Blaudows’ gift supports additional scholarships

by Greg Scott

Blaudows’ gift supports additional SIU scholarships

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A common trait that successful executives share is the ability to recognize a solid investment. SIU Distinguished Alumnus Dick Blaudow, founder, chairman and CEO of Advanced Technology Services (ATS) Inc., in Peoria, is no different.

In 2006, Blaudow and his wife, Brigitte, donated $250,000 to SIU Carbondale’s College of Engineering to create an engineering leadership development program. Their gift funded 14 scholarships for community college graduates in the state of Illinois who planned on attending Southern. Just more than three years later, the Blaudows are contributing an additional $76,000 to fund five more scholarships. Recipients receive a two-year scholarship covering the cost of tuition, in addition to a paid summer internship at ATS offering hands-on manufacturing and leadership experience.

“I have great interest in the College of Engineering and SIU Carbondale. William Osborne (former engineering dean) motivated me to establish this program,” says Blaudow, a former member of the SIU Foundation Board of Directors. “It goes beyond ATS — I would like to see other corporations willing to support students through a leadership program like this one. Our University would be unique in this respect and stand for something.

“As our students continue to become leaders in supervision and management, it could urge parents to send their child to SIU. Leadership development is something our University could become known for.”

The 1970 electrical engineering graduate says ATS hired five SIU students who were recruited into the program. ATS provides managed services for production equipment maintenance, industrial parts repair and IT infrastructure support for manufacturers. The Peoria-based company employs more than 1,700 people, has five branch offices, and has more than 150 customer-site locations in the United States and Mexico.

“We were fortunate to have jobs for them when they graduated in May. These young people are doing well and we are very impressed,” he says. “I’ve had the privilege of spending time with them, meeting their families, and introducing them to other business and industry leaders. Brigitte and I call them ‘our kids.’

“We look forward to continuing the program.”

Bruce DeRuntz, an associate professor at Southern who directs the program, says Blaudow’s gift is a result of his strong desire to continue and expand the program. Recently, DeRuntz has also been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the program. The grant will allot the same basic funding for 29 students over the next four years.

“There is really no greater testament or validation of this program’s merit than to have the National Science Foundation exhibit this level of support,” DeRuntz says. “Our plan is for this program to mature into a leadership development institute with major corporate sponsors who have their own cohort of students participating. They will see the value of this early leadership development through high potential students.”

DeRuntz says the program is beneficial to all parties involved.

“Dick’s company is continuing to grow but a limiting factor is identifying and developing future technical leaders. This program provides ATS with an opportunity to develop their own leaders early on,” he says. “It presents Dick with an opportunity to give back to his alma mater which he has always maintained a strong relationship with. In addition, the leadership program provides financial support for students who are willing to work hard. This is what Dick and Brigitte set out to accomplish when they made the initial donation.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says the program supports multiple University objectives.

“This gift further exemplifies Dick and Brigitte Blaudow’s deep devotion to SIU Carbondale, the College of Engineering and its students. Their commitment accentuates the SIU Foundation’s motto of ‘Investing in Saluki Futures,’” he says. “The leadership program not only provides a significant recruitment vehicle for the College of Engineering, but it prepares our students to hit the ground running upon entering the workforce. The Blaudows have been extraordinarily supportive for several years and their vision continues to move this University forward.”

Blaudow’s vision is to develop leaders for the manufacturing industry, which he says has become a rare quality.

“There are fewer young people interested in manufacturing … which is disturbing and a challenge for those of us engaged in the industry,” he says. “In addition, the manufacturing environment is becoming more complex. As a result, we need a more educated, technology-savvy workforce and leadership skills are required.”

SIU’s engineering leadership program is designed to assist in developing and preparing students for leadership roles in manufacturing. DeRuntz says students are required to develop leadership skills via extra-curricular activities in the University and Carbondale communities.

“We meet weekly, invite military and industrial leaders in to speak and offer as much hands-on-experience as possible,” he says. “Our students are required to assume leadership roles in registered student organizations on campus, participate in the Beautify Southern Illinois clean-up project, and lead trail maintenance at Shawnee National Forest. Their leadership and ability to work as an effective team is beginning to gain national attention through their success the last two years in a national robotic competition.

“They nearly swept all of the awards at last year’s ATMAE competition. Other universities have begun to realize that SIU is always a contender for the championship.”

The expectations continue once they join ATS.

“We work these kids hard and have high expectations. They are introduced to industry and business leaders, and exposed to various large industry events,” Blaudow says. “They have to demonstrate leadership, be engaged in teamwork and resourcefulness. As a result, they spend a lot of time working on weekends as opposed to being out having fun.

“This is a good thing for our students who are ready to get a job when they graduate. It’s also good for companies who are making this investment in young people attending SIU. We’ve been very pleased and as a result, decided to step up again and bring in more students. It’s a really good thing for SIU.”

Brown’s $100,000 gift supports minority students

by Greg Scott

Ken Brown’s $100,000 gift supports minority students

CARBONDALE, Ill. — SIU Carbondale alumnus Ken Brown, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and success coach, proudly subscribes to Winston Churchill’s motto: “We make a living by what we got, but we make a life by what we give.” The 1988 food and nutrition graduate’s actions support his beliefs in a big way.

Brown, a Chicago native, is donating $100,000 to fund scholarships for minority students in various majors at Southern. His gift was made in cooperation with the University’s Hope and Opportunity initiative, which seeks to raise $1 million to provide equal opportunities and financial assistance to minority students and other traditionally underrepresented populations.

“My parents taught me that education was the way out of poverty. I took a leap of faith by attending SIU,” he says. “I’ve been afforded tremendous opportunities. According to the word of God, of whom much is given… much is required.

“I want to leave a legacy for students who have a desire to attend college, but may not necessarily have the means to do so. It is important for me to be a messenger of hope.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “Ken Brown is a gentleman who has conquered challenges to acquire a great deal of success. He is clearly thankful for the skills and knowledge he acquired as a student at SIU Carbondale and aspires to return the favor by supporting the educational goals of ambitious students who follow him. This represents an outstanding display of philanthropy and generosity on his part.”

The University and Carbondale communities can hear Brown’s story firsthand during his visit to campus on Monday, Jan. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 26. Brown will be speaking and visiting with various student organizations and leaders, the University’s student affairs division and campus administrators.

Presentations are open to the public at 7 p.m. both days. On Monday, attendees are invited to gather at the Student Center Auditorium, while Tuesday’s presentation will be held in the lower level of Grinnell Hall on campus. Book signing sessions are scheduled to take place after each event. In addition, Brown will also speak at a Brown Bag Luncheon at noon on Tuesday, in the Kaskaskia/Missouri Rooms of the Student Center.

The Division of Student Affairs is sponsoring Brown’s campus visit in conjunction with the SIU Foundation.

The owner and operator of two McDonald’s restaurants in the Detroit area by the age of 35, Brown says he relishes the opportunity to share his message with students at his alma mater.

“Life and success are about choices, challenges and change. Life is 10 percent of what happens to you, and 90 percent of how you respond to it,” he says. “Any student can be successful. Once you make your mind up to be successful, all that can stop this from happening is yourself. There is no other competition.”

Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs, says Brown’s message should resonate with the University community.

“I think he’s got a great message to share with people. It’s always good to have an alumnus come back and have a strong message to deliver to our students,” Dietz says. “This is a great opportunity for people to see a real success story and hear how he got from point A to point B. He came from very modest means and worked as a busboy and waiter when he came to SIUC as a student. He readily admits he could not have made it to where he is now if not for the support and assistance he received along the way.”

Brown, 43, was born to unmarried, teenage parents. He experienced a humble beginning to his life, including 10 home evictions. Despite financial challenges his family encountered, Brown’s parents stressed perseverance and insisted that each of their children attain a college education. He subsequently applied for Pell Grants, guaranteed loans and financial assistance. Brown entered SIUC in the fall of 1984. However, Brown had a modest C average in high school. Southern accepted him through its Center for Basic Skills (now Center for Academic Success), a special admissions program for students who display promise. He received probationary acceptance to SIUC, and had to earn at least a B average during his freshman year to be processed through general admissions. Brown wasn’t going to be denied; he accumulated a 3.15 grade point average and was accepted into full admission.

“I had a burning desire to be successful. I wasn’t the best student academically on campus, but there wasn’t anyone on campus with more desire. Desire is crucial to being successful as a student or employee,” he says. “My mother and father taught us that all things are possible if you believe. SIU presented me with an opportunity to be the author, director and star of my own destiny. “

Brown joined the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity his sophomore year. Additionally, he learned various facets of the restaurant business as a student worker at Saluki Grill, a small café on campus, which spurred his interest and passion for food service and management. After graduating from Southern, he was hired as an assistant director for ARA Services, a food management company. He spent the next 12 years progressing to various roles within the industry, including general manager for Wendy’s, sales manager for Kraft Foods, and sales consultant for The Assmussen Waxler Group and McDonald’s Corp., prior to becoming a McDonald’s owner.

The SIUC graduate’s book entitled, “From Welfare to Faring Well,” depicts his journey from welfare to millionaire. Brown has subsequently retired from McDonald’s, and currently serves as a life and success coach, and speaks to Fortune 400 companies, schools, churches and various organizations worldwide. In addition, he has authored and sold 20,000 copies of two life-changing books, “A Leap of Faith” and “L.I.F.E. – Living In Freedom Everyday.”

“As a life and success coach, my primary focus is to help people enhance their vision, find their passion and understand their actions,” Brown says. “The word of God is that to be truly great, you must first serve others. Once you find a need and fill it, you never want for money again. That is what SIU did for me. It provided solutions for me. I want our current students to have that sense of empowerment.”

Brown and his wife of 18 years, Deidre, live in West Bloomfield, Mich., with their three children – Austin, 14, Bradley, 11, and Drake, 8.

Nelson Family Honors Great Aunt with Scholarship

By Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Sandra Nelson Brown wanted to memorialize her great aunt for serving as an advocate for children in the school system, church, and community. The former Tamms resident and her family figured the most appropriate way to accomplish this was to provide financial aid for a young student who has aspirations of attending college.

The Nelson family established the Helen Nelson Davis Scholarship Fund through the Southern Illinois University Foundation. Eligible applicants must be graduates of a high school in the southern Illinois counties of Alexander or Pulaski, with a grade point average of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants must also major in education at SIUC with plans of pursuing a teaching career, much like Helen Davis.

The College of Education and Human Services Scholarship Committee will determine the recipient and amount of the award on an annual basis.

Brown, an employee of the Illinois State Police in Springfield, says: “My great aunt was a firm believer in education. She spent her entire life supporting young people in the school system, the church and community. I just thought this was an appropriate way to honor her memory.”

Helen M. Davis was a lifelong elementary school educator who earned two degrees from Southern. She completed a two-year teaching certificate program at the University in 1930. Davis subsequently received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education in 1944 and 1954, respectively.

“Aunt Helen was helpful in getting kids interested in reading and learning our history,” Brown says. “One of my favorite memories was Aunt Helen organizing programs during Black History Month. She wanted us as young adults to be educated about Black History and those who made contributions to our society before us. We were also asked to conduct presentations as part of her programs.”

While Davis didn’t have children of her own, she instilled the importance of education to Brown and her siblings. Five of the nine children in the Nelson family graduated from Southern. Cindy Nelson is a 1987 SIUC radio-television graduate and works for CNN in Atlanta; Marva Nelson received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English in 1996 and 1999, respectively, and is an instructor at Parkland Community College in Champaign; Gloria Wilkins is a 2001 administration of justice graduate and serves as a juvenile detention counselor in St. Louis; and Karen Warren, a 1991 political science graduate, subsequently attended law school at Saint Louis University and stayed in the metropolitan area to practice law. Brown’s brother, Harold “Skip” Nelson, a retired Illinois State Police officer, received an associate degree in law enforcement in 1978 from Southern. He subsequently received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University.

Brown herself is a 1984 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, where she studied interdisciplinary studies with a primary focus on chemistry and biology. She later received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

When asked why she didn’t attend Southern, Brown laughs: “I visited SIU, but received a full scholarship to Shawnee Community College, and later, to SEMO. But obviously, I have connections to the University through my great aunt and siblings. It has meant a great deal to my family.”

Brown’s parents, Harold and Claudia Nelson, live in Tamms, and it was important for the scholarship to support students in her family’s home counties. “Alexander and Pulaski Counties are two of the most economically-challenged counties in the state. We figured a deserving kid from one of those counties could at least receive some financial aid.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says Brown’s family is providing a fitting tribute to Davis.

“Countless young people clearly benefitted from Helen Davis’ positive influence. Mentors and teachers in our respective communities are invaluable,” McCurry says. “I can’t think of a better honor for a lifelong educator than to establish a scholarship in her name to benefit someone seeking an opportunity. The University is certainly appreciative of Sandra Brown and her family for helping a young student pursue their educational endeavors.”