McDonnoughs create scholarship endowment

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — As business and community leaders, Clint and Debra McDonnough know from experience the importance of a quality education in achieving success. That experience led the Texas couple with Southern Illinois roots to pledge funds for a scholarship endowment to help Southern Illinois University Carbondale students reach their educational goals.

The McDonnoughs are donating at least $30,000 to the Southern Illinois University Foundation to create the Clint and Debra McDonnough Scholarship Endowment. Interest income from the endowment is funding an annual scholarship award beginning in fall 2011.

The scholarship will go to a high school senior from one of the Connect SI counties: Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White and Williamson. Admittance to the College of Business at SIUC is also a requirement and preference will go to students who participate in Lead SI, a regional youth networking and leadership initiative.

“Clint and Debra McDonnough are strongly committed to the greater Dallas community, but they continue to be very devoted to their native Southern Illinois and SIUC,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “The McDonnoughs place great value on attaining a college degree and they are making quite a commitment to help Southern Illinois students in their educational quest. The McDonnoughs are doing their part to foster support of future business leaders. This is a wonderful gesture on their part.”

Clint McDonnough, a Pinckneyville native and 1977 accounting graduate of SIUC, is the Dallas office managing partner for Ernst and Young LLP. He oversees the daily operations for one of the firm’s largest markets and also serves as the company’s spokesman and representative in the area. Over his 34-year career with the firm, McDonnough initially worked in the St. Louis office, then at the global headquarters in Cleveland, before becoming the firm’s managing partner of assurance and advisory business services for the southwest area including northern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

His previous roles also included serving as national director of real estate advisory services, working to create a unified national real estate consulting practice with focus on development and new services implementation. He also served as managing partner for the Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group as well as a stint as coordinating partner for many of the agency’s clients.

McDonnough is active in numerous community organizations, including the Dallas Education Foundation Board, the Dallas Citizens Council Board, the Dallas Regional Chamber Board and Education Committee, the University of Texas at Dallas Development Board. McDonnough served two years as the United Way’s general campaign chairman and is presently a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Committee.

The greater Dallas community has shown its appreciation for his efforts with a number of awards, including the 2008 Ebby Halliday Executive’s Excellence Award from Executive Women International, the 2009 Chairman’s Award from the Dallas Regional Chamber and the 2009 Flame of Honor Award for Distinguished Community Service from the Southwest Jewish Congress. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc., also named him a 2010 Dallas Local Hero.

Debra McDonnough, originally from Highland, earned an accounting degree at SIU Edwardsville. Dallas residents since 1986, the couple has three children.

“There are probably two main reasons that served as the impetus for us creating this endowment,” Clint McDonnough said. During the couple’s return trips to the region, they saw a struggling economy with high unemployment, and while greatly encouraged by the efforts of the region’s residents, the McDonnoughs wanted to help.

“We wanted to do something, to give something back to the community that was so instrumental in helping us during our formative years,” McDonnough said.

In addition, he said his good friend Ron Barger, a Dallas attorney and 1973 Murphysboro High School graduate, was a co-founder and continuing supporter of LEAD SI, an initiative to encourage talented high school students to maximize their leadership skills and further their education. In talking with Barger, McDonnough learned about LEAD SI and found it to be a needed program and an excellent vehicle to help the McDonnoughs with their goal of assisting Southern Illinois teens pursue business degrees.

He said that although he and Debra are deeply involved in their work and charitable efforts and live in the Dallas area, creating the scholarship is something definitive they can do to help.

“Clint and Debra McDonnough have made a significant investment in Southern Illinois with a scholarship enabling LEAD SI students to pursue a business degree at SIUC. It is our hope that the recipients of this scholarship will develop into future business leaders and, following the McDonnoughs’ example, will give back to their communities,” said Dennis Cradit, dean of the College of Business.

LEAD SI, begun in 2008, invites youths to participate in a training institute at SIUC where they develop their communication, problem solving, team building and decision making skills while networking with leaders in the region. The high school juniors and seniors then participate in events throughout the year focusing on their development as future leaders able to address regional problems with regional solutions. LEAD SI is the youth leadership component of Connect SI, a regional economic and community development initiative.

“I’m very grateful for the vision of the McDonnough family in connecting this scholarship to LEAD SI. What they have accomplished is the creation of a strong linkage between collaborative leadership and a degree in business taught in an academic environment of excellence. Both are essential elements for regional and national growth. Together they form a powerful catalyst for positive change,” said Rex Duncan, director of community development at SIUC and president of the Connect SI Foundation board of directors.

The scholarship is renewable for up to three additional years for recipients maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 2.8.

“We believe that a college degree is the gateway to help fulfill career goals. After growing up in Southern Illinois, we want to provide financial support and opportunities for Southern Illinois high school graduates to pursue a college degree in business and inspire them to contribute to the Southern Illinois economy in a leadership role,” said Clint McDonnough.

Students’ investment fund success pays off

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Success is creating opportunity for the students who manage the Saluki Student Investment Fund.

Modeled after a real investment management firm, the Saluki Student Investment Fund (SSIF) is a Registered Student Organization at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with more than a decade of success investing funds for the Southern Illinois University Foundation. The SSIF Foundation portfolio, originally totaling $200,000, has grown to about $370,000 since May 2000. In recognition of that success, the foundation recently increased the SSIF management account total to $1 million.

“The SIU Foundation’s investment committee is clearly pleased with the performance exhibited by these young people,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “We’re excited to offer this opportunity to our students. SSIF is a pleasure to work with and we look forward to continuing this relationship well into the future.”

Students in SSIF select stocks and fund investments, study results and make presentations regarding their performance. It gives them real-world portfolio management and investment research experience, coupled with the opportunity to improve their written and oral communications skills. The goal is maximizing long-term investment results.

Shannon Daily, a finance major from Herrin, and Brad Bell, a finance/mathematics double major from Cobden, are both members of SSIF and say working with the group has been an invaluable experience.

Bell joined SSIF in fall 2010, initially just to get involved in a student activity and due to his interest in stocks and finance. But he said the choice “has been one of the best decisions I have made as an undergraduate. I learned how to apply the valuation models and finance techniques introduced in classes. My belief is that one doesn’t get true understanding without application and the SSIF is a forum for undergraduates to do that.”

Daily joined the team in January and said it is a professional organization of students who take their responsibility to their clients very seriously. She appreciates that SSIF provides “an experiential learning environment for the application of classroom knowledge” and she said she’s thankful the SIU Foundation gives SIUC students “this incredible opportunity.”

“During the last semester, I learned how to do a cash flow valuation. I also had the opportunity to participate in the presentation for the SIU Foundation, which allowed me to learn how asset managers present to their clients. The feedback the group received was nothing but positive. I was also one of the students who went to Dayton, Ohio, for R.I.S.E. XI, a forum for students to be able to interact and learn from professionals, and while there I learned how to operate trading software with real time market data and I gained incredible insight about what investment banking is like for professionals. Participating in SSIF has made me a more competitive candidate for the careers I’m interested in, especially investment banking. I am more confident in my ability to perform the job functions expected from me. Within the next year and a half, I know I will be prepared for whatever career I choose because of the things I have and will have learned from SSIF, the fantastic finance department and Dr. (Jason) Greene,” Daily said.

Bell agreed, saying his work with SSIF has been “extremely beneficial to my development.” He calls the organization an excellent “training ground for undergraduates moving out into the professional world. We do all of the things that an institutional asset manager does, all while attending classes. We learn a lot about all the things you have to do to keep an organization ticking and communicating well and also about the accountability necessary to work at a high-level organization. These are skills that are transferable to many different disciplines. The SSIF is a great group in that we hold each other to high standards and I think we all take pride in representing SIUC in a professional manner.”

Omar and Carol Winter, both SIUC alumni, provided a $25,000 gift to launch the student investment fund in May 2000. Shortly thereafter, the SIU Foundation essentially “hired” SSIF as one of its portfolio managers, investing $200,000 for the students to manage, according to Jason Greene, associate professor of finance and faculty adviser for SSIF.

“The goal of Mr. and Mrs. Winter and the SIU Foundation was to provide SIUC undergraduate students with hands-on experience in portfolio management and investment research,” Greene said. He said the students focus the foundation’s portfolio on U.S. Mid Cap stocks, those from publicly traded U.S. companies valued at about $2 billion-$6 billion.

“This portfolio is a part of the general endowment, with gains and income benefitting the general endowment fund. As of the end of the spring 2011 semester, the portfolio had grown from its original $200,000 to approximately $370,000, reflecting a return of approximately 6.3 percent per year. Over the past seven years in particular, the fund has performed very well, outperforming its benchmark by more than one percent per year,” Greene said.

About 100 students participated with SSIF during its first decade with Professor Mark Peterson as faculty adviser. When Peterson became chair of the finance department in summer 2010, Greene stepped into the adviser post, bringing with him years of investment experience. Prior to his arrival in 2009 at SIUC, Greene was an executive with an investment management firm executive that managed about $60 billion on behalf of institutional clients including public pension funds and university endowments.

SSIF is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of their major. Membership continues to grow and is now averaging about 20 students per semester, with the majority coming from the College of Business.

“These students have shown a great deal of professionalism in diligently working to do the best job possible in managing the foundation’s money. The students focus on making the best investments possible on behalf of their client. Their investment philosophy is to capitalize on investment opportunities through focused research. They believe that their competitive advantage is their unique and unbiased perspective as students who can spot trends in the markets, especially those that are driven by or favored by their generation,” Greene said.

Each student is a member of a team focusing its research on companies within a specific sector. Sectors include technology, finance, healthcare and more. The goal of the team is to choose within each sector the companies representing the best opportunity for the investment to perform well. Greene said the experience requires students to put their classroom lessons to the test within a professional environment while learning to collaborate and take responsibility for their analysis and investment decisions.

The SIU Foundation’s Investment Committee sets high standards, which in turn inspires the students to achieve great results in both the portfolio’s performance and in their SIUC educational experience, Greene said. He noted that the students worked very hard to earn the confidence of the committee and the foundation to secure the substantial boost in the SSIF’s SIU Foundation portfolio.

“The SIU Foundation Board and the Investment Committee thereof are very proud of the SSIF, the students and their advisers, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Greene. It has been a very exciting and rewarding experience for us as board members to observe the hard work and dedication of each student and to realize how important this learning tool is to them and their futures. To listen and watch the students make their reports to the Investment Committee and to see their dedication and excitement makes us feel that perhaps we are a part of their learning experience at SIU. Many of these students will become investment specialists and will help many people manage their investment portfolios,” said Roger Gray, chair of the SIU Foundation Investment Committee.

“Over the years, the Investment Committee itself has researched many money managers before employing them. We have to have a great deal of confidence in the SSIF to allow them to manage $1 million of the Foundation’s investments. The SSIF results compare well with other managers we employ and in some cases, exceed very large professional managers. We believe the SSIF, under the guidance of Dr. Jason Greene, will continue to grow and attract attention throughout the SIU community and the investing world,” said Gray.

Gowers’ gift helps address chemistry needs

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A Distinguished Alumnus is teaming with Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s administration to fund state-of-the-art research equipment for instructors and students in the chemistry and biochemistry department.

Bob Gower, a two-degree SIUC alumnus and chair of Ensysce Biosciences in Houston, communicates regularly with the University’s chemistry professors. When the West Frankfort native was informed of the department’s equipment deficiencies, he immediately made mention of the issue in a subsequent meeting with SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng.

“It’s pretty inefficient to have equipment constantly going down. I know it’s a problem that can’t exist; especially at a great University like SIU that is striving for recognition in various aspects of research,” Gower says. “Therefore, I told Chancellor Cheng that I would be willing to help if the University was willing to do the same.”

Cheng presented a proposal to Bob and Beth Gower for $75,000, to establish a Technology Fund in the chemistry and biochemistry department. Their commitment would be matched dollar-for-dollar by the University. The Gowers obliged. Therefore, $150,000 will fund the acquisition and maintenance of equipment for instruction and research. Additionally, the fund provides the department and college with a long-term resource plan for equipping and upgrading its teaching labs.

“This is a wonderful partnership that responds to a great need in this department,” Cheng said. “Cutting-edge equipment and technology are vital to the educational process. The Gowers’ generosity provides valuable support to our faculty’s teaching and research efforts, and will help our students be better prepared when they enter their professions.”

Gower, a researcher himself, says the gift is significant and beneficial to the chemistry department.

“I’m particularly pleased that Chancellor Cheng was interested, and like myself, wanted to address the problem,” he says. “As a matter of fact, she was already on top of the issue just weeks after assuming her role at the University. I was quite impressed with her commitment to strengthen our chemistry department.”

Jay C. Means, dean of the College of Science, says the funds provided by the Gowers and Chancellor Cheng will have an immediate impact this fall semester. The department is purchasing a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer and high performance liquid chromatograph to train advanced chemistry majors in the laboratory setting. Means went on to point out that significant gifts such as this are “unique and very much appreciated during a time of fiscal uncertainty.”

The gift will assist the University in preparing students for careers after college, according to Gary R. Kinsel, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“These funds will go a long way in allowing us to provide modern chemical instruments for our students to use in their laboratory experiences. This experience is critical because they’ll need to know how to use this equipment when they join the workforce,” Kinsel says. “This definitely helps move our program forward.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “Bob and Beth Gower have historically been quite generous in supporting SIU Carbondale. Dr. Gower is appreciative of his own experience at Southern, and is particularly fond of our chemistry department. Furthermore, the support demonstrated by the Gowers and Chancellor Cheng indicates a true commitment to provide essential resources that will benefit our students well into the future.”

Gower, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from SIU Carbondale in 1958 and 1960, knows first-hand the importance of research in the business world. One of his most telling accomplishments occurred after he became president and CEO of Lyondell Petrochemical Co., which was losing approximately $200 million a year when Gower took over in 1985. The SIU alumnus transformed the Houston-based firm into one of the 100 Best Managed Companies in the World, as named by Industry Week Magazine. Petrochemical Co. became a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange company in 1989.

Prior to his success at Lyondell, Gower held various leadership positions in Sinclair Oil and Atlantic Richfield, major oil and chemistry companies in the 1960s. Also, in 2000, Gower worked closely with the late Richard Smalley, a Rice University professor who, along with two associates, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996, in forming Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. He served as president and CEO until merging CNI into another company, Unidym Corp., and continues his involvement as an investor.

A recipient of the 1996 SIU Distinguished Alumni Award, Gower relishes the opportunity to support his alma mater.

“I have enjoyed some reasonable success. But I came from a pretty humble beginnings and I know there are students at Southern with a similar background,” he says. “I know it’s an overused statement, but I truly feel indebted to SIU. So many people paid attention and provided encouragement to me as a youth in West Frankfort, at SIU, and in the church and community.

“When you are a beneficiary of such actions, the least you can do is give back if you’re in the position to do so.”