SIU Day of Giving brings excitement, livestream March 3

CARBONDALE – The fifth annual SIU Day of Giving is going fully virtual.

Each year the SIU community comes together for a 24-hour Day of Giving. Supporters are encouraged to visit on Wednesday, March 3, and make a gift of any size. Donations can be directed to any college, unit, program, or initiative of the donor’s choice.

Normally, the day features an in-person celebration, but because of the constraints brought on by COVID-19, that tradition had to be put on hold. Instead, the SIU Day of Giving will be livestreamed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the SIU Alumni Association Facebook page,

“Like so many things during the past year, we’ve had to adjust our approach,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “We’re not sitting on the sideline. We’re adapting, and we expect to have a very successful Day of Giving.”

The livestream

Kupec, who will host the livestream, will kick things off at 8 a.m. During the eight-hour event, he’ll be joined by Chancellor Austin A. Lane, a parade of college deans, development officers, program directors and others.

“We’re going to discuss many of the exciting things happening around campus,” Kupec said. “Watch a lot or watch a little, we’ll be live all day. I’m looking forward to some very engaging conversations.”

Every college and school will have a time slot, as will many programs and units, including Saluki Athletics, Morris Library, Touch of Nature Environmental Center, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and more. For a full livestream schedule, visit

The livestream will be hosted at WSIU, which has partnered with the SIU Foundation to bring a full schedule of Day of Giving content to alumni and donors. Viewers on Facebook are encouraged to ask questions in the comments section. Some of those questions may even become part of the broadcast.

COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place. The on-camera subjects will be separated by plexiglass, while masks will be worn at all other times. Only a limited number of people will be allowed in the studio at a time to maintain social distancing, and the set will be sanitized between segments.

“Safety is of the utmost importance to us,” Kupec said. “We’re taking great effort to ensure no one is put in harm’s way.”

Other than the Alumni Association’s Facebook page, the livestream will also be available at

How to give

On March 3, all gifts can be made at Once there, choose an area to support and make a gift.

Each gift will be featured on the Donor Wall, although donors can choose to give anonymously. A ticker on the homepage will keep track of the overall total. Last year, the SIU Day of Giving raised more than $1.6 million.

“It’s really simple to make a gift,” Kupec said. “All the options are right at your fingertips, and there’s so many worthwhile choices. The most difficult part can be deciding where to give.”

There are four trophies handed out at the end, which recognize the academic and non-academic units that raise the most funds or receive the most individual gifts.

Last year, the College of Liberal Arts received more than $197,960, making it the academic unit that raised the most funds. The School of Medicine had the highest number of individual gifts for an academic unit at 285. Among non-academic programs, Saluki Athletics received the most in-total donations at $139,301. The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality Scholarship, supported by the Carbondale ‘80s & 90s Facebook group received 815 individual gifts and earned the trophy for a most gifts raised by a non-academic unit.

Get involved

Other than making gift and watching the livestream, there are a few other things alumni and donors can do to support the cause.

Simply using #SIUDay on social media and sharing posts from the SIU Foundation and other units on campus is a great way to show support. It’s also not too late to become an SIU Day of Giving ambassador by signing up at Ambassadors get special Day of Giving updates and are encouraged to share their own Day of Giving message with others.

“The Day of Giving is all about interaction,” Kupec said. “We want to show people the power of philanthropy and showcase the incredible infrastructure of support that keeps SIU strong.”

Chancellor Lane: A Day to Move Forward Together

You don’t need me to tell you how challenging the past year has been. We’re all acutely aware of the hardships caused by the global pandemic.

Let’s rewind the clock one year. The 2020 SIU Day of Giving took place just before COVID-19 took hold of our country. Through the support of our generous donors, we raised more than $1.6 million – a truly incredible number.

Weeks later, our everyday lives were jolted into unfamiliar territory. Since then, we’ve adapted and adjusted our lifestyles to combat this terrible virus. Beyond those affected directly by it, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of every American in other ways, and Salukis are no different.

Students have struggled to stay in school, pay their bills, and make ends meet. The university has invested millions in personal protective equipment, increased cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and upgraded technology to support remote operations. Saluki Athletics has lost enormous revenue while seeing costs rise.

Now, nearly a full year later, we’re still battling the ramifications of the pandemic, but relief seems to be in sight. As vaccinations are rolled out and life begins to gain a semblance of normalcy, we are looking ahead.

Coincidentally, it’s brought us back to the SIU Day of Giving, and it’s time for us to move forward together.

On March 3, I’m asking all Salukis to visit and donate. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5, $50 or $500. Each year, thousands of Salukis join the cause and make the Day of Giving special, and every dollar makes a difference.

Gifts can be made to a general scholarship fund or the unit of your choosing. Support your college or school, an initiative that’s close to your heart, a program or group you are connected with, a fund you find important, or any other of the many options at Gifts can also be made via the payroll deduction form.

If you can’t give on March 3, you can still support the Day of Giving by using #SIUDay on social media and following the Day of Giving livestream on the SIU Alumni Association’s Facebook page at

As we reach this milestone and reflect on the year behind us, there’s no doubt better days await. The SIU Day of Giving is one of those days, and I can’t wait to feel the excitement it brings.

I’m proud to be a Saluki, and I know you are too. Together we can show it. Together is how we move forward.

With Saluki Pride,

Chancellor Austin A. Lane

Wagner joins University Museum as a consultant

Gretchen Wagner


CARBONDALE – After an extensive, nationwide search, Gretchen Wagner has been selected to serve as a consultant for SIU’s University Museum.

Wagner, an experienced museum professional and adjunct professor at Webster University in St. Louis, joined the museum on Feb. 1 and will serve in this position for 15 months. This hire represents a collaboration between the museum and the SIU Foundation, which played a vital role in filling the position.

“We are very excited to welcome Gretchen Wagner as a consultant to work with our staff to map the future of the University Museum,” said John Pollitz, dean of the University Museum. “This venture represents a commitment to the stability of the museum.”

Wagner will meet with staff, donors, and regional stakeholders. She will guide the museum as it expands its offerings, raising awareness of SIU’s status as an artistic and cultural leader in the region.

“The SIU Foundation is stepping up in its role as an accelerator,” said SIU Foundation Board President David Delaney. “By helping bring in Ms. Wagner, we expect to further raise the already stellar profile of the University Museum.”

Many highly qualified professionals were considered, but Wagner’s immense experience was overwhelming.

“Ms. Wagner comes to us with a deep knowledge of art history and a rich experience in a wide variety of public and university museums,” Pollitz said. “We are thrilled that someone of Ms. Wagner’s credentials will be working with us.”

She most recently worked as director and curator at The Horsemen Foundation in St. Louis. Before that, Wagner served as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the St. Louis Art Museum. She has also worked with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis; the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York; Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts; and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, Wisconsin.

In these roles, she has conducted research of hundreds of pieces, curated numerous exhibitions, and established relationships with artists, peer institutions, trustees, and donors.

“We have some major exhibits planned for the next few years and at least one major donation of artwork on the horizon,” Pollitz said. “Ms. Wagner will help us reach out to the community and regional school districts.”

Wagner and Pollitz will be featured during the SIU Day of Giving livestream at 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, March 3. The livestream will be available on the SIU Alumni Association Facebook page. To make a gift to the museum on the Day of Giving, visit

For more information about the University Museum, visit The complete schedule of spring 2021 event can be found at the museum’s Facebook page.

The last act of a giving heart: Hill, longtime SIU supporter, passes away at 104

Anne Hill, 104, long-time donor, alumna, and former SIU staff member, passed away Monday, Feb. 15. One of her last acts was to endow a scholarship award through the School of Music honoring her uncle – the Carl Deis Music Composition Award Endowment.

She believed in the importance of the arts, and she had been involved in the local art scene since 1979.

Recently, she made her greatest impact with a $25,000 donation to the SIU College of Liberal Arts. The Carl Deis Music Composition Award Endowment, named after Hill’s uncle, who was a well-known composer, will benefit students in the School of Music.

“I have no idea what kind of music will develop in the next 25 years, so I leave that up to the students to set the pace,” Hill said in the weeks before her death.  “That makes an opportunity for them to advance the state of music in a way that will be directed by their prize-winning compositions.”

Hill came to SIU as an employee in 1979, retiring in 1981. It was then that she set out to obtain her master’s degree in English. She graduated in 1986.

During her time in Carbondale, she was active in many university and community organizations, including the American Association of University Women and the John Thomas Strings Program. She has also been a donor to the McLeod Summer Playhouse and WSIU. She also helped establish the Southern Illinois Chamber Music Society.

“My grandfather immigrated here – he played trombone in the New York Symphony – because America needed music and musicians. This is still the case. We need to build audiences, too,” she said in a 2015 SIU Alumni magazine article. “I continue to enrich my own life in this community because I have made wonderful friends through the programs we have been able to serve in and support.”

It isn’t the first time Hill has given to the university and its students, but by endowing a fund, those gifts are made sustainable and will be given each year.

To read her full obituary, click here.

Learn About SIU College of Engineering’s Leaders of Tomorrow

With a new year, it is a time of new beginnings, especially for the SIU College of Engineering. After a diligent search, Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu was appointed as the new dean for the SIU College of Engineering in June 2020.

Liu was the professor and department head of the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas and held the college’s Rodger S. Kline Leadership Chair. The department is within the university’s College of Engineering.

Meera Komarraju, SIU’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Liu brings several strengths to the position.

“Dr. Liu brings teaching, research, and administrative expertise spanning two universities that would benefit our students, staff, and faculty,” she said. “He has a strong track record in promoting student enrollment, engagement and success as well faculty development and research productivity.”

Extensive experience

Liu also served as chair of the University of Arkansas’ Computer Activities Council, playing a leadership role in the governance of information technologies for the university. Before joining Arkansas in 2015, Liu served as interim department chair and associate department chair in the computer science department at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Liu is an established scholar in service computing, software engineering, cyber argumentation, cyber manufacturing and applied artificial intelligence. He has participated in 29 sponsored research projects with $8.8 million in funding as principal or co-principal investigator or faculty participant.

He has published 156 referred journal and conference papers and book chapters. Liu received his Ph.D. in computer science from the Texas A&M University in 1995.

Excited for the opportunity

Liu said he is excited for the opportunity to serve as dean.

“The college is in a time of significant transformation. I appreciate the confidence given by the chancellor and provost and the trust given by the faculty, staff and students in my ability for leading this transformation,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with campus leadership, faculty, staff and students in the college and related disciplines to move this college to its next level of excellence.”

The SIU College of Engineering holds fast to a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, and top-tier research. The faculty encourage creativity within a climate of outstanding student success-focused teaching. The college’s five departments offer a wide range of courses and promotes opportunities for students to participate in a wide range of activities outside the classroom including research, design competitions, service-oriented projects and leadership development activities.

Spotlight on School of Engineering Students

Below are highlights from interviews from a sampling of students who are pursuing a degree within the College of Engineering:

Scott Kasper, Senior, Riverton, Illinois

Kasper, a recipient of the University Excellence Scholarship and a scholarship from the SIU College of Engineering, says his interest in civil engineering began in high school where he took some low-level courses in engineering. But, his real interest began when he came to SIU and met the faculty within the college.

“The SIU College of Engineering really reached out to me and encouraged me. At larger universities, I know I would not be on a first-name basis with a chair of a department like I am here. The college just promotes a true community spirit where we are all in this together,” Kasper said.

He says that one of his biggest influences during his studies has been the chair of civil engineering, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar.

“Dr. Kumar, from day one, has made himself so approachable and helpful. He never made me feel like just a number. I really have appreciated his help,” Kasper said.

Kasper currently has an internship at Shawnee Professional Services in Benton, Illinois, and has plans on getting a master’s degree in civil engineering at SIU College of Engineering. His professional aspirations are to become a professional civil engineer in water resources.

Kasper recognizes that his focus on his studies would have been much more challenging had he not received his scholarships.

“To receive a helping hand from donors has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. I encourage other donors to continue to give to students like me in the College of Engineering. In my opinion, it could not be a better use of their money because they can literally change the course of a young person’s life,” Kasper said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Jessica Kurpius, Senior, Genoa, Illinois

Kurpius, a SIU Chancellor Scholarship recipient, said that when she was taking a tour of the SIU campus during her senior year in high school, that something special clicked inside of her. Kurpius had applied and was accepted at several other universities besides SIU, including University of Illinois, Marquette and Purdue, but SIU was the only one that fit her personality and dreams perfectly.

“I just knew this was the place for me because it felt right in my heart,” she said.

Kurpius said her aptitude for math steered her toward the engineering field. She also said the influence of being around other students who were engineering majors helped her change her undecided status to pursue a degree in civil engineering.

“The College of Engineering just has so many activities and clubs where several dedicated students really fuel the interest level,” she said.

Kurpius serves as president of the Concrete Canoe Club and is proud of the club’s achievements.

“The ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition provides civil engineering students an opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience and leadership skills by working with concrete mix designs and project management. It also increases awareness of the value and benefits of ASCE membership among civil engineering students and faculty in order to foster lifelong membership and participation in the Society,” Kurpius said.

SIU’s Concrete Canoe Club competed at the National ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition in 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2018, SIU students won first place in the technical paper competition, while the concrete canoe and steel bridge teams both took second in their respective competitions.

Kurpius encourages donors to give to the student organizations such as the Concrete Canoe Club.

“Donations make a huge difference in our clubs’ activities and opportunities. We need help with paying for the necessary material and the travel expense. A donation of any size helps so much,” she said.

Kurpius is graduating from SIU in May of 2021 and will start a new job in Kansas City at Burns and McDonald, a full-service engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting solutions firm.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Ally Bires, Senior, Gillespie, IL

Bires said her love of engineering came from when she was a small girl working alongside her father.

“We were always spending time building things together, so engineering, especially mechanical engineering, came as a natural extension from when I was young,” she said.

Bires is a walking ambassador for the College of Engineering and is very supportive of the college.

“This college has given me a future by providing me with scholarships, opportunities and so many contacts,” she said. “It has great programs and faculty members go out of their way to give students everything they need to know to go out and be successful in the workforce.”

Bires spent the last two years working as a calling supervisor for the SIU Foundation. She understands the importance of philanthropy and of lending a helping hand, especially to registered student organizations, such as the Rover Design Club.

“We learn so much by building a rover. The entire machine cannot be built using any pre-fabricated parts other than the shocks and pedal shafts,” she said. “Our team looks forward to the opportunity to participate in the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Design teams from 70 high school, college and university teams from all of the world come to race their rovers and it is a really exciting competition.”

She encourages donors to give to such student groups as the SIU Rover Design Team.

“We need so much material, and we also need funds to travel. It is an opportunity for a donor to really change the course of young people’s lives by donating to the SIU College of Engineering,” Bires said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Brock Ward, Junior, Downs, IL

As a senior in high school, Brock Ward was accepted into several universities, such as University of Illinois, Saint Louis University and SIU Carbondale. Ward said that he chose the SIU College of Engineering because of several factors – distance from home, the beauty of the campus and the offer of the SIU University Excellence Scholarship.

“Everything just fell in place for me. The affordability, the beauty surrounding me and the personalized and friendly approach the faculty has shown me really made a positive impact,” Ward said.

Ward is a member of the college’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). The SIU College of Engineering is one of very few STEM colleges (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the nation that offers a technical leadership program. The SIU Leadership Development Program provides a direct bridge from leadership training to a career as a technical leader. Founded in 2006 by Dick Blaudow, an engineering alumnus and chairman of the board of Advanced Technology Services in Peoria. Blaudow and his wife, Brigitte, established the program as a way to help develop the next generation of America’s technical leaders.

Bruce DeRuntz, professor of technology at SIU and director of the College of Engineering’s Leadership Development Program, says the program truly transforms these students into leaders.

“To be successful, these students know they have to prepare for success. It’s great to watch the transformation happen in these students as they go through the LDP program,” DeRuntz said.

Ward joined the group in December of 2018 and says the group gives him a place to practice leadership skills, project management and real-world experience.

“I am enjoying the connections I am making in both the group and in the community,” he said. “Recently we got to go take a tour of Southern Illinois Healthcare to try out their surgery automation machines. It was very cool. LDP also connects students to a wide variety of internship opportunities.”

Ward hope that donors will give back to his college during the upcoming SIU Day of Giving.

“I think if a donor has some money to give back to SIU, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment into young people that are motivated to make the world a better place,” Ward said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Audrey “Claire” Waldon, Junior, Olive Branch, MS

Waldon’s sister attended SIU in 2014 but Waldon insisted she was not going to follow in her sister’s footsteps and attend the same university. However, as Waldon saw the support her sister received during her time in Carbondale, it became a natural progression that Waldon would fall in love with SIU as well.

“Everyone here is like family. The professors are so supportive and the RSOs really connect students to one another and they help ignite their passions,” said Waldon.

Waldon is a recipient of the Chancellor Scholarship and she also serves as the ASCE Chapter President. She says she enjoys being involved, especially with the SIU College of Engineering’s Concrete Canoe team.

“One of my favorite memories is coming back to Campus Lake’s shore after doing a test run with our concrete canoe. In the sandy area by the boathouse, we got to see baby turtles hatching from their eggs. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget,” said Waldon.

Waldon hopes that donors will give back on March 3 for the SIU Day of Giving, especially the College of Engineering.

“SIU serves as a door to opportunity for so many students. When donors give, they are truly investing in our future.”

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Nelson Fernandes, Junior, Chicago, IL

Nelson Fernandes, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering has big plans for his future. He minors is in continuous improvement sustainability and he is specializing in energy engineering.

“I am a senior mechanical engineering undergraduate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a focus in energy engineering, sustainability, and continuous improvement. At SIU Carbondale, I am the program manager for the SIU Green Roof Team, which is my project to transform the SIU Green Roof, originally an urban horticulture research facility, into a multidisciplinary innovation hub,” he said. “Here, students from all fields of study can bring their research projects to life. Presently, we are especially focused on Renewable Energy projects. We are improving the space through low-cost engineering projects to jumpstart and bring awareness of the research opportunities.

“Our team members from SIU Carbondale and other universities gain hands-on experience while modeling the way for other innovative students to work on multidisciplinary projects like renewable energy technologies which is a growing field of study in our university’s curriculum.”

Fernandes said he first learned about the SIU College of Engineering while he was working on a science project in high school.

“I became connected to Dr. Koc, who was the chair of the department, who connected me to other SIU professors to help me in my project to make material that turns greenhouse gases into oxygen and liquid hydrogen. He was very kind and welcoming,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes is the first recipient of the Applied Energy Boost Scholarship, and he gives Dr. Mondal credit for encouraging him to study at SIU College of Engineering.

“Dr. Mondal showed me he truly cares about me and students like me. He and the entire faculty are sincere in their desire to help students and they are willing to work with us,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes hopes donors give back to SIU College of Engineering during the SIU Day of Giving and beyond.

“Finances are critical to help projects we are working on continue to grow. We have the right people, but we could use the financial help,” he said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Grant Berger, Senior, Murphysboro, IL

Grant Berger is majoring in computer engineering and is a recipient of the SIU Dean’s Scholarship and serves as president of the SIU Carbondale Robotics Team.

“This club has about 40 active members and gives students a lot of hands-on experience. It gives students from the College of Engineering the opportunity to design, build and test real working robots built to specific specifications,” Berger said.

Having grown up in Southern Illinois, Berger says his exposure to SIU came at an early age. He spent summers attending camps at SIU and attended many basketball and football games throughout the years.

“You can definitely say maroon is in my veins. I love it here,” he said.

When asked what he likes the most about the SIU College of Engineering, Berger said that he appreciates the early hands-on experiences he has gained during his undergraduate years.

“There are many places that won’t allow students to get into labs and do hands-on experiments until they are a senior or else are in graduate school. I have really appreciated getting into the labs early on and also appreciated how helpful the professors are in this college,” he said.

Berger recognizes how his scholarship made a difference in his college career.

“College is expensive, and I am not sure how I would have paid for my education had I not received the dean’s scholarship. It allowed me to focus on my schoolwork. I am forever grateful,” he said.

Berger hopes donors will give to the college’s RSO during the upcoming SIU Day of Giving.

“It would be fantastic if we were able to purchase newer equipment. The equipment in our college is starting to show its age, and it can negatively affect your data. It is critical we have good equipment so we can compete with other universities,” he said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Chen Endowed Scholarship Fund

Juh Wah Chen, a principal architect of the modern SIU College of Engineering, passed away Saturday, Feb. 6, at 92 years old. In memory of Juh Wah Chen, the family asks for support of the scholarship in his family’s name. The scholarship is awarded to students in the School of Engineering each year and will allow his legacy to continue in perpetuity. Make a gift online at:

Chen joined the SIU College of Engineering faculty in 1965, beginning at 34-year career at the university. Starting as an assistant professor, he rose to the rank of full professor and eventually the chair of the Department of Thermal and Environmental Engineering. He later became associate dean of the college before being named dean in 1989. He retired 10 years later.

During his tenure as dean, he led the college through a major building expansion and engineering program accreditation. He founded an engineering conference with National Chen Kung University in Taiwan and the Technical University of Ostrava in Czech Republic, where he received an honorary doctorate in 1999.

“I remember riding on the train from Chicago to Carbondale with Dean Julian Lauchner, who was a bit of an exaggerator at times,” he said in a 2016 interview. “Trying to lure me from my position at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, he told me great stories of SIU’s College of Engineering, about its facilities and the campus. It was only when we arrived in Carbondale when the dean confessed that the buildings were still under construction.

“Nevertheless, because my wife had attended SIU earlier and received a master’s degree in chemistry, I already had a special place in my heart for both the community and the college. We moved our family to Carbondale, where we raised them in a little home on Skyline Drive. I saw the opportunity for growth Dean Lauchner laid before me, and I was up for the challenge.”

In retirement, Juh Wah Chen and his wife, Han Lin Chen, maintained a strong connection to the university. They established a Juh Wah and Han Lin Chen Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide undergraduate scholarships, assistance to young faculty members, and funds for external activities such as sponsoring guest speakers. The fund complemented the couple’s two existing scholarship endowment funds to the college.

“SIU is our entire life,” Juh Wah Chen said in 2016. “We have always done the best we can for SIU and the College of Engineering. For us, money is of secondary importance. We live a simple life, and we don’t like to see things go to waste. If we can help and contribute, then we will. We just want to see SIU become sustainable, and we want to help move it forward.”

Juh Wah Chen is survived by his wife, four children and three grandchildren. Services will be provided by Walker Funeral Home in Carbondale is in charge of services, and a full obituary can be found at