Barrick Hopes Gift Brings Good Fortune To Others

By Rebecca Renshaw

In Bob Barrick’s life, everything has been earned. But it has also been founded on his educational experience at SIU.

To give back, Barrick has donated $250,000, including $100,000 for scholarships, to make a difference for future students. His gift will benefit SIU’s Enrollment Management office. He’s also committed another $150,000, which is yet to be allocated.

“SIU holds a soft spot in my heart,” he said. “It contributed to my success in life. If I can help one or two others in life, then that’s what it is all about.”

Barrick grew up in Lincoln, Illinois, and had family living in Marion. After a short stint at Bradley University, he decided to come to Southern Illinois.

Barrick was the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree, graduating from SIU in 1962 with a degree in marketing. He worked his way through college as a soda jerk at Thompson Woods.

At the time, ROTC service was mandatory for all male students, so Barrick spent three years on an American base in Japan doing financial work after he graduated.

“I was away from home for three Thanksgivings, three Christmases, and three New Year’s. I was extremely homesick by the time those three years were up,” he said.

After his service, Barrick worked for oil companies across the Midwest, ending up in Detroit. Over the years, he has expanded his investment in oil companies through his business, Barrick Enterprises.

“I worked my butt off. No one gave me anything,” he said. “College education is very important. I want to help open the door to get others to go to college. It’d be great to help some kid from Lincoln go to college.”

Barrick, 79, is acutely aware of his good fortune and hopes his gifts to SIU will help others experience a life as fulfilling as his own.

“Life is short. I’ve been blessed more than I should,” he said. “If God lets me get out of bed, it’s time to do something nice that day. You can’t just lay at home all day.

“When I talk to the big guy upstairs, he’s been pretty fair to me.”

 

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Estate planning leaves lasting legacy: Alumna makes plan to benefit future Salukis

Kimberly Omelson (left) is pictured with her roommate from freshman year (1988) at the homecoming game on October 19, 2019.

By Jeff Wilson

SIU made a lasting impression on Kimberly Omelson, and now, she plans to leave her mark on the university.

Omelson, who graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in English, has planned an estate gift that will benefit the College of Liberal Arts and Morris Library.

“You don’t have to have a lot of money in order to make a difference,” she said. “Sure, we’d all love to donate $1 million to our alma mater, but that’s not going to happen for the majority of us.”

Her uncle, Albert Hall, attended SIU in the 1960s, and the scholarships Omelson creates will be named after her and her uncle.

“I’m single, and I have no children. My parents and grandparents have all died. My only sister died and did not have children,” she said. “If I didn’t have a will and make my own estate plans, the State of Illinois would determine who benefits from my estate when I’m gone.”

Choosing SIU made sense to Omelson because of her great memories from Carbondale. She joined the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and made lifelong friends. One of those memories is when she brought her mother to Founders Day in 1990.

“My mom saw a lot that day – her daughter being acknowledged by her sorority for academic achievement. She saw I had great friends. She saw that I had something that made me truly, genuinely happy,” Omelson said. “She was diagnosed with breast cancer later that year and died in May 1991. So, she didn’t see all of my college career, but she saw the aspect of it that meant the most to me – my sorority and my sisterhood.”

Through estate planning, anyone can be a philanthropist, and the SIU Foundation is ready to help anyone make the greatest possible impact.

“It’s kind of moving to know I’m going to be able to help a kid in the same boat I was in so many years ago,” Omelson said. “Philanthropy is pretty incredible.”

To learn more about estate planning, visit siufgiving.org or call 618/453-4900.

Couple of educators: Dan & Kathy Wheeler fund scholarship for future teachers

Dan and Kathy Wheeler

Dan and Kathy Wheeler

By Jeff Wilson

Dan and Kathy Wheeler’s passion for Southern Illinois University may only be eclipsed by their passion for education.

“SIU is part of the family,” said Kathy Wheeler. “We know it’s the primary resource for students from southern Illinois to get a higher education and become teachers. That’s where our hearts lie.”

The couple has established the Bryan-Peak Endowed Scholarship, which benefits students in the College of Education and Human Services. The name of the scholarship honors the couple’s maternal grandparents, Robert and Edith Sellars Bryan and Alexander and Marvel Klasing Peak, as well as Kathy’s mother, Lou Ellen Peak Reagan.

Both families have strong ties to the region, university and education profession. The Bryans were from southern Illinois and lived most of their lives there, and the Peaks spent their adult lives in Herrin. Lou Ellen was born in Herrin, worked as a school secretary at Southside Elementary and Herrin Junior High School and was a graduate of SIU’s Vocational Technical Institute.

Dan Wheeler graduated from SIU in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies, and Kathy Wheeler completed much of her master’s program at SIU.

“Nobody in my family had ever gone to college before,” said Dan Wheeler. “I received a small teacher’s scholarship and worked at the university post office. I had to work pretty hard, so I didn’t take full class loads.”

Kathy Wheeler, a southern Illinois native, was an undergraduate at Murray State in Kentucky, but returned home during breaks and the summer. Through mutual friends, she and Dan were introduced. In June of 1967, they were married.

“I fell in love with Danny at Morris Library,” she said.

When they decided to help future educators, their affinity for SIU made a scholarship the obvious choice.

“We see SIU as continuing to be very important for the southern Illinois area,” Dan Wheeler said. “We wanted to think about something that will last beyond our lifetime. I have a blessed life and career because of SIU.”

Teachers & advocates

After a stint in the Army, Dan Wheeler began his teaching career at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Herrin. He has also taught middle school in Christopher, Illinois, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Kathy Wheeler taught English for a decade at her alma mater, Herrin High School. She has also worked with the National Education Association, National Society of Public Relations Association and as trainer and advocate for teacher’s associations across the country.

“Public education and those who provide it are crucial to America and our way of life,” Kathy Wheeler said. “Everybody gets to come through the door. People we’re supporting with this scholarship will do the best they can with whoever walks through that door. It’s so valuable to who we are at heart.”

The Wheelers are acutely aware of the issues that teachers can face.

“Teaching is an undervalued profession,” Dan Wheeler said. “People that go into it, and stay in it, are very dedicated. For us to be able to promote the profession and help those who want to be a part of it, that’s a special thing.”

For more information on how to support student scholarships, visit foreversiu.org.

 

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Arena puts SIU on the esports map

By Jeff Wilson

Walking into Student Center’s northside entrance, the blue light is eye-catching. It draws attention to one of the university’s newest attractions – the SIU Esports Arena.

Esports feature competitive multiplayer video game matches. Already popular across the globe, the draw of esports is still growing. A February report from Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm, estimated global esports revenue would hit $1.1 billion in 2019. In July, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million playing Fortnite, one of the most popular video games featured in esports.

With the new arena, SIU has a spot at the forefront of the esports market.

“The Esports Arena adds a new opportunity for our students to engage with each other while playing competitive or recreational video games,” said Tena Bennett, Student Center director.

The arena’s entrance is located in the Bowling & Billiards area of the Student Center, and it’s open to students, faculty, staff and community members for a small fee. It can also be booked for groups or parties. For more information, email esports@siu.edu.

SIU Esports also has a registered student organization, which will compete with other universities. The hope is to expand the team and its ability to compete in the future.

Of course, as is the case with all technology, there is a constant need for upgrades.

“In efforts to keep the SIU Esports Arena competitive among other universities, schedules have been implemented for equipment replacements including arena digital displays, gaming PCs, peripherals, chairs and controllers,” said Brandon Macier, assistant marketing director for the Student Center. “Annual software upgrades and new game licensing are also a continual expense as new games are released.”

To support the esports initiative and help the arena thrive, visit siuf.org/esports.

“By donating to the Esports Arena, you are supporting students and adding to the dynamic culture we strive to build and maintain on our campus,” Bennett said.

 

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