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.
“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.
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.
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.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s student-focused Forever SIU campaign has surpassed its $75 million goal with seven months to go.
More than 26,000 donors have made more than 60,000 individual gifts since the three-year campaign launched in January 2017. Of the $75.3 million raised to date, nearly $40 million supports student scholarships and $33 million has been committed to academic programs. The balance goes toward facilities, technology, faculty initiatives and more. The campaign is scheduled to continue through December 2019.
Chancellor John M. Dunn said the success of Forever SIU: The Campaign for Students speaks to the loyalty of SIU’s alumni and friends.
“During our 150th year, we are celebrating the tradition, pride and promise of SIU,” he said. “The investment of our loyal donors in our students and our future reflect all three: the Saluki tradition of giving back, pride in our university and the promise of things to come.”
Dunn said the university will continue to reach out to donors during the remaining months of the campaign and beyond.
“We view the goal as a floor, not a ceiling,” he said. “We will continue to welcome support that will help us attract and retain students and ensure that our academic programs remain strong.
Dan Korte, a member of the SIU Foundation Board who is co-chair of the Forever SIU campaign committee, said the board had several goals in mind when it worked with the university to launch the campaign.
“We wanted to demonstrate our commitment to SIU and the region. We also wanted to make a statement about the university’s momentum by launching a campaign that would culminate during SIU’s 150th year,” said Korte, a 1985 graduate of SIU’s College of Engineering. “In addition, many donors and members of the board wouldn’t have been able to attend SIU without financial support from donors. We wanted to pay it forward.”
Rae Goldsmith, chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, described the campaign as a partnership between the university, the foundation, and alumni and friends who care about SIU.
“Many people want to contribute to the university’s success, but they may not always know where to start,” she said. “The campaign helps build those connections. The university’s role is to identify and support the needs of its students and programs. The foundation’s role is to connect those needs to the interests and passions of donors. The donors are at the heart of the partnership making a positive difference. Every connection, every gift, matters.”
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.
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, Judge Mills, Tom Wilson and Judge Stuart Borden.