Category Archives: Donor Stories

SIU Credit Union donates $35K to Touch of Nature, New Student Programs

Gift kicks off 8th annual SIU Day of Giving

SIU Credit Union has long been a resolute supporter of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and once again it was on display to jumpstart the SIU Day of Giving.

The credit union donated $35,000 in total, designating $20,000 to New Student Programs and $15,000 to Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center. This gift, and all Day of Giving donations, benefit the Imagine SIU 2030 fundraising campaign.

“I look forward to this every year,” said Chancellor Austin Lane. “We can’t thank SIU Credit Union enough for this partnership.”

These gifts will help the university welcome new students by funding programming and offer experiences that build Saluki spirit and help them form lifelong bonds with each other and the university. One such event is Dawg Days, hosted each fall at Touch of Nature.

“Touch of Nature wouldn’t be what it is today without the SIU Credit Union,” said Brian Croft, director of Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center. “Thank you for everything you do for SIU students.”

In the fall, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the SIU Credit Union Event Center at Touch of Nature. That project stems from a $500,000 donation the credit union previously made.

“Being an alumnus, it’s important for me to give back to the university that got me where I am,” said Mike Lantrip, SIU Credit Union president and CEO and a 1991 graduate of SIU’s College of Business and Analytics. “Touch of Nature has a special place in my heart.”

Kim Babington, SIU Credit Union’s vice president of community outreach, complimented the staff of Touch of Nature and Student Affairs, which operates New Student Programs.

“It makes such a difference to see the passion that they have for their programs,” she said.

Beyond the experiences, the funds play a major role in bringing students to campus and keeping them here.

“I want to emphasize what the credit union’s support and commitment means to us,” said Jennifer Phillips, director of New Student Programs. “It’s important to recruitment and retention, and we couldn’t do it without you.”

Each year, the SIU Day of Giving brings thousands of Salukis and SIU supporters together for a 24-hour, online event, which has raised nearly $14 million over its first seven years. Gifts can be made all day Wednesday, Feb. 28, at siuday.siu.edu, and every day at siuf.org.

John and Jayne Simmons make $10M gift to SIU’s law school

Historic donation will expand, enhance opportunities for students, faculty

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A $10 million gift from John and Jayne Simmons will impact generations of Southern Illinois University Carbondale law students and strengthen the law school’s ability to serve its students and the region. In honor of their generosity, the law school will be named Simmons Law School, pending approval from the SIU Board of Trustees in April.

The transformational donation comes as the law school is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It will enhance and expand the educational offerings to students and opportunities for faculty.

“Fifty years ago, we were founded in the public interest to serve the public good,” said Camille Davidson, dean of the SIU School of Law. “This generous gift empowers us to advance our mission on a larger scale and with an even greater impact.”

This historic gift – the largest SIU Carbondale has ever received – was announced Monday, Feb. 5, further cementing John and Jayne Simmons’ legacy at SIU, which includes a $10.2 million commitment to the Simmons Cancer Institute at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield. Their most recent contribution comes as a major step in the ongoing $500 million Imagine SIU 2030 fundraising campaign.

SIU School of Law exterior image with the text "Simmons Law School" located above the entryway.
Simmons Law School is depicted in this digitally altered image.

“We are so incredibly excited and inspired by this act of generosity,” Chancellor Austin Lane said. “John and Jayne Simmons are shining examples of the impact individuals can have on our institution and the entire region. Their unwavering support and diligent service speak volumes.”

John Simmons, a native and resident of Alton, is an SIU Edwardsville graduate, member of the SIU Board of Trustees, and chairperson and founder of Simmons Hanly Conroy law firm. His and Jayne’s support will help provide more access, services and opportunities to students seeking educational opportunities.

The law school is the alma mater of more than 180 local, state and federal judges. It has alumni practicing law in 48 states and more than 10 countries. It also features legal clinics that serve members of underrepresented communities and offer students real-world experience.

“The SIU university system has provided me with many opportunities to better my life,” John Simmons said. “A thriving law school will help support others in southern Illinois who are working hard day-to-day to improve their own lives. SIU holds a special place for me. We would really like people to look at Simmons Law School as an attainable place where they are welcome, they belong and they can thrive.”

A legacy of service, philanthropy

John Simmons has served two stints on the SIU Board of Trustees, the first from 2004 to 2015, and he was appointed again in 2019 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He has previously functioned as the board’s secretary and chairman. He earned his law degree from Southern Methodist University and previously served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer.

In 1999, John founded Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest plaintiff’s law firms. The firm has dedicated the past 25 years to representing workers and families impacted by mesothelioma, a fatal and preventable asbestos-related cancer. Under his leadership, the firm expanded to new practice areas and now employs more than 250 people, including more than 80 attorneys, in offices across the country. Most recently, the firm successfully helped lead the national effort to hold manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates accountable for the opioid epidemic. Firm employees have donated more than $1 million to local charities through the Simmons Employee Foundation and more than $20 million to cancer research nationwide.

Simmons Hanly Conroy has long been involved with SIU’s law school, providing internships and employing its graduates.

“We have been working collaboratively with Simmons Hanly Conroy for years,” Davidson said. “Its broad reach as a national law firm will help to elevate the law school’s recognition and reputation.”

The Simmons Cancer Institute at the SIU School of Medicine is a community-based patient care, research, education and outreach program created to improve cancer care for the citizens of central and southern Illinois. John Simmons also started an initiative to provide free dental care for veterans at the SIUE Dental School in Alton.

John and Jayne are civic leaders, community advocates, real estate developers and act as a catalyst for transformational change in southern Illinois. Beyond Simmons Hanly Conroy, John and Jayne founded AltonWorks, a social impact redevelopment company focused on the revitalization of historic downtown Alton as a healthy, thriving, walkable city. Community contributions are an important part of their story. They have invested significant resources, including time, money and advocacy to people, programs, issues, initiatives and causes designed to create opportunities to help people better their lives.

AltonWorks was founded on the principles of livability, environmental stewardship, social justice and inclusivity and believes in rebuilding communities for optimum social impact. AltonWorks offers thought leadership, planning, convening and connecting, adding capacity to the region’s ability to attract funding, expand social impact, catalyze economic growth and anchor downstate recovery.

Scholarship dinner honors donors, encourages philanthropy

By Jeff Wilson

On Friday, Nov. 3, the SIU Foundation hosted the 10th annual SIU Scholarship Dinner in the Student Center Ballroom. The event, which celebrates the impact of scholarships, was attended by more than 100 donors and 73 scholarship recipients.

“We have so many more scholarships available, and so many more students accepting those scholarships, that we’re going to need a bigger room next year. This is our biggest crowd ever,” said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation.

During the 10 years of the event, the Foundation has awarded 12,748 scholarships, totaling more than $28 million. In the most recent fiscal year, the Foundation awarded a record number of scholarships (1,645) and total scholarship dollars ($4,931,584).

“Right now, one out of every seven students on our great campus receives a scholarship through the Foundation because of one of you and your generosity,” Kupec said.

SIU System President Dan Mahony emphasized the value scholarships present to the students and the university.

“For students, scholarship support can make the difference and enable them to finish or help them decide whether to come to SIU in the first place,” he said. “It’s critical to our university’s future and our ability to increase enrollment. It has a generational impact. It impacts the student, affects their families, and the generation after that.”

Dr. Amanda Martin ’07 ’08 provided the keynote address, and shared the story of how a fateful high school trip to SIU changed her life.

“We came to an event at SIU for FFA, and my name was randomly drawn to receive a scholarship,” she said. “I knew at that point I was meant to be a Saluki.”

Majoring in agribusiness economics, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s from SIU’s College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences. She also met her husband, Nick, in class.

“I absolutely loved the passion of the people that I had around who were focused on feeding a growing world and helping other people. I knew that one day, because of the experience I had at SIU, I wanted to give back to the place that helped me gain so much both personally and professionally,” Martin said.

LaMya Roach, a junior from Metropolis studying information technology in the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, gave the student perspective. A McNair Scholar, she has received the Sabrina Dawn Atkinson Scholarship and Mike Lawrence Scholarship. She was recently selected for the 2024 Alexander Lane Internship through the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

“As a first-generation college student, I knew that paying for college was going to be a huge hurdle. I was able to receive some amount of financial aid, but I knew that wasn’t going to cover all the costs. However, I wasn’t going to let that deter me,” she said. “When I saw the email that I had received a scholarship, I was so elated, and the stress I had been holding went away. I am so thankful for my donor because he is allowing me to continue my education, and he will never know how much that means to me.”

For more information about the SIU Foundation or to make a gift, visit siuf.org.

Smith endows chair, champions support for the university

By Jeff Wilson

Growing up in the small Randolph County town of Walsh, SIU was the only reasonable college option for Ron Smith.

“It was where you could get the most bang for your buck,” he said. “SIU was so good to me and changed my life and made it better than it would have been.”

Since graduating in 1964 with a degree in marketing and a master’s in business administration in 1966, Smith has stayed engaged with his alma mater, including donating close to $170,000 over the last 20 years. Now, he’s taken his support a step further, making a gift of stock worth more than $480,000 to endow the Ronald L. Smith Endowed Chair in Marketing at the College of Business and Analytics.

Endowed chairs help attract and retain high-level faculty members by making the position more attractive and keeping salaries competitive with other institutions.

“I’m doing this to help the students of SIU,” Smith said. “I want to make the program stronger and provide better opportunities and better training for the students. We want to attract big names and incentivize them to stay.”

Before making his major gift to endow the chair in COBA, much of Smith’s philanthropy has been directed toward Saluki Athletics. Despite living in California, he has maintained season tickets to Saluki Football games and supported the Blackout Cancer fundraiser.

Smith has fond memories of his time at SIU, noting that he attended the university during the Delyte Morris era and the time of College of Business Dean Henry J. Rhen, for which the COBA building is named. Smith was also classmates with another of SIU’s most prolific benefactors, F. Lynn McPheeters.

“Dr. Morris was wonderful to listen to, and I was lucky to be there during his era,” Smith said. “The university had lots of programs that were geared toward students with limited financial resources. I was fortunate enough to make good enough grades that my professors thought I was a good candidate for graduate school.”

After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and spent 30 months in Colombia. He worked with farmers and fishermen, teaching them how to make the most of their assets. He credits his education from SIU with giving him the expertise to share with those people and give them a vested interest in the business side of their industry.

Smith, a first-generation student whose niece now attends SIU as a fourth-generation student, said his continued support of the university shows the impact alumni can have even when they’re not able to get to campus as often as they may like.

“Is there a way you can help build up the university?” Smith said. “Even if you’re in California, like me, you can help folks in Southern Illinois.”

For more information about supporting the university, visit siuf.org.

Professor Sharp’s $1M Donation, Five-Day Celebration

Professor James Franklin Sharp headshot
Professor James Franklin Sharp

Editor’s note: recap provided by Professor Sharp and his team.

Introduction:

James Franklin Sharp grew up in Chester Illinois, and now lives and works in New York City.

He was a 1954 graduate of Chester High School and then completed in 1956 the two-year Pre-Engineering Program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (before SIU had a four-year Engineering Program). He had a great time at SIU. He lived in Doyle Dorm, which was in the back of the Baptist Foundation Building. Doyle Dorm was conveniently located near the compact SIU campus at that time when SIU only had about 4,000 students. He liked the small class sizes and had mainly senior professors, including the Head of Mathematics, Head of Physics, and Head of Economics. He participated in 7 intramural sports: football, corkball, volleyball, basketball, softball, badminton, and horseshoes for Doyle Dorm. He enjoyed being a member of Theta Xi Fraternity, which hosted the very popular annual Theta Xi Variety Show.

Professor Sharp is pleased to be able to give back to SIU with a $1,000,000 donation and is grateful to have the SHARP MUSEUM named after him. He returned to SIU 2023 Homecoming Week from Wednesday, October 18 to Sunday, October 22 for five days of special events celebrating the dedication of the SHARP MUSEUM.

Day 1. Wednesday

Melissa, Professor, Linda on AA Flight NY to St. Louis
Melissa Marks, Professor Sharp, Linda Li on American Airlines Flight from New York to St. Louis.

Wednesday Professor Sharp took an American Airlines flight from New York to St. Louis Air­port. He was accompanied by his Business Manager, Melissa Marks, and Assistant, Linda Li. At the St. Louis Airport, they were picked up by SIU Dean of Library Affairs (including SHARP MUSEUM) John Pollitz, and his Direc­tor of Development, Kevin Clark.

There was a 2-hour drive in an SIU van to the Hilton Suites Hotel in Carbondale, Illinois. They ordered takeout food and had a small wel­come dinner in the lobby of the hotel. They were soon joined by Professor Sharp’s sister, Rosanna Sharp Myers, and her daughter, Stephanie Myers Smith, who drove down from the St. Louis Airport, after a flight from Atlanta.

Day 2. Thursday Morning

In Front of SHARP MUSEUM, Melissa,Professor, Rosanna, Stephanie, Linda
In Front of SHARP MUSEUM, Melissa,
Professor, Rosanna, Stephanie, Linda

Thursday morning Professor Sharp, Melissa, Linda, Rosanna, and Stephanie toured the SHARP MUSEUM.

Plaques for Professor James Franklin Sharp, and Rosanna Sharp Myers, are being installed inside the SHARP MUSEUM.

SHARP MUSEUM has a Fine and Decorative Arts Collection, with more than 4,000 items. That includes regional historical and contempo­rary ethnic and folk art.

Professor James Franklin Sharp Plaque

SHARP MUSEUM has a Science Collection that includes more than 26,000 geological specimens and a collection of early 20th-century medical and dental items.

SHARP MUSEUM has a Humanities Collection with more than 22,000 items, including a historic collection of Southern Illinois and general American history. The Rosanna Sharp Myers Southern Illinois Gallery is named after Professor Sharp’s sister. One large painting shows Lincoln & Douglas at their debate in Jonesboro, Illinois.

Rosanna Sharp Myers Plaque

After touring the SHARP MUSEUM, the Sharp Group looked at some of the nearby SIU Campus. Professor Sharp liked to see the old Doyle Dorm, where he lived at SIU, which is next to the SHARP MUSEUM. They all admired the Three Salukis Statue, across the street from the old Doyle Dorm, with the popular SIU symbol, Pulliam Hall, in the background.

Rosanna and Stephanie went inside nearby Woody Hall, where Rosanna first lived at SIU. Then Kevin Clark drove the group to see the Buckminster Fuller Dome House.

The group had Quarto’s famous deep-pan pizza for lunch.

Three Salukis Statue with Melissa & Linda

Day 2. Thursday Evening

Thursday evening there was a SIU Foundation Board Dinner, that honored Professor Sharp. SIU Marching Band, SIU Cheerleaders, and SIU Saluki Dog Mascot participated. Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation, was the moderator. Matt, SIU President Daniel Mahony, and SIU Chancellor Austin Lane made remarks praising Professor Sharp.

Matt Kupec, SIU Foundation CEO
SIU Saluki Dog Mascot, Foundation Dinner

Day 3. Friday

Sharp Group had Brunch at the famous Mary Lou’s Grill, including having their very popular Biscuits & Gravy.

Standing Room Only At Dedication

The dedication Ceremony for the SHARP MUSEUM was Friday afternoon. There was a larger-than-expected attendance at the Dedication Ceremony, with a large standing-room-only number of people.

SIU Dean John Pollitz At Dedication

Dean John Pollitz was the moderator and made remarks praising Professor Sharp. SIU President Daniel Mahony and SIU Chancellor Austin Lane also made remarks praising Professor Sharp.

SIU Chancellor Austin Lane At Dedication
SIU System President Daniel Mahony At Dedication

Professor Sharp thanked Dean Pollitz, President Mahony, and Chancellor Lane. He then recognized the SHARP MUSEUM Curators: Wes Stoerger and Susannah Munson. Also, Chester High School Superintendent Mrs. Kimberly Briggs, Chester High School Principal Jeremy Blechle, former Doyle Dorm Roommate Roger Chitty, and Theta Xi Alumni who were present, were recognized.

Professor Sharp At Dedication

Friday evening there was a Dedication Dinner at the well-known Giant City Lodge Restaurant. Dean Pollitz again was the moderator. At the Dedication Dinner, Alumni of Beta Delta Chapter of Theta Xi Fraternity at SIU, represented by Scott Shelton, Julian Pei, and Scott Nordentoff honored Professor Sharp with a Plaque stating “In Recognition of Outstanding Service and Dedication.”

Theta Xi Plaques At Dedication Dinner

Also, Shawn Monsen, Theta Xi Fraternity Na­tional Director of Alumni Engagement traveled from Theta Xi Headquarters in Atlanta to honor Professor Sharp. He presented him with a Theta Xi Founders Circle Award Plaque and Rosette Lapel Pin.

Day 4. Saturday

Professor Sharp In SIU Homecoming Parade

SIU Homecoming Parade was on Saturday morning. Professor Sharp was an Honoree, riding in a classic BMD red convertible. Rosanna Sharp Myers also was in a red convertible, accompa­nied by her daughter Stephanie Myers Smith.

Rosanna In SIU Homecoming Parade

SIU Homecoming Football Game was Saturday afternoon in Saluki Stadium. There was a fly­over by a U.S. Air Force Plane just before the kickoff. Sharp Group was invited to watch the game from a luxury suite in Saluki Stadium. They had a great buffet lunch before and during the game. There was an excellent view of the football game and the halftime show by the SIU Marching Band.

In the Foundation’s Suite For SIU Homecoming Football Game
View of SIU Marching Band at Homecoming Football Game

Saturday evening there was a Farewell Dinner at the 20’s Hideout Steakhouse in Marion.

Day 5. Sunday

Sharp House in Chester

Sunday morning Rosanna and Stephanie drove their rental car back to the St. Louis airport to catch their flight back to Atlanta.

Dean John Pollitz and Kevin Clark drove Professor Sharp, Melissa, and Linda back to the St. Louis airport to catch their flight back to New York. They took Route 3 through Chester. They drove by the Sharp Home in Chester, where Professor Sharp and Rosanna grew up. They also stopped at Chester High School, where they sat on the Professor Sharp Bench, in front of the entrances to the Sharp Cafeteria, which also led to the Sharp Library & Media Center.

CHS Professor Sharp Bench

Sharp Museum dedicated in honor of $1M donation

Professor James Franklin Sharp attended SIU from 1954 to 1956

By Jeff Wilson

With a $1 million gift, Professor James Franklin Sharp has chiseled his name into SIU’s legacy. Now, the university has honored his generosity by renaming the University Museum as Sharp Museum.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the university unveiled the Sharp Museum naming and renamed the Southern Illinois Gallery as the Mrs. Rosanna Sharp Myers Southern Illinois Gallery, after Sharp’s sister.

“(Professor Sharp) is forever tied to the history of this institution,” Chancellor Austin Lane said. “How fitting to have something like this during Homecoming week.”

Professor Sharp attended SIU from 1954 to 1956, but the university didn’t offer a four-year degree in engineering at that time. Still, he said he always felt a strong connection to the university.

While an SIU student, he played seven intramural sports, including football, corkball, basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, and horseshoes. He was a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.

“Professor Sharp was all in during his time at SIU,” said SIU System President Dan Mahony. “He took advantage of that experience, and when you do that, it becomes a life habit.”

He transferred to the University of Illinois from SIU and completed his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering. He later earned a master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University.

“I guess I would say I enjoyed my time at SIU more than the other colleges I attended,” Professor Sharp said.

Professor Sharp taught at three universities: Rutgers University, New York University Stern Graduate School of Business, and Pace University Lubin Graduate School of Business. He also held management positions at AT&T and founded Sharp Seminars in New York, which became a leading provider of training for Wall Street investment analysts and investment portfolio managers.

He has also written 36 books and had many articles published. He has achieved the following professional designations: CFA, CIPM, CMA, CFM, and Mensa.

A Chester High School graduate, Professor Sharp has made supporting education a lifelong endeavor. He has made multiple donations to Chester schools, totaling more than $600,000.

Sharp Museum first opened as a natural history museum in 1874, and it has evolved into a teaching museum that represents the humanities, the sciences, and the arts. With roughly 70,000 objects in its care, the Sharp Museum captures and illuminates the human story, opening a window to who we are and where we came from.

“This museum is deep in my heart,” said Dean of Library Affairs John Pollitz. “It’s such an incredible resource for this whole area.”

Tedricks make historic $6M donation, naming SIU welcome center

New building planned to engage prospective students, community

The image depicts a spacious green landscape in front of a grand two-story building labeled "TEDRICK WELCOME CENTER." The architectural design of the center showcases large white pillars, arched windows, and red brick accents.
This concept art shows what the Tedrick Welcome Center could look like once constructed. (Provided by Hafer Architects)

By Jeff Wilson

CARBONDALE – With a $6 million donation, Roger and Sally Tedrick are leaving yet another indelible mark on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus.

In honor of their donation, a planned new building on campus will be named the Tedrick Welcome Center. The proposed building was presented to the SIU Board of Trustees’ architecture and design committee in April, and approval of its construction will be on the board’s Feb. 8 agenda.

Image of Roger and Sally Tedrick dressed formally at an SIU event smiling while standing next to Salukis.

Roger and Sally Tedrick are both alumni of Southern Illinois University and have long been supporters of the university. (Provided by Roger and Sally Tedrick)

“This university is moving forward in an exciting way, imagining a future with more students and prolific success,” Roger Tedrick said. “Sally and I knew we wanted to be part of something that would make a tremendous impact, and this welcome center is just that. It will be the launching point for thousands of Saluki journeys.”

SIU Admissions will begin open houses, orientations and host groups of students at the welcome center, which will be located just off U.S. Highway 51, near the previous location of McAndrew Stadium.

“Roger and Sally Tedrick are visionaries. They believe in our mission, and this gift exemplifies their remarkable dedication to this university and all Southern Illinois,” said Chancellor Austin Lane. “The Tedrick Welcome Center will be the first place that students walk into and experience what it’s like to be a Saluki. It is the capstone to our strategic plan.”

Roger Tedrick, a 1970 graduate of SIU’s College of Liberal Arts, is a member of the SIU Board of Trustees and the SIU Foundation Board of Directors. He is the owner and CEO of Tedrick Group Risk Management Solutions, based in Mount Vernon. Raised in Carbondale, he attended University High School on SIU’s campus. Sally Tedrick is a 1973 graduate of the SIU School of Education.

The Tedricks have a rich tradition of supporting the university. Their many contributions have included creating an endowed fund to enhance university excellence, making a lead donation toward the construction of the Saluki Alumni Plaza, sponsoring the inaugural Saluki Ball, and supporting numerous causes across campus.

“It’s a great pleasure to thank Sally and Rogers for how they have served SIU Carbondale,” said SIU System President Dan Mahony.

The state-of-the-art building will also house the philanthropy center, which will include SIU Foundation offices.

“It is more important than ever to support an institution as historic and impactful as SIU,” Roger Tedrick said. “This is the perfect thing for us to do. This building is going to help bring in and recruit the next generation of Saluki students.”

University breaks ground on SIU Credit Union Event Center

Photo Caption: Brian Croft, director of Touch of Nature (from left); William Lo, executive director, Carbondale Chamber of Commerce; Darin Fager, president, Fager-McGee Construction; Chancellor Austin Lane; Sara Bond, director of development, SIU Foundation; state Sen. Dale Fowler; Kim Babington, vice president of community outreach, SIU Credit Union; Nicole Gray, program assistant for hospitality service, Touch of Nature; Mike Lantrip, president, SIU Credit Union; Chris Sievers, chairman, SIU Credit Union Board of Directors; and Tom Brummer, associated director of facilities and operations, Touch of Nature break ground on the SIU Credit Union Event Center on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center.
Photo Caption: Brian Croft, director of Touch of Nature (from left); William Lo, executive director, Carbondale Chamber of Commerce; Darin Fager, president, Fager-McGee Construction; Chancellor Austin Lane; Sara Bond, director of development, SIU Foundation; state Sen. Dale Fowler; Kim Babington, vice president of community outreach, SIU Credit Union; Nicole Gray, program assistant for hospitality service, Touch of Nature; Mike Lantrip, president, SIU Credit Union; Chris Sievers, chairman, SIU Credit Union Board of Directors; and Tom Brummer, associated director of facilities and operations, Touch of Nature break ground on the SIU Credit Union Event Center on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center.
Facility funded by $500K donation

MAKANDA – With shovels in the ground, progress is officially under way on the SIU Credit Union Event Center at Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center. The project is being funded by a $500,000 donation from the credit union.

Chancellor Austin Lane was joined by state Sen. Dale Fowler and representatives from SIU Credit Union, Touch of Nature, Fager-McGee Construction, the SIU Foundation, and the university for a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 27, near the entrance of Touch of Nature.

“SIU students get their start right here at Touch of Nature,” Chancellor Lane said. “We are fully behind this project, and we want to thank the SIU Credit Union for all they do.”

At the beginning of each fall semester, Touch of Nature hosts Dawg Days for incoming students, providing them with an opportunity to have fun, make friends, and learn more about SIU.

In August 2021, the SIU Credit Union presented a $500,000 check to fund the construction project. The hope is to have the event center completed in the spring of 2024.

“Touch of Nature is a pride and joy of SIU,” Chancellor Lane said at the time. “This partnership with SIU Credit Union is magnificent. This gift will provide the credit union with great visibility among our students and the community.”

SIU Credit Union has a long history of supporting the university, including major donations during the annual SIU Day of Giving. In recent years, the credit union has supported SIU’s New Student Programs, Saluki Food Pantry, and Morris Library, along with Touch of Nature.

“We knew that we needed to do something for SIU and the region,” said Mike Lantrip, CEO of SIU Credit Union. “We think it’s going to be something that helps put Southern Illinois on the map even more.”

Touch of Nature is a full-service outdoor education center that serves SIU, the region, and the nation. It provides opportunities for team building, environmental education, zip lining, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, overnight camps, and more. Nationally recognized for its therapeutic recreation camp, Camp Little Giant, Touch of Nature has provided camps and programs for people with disabilities since 1952. Touch of Nature is an ACA-accredited facility, a National Environmental Education Landmark, and soon to be home to an IMBA-designed Mountain Bike Park.

“This is an incredible partnership with SIU Credit Union,” said Brian Croft, director of Touch Nature. “We expect this to be a spot for community members to come and enjoy the outdoors. It’s amazing to see what facilities like this can do for SIU.”

Croft also introduced state Sen. Fowler and praised his continued support for Touch of Nature and the university. Fowler said he appreciates the impact the event center will have on tourism in the region.

“This facility will be an amazing complement to Touch of Nature,” Fowler said.

For more information about Touch of Nature, visit ton.siu.edu.

Professor James Franklin Sharp donates $1 million, honored with museum naming

Professor James Franklin Sharp headshotWith a $1 million gift, Professor James Franklin Sharp has chiseled his name into SIU’s legacy. Now, the university will honor his generosity by renaming the University Museum as Sharp Museum.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, the university will host a ceremony in front of the museum to unveil the name and honor Professor Sharp, who will be in attendance along with friends and family. Chancellor Austin Lane will give remarks at 4 p.m.

“Professor Sharp’s incredible giving spirit inspires us all,” said John Pollitz, dean of Library Affairs, which oversees the museum. “This gift will make a profound impact on both educational and cultural opportunities for our students, faculty, and the region.”

Professor Sharp attended SIU from 1954 to 1956, but the university didn’t offer a four-year degree in engineering at that time. Still, he said he always felt a strong connection to the university.

While an SIU student, he played seven intramural sports, including football, corkball, basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, and horseshoes. He was a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.

“I lived in Doyle Dorm with three roommates, whom I have stayed in touch with over all these years,” Professor Sharp said. “Corkball was my favorite sport, and the Theta Xi Variety Show was a big deal in those days. At the time, I could have never imagined I’d even have $1 million, period.”

He transferred to the University of Illinois from SIU and completed his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering. He later earned a master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University.

“I guess I would say I enjoyed my time at SIU more than the other colleges I attended,” Professor Sharp said. “At SIU, the classes were small and taught by senior professors. I enjoyed watching SIU football and basketball games. They were always very crowded.”

Professor Sharp taught at three universities: Rutgers University, New York University Stern Graduate School of Business, and Pace University Lubin Graduate School of Business. He also held management positions at AT&T and founded Sharp Seminars in New York, which became a leading provider of training for Wall Street investment analysts and investment portfolio managers.

He has also written 36 books and had many articles published. He has achieved the following professional designations: CFA, CIPM, CMA, CFM, and Mensa.

A Chester High School graduate, Professor Sharp has made supporting education a lifelong endeavor. He has made multiple donations to Chester schools, adding up to more than $600,000.

“After making gifts to other institutions, I realized the kind of impact I was able to make. During one of my trips back to SIU, I visited the museum and thought it could use some funding,” Professor Sharp said. “So, I thought why not go big and make it $1 million.”

SIU Credit Union sponsoring Saluki Women’s Weekend

Kim Babington stands in front of SIU Credit Union logo on an interior wall.

SIU Credit Union is a presenting sponsor of the second annual Saluki Women’s Weekend from Oct.  4-7 in the SIU Student Center.

“This conference will bring women together,” said Kim Babington, the credit union’s vice president of community outreach. “It is so nice to finally have a conference that focuses on the needs of a woman.”

The SIU Credit Union has a long history of supporting the university, including major donations during the annual SIU Day of Giving. In recent years, the credit union has supported SIU’s New Student Programs, Saluki Food Pantry, and Morris Library, along with Touch of Nature.

“SIU Credit Union is all about giving back to its community,” Babington said.

This year’s Saluki Women’s Weekend will be jampacked with events.

On Oct. 4, the SIU School of Law will host speaker Jill Wine-Banks as part of its Hiram H. Lesar Lecture Series. Wine-Bank served as a prosecutor in the Watergate scandal and was the first woman to be the General Counsel of the Army and the first woman to be the American Bar Association executive director.

On Oct. 6, there will be a Networking Breakfast from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m.; Saluki Sisterhood Empowering Today, Inspiring Tomorrow from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; Empowerment Conference Session I from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. (3 sessions); Women in Philanthropy Luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Empowerment Conference Session II from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. (3 sessions); Women’s Vendor Fair open from 1 to 3 p.m.; and Saluki Women’s Awards Reception from 3 to 4 p.m. These events will be hosted at the SIU Student Center.

On Oct. 7, there will be a Mentorship Brunch at 9:30 a.m., and the Women’s Leadership Council Board Meeting from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

All public events are free. Some events will be invitation-only, and others may yet be added to the schedule. Visit siuf.org/salukiwomen for more information or contact Sherrica Hunt, assistant vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion, at sherricah@foundation.siu.edu.