-unit/touch-of-nature.php.

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