Rosser seeks to inspire with $1M basketball scholarship

Dr. James M. Rosser is a three-degree alumnus of SIU.

Dr. James M. Rosser is a three-degree alumnus of SIU.

By Jeff Wilson

Dr. James M. Rosser is thankful for the opportunity presented to him by SIU, and he has been sure to pay it forward at every turn.

“I was very fortunate,” said Rosser BA ’62, MA ’63, Ph.D. ’69. “SIU gave me a new lease on life.”

Raised in East St. Louis, Rosser was the youngest of eight children and the first in his family to attend college. He came to SIU on a basketball scholarship. He was an honor student and earned degrees in health education and microbiology. Now, he’s honoring that experience by establishing a $1 million scholarship for Saluki Men’s Basketball. It’s the single largest endowed scholarship for any Saluki Athletics program.

“I want to help lift men’s basketball back to where it should be and give Coach Bryan Mullins a real leg up,” he said. “In today’s world, major revenue sports are attractive to prospective students.”

Rosser combined two previously established endowments to create a single million-dollar scholarship that will be directed to a men’s basketball player who maintains a 3.0 grade-point average in the field of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

“This scholarship is not about me,” he said. “It’s about the institution that inspired me to achieve. I want to inspire other people of modest means to create opportunity for those who come after us.”

Part of SIU history

Dr. James M. Rosser (fourth from right) and Dr. Harold R. Bardo (second from left) were members of the 1960-61 Saluki Men’s Basketball team, coached by Harry Gallatin. (Photo provided by Dr. Harold R. Bardo)

Dr. James M. Rosser (fourth from right) and Dr. Harold R. Bardo (second from left) were members of the 1960-61 Saluki Men’s Basketball team, coached by Harry Gallatin. (Photo provided by Dr. Harold R. Bardo)

Coming to SIU in the late 1950s, Rosser has fond memories of his time in Carbondale. He was mentored by some of SIU’s most storied faculty and administrators and friends with some of the university’s most well-known Salukis.

“Don Boydston, the athletic director at the time, set a high standard for us, and he closely monitored our progress,” Rosser said. “I was roommates with Charles Vaughn. Walt Frazier was a very good friend of mine. I was in graduate school when he was playing at SIU.”

One of Rosser’s closest friends from his time at SIU is Dr. Harold R. Bardo. The two men speak on the phone almost daily to this very day.

“I met Jim in 1958. He’s the ultimate example of what can happen for students when they’re given the opportunity. He was able to stay in school and get three degrees from SIU,” said Bardo, who earned three degrees from the SIU System, including his bachelor’s from SIU in 1962, a master’s from SIUE, and a doctorate from the SIU College of Education.

Bardo sees the potential impact of a gift of this magnitude, especially when it’s made by someone of Rosser’s background and stature.

“I know Jim has a lot of really good thoughts about SIU,” Bardo said. “This is a university that has traditionally offered opportunities to all people, particularly those from underrepresented communities. Jim is the ultimate example of what great things can happen. Many people will take pride in that example.”

A distinguished career

Rosser began his career as a member of the faculty at SIU and founded the Black American Studies program in 1968. He received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1982, the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2003. An Honorary Doctor of Laws degree was conferred by Pepperdine University in 2005.

Rosser served as president of California State University, Los Angeles, from 1979 to 2013, and was named president emeritus in 2013. Prior to his appointment at Cal State LA, he served for five years as vice chancellor of the State of New Jersey Department of Higher Education and served as acting chancellor in 1977. Earlier in his academic career, he was senior associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas, where he was also a tenured faculty member in the School of Pharmacy and the School of Education.

For three years early in his career, he was a research bacteriologist for Eli Lilly and Company. Over the ensuing decades, he promoted science and engineering education, and he sought ways to galvanize the synergies between science and engineering education, research, technology, and industry.

“My hope is that this scholarship will inspire incoming student-athletes to achieve at the highest level,” Rosser said. “I want to encourage them to aspire to be great and effective role models.”

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Ameren Illinois grant to support Paul Simon Institute’s ‘Illinois Authors’ series

Jason Klein, regional director of electric operations (left), and Brad Kloeppel, regional director of natural gas operations (right), pose with John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, to celebrate Ameren’s $10,000 contribution to support the institute’s “Illinois Authors” speaker series.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale received a $10,000 grant from Ameren Illinois to expand its “Illinois Authors” speaker series statewide.

The institute started “Illinois Authors” in August to meet the writers who bring the Prairie State to life. The series builds on the institute’s “Illinois 101” essential reading guide, for which several Illinois leaders recommended histories, biographies, novels, or essays to provide a deeper understanding of the state.

The funding from Ameren Illinois will allow the institute to host a series of public events in 2022 in Carbondale and other Illinois communities.

“The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is very grateful to Ameren Illinois for this generous grant,” John Shaw, institute director, said. “It will help the Institute expand our ‘Illinois Authors’ program, which seeks to deepen our understanding of Illinois through compelling conversations with Prairie State authors. This grant will be instrumental as we present these conversations throughout Illinois.”

The grant funds were made available through the Ameren Cares program. Brad Kloeppel, regional director of natural gas operations for Ameren Illinois, said the key focus of the Ameren Cares program is to connect the company with the communities it serves to help empower and improve the quality of life in Ameren Illinois’ service territories.

“Illinois has such a rich history and we’re happy to support the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute as it helps expose students and the community to its literature as a way to successfully move forward,” Kloeppel said.

Sahlin establishes scholarship for the SIU College of Business and Analytics

Bill Sahlin has lived and worked all over the world, but he hasn’t forgotten the role SIU played in his life over 50 years ago.

“I enjoyed my experience at SIU tremendously. Coming from urban Chicago to a small-town beautiful environment was refreshing. I worked at Neeley Hall as a maintenance manager at night and took classes during the day. Between that job and the scholarship I received, I managed to make ends meet,” said Sahlin.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the SIU College of Business, Sahlin went to Loyola University and received an MBA. Sahlin spent many successful years working for TransUnion Corporation headquartered in Chicago as an accountant. He ultimately worked for the U.S. Department of Defense as a senior auditor and retired from there in 2013.

During his professional career, Sahlin worked all over the world in such countries as Saudi Arabia, China, Taiwan and Thailand. It was during his time in Hong Kong when he met and married his wife Kim. Together, they recently established the Bill and Kim Sahlin Endowed Accounting Scholarship to the SIU College of Business and Analytics. This scholarship will be funded through an estate gift of $62,500.

“I know I never would have received a four-year college degree had it not been for the scholarship I received,” said Sahlin.

“SIU is a good place to go, especially for people like me. Like so many who attended SIU, I was a first-generation student. SIU provided people like me with a good education and it was a great choice. I just want to help a young person who is in the same boat as I once was so many years ago.”

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Saluki Spotlight – Pete Renz – Donor-Teacher-Public Safety professional

Meet Peter Renz, ’97, who majored in Fire Science Management through SIU’s extended campus’ program, now known as Public Safety Management. Renz received his SIU degree at the off-campus location of Quinn Fire Academy with the Chicago Fire Department. He also earned a master’s degree in Non-Profit Administration from the University of Notre Dame in 2001. Peter is a retired fighter from South Holland, Illinois, with a career that spanned 27 years working as an Engineer/Paramedic.

Renz currently works as an instructor, recruiter and as an advisor for the SIU’s Public Safety Management program. He is currently teaching public safety management, research, and risk reduction.

Renz says he receives great satisfaction in working with people from the first handshake all the way to their graduation from the program.

“It is very satisfying to see a student that you first met at a recruiting event or through word of mouth, and then to see them graduate and to see how happy their families are at graduation. After graduation, you can see the gratitude they have for us helping them succeed with a bachelor’s degree or their master’s degree,” said Renz.

Renz credits the SIU Extended Campus Program for allowing him to get his bachelor’s degree and appreciates the help he received from his classmates.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I would not have gone to college. The flexibility of this program allows a student to be successful. I also liked the comradery in the classrooms. Everyone was helping others if they were struggling. I especially enjoyed the labor relations, grant writing, and legal and budget courses,” he said.

Renz says that the courses he took during his time as a student in the SIU Extended Campus Public Safety Management allowed him to apply what he learned directly to his career.

“The labor relations course that I took in college helped me start our firefighter’s union, Local 4109 in South Holland. When I served as a school board president, I was able to negotiate one of the more difficult bargaining sessions, which I also learned from that course. Everyone involved was grateful at the ease of which the contract was hashed out. The grant writing course SIU offered me helped in an innovative way to give raises and fund special projects at the fire department,” said Renz.

Renz says one of the aspects of the extended campus program he enjoys most is that he gets to interact with students all over the country.

“I get to interact with students from a geographically wide range of locations. You quickly realize that every fire department shares many of the same issues from coast to coast,” he said.

Renz also enjoys the variety of his work and his interactions with a wide range of people.

“Depending on where I am on any given day, I may be meeting with the Commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department, or the over 5000 members of the department, to the newest candidates at the academies. I also meet with the union leaders, officers, engineers and firefighters of many departments in the Chicago region,” said Renz.

Renz credits his wife for his success throughout his career.

“My wife, Lori and I were going to college at the same time. She would push me from time to time. She is the smartest person I know. I also learned from others around me that taught me how to do something and how not to do something. You can learn from others’ mistakes,” he said.

As a donor to the SIU Public Safety Management department, Renz gives back because he believes the program has developed him into someone that can make a difference.

“Being a Saluki has taught me to look out for others and to help where I can. You know, I’ve often wished that if I had a $1,000 to give to the program, I would like to start a lending library of public safety management textbooks. We have some students that struggle when it comes to the cost of books. I try to offer alternatives. A $1,000 would be a nice start. My hope is that others will help me give back to such a wonderful SIU program as the SIU Extended Campus,” he said.

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

College of Engineering receives donation from the George Bates Foundation

Left to right: Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, Dr. Mike Murray and Dr. Bruce DeRuntz

By Rebecca Renshaw

The College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics received two checks for $19,000 each from a longtime supporter of the university.

Dr. Mike Murray, trustee of the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, presented Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu with a $19,000 check to go toward the George A. Bates Memorial scholarship.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing support by the Bates Foundation for these undergraduate scholarships,” Liu said. “These scholarships are important to our college, and we are deeply grateful to the Bates Foundation for their history of partnering with SIU.”

Murray also presented Dr. Bruce DeRuntz with a $19,000 check to support the College of Engineering’s Leadership Development Program. Based in the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, the LDP is designed to mold students into future executive leaders in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by providing leadership training, mentoring and community service opportunities.

The LDP began with a donation from Dick Blaudow, an SIU engineering alumnus. Blaudow, along with his wife, Brigitte, established the program as a way to help develop the next generation of America’s technical leaders. DeRuntz, professor of technology who leads the LDP, said the program truly transforms these students into leaders.

“To achieve success, these students must prepare for success,” DeRuntz said. “This program gives them the tools to do so.”

Bates was a successful stock market investor and avid big game hunter. He was born in 1903 in the Chicago area, and resided in Cary until his death. The Bates Foundation was formed when he passed away in 1989. The foundation provides funding to numerous charitable organizations, as determined by its board of trustees. Along with SIU, the foundation supports The Hope Light Project, a cancer awareness organization, also located in southern Illinois.

“Mr. Bates believed in supporting education,” Murray said. “It has been an honor to be a trustee for the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, and it was a privilege to deliver these checks.” Other local organizations the foundation has supported include Brehm School, SIH Cancer Institute, the Poshard Foundation, Saluki Kids Academy, and Lead SI. The foundation supports eight different charities and has donated $3 million dollars in the last 10 years. A total of $6 million has been donated since its inception.

Murray was instrumental in securing funding from the Bates Foundation. As a former close friend and confidant of Bates, Murray was aware of Bates’ philanthropic tendencies. He submitted a proposal for support in 1997 while working as a central development officer for the SIU Foundation. Now, as a Bates Foundation trustee, he is able to continue to provide funding to scholarships at the College of Engineering.

The foundation looks for two things when deciding to support an organization: Dedication by the organization to the mission and passion for the cause of those representing the organization.  “I know the dean, and I know professor DeRuntz very well,” Murray said. “I have no doubt this money will be put to good use.”

A love of teaching inspires others

Lida and her class at Tamaroa Grade School where she began her teaching career.

Lida Lisenby Taylor’s life and commitment to education are being remembered through a scholarship fund set up by her daughter, Cynthia Taylor Rice.

The Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship Fund is awarded to a student enrolled in the school of education and majoring in teaching, counseling, or administration. The student must be a graduate of DuQuoin High School, Pinckneyville High School, or Tamaroa Grade School.

The scholarship was created by Rice in honor of her mother, who strongly believed in the power of an education.

“She came from a family of educators. My mom began her teaching career in Tamaroa after graduating from SIU in 1942. She was offered a position in DuQuoin where she taught English and Latin until her retirement in 1968,” Rice said.

Rice said that through the years she has met many of her mother’s students and they would share how important Latin and her mother were to them throughout their lives.

Lida and her roommates in front of their Carbondale boarding
house when it was Southern Illinois Normal.

“I had one of her former students tell me what an influence my mom had been on his life. He said my mother wasn’t just a teacher but an educator of the highest degree. His message and the many letters she received from scholarship recipient students have made me very proud of my mother and her influence on others,” Rice said.

When Taylor passed away in 2003, Rice went through the process of cleaning out her mother’s home.

“I found Latin projects and posters and memorabilia throughout the house. She had Roman chariots and Parthenon replicas everywhere. I remember one of her biggest projects was throwing a Roman banquet for the students. They wore togas and drank Roman punch. She pulled out all the stops for her students,” Rice said.

Rice said the scholarship is a way for her mother to continue to influence future educators.

“There are not too many things in the world that are more important than being a teacher and loving what you do. That philosophy very accurately describes my mother and her love of teaching,” said Rice.

Meet Jamie Newton, recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education is a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. Newton looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” Newton said.

Newton is grateful for the Lida Lisenby Taylor scholarship and how it has lessened the burden of her student loans.

“I would like to tell Mrs. Rice how thankful I am that they have so graciously chosen me to be the recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. I feel so grateful to have her support because she has helped give me the opportunity to further my education at SIU. The scholarship has definitely helped lift some of the weight of student loans,” she said. “Although Mrs. Rice does not know me personally, she will always be a part of my journey throughout college and into my future career. Her contribution has left its mark on my life and will affect the students that I will one day teach.”

Newton hopes others will follow in the path of Mrs. Rice and give to students who need financial assistance.

“For many students like me, scholarships help pursue our dreams and lessen the burden of student loans. Being the recipient of a scholarship, I understand how it comforts us to know that we don’t have to be alone while trying to pursue our dreams,” she said. “I also hope that someday I will provide the same sense of relief that I have felt after receiving a scholarship.”

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Putnam: Promoting a University of Access

It’s been 40 years since Adaire Putnam graduated from SIU, but her continued affinity for the school and its students is what brought her to the SIU Foundation Board of Directors.

“SIU is a tremendous place. It’s very important to me,” Putnam ’81 said. “My husband and I sent our two kids to SIU as students, but it wasn’t until recently that I became more involved on campus.”

It was a fellow alumnus who urged Putnam to join the SIU College of Business Advisory Board. She eventually became the chair of that board and was later elected to the SIU Foundation Board.

“The work done by the SIU Foundation is very powerful,” she said. “Our donors are investing in the future.”

Since joining the SIU Foundation Board in 2015, Putnam said she’s been excited by what she’s witnessed.

“I’m passionate about helping first-generation students, especially those of limited means,” she said. “Through scholarships and other programs, we’re able to help ensure that SIU is a university of access. I encourage alumni and others to continue to support the university’s vision.”

From then to now

After transferring to SIU following one year at Illinois Wesleyan, Putnam graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications in just two years. During this time, she also worked as an administrative assistant in the Department of Anthropology.

“Coming from a big city high school in Chicago, SIU was a good fit for me,” she said. “I was able to achieve my goals thanks to the dedicated faculty and outstanding courses.”

Directly thereafter, she started her lifelong career in corporate communications. She has worked for a number of large, global companies, including Edelman and Ketchum public relations agencies and Kellogg Company.

Currently, she’s the owner and president of Putnam Communications, helping companies advance and protect their reputations.

Through the years, she’s spent time living and working in Chicago and Michigan, but nowadays, she works and lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

“I’ve been working remotely long before the pandemic took it mainstream,” she said. “If I need to be in the U.S. for a meeting, I’m just a short flight away.”

While Putnam doesn’t live near SIU these days, her connection to the university has never been stronger.

“It’s never too late to get involved,” she said. “This is where I feel I can make a difference.”

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SIU Alumnus makes estate gift of $1 million

Brad Choate ’79, ’84 and his wife, Julie, are one of the university’s most devoted supporters. Their recent $1 million estate gift will provide funding for undergraduate scholarships and other key priorities.

The Choates, who reside in Georgetown, Texas, wanted to place SIU in their estate and help SIU remain strong for generations to come. The money will establish an endowed scholarship.

“I am so proud of SIU, and I thought this was the right way to give back to an institution that changed my life,” Brad Choate said. “While I am a first-generation alumnus, my parents drilled into my head at a young age that I would attend college. SIU just made sense as it was in the backyard of Marion, Illinois, where I grew up. I have to thank my parents for pointing me in a direction that would change my life.”

Choate is a veteran leader in the advancement industry, having served over 40 years as a fundraiser. He has served as president and CEO of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, vice president at the University of South Carolina, vice chancellor at the University of Arkansas as well as leadership positions at Penn State and Ohio State. He currently serves as special advisor to the vice president for development at the University of Texas at Austin. He and Julie, who is an accomplished artist, are also dedicated volunteers in their community.

“SIU is grateful to the Choates for their generosity and outstanding leadership,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “They demonstrate the values that we seek to instill in every SIU graduate.”

Choate said establishing the endowment through their estate just made sense, both financially and charitably for his family.

“I have seen the impact on both the donors and the students when a scholarship is created,” he said. “The impact positively affects our society and country at large.”

Raised in rural Carbondale and attending high school in Marion, Choate’s parents taught him the value of hard work, integrity, and giving back. “My parents had a clear vision of what they wanted for me so there was no doubt that getting a college degree was going to happen. I will be forever grateful to them for their direction,” he said.

Southern Illinois has a special place in his heart, largely because that is where he met Julie.

“I will never forget. I first laid eyes on her at the Dairy Queen in Marion. I was sitting at a picnic table with a friend one night, and this red Firebird drove up, and this beautiful girl jumped out,” he said. “She came over and we were introduced. I took her to Carbondale to see the sights, and we’ve never looked back since. We’ve been married 43 years.”

Choate’s Southern Illinois roots go back even further as his great uncle was Clyde Choate, a politician from Anna, Illinois, and a soldier. Choate served 30 years in the Illinois House of Representatives and during World War II, received the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for single-handedly destroying a German tank.

“SIU was always important to my Uncle Clyde. Even after he retired from the Legislature, he went to work for SIU to continue helping the university,” Choate said. Julie’s mother, Colleen Norman, has three degrees from SIU and taught at SIU and the university’s campus in Japan.

The Choates raised three children, Brent, Lauren, and Lindsey.

“Brent graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and became a fighter pilot. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin who works in marketing for a commercial insurance company in Texas, and Lindsey earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Arkansas and runs a prep school in Austin,” Choate said. “Julie and I are so blessed that all three of our children have grown up well and thrived in the world. Now, we want to ensure that other young people have the same opportunities as our children did.

“You don’t have to be phenomenally wealthy to help people. Lots of people can make an estate gift and really help others with a gift to SIU. It is our hope that we inspire others to do the same as we have done,” he said.

 

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SIU Credit Union donates $500K to SIU’s Touch of Nature

Chancellor Austin Lane discusses the impact of the $500,000 donation made by SIU Credit Union to construct an event center at Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

SIU Foundation Media Services

CARBONDALE – The SIU Credit Union presented a $500,000 check to SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center at an event Thursday morning in the office of SIU Chancellor Austin Lane.

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

The funds will be used to build the SIU Credit Union Event Center at Touch of Nature, which is located at 1206 Touch of Nature Road in Makanda, just a few miles from campus.

“The opportunity to give back to our community and to help it grow was a proposition that couldn’t be passed up. The Touch of Nature Event Center will showcase more of the beauty and fun of Southern Illinois, and we liked being able to help make a project like this happen,” said Mike Lantrip, CEO of SIU Credit Union. “SIU is the economic engine of our region, and this facility can be instrumental in helping our tourism industry. Similar projects have been proven in other regions to be a quality-of-life enhancement and have a great impact on the local economy. We don’t see why this can’t have the same impact on our area.”

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 Touch of Nature.

“We have had a great partnership with SIU Credit Union over the years,” said JD Tanner, director of Touch of Nature Environmental Center. “This gift speaks volumes about how they value the quality of our environment and community.”

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.

“We have sponsored and helped with a number of camps, events and other programs at this unique facility, and this seemed like a perfect fit to continue and grow in that capacity,” Lantrip said. “Mountain biking is growing in popularity, and we thought helping establish a facility such as this would be an asset to all parties involved. In addition to being a family-friendly destination, it will also help with student, faculty, and executive recruitment, bolster an already-strong forestry program within SIU, and cultivate our growing tourism identity. These are all things that will help our region, our members, and our local businesses prosper.”

From left: Mark Dynis, SIU Credit Union vice president of marketing, Sara Bond, SIU Foundation director of development, JD Tanner, Touch of Nature Environmental Center director, Kim Babington, SIU Credit Union vice president of community outreach, Mike Lantrip, SIU Credit Union CEO, Chancellor Austin Lane, Leah Weil, SIU Credit Union marketing assistant, and Matt Kupec, SIU Foundation CEO, pose for a photo with the $500,000 check the credit union donated to Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

‘SIU Changed my Life’

Dr. R. Lawrence Hatchett isn’t an SIU alumnus, but he’s most certainly a Saluki.

Raised in the historically black coal mining town of Colp, he attended University School, which was located in Pulliam Hall. It wasn’t easy for a child growing up during a time of racial division, but SIU made him feel right at home.

“SIU changed my life. Walking through campus on my way to class in third grade was like a dream world,” Dr. Hatchett said. “There was a feeling of utopia, and I never felt so accepted, so loved and appreciated, and it meant everything to me, and it still does even to this day.”

It’s that connection that brought Dr. Hatchett to SIU with the following pledge – $100,000 over four years to establish the Phoenix Cannabis Production Scholarship within the School of Agricultural Sciences. The scholarship, named after his son, Phoenix, will be available to African-American and Hispanic students.

“It was this campus, this university and my childhood experience that changed my life at a very critical time. I want the university and the caring people there to offer this same tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of talented young people by adding to the well-needed diversity in the cannabis industry,” he said.

Over time, Dr. Hatchett said he hopes to develop externships and create an endowment for the program.

Beyond his $100,000 commitment, Dr. Hatchett provided an additional $6,000 to fund the development of facilities in the School of Agricultural Sciences building to support the cannabis program. The upgrades will help improve research opportunities. “This is really important for us,” said Karen Jones, faculty coordinator for Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems. “This financial support helps us stay modern and gives students the opportunity to work with plants.”

Even though recreational cannabis only became legal to sell in Illinois at the start of 2020, SIU has been working toward having a program in place for years.

“Our goal is to help the people of Southern Illinois to explore this new, emerging career path,” Jones said. “Any time you start a new initiative, getting started is one of the biggest hurdles.”

Once Dr. Hatchett became familiar with Karen Jones and the School of Agricultural Sciences, he knew SIU was the right place for his investment.

“You never realize how much talent there is in a department until you look,” he said. “We are hoping to develop a footprint in the industry and highlight the talent we have.”

After attending Marquette University on a full basketball scholarship, Dr. Hatchett completed his medical school education at the University of Chicago and completed his internship and residency training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He eventually finished his fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital through Harvard Medical School.

A well-known urologist, Dr. Hatchett founded Southern Illinois Urology in Herrin in 2003. He has also spent time as a speaker for Pfizer pharmaceuticals, being featured both nationally and internationally.

“My path into the cannabis industry was atypical,” he said. “My mother, who was around 90 years old, was seeking pain relief alternatives, so I began researching cannabis.”

Once Illinois legalized recreational cannabis use, Dr. Hatchett became majority owner of Cannabliss Depot. “Medical cannabis helps with PTSD, seizure disorders, pain relief, and it has some anti-cancer applications,” he said. “It also helps with drug addiction if someone is hooked on opioids.”

According to Dr. Hatchett, doctors share the responsibility when it comes to solving these issues.

“We should be part of the solution and play a role in the future of cannabis,” he said. “We should allow research and prepare for the expansion of its use. I, personally, never used cannabis in my life, but I think it can help people.”

Challenges will arise, but Dr. Hatchett said he believes it’s possible to figure out all the legal details.

“I see the negative. We’re not promoting it for the young,” he said. “This is about responsible, adult use. We hope people will use good judgment.”