SIU Scholarship Recipient Colton Newlin


Colton Newlin is a student with big aspirations – and it shows. A senior studying psychology and pre-law, Newlin plans to go to law school at either Vanderbilt University or Washington University after he graduates. A chancellor scholar, Newlin said the scholarship he received has made all the difference in his undergraduate experience and has helped pave the way for his plans to attend law school.

“Receiving the scholarship was hugely impactful in my life. I was faced with having to fund my undergraduate education by myself, so when I found out that burden was lifted, it shaved a lot of worry and stress from my life,” Newlin said. “It also allowed me to save money for law school.”

Newlin serves as the Undergraduate Student Government president and it is a position he takes very seriously. “I found running for USG president was a unique opportunity to affect positive change at an imperfect time for our university. I believe it is a way to foster positive relationships with students, faculty and staff,” Newlin said.

Newlin encourages other donors to give back to SIU so that future students can have the same experiences he has had. “It’s my hope that others will donate because they recognize the opportunities they received from others and give those same opportunities to future students.”


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Pizza & B.E.E.R.: Iconic duo spur Day of Giving donation

By Rebecca Renshaw

Greg Horrell of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, had not been back to SIU since he graduated in 1991. It was only when the Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s (the B.E.E.R. group) was established on Facebook that he reconnected with his alma mater.

“It was all the old stories in the group about how much fun we all had that pulled me back in,” Horrell said.

During the 2019 SIU Day of Giving, members of the group made 1,100 donations totaling more than $50,000, enough to endow two Balancing Education, Experience and Reality scholarships. The group earned a trophy for having the most individual gifts made for a non-academic unit.

Horrell made the trek from North Carolina to Carbondale last spring to participate in the trophy presentation. He took home a weekend full of memories, a Quatro’s cup and a koozie from the SIU Alumni Association.

“Every time I pull in the garage and see that cup, it reminds me of the good times at SIU and makes me smile,” he said.

Last September, Horrell started dropping his change into the Quatro’s cup for the B.E.E.R. Scholarship. Eventually, the cup overflowed, and he added two red solo cups to contain the six months’ worth of coins.

“My daughter took the coins to the bank machine and texted me that it was a perfect coin dump at $187 dollars,” he said. “I started in 1987. I’ve been asking myself, ‘What are the odds that it would be $187 even?’” Horrell said.

Fellow group member Jim Raffensperger recently challenged donors to add their graduation year onto any gift they make during this year’s SIU Day of Giving, which is Wednesday, March 4.

Horrell already planned to throw in an extra $100 to the $187 he saved in his Quatro’s cup.

“Jim made me want to add $.91 more, so count me in for $287.91,” he said.

Horrell has a new challenge for the rest of the group between now and the Day of Giving in 2021.

“What if just 40 percent of the group put their loose change in their Quatro’s cups for the next year? Could we raise $500,000 for B.E.E.R.?” he said.

That may sound like a lofty goal, but if the B.E.E.R. group has proven anything it’s that its members’ love for SIU, Carbondale’s iconic pizza joints and giving back shouldn’t be underestimated.


Support the Balancing Education, Experience and Reality scholarship on SIU Day of Giving March 4 at:

Meet Sarah Hagen – Solution Seeker and Problem Solver


Senior Sarah Hagen from Lemont, Illinois is going places – specifically France for the entire Spring semester of 2020. A chancellor scholar, Hagen is majoring in both physics and international studies with a specialization in French. Hagen will spend the upcoming semester immersing herself in the study of the French language.

When Hagen began considering her university options three years ago, she had plenty to choose from. She had received several acceptance letters, including ones from Purdue, University of Illinois, and Northwestern. But, as Hagen explains, there was something strongly appealing about SIU Carbondale.

“I felt incredibly welcome when I came to visit. I also liked that I would receive research opportunities while still working on my undergraduate degree. Plus, the fact that my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and brother all went to SIU played a determining factor in my choice as well,” she said.

Hagen felt so strongly about SIU that she determined she wanted to come here even if she did not receive the chancellor scholarship.

“I felt like SIU would give me the best opportunity to stand out and make a difference. It has turned out exceedingly well.”

When asked why others should give back to SIU, Hagen said that a donation will encourage other bright young minds and enable them to come to a university that will be attentive to their needs.

Make a gift online for SIU Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 4, 2020:

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SIU School of Law students hope donors give on SIU Day of Giving

Chase Rich
Originally from Mattoon, Illinois, Chase Rich chose SIU for his undergraduate studies because he received a University Excellence scholarship. Rich earned an undergraduate degree in paralegal studies and immediately set his sights on a law degree from the SIU School of Law. Now a third-year law student, Rich does not regret his decisions.

“The SIU School of Law makes getting a law degree affordable without graduating with a $100,000 in debt,” he said. Rich also likes how the professors treat students. “I have found the professors treat the students extremely well. They are here to help and not to humiliate,” he said.

Rich hopes people will give to the School of Law during this year’s SIU Day of Giving. “There are several funds people could support, such as a student scholarship fund or moot court fund,” said Rich.

Patricia Pfeiffer
Patricia Pfeiffer, a second-year law student and a Carbondale, Illinois native, appreciates the financial help she received from the School of Law Strategic Excellent Fund. “As a single parent of a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old, the scholarship I received really has made all the difference,” said Pfeiffer.

“The financial support has lessened my student loan burden, helped pay for babysitters and overall helped me be a better parent and law school student,” said Powell.

“I remember when I was presented with the scholarship, I looked over at my children and I could see their beaming faces. They were so proud and happy for me, “she said.

Pfeiffer encourages everyone to give to the SIU School of Law initiative of their choice during the SIU Day of Giving.

Logan Wallace
Logan Wallace, a second-year law student from Homestead, Iowa, says receiving financial aid was the driving force in his decision to attend SIU School of Law. “It really made all the difference. I’m so glad I chose SIU because I’ve grown to love this university and this school,” he said. Wallace says he hopes donors will give back to help other students like him. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the financial help I received,” he said.

Deidre Powell
Deidre Powell is also a second-year law student and is a non-traditional student. Powell would recommend the SIU School of Law to other students.

“SIU School of Law is very welcoming and warm. I also like that the student to professor ratio is low,” said Powell. She received several scholarships to attend law school, one of which was the SIU Alumni Textbook Scholarship.

“That SIU Alumni Textbook Scholarship, along with others I received, helped me pay for the books I need and just eased my overall worry about my finances. I really appreciate the assistance I have received,” she said. Powell hopes that after graduation she can find a job in estate or tort law.


Make a gift online for SIU Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 4, 2020:

SIU Scholarship Recipient Jamal Kinchen

Alfred Jamal Kinchen

Alfred Jamal Kinchen is a student with many talents. A junior at SIU, Kinchen is working on double majors in both Aviation Management and Piano Performance. His dream is to one day be a commercial airline pilot but he hopes he can continue to play piano on the side.

A University Excellence scholar and a recipient of the Steven Barwick scholarship, Kinchen says that if it wasn’t for those scholarships, he would not be enrolled at SIU today.

“My parents said they could not afford to send me to college. The only way I could go was if I received enough scholarships. When I opened that letter telling me I won those two scholarships, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” said Kinchen. “I am forever grateful for those scholarships.”

When asked what he likes most about SIU, he could not pick just one thing. “I really like the size of the university. For me, it’s not too small and yet it isn’t too big. I also don’t feel like I’m just another face in the crowd. Everyone in both the music and the aviation programs have been so helpful. I feel like I know everyone – from students to professors. It just feels very comfortable,” he said.

Kinchen encourages alumni to give back to SIU. “It is so hard financially for so many students here. I just hope that alumni remember how they felt when they were a student. A helping hand is what so many students need right now,” Kinchen said.

“I hope one day to create a scholarship specially for disadvantaged students. I’d like to focus on giving back to minorities. I think scholarships would encourage more minorities to receive an education like I have.”


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An Accomplished Alumnus with a Heart for Helping Others

thomas murrayBy Rebecca Renshaw

Tom Murray is a man of many accomplishments. From 1967 through 2007, he was employed at Sargent & Lundy, a global consultant to the electric utility industry. From 1993 through 2007, Murray was a senior vice president and an owner of the firm.

Murray completed a full two-year engineering program at Purdue University Calumet Campus in 1964 and became an engineering graduate at Southern Illinois University in 1967. He devoted more than 40 years to Sargent & Lundy before retiring in December 2007 as an executive vice president, owner and director of the company’s Power Delivery Services Business Group. He traveled extensively domestically and to the Middle East and Pacific Rim.

Murray is a registered professional engineer in many states and a member of several professional organizations.

As Murray neared the end of his company career, he and his wife, Jan, decided it was time to give back to others.

“We chose to focus on two areas – SIU and Special Olympics Illinois,” Murray said.

Since 2004, Murray has participated with the Special Olympics of Illinois. He served as chairman for the organization in 2008. He is a member of the board and serves on the executive and development committees.

At SIU, Murray serves on the Industrial Advisory Board of the College of Engineering. In 2012, he was awarded the SIU Alumni Achievement Award.

In 2008, the Murrays decided to establish a scholarship for students pursuing an engineering degree.

“We do not determine who should receive scholarship funding. We only care that the funds get into the hands of those students who deserve the help,” he said.

His desire to help others in need came from his early years at SIU. Times were hard financially.

“When I arrived on campus, it was bursting at the seams. There was not a single room available, so I ended up sleeping on a cot out at a farmer’s house outside of Murphysboro for a while,” Murray said. “I eventually found a space at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house.”

Murray said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at SIU, participating one year as a lifeguard at Campus Lake and working at The Club on the strip in Carbondale.

When he graduated from SIU, the country was at war in Vietnam.

“After graduation, I remember I submitted my application to Sargent & Lundy, but I didn’t hold much hope. Typically, you’d have to have many years of experience before you could be considered for a job at that company but, since many graduating candidates were in process to the Armed Forces and the company was under expansion, I got a chance to have an interview.”

Murray recalled that his interview took a full day filled with back-to-back interviews.

“The owner and the electrical department head of the company was the last to interview me. He looked at my résumé and said I have a question for you,” Murray said. “I see you took a transmission line design class at SIU. Are you familiar with the Maxwell-Boltzmann equations?”

Murray remembered his German professor at SIU explaining those equations so he gave him the answers he was looking for.

“He hired me on the spot and that started a 40-year career. I have reflected on that interaction many times. I am grateful for my education at SIU and how it prepared me for a great career at Sargent & Lundy,” Murray said.

The Murrays have given back, donating $230,000 over the last 10 years to SIU. The Murrays have significantly funded a unique annual scholarship mandating full distribution of the annual donation within five years. The couple has committed to donating $125,000 for the next five years.

Dean John Warwick of the College of Engineering said Murray’s commitment and generosity to SIU are commendable.

“These funds have and will support many accomplished and well-deserving students in our College of Engineering,” Warwick said.

Murray’s advice to students is simple and direct.

“Never give up,” he said. “If you develop a set of goals and a direction in mind, map out your path. As long as you stay committed, you will find success at many levels.”


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The Value of Yes

Sunil and Rupali Sinha
Sunil and Rupali Sinha

Dr. Atmesh Sinha brought his family to Carbondale in the early ‘70s to start the department of mining engineering at SIU, and retired 25 years later before moving to St. Louis, where he and his wife, Chinta, still reside.

Sunil, the eldest of their three children, spent many summers in Carbondale while attending school and college overseas and was able to experience small-town life revolving around family, community and helping others. As he grew up and pursued his dream of getting a medical degree, he never forgot the community that raised him.

Sinha and his wife, Rupali ’96, have recently established a five-year pledge at $10,000 a year to support the College of Business.

Upon completing his internal medicine residency in Chicago, he returned to Carbondale and began his career with the Carbondale Clinic (now the SIH Center for Medical Arts) as an internal medicine physician, where he practiced for five years.

“There was a particularly challenging weekend of being on call where I covered for multiple colleagues, which served as a tipping point for me,” he said. “I determined I had to do something else besides patient care, so I set out to get my MBA. Although at the time, it wasn’t clear how the MBA would help, I was confident that it would open a few more doors in my career.”

Prior to the start of each semester he recalls sitting down with his staff and working out his patient schedule to allow him to take the required courses for the MBA program at SIU’s College of Business. The challenge was to make Sinha’s course schedule work with his patient schedule for the two years needed to complete the degree. With the help of his staff and support of his family, he managed to balance both.

Upon completion of his MBA, Sinha accepted a job as the director of primary care with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Marion, Illinois. His work there opened the first of many doors in the field of administration, performance improvement and healthcare policy.

He next served as the director of managed care at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs health system in Maryland, and had the additional responsibility of chief quality officer for his network of hospitals covering Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Various opportunities allowed him to subsequently work for the United States Department of Health and Human Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington and as a Medical director for public health policy with Pfizer in New York and Washington.

He returned to clinical medicine first as the vice president for medical affairs at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, then as the chief medical officer for Chenmed for its operations in Virginia and back to his midwest roots as the vice president and chief medical officer for the BJC medical group in St. Louis.

Though he left southern Illinois in 2001, he maintained ties to the area through family as well as with SIU as a life member of the alumni association and as an external advisory board member for the College of Business administration.

“Getting my MBA from SIU was the foundation for the many changes over my career which have allowed me to experience and positively influence multiple facets of healthcare,” he said.

Sinha also remembers advice he received during his time at SIU that he says he has applied to every career move he has made. He recalls a guest speaker from Chicago came to speak to his class about career advice.

Unlike most of his classmates, Sinha already had a successful career, so he was doubtful he would learn much from the presentation. However, the speaker shared about his first interview and how he hoped to get a job in finance but the job offered was in human resources. But, he knew he wanted to move to Chicago and this was a path to get there. So, he said yes to most of the questions and landed the job in Chicago.

“The advice he gave was something I never forgot. He said if you feel strongly about accomplishing something, the answer is always yes and the rest you will figure out,” Sinha said. “In my career, every position has been new and something I had not done before, but I always knew I could figure it out. And I have – just by saying yes.”

If you would like to join Sinha in supporting the College of Business, visit

A Lesson in French

Joseph FrenchBy Rebecca Renshaw

Before the sun rose on Joe French’s first day in the world, he already had several strikes against him.

Born in the Bronx during the 1950s, French grew up in the midst of racial tension and dramatic demographic shifts. Born to a bipolar mother, French himself suffered from dyslexia. French’s father determined his son would leave the east coast upon his high school graduation and enroll at Southern Illinois University during the late 1960s.

“I actually never applied to any other university except SIU,” French said. “As a third-generation family member to attend SIU, no one even considered sending me anywhere but Carbondale.”

French’s grandfather attended SIU when it was known as Normal University

With his one-way ticket to the Midwest, French boarded a plane and arrived on campus. Carbondale turned out to be a great home for French, who knew he would be headed in the wrong direction if he didn’t go west to SIU.

“It was the late 60s and early 70s, and there was the flower power movement and all kinds of drugs. New York and the East Coast were embracing that movement, and when I came to Carbondale, that pace slowed,” he said.

“SIU was this wonderful place to decide who I was going to be and how I wanted to be perceived. I wasn’t somebody’s son; I was just a student along with thousands of other students. I got a great education at SIU, and my degree in psychology helped me throughout my life understand people and what makes them tick.”

French’s SIU education contributed to his success as an entrepreneur. He became a millionaire before the age of 30.

“Psychology came in handy on my very first job. I was the first black kid to be hired at a Jaguar dealership,” he said. “In less than six months, I was their number one salesman. I learned that people wanted knowledge about cars, and I also learned that knowledge was powerful.”

From an early age, French honed his entrepreneurial skills and even put them to use at SIU while he worked on his degree.

“I used to travel back and forth to New York and buy these fancy sports cars and drive them back to southern Illinois where people didn’t have access to such vehicles. Those cars sold like hotcakes,” he said. “Right before graduating, I spotted a tractor trailer bed selling waterbeds. I seized the opportunity and bought them all. In a few days, I resold them and made a quick $16,000.”

For graduation, French received a camera as a gift. He went back to New York City, opened an art gallery and started hanging out with budding photographers such as Paul Caponigro and Ansel Adams.

“We would trade photographs and sell them for about $100 to each other,” French said. “I remember I used to get so mad at Ansel because he was the only one who made us pay $250. I thought he was playing dirty until much later when I sold one of his photographs for $50,000.”

When the art market took a huge dive, he decided to go into corporate art, which led him to his ultimate destination of commercial leasing and real estate brokerage.

Elliot Porter's limited edition portfolio called "Trees"
French published a limited edition portfolio of Porter’s photographs called “Trees.” French donated one of the 25 sets to the Morris Library’s Special Collection.

During his time selling art to corporations he worked with a number of artists including Eliot Porter, a photographer known for his richly colored images of the natural world. His photographs of nature from the forests of New England to the deserts of Mexico became the iconography of the conservation movement. Today, his works are held in the collections in museums as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

French published a limited edition portfolio of Porter’s photographs called “Trees.” French donated one of the 25 sets to the Morris Library’s Special Collection.

“I want students to know who Eliot Porter was, especially if they have an interest in photography. I also wanted to give back to the university that set me on the path to success,” French said.

Morris Library’s dean, John Pollitz, says that SIU photography classes have already visited the collection.

“We plan on displaying it in the University Museum this fall where everyone can see these masterpieces,” Pollitz said.

When French was asked about the advice he would give to today’s students, he said he would tell them that they don’t have to be a rap star to succeed.

“What you need to do is figure out what you love and if it can support you in a lifestyle you can live with,” he said. “You have to be realistic in your dreams. You need to be willing to go hard and when doors are shut, see if there is another door that can be opened.”

French has a written a book about his life, “French Lessons,” which will be published in late 2019.


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Alumni Help Keep Automotive Technology on the Right Path

Zac Winstead, Dan Corey and Bryan Jenkins
Zac Winstead, Dan Corey and Bryan Jenkins

By Rebecca Renshaw

The paths of Zac Winstead, Bryan Jenkins and Dan Corey converged at SIU’s automotive technology program in the late 1990s. All three grew up in small towns across Illinois and Indiana and each had an affinity for automobiles.

When they arrived on campus, they immediately knew it felt right. Jenkins remembers coming down to Carbondale with his parents and feeling that instant connection.

“Back then, the automotive technology program was located in the blue barracks near Carterville, Illinois. Even though it wasn’t much to look at, I knew I was home. I remember thinking if I could get a job in the automotive technology field, I would enjoy going to work for the rest of my days. Turned out I was right, “Jenkins said.

Their introductions to one another came through their vehicles. “At first, we didn’t know each other’s names, but we knew each other’s trucks, “Corey said. “I drove a 1989 Chevy S-10, and Bryan drove a 1971 Chevy C-10 and Zac drove a 1977 F-150,” Corey said. They eventually became close friends, spending weekends together singing karaoke at a Carbondale establishment known as Key West.

“In the 1980s, there was a country music group known as the Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson,” Winstead said. Each of us had our own connection to the group. Although we could not sing like them, we had a great time trying.

After graduation, they began their careers and the work took them on different paths across the country to California and Louisiana and, eventually, Michigan.

“If you are in the automotive industry, most roads eventually lead back to Detroit,” Jenkins said.

The friendship has lasted well over the course of twenty-five years. Their bond has only grown stronger now that they all live in the Detroit area.  Winstead ‘01 is a director at Ally Financial. Jenkins ‘01 is a manager of Ford’s hotline department and Corey, ’01 and ’02, works as a service representative for Hino Trucks, a Toyota truck division.

The three also maintain a bond with SIU. Corey often returns to SIU for visits when he delivers trucks to southern Illinois. Jenkins serves on the SIU automotive technology program’s advisory board and Winstead has stayed in touch with many of the program’s leaders, such as Michael Behrmann, chair of SIU’s Automotive Technology Department.

Behrmann says their bond is not uncommon in the automotive technology program and many alumni stay closely connected beyond graduation.

“The careers for Zac, Dan, and Bryan led each to different corporations and different parts of the world. Their ties with SIU Automotive and each other continued over the years. Today, their careers have located them close together once again,” Behrmann said.

While many donors wait until the end of their careers to give back, Winstead, Jenkins and Corey are giving back now. Each is donating $500 every quarter for the next five years. By 2024, they will have funded an endowed scholarship of $25,000. Preference will be given to a student who has demonstrated success in the SIU Automotive Program and who has worked in the automotive/transportation industry. A demonstrated knowledge of the Highwaymen will also be a relevant factor.

“Our goal in setting up a scholarship is not to reward the best and the brightest students. We aren’t necessarily looking for a 4.0 student. We are all fortunate enough to enjoy what we do and want to help other students just like us,” Jenkins said.

Winstead agrees.

“Looking back, those were the best four years of my life and I would go back and replay it all in a minute. SIU was a setting that helped me prepare for real life and real experiences,” he said. “I just want to give that experience to someone else.”

For Corey, SIU changed the trajectory of his life.

“It was a beacon that let our lights shine. SIU gave us all the opportunities to do what we love in an industry we didn’t know existed. In the towns where we grew up, there was no path to get there,” he said.

Behrmann is appreciative of the gift and hopes other Salukis will follow in their footsteps.

“The Highwaymen Automotive Scholarship will encourage our students to continue working hard and striving to become their best while also providing much needed financial assistance. It demonstrates the Saluki family support for their future success.” Behrmann said.

To donate to the SIU Automotive Technology program, visit