Alumnus strengthens commitment to automotive tech

Swartz, with help of matching gift program, offers scholarship

By Jeff Wilson

For Neil Swartz, it was a unique homecoming.

A 1978 graduate of SIU’s automotive technology program, Swartz is one of many alumni who remembers the program’s previous home, the old military barracks in Carterville.

Of course, now automotive technology students spend their days at the Transportation Education Center at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro. In late August, Swartz walked around TEC for the first time.

“It is like an island paradise,” Swartz said. “This is my first time back here. It’s overwhelming. It’s even more impressive than I could have imagined.”

A strong supporter of the program, Swartz played an integral role in the planning process of the facility. He served on the SIU Automotive National Advisory Board for 20-plus years and secured the first corporate donation for TEC.

“I championed Toyota’s corporate donation,” said Swartz, who has worked for Toyota Motor North America since 1985 and is vice president of the company’s Parts Supply Chain. “It demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to the communities we serve, higher education and automotive excellence.”

More recently, he funded an endowed scholarship. The Neil Swartz Scholarship Endowment Fund is awarded to an automotive technology student.

Toyota matches his gifts so as Swartz adds thousands of dollars each year to his fund, Toyota generously donates the same amount dollar for dollar. Many companies, both large and small, offer similar matching gift programs to employees.

“More donors need to take advantage of matching gifts,” Swartz said. “It benefits the students, the university and ultimately Toyota because SIU is home to the best automotive technology program in the country. I’ve stayed connected because I believe in the commitment the program has to its students.”

He encourages alumni to stay connected, return to campus and give back when they can.

“I know what my education at SIU meant to me. I have a lot of gratitude to SIU, particularly the automotive program. It allowed me to learn, grow, and have a successful career,” Swartz said. “However, I believe you’re not truly successful until you can give back.”

For more information about matching gift programs or setting up an endowment, visit siuf.org.

 

Posted in Donor StoriesHigher EducationIllinois Higher EducationSIU

Grant Opens Door to Podcasting

SIU English department podcasting lab.

SIU English department podcasting lab.

By Rebecca Renshaw

It’s hard telling students in a creative writing class to be innovative if they are limited to methods taught only in the pre-internet era. That’s what English professor Pinckney Benedict was forced to do without the necessary technology at hand. When Benedict learned his department received a $7,500 grant from the SIU Foundation to purchase podcasting equipment last spring, he was thrilled.

“The money did not just help. I have no idea what I would have done without it,” Benedict said. He was scheduled to teach two podcasting classes last spring with minimal equipment. “It was going to be tough putting together the program, so the funds utterly changed what we were able to do.”

Benedict, a Princeton graduate who was taught by such greats as Joyce Carol Oates, long ago realized that captivating fictional writing is not just for the standard page. He believes writing using the latest technology is the next step and that podcasting is a growing outlet.

“Our stories should be tellable across the spectrum of technology and time,” he said.
The foundation’s funding resulted in two of Benedict’s students, who took his podcasting class last spring, to win awards for their creative works in the prestigious Missouri Review, one of the country’s oldest and respected literary magazines.

Miller Audio Prize
Mandi Jourdan, a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Vandalia, Illinois, won first place in the prose category of the Missouri Review’s Miller Audio Prize. Jourdan is extremely grateful to the foundation for the equipment it provided.

“Before we received the grant from the foundation, we were working with just one microphone in a corner of a professor’s office,” she said. “Without the podcasting equipment, I simply would not have won first place.”

Will Holcomb, also a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Kirksville, Missouri, received runner-up from the Missouri Review in the humor division.

Holcomb says that he came to SIU because he was looking for a workshop environment, and he heard great things about the SIU program.

“I am working on projects here that I never thought I could get near. Professor Benedict has been critical to my success. Without him, there would not be much of a fiction writing program at SIU. This entire podcasting experience is extremely worthwhile, and I have to thank everyone for giving me this experience,” Holcomb said.

Donations Transform Education
Benedict encourages other donors to help, regardless if their donations are large or small.

“While the foundation’s grant of $7,500 is certainly not a million dollars, it transformed the writing program here at SIU. We are doing things now we could never have done before, winning prizes we could never have received without it, and it has pushed us into new territories, such as podcasts and 360 film making,” he said.

In fact, based on the success from this initial foundation grant, an English department alumnus recently made a gift to launch a technology fund for the department, encouraging the continued use of more innovative technologies to teach writing and 21st century storytelling.

“I would encourage everyone to give a relatively modest gift to whatever fuels their passion. For me, personally, that $7,500 gift changed the direction of my research and my teaching,” Benedict said.

Want to learn how you can contribute?
If you would like to learn how to give, please visit siuf.org.
To listen to the one-minute trailers for the winning podcasts, visit anchor.fm/siuc-mfa-podcasting.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Day of Giving Makes Library’s Digital Scanner Dream Come True

Student uses SIU Morris Library SIU Morris Library Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Morris Library received 53 acts of kindness last March during SIU’s 3rd annual Day of Giving.

“We had gifts of all sizes, and we appreciated each and every one of them,” said Dean John Pollitz.

The total of those gifts amounted to $17,865, a steady increase in giving to the library since the university started the 24-hour online campaign in 2017. During that first year, the library received $4,000. Pollitz hopes the donations continue to rise as the event progresses.

“The SIU Day of Giving is an extraordinary event as it draws alumni, staff and students together for a unifying cause,” he said. “I’m not sure how we are going to top last year, but I’m sure hoping we can do it again this coming March.”

The increase in donations allowed for the purchase of a scanning machine that is drastically changing the way students and professors approach their research – free of charge.

With the Day of Giving funds, Morris Library purchased the Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system. Associate Professor of Reference and Instruction Josh Vossler said the versatile system makes digital scanning and organizing research very simple, while also being easy on original materials. Documents and books are placed face-up, and an overhead digital scanner takes a picture. It adjusts automatically for the natural curve of bound books so users won’t have to crush the spine of a book to get the full image.

“A typical scanner takes 40 seconds to scan one page. This machine can scan in 3.5 seconds per page,” Vossler said. “It’s a game changer as far as time goes. This will save students and community members thousands of hours each year.”

Using the touch screen, users can edit and convert the image into a variety of formats. More importantly, the system identifies all of the scanned characters and allows the image to become searchable.

“Another benefit is that it is compatible with accessibility software features,” said Vossler. “There are so many positives that this machine brings. We are beyond grateful to the donors who helped us purchase this station.”

Pollitz thanks all of the donors who made this acquisition a reality.

“This is what can be accomplished through collaboration and a giving heart. I believe this new system will help our students and faculty become more productive than ever before possible,” he said.

How to Give to Morris Library

If you would like to help maintain Morris Library as one of the top 100 research libraries in the nation, please visit siuf.org and make a gift today.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Money raised by kayak trip already being put into action

Nearly 300 donors contributed to $25,500 SalukiFunder campaign

By Jeff Wilson

Every journey has three parts – a beginning, middle and end.

With the presentation of a $25,500 check to the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature, it would be easy to assume a journey that began months ago had officially ended. Instead, it’s just another step of an ongoing process.

“If it wasn’t for this money, we’d have to rely on volunteers to run the program,” said Touch of Nature Director J.D. Tanner.

The funds were raised by Greg Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator, who hosted a Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder campaign while kayaking down the entire Mississippi River. Now, he’s working on putting that money to good use.

“We’re in the process of planning our events,” Nejmanowski said. “Not only do we provide the experience, we also provide food, transportation, necessary permits and guidance during each Veteran Adventures event.”

Two events are already planned. The first is a sporting clay event Oct. 26 at Rend Lake Shooting Complex in Whittington. The second is a pheasant hunt Nov. 30 at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. These events are open to all active military personnel and military veterans. For more information on these and future events, follow Veteran Adventures on Facebook.

“Greg’s journey represents his passion for outdoor education and serving veterans,” Tanner said. “His success speaks to the quality of outdoor education that SIU provides.”

Nejmanowski began his journey in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota and finished in early August in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, he met some alligators, new friends and inspired 289 donors to support his cause.

“A lot of people touched me during this process,” he said. “I’ve been inspired by those that supported my trip, supported the cause and supported veterans.”

Preparing for the excursion was just as taxing as the trip itself, even with support from the Touch of Nature staff and Wilderness Systems, an outdoors company that supported Nejmanowski from the beginning.

“Just as much went into the planning as the paddling,” he said.

Tanner and Nejmanowski were both thankful for the donations, but both are equally aware of the continued need for support.

“We encourage anyone interesting in contributing to take a look at what Touch of Nature has to offer,” Tanner said.

To support Veteran Adventures, email veteranadventures.siu.edu or call Nejmanowski at 618-453-1121.

 

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