SIU Foundation provides Fermentation Science Institute funding

Grant will advance research, partnerships

Interior image of McLafferty Annex.


CARBONDALE – The integration of research and innovation into the educational mission of SIU is major goal of the university and the Fermentation Science Institute (FSI) located in the McLafferty Annex exemplifies this focus.  The FSI provides an umbrella for the support and development of programs (educational, research and outreach) involving all aspects of fermentation science, and serves as a support structure to spur and foster regional industries involving fermentation.

In its role as an accelerator, the SIU Foundation is committed to advance the efforts of the FSI and has agreed to provide a grant of $1.1 million to allow for further development of the infrastructure within the McLafferty Annex.  This new infrastructure will accelerate the expansion of the activities of the FSI into important new and exciting areas.

“There is groundbreaking research and student development happening within the walls of the McLafferty Annex,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “Our Board of Directors recognizes the opportunity and views this as a major step toward fulfilling the potential of the program.”

The opportunity

As part of its planned expansion and in response to a request for information issued by SIU, Chicago-based Ravinia Brewing Company plans to locate a production facility within the McLafferty Annex. This lease will not only generate revenue to support the academic program, but also provide world-class training for students by allowing on-site access to large-scale production and packaging equipment not currently available in southern Illinois. In addition, Ravinia intends to provide contract brewing and packaging services to regional breweries which will provide growth and economic development opportunities in southern Illinois.

To advance the goals of the FSI and accommodate the brewery, as well as other facilities, within the McLafferty Annex, the building needs critical infrastructure upgrades. The funding provided by the Foundation will allow the FSI to move forward to develop the facility to house the Faye Minor MaGill teaching kitchen and sensory laboratory, and pilot facilities for brewing, distilling, and cheesemaking

“Making these infrastructure upgrades to the building is the next important step to fully realizing the FSI program’s potential. We will soon have a vertically integrated hub of interdisciplinary research and training opportunities in the areas of fermentation and value-added agriculture,” said Matt McCarroll, director of the FSI. This facility will provide training opportunities for SIU students and support new businesses across the region and state. This project will enhance the FSI’s curriculum and put SIU in a position to become a national leader in the field.” McCarroll said.

The impact

This project uniquely positions SIU as a leader in the growing field of fermentation science.

Businesses have already taken interest in partnering with the FSI and the infrastructure provided by this gift will serve as a catalyst stimulating more opportunities for partnerships and R&D engagements with the corporate world, resulting in significant revenue generation through leases, grants and contracts.

“Repurposing the McLafferty Annex presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Nestled between the University Farms and the heart of campus, the vertically integrated pilot facilities will provide state-of-the-art training and R&D opportunities in the production of fermented foods, beverages, and value-added agriculture not replicated elsewhere,” McCarroll said. “The support of the SIU Foundation comes at a critical time and fast-tracks the university to seize these opportunities.”


Media Contact: Rebecca Renshaw,

Meet Scholarship Recipient Vernecelyn Allen

Having a clear vision of what we want to accomplish early in life is rare. Vernecelyn Allen is a remarkable exception. Allen graduated this year with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and an Associate of Applied Sciences in Aviation Flight.

“Thanks to my mother, I was exposed to different career opportunities through summer camps. I received great experiences during those times that taught me about areas like technology and theater, but the one that intrigued me the most is aviation,” said Allen.

In high school, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) invited Allen to attend a camp in Delaware where she received flight hours, learned about aviation, flew air simulators, and visited control towers.

“OBAP really nurtured my love for flying. Aviation is not largely populated by black pilots, so they really served as mentors for me and encouraged me in aviation,” she said.

In her senior year of high school, Allen attended an SIU college fair. She learned about their aviation management and flight program. Allen later visited SIU during an open house and was impressed by its aviation program and the many scholarships that were available.

Allen applied to eight other universities in addition to SIU; however, it was being awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship that helped her choose SIU.

“Aviation flight fees can run up to $25,000 above the cost of a regular tuition in a single year, and the SIU aviation department offered opportunities to students to apply for aid. Receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship and other aviation scholarships really helped along with the African-American Achievement Scholarship,” she said.

Allen says she is thankful that the scholarships have allowed her to minimize her educational financial burden.

“I would definitely be more stressed out if I had to face a larger loan balance after I graduate. Funding makes such a difference in our lives. It could mean the difference between living out or giving up a dream. I am so grateful to the people and organizations who have found it important to create scholarships so that students can empower themselves to continue to pursue education,” she said.

Upon graduation, Allen hopes to become a flight instructor at SIU. Her ultimate goal is to return to her hometown of Memphis and fly for Federal Express. She would also like to be an officer in the Air National Guard.

“Someday, I want to focus on giving back to groups underrepresented in the industry. I think scholarships would empower more to attain the education they desire, and to reach beyond the stars.”

Ong establishes scholarships, brings academic competitions to SIU

By Jeff Wilson

Henry Ong has lived and worked all around the world, but he hasn’t forgotten the role SIU played in his life.

“I had an enjoyable experience at SIU and the wonderful outdoor experiences in Southern Illinois,” he said. “That was some of the best times of my life.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree and MBA from the College of Business, Ong spent many successful years working for Whirlpool. Then, in the mid-90s, he made a career change and began to focus on education.

“I wanted to create resources that would align with 21st Century learning concepts,” he said. “I have always been good at mathematical games. I started working with an educational supply company. I learned about the educational system.”

From there, he decided to develop his own mathematical competitions and founded the Singapore International Mastery Contests Center (SIMCC).

“We started in 2006, and it has grown quickly into one of the largest academic competitions in the world,” he said. “We’re now in 38 countries.”

Working with SIU’s Center for International Education, Ong has established two endowed scholarships for international students, and the SIMCC recently entered a partnership with SIU. The university will host future competitions.

“Beyond simply competing, we created a pathway for students to win awards through competition,” he said. “There are more than 200,000 students who take part in these competitions worldwide.”

A long journey

Like all young men from Singapore, Ong was required to serve in the country’s military. After that, he spent a year teaching and applied to SIU. He was accepted and came to Carbondale in January of 1982. It was then that he applied for and received a scholarship for international students.

“That helped me finish my degree,” he said. “SIU was very generous to me.”

He had a job offer from Whirlpool when he graduated but had to wait on his visa to be approved. For six months, he worked as an intern in the university controller’s office. Once he started working for Whirlpool, he rose through the ranks quickly.

Ong transferred from his U.S. position to a position in Hong Kong and later become managing director for Whirlpool in Malaysia and Singapore. He ended his career with the corporation as Asian Audit Director and took a job developing new appliances with a mentor of his in San Francisco.

“Not long after that, I decided Asia was much more attractive, so I moved back to Singapore to distribute products in Asia,” he said.

A few years later, he transitioned to the world of producing educational resources. Since founding the SIMCC, he’s seen the power of the academic competitions and is excited about bringing them and scholarships to SIU.

“We’re looking forward to this partnership,” he said. “I hope these students can also enjoy the same fantastic experience I had at SIU.”

Matt Solverson: A Lifetime Saluki

By Rebecca Renshaw

Ask anyone what they remember about their college years and chances are you’ll hear about unforgettable moments, lifelong friendships, and stories about memorable classes and professors. For Matt Solverson, SIU has played a prominent role throughout his entire life.

“I have always been deeply connected to SIU as my late father was an SIU professor teaching agribusiness economics for 32 years,” he said. “My mother earned her master’s degree in special education from SIU, and I met my wife, Christy, as we both earned degrees while at SIU. I attended Carbondale schools, so I was always on campus with my family.”

Solverson is a 1986 graduate of the College of Engineering and a member of the college’s Industrial Advisory Board. He is the Director of Research and Development Programs at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, where he has been employed for over 30 years.

Solverson can point to several areas where SIU played a significant role in his upbringing. His family has held season tickets for SIU athletic events for many years.

“I remember being on campus as a young boy with my father, and he would take me to his office. We would go to the basketball and football games, and that is where my love of SIU Athletics began. I would say our blood definitely runs maroon” he said.

After serving on the SIU Foundation board for several years, Solverson will begin his tenure as president of the board on July 1, 2021.

“We have watched the SIU Foundation step up instead of sit down when the pandemic hit last year. Together, we have furthered our mission, and we stand eager to move forward together as we continue into this fiscal year,” he said. “I am so honored and excited to lead the board as president. The future looks promising for SIU, and I can’t wait to see where the next few months lead us.”

His wife, Judge Christy Solverson, a two-degree alumna of SIU, serves as Presiding Circuit Judge for Jackson County in the First Judicial Circuit. The Solversons have one adult daughter and reside in Carbondale.

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Craddock Facilitates Recruiting Trip to Hometown High School

Foundation Board Member Joins Chancellor Lane at St. Augustine

Chancellor Austin Lane (from left), Oyd Craddock, Tyrone Payne, Darren Dixon, and
Todd Bryson are pictured during the chancellor’s visit to St. Augustine High School in
New Orleans. Payne and Dixon are both SIU alumni and teachers at the school.

By Jeff Wilson

Talk to anyone around campus at SIU, and one topic is on everyone’s mind – enrollment.

Chancellor Austin Lane has spearheaded a fervent recruitment plan, which aims to raise enrollment as early as this fall. So, when the chancellor approached Oyd Craddock about a visit to his high school, Craddock was excited to help.

“St. Augustine is an African-American, all boys Catholic high school in New Orleans,” said Craddock, an SIU alumnus, Saluki Hall of Famer, and SIU Foundation board member. “Both St. Augustine and SIU played a major role in my life.”

On March 19, Chancellor Lane, Craddock, and Todd Bryson, SIU’s interim associate chancellor for diversity, made the trip to New Orleans and spoke to St. Augustine High School students.

“Chancellor Lane affirmed my emphasis on the value of an out-of-state experience and how it helps you grow as a person,” Craddock said. “It was clear he really connected with them. There was a buzz among the students, and there have already been at least six applicants.”

From philanthropy to campus involvement to recruitment and retention, every alumni and university supporter can make a major difference. “I wanted to have a hand in growing enrollment and raising awareness of SIU,” Craddock said. “It was a very special trip for me.”

Craddock attended St. Augustine in the 1970s and, along with four other members of his senior class, was recruited to play football at SIU.

“We had just won a state championship and were able to visit SIU,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful campus, and there was a great social environment. We had a lot of fun and had some great football teams. I only wish we had been able to win a conference title.”

Craddock led a stout Salukis defense in the late-70s. He was inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame in 2004. He earned his bachelor’s degree in management from the College of Business.

“I worked for IBM for 31 years, and I was able to get started there with the assistance of the SIU Placement Office. They helped me with my résumé and interviews, and the director sent a letter of recommendation to IBM and other companies,” he said. “From start to finish, I had a wonderful experience at SIU.”

Two of the longest-tenured faculty members at St. Augustine are also Salukis. Tyrone Payne, ’81, and Darren Dixon, ’85, spoke to the students during the visit.

“SIU previously had a special connection with St. Augustine. Many student-athletes from my era attended SIU,” Craddock said. “This trip was an opportunity to reignite a relationship.”

St. Augustine commemorated its 70th anniversary this spring, and it’s been quite the celebration.

In February, two of the school’s alumni faced off in the Super Bowl. In March, its basketball team won the state championship, and its marching band was featured on “60 Minutes.”

Four St. Augustine graduates were nominated for Grammys, including PJ Morton, who won for Best Gospel Album. Jon Batiste, a St. Augustine alumnus, won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

“Plus, the Saluki football team beat Southeastern Louisiana University,” Craddock said. “SIU left a strong impression on the students at St. Augustine.”


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Spotlight on Dean Liu

This is a season of renewed hope and 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.

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 as 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. 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 coprincipal 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 look 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 activities outside the classroom including research, design competitions, service-oriented projects and leadership development activities.

Growth Opportunity and Reorganization

Dean Liu‘s plan is to build a larger and higher-ranked college that is recognized for student success, excellent academic programs, strong research and a diverse and inclusive learning and working environment. The college has significant growth opportunities. The demand for engineering talents is strong. The student-faculty ratio in the college is low, which indicates that we have significant capacity for growth. The college is building strong academic programs with excellent faculty to educate and train our students to meet the demand. It will strengthen and develop clusters of excellence of teaching and research with national and international reputation.

The college is being transformed to achieve growth through both expansion and organic growth and is being expanded with additional programs, such as computer science and mathematics. The College of Engineering will become College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics due to the recent expansion in the campus reorganization.

Enrollment Turnaround

Enrollment management has been Dean Liu’s top priority since he joined SIU. The college developed an enrollment turnaround plan under his leadership and has been implementing this plan and is making excellent progress on enrollment growth for fall 2021. Still in the middle of the recruitment cycle, the number of complete applications grew 43% and number of admitted students grew 44.9% for fall 2021 compared to 2020. The number of complete applications is the highest since 2018 and the number of admitted students is the highest since 2017. To achieve this, the college revamped its recruitment process to improve its effectiveness, built an effective recruitment team, launched a digital marketing campaign, and reached out to high schools and community colleges. The college hosted many webinars, engaged prospective and admitted students through phone calls, emails, and webinars, hosted open houses, academic showcases, virtual tours, and campus visits.

If you would like to learn more about the SIU College of Engineering, visit

Renewed Spirit Behind Forever SIU Campaign

Through more than four years and one global pandemic, the Forever SIU fundraising campaign has persisted, raising more than $122 million.

“The dedication of SIU’s supporters is astonishing,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “The last year has been difficult for many people, but the Foundation hasn’t sat on the sideline. We’ve furthered our mission, and as things get back to normal, we’re ready to move quickly.”

The campaign was launched in 2017 with a goal of raising $75 million in three years. Because of the donor generosity, the Foundation sped past that goal seven months early, which prompted the decision to set a new goal of $90 million.

“At the end of 2019, we had already surpassed that new goal, and we knew it was important to keep this momentum,” Kupec said. “That’s when we set our sights on $200 million by June 2024.”

As the country recovers from many of the hardships brought on by COVID-19, the Foundation is redoubling its efforts to meet and exceed the $200 million goal. Despite the hardships, SIU alumni and donors raised nearly $3 million in 24 hours on the Day of Giving in March.

“The Day of Giving is a prime example of what we can accomplish. Our efforts never slowed down – in many ways they’ve increased – but it’s understandable for a fundraising campaign to face challenges during a pandemic,” Kupec said. “This is our opportunity to finish strong.”

Within Forever SIU, donors can choose from a great number of areas to support SIU. They can choose to support scholarships, research, facilities, programs, and faculty. By going to, donors can pick one or many areas to fund.

A recent highlight of the Forever SIU campaign, Saluki Athletics announced its $25 million goal for the Salukis Forever campaign. COVID-19 hit athletic programs especially hard, and there is great need for donor support as part of an overall plan to provide sustainability and success for Saluki Athletics.

“Whether a donor chooses a college, a sport, a scholarship, or a fund, every dollar makes an impact,” Kupec said. “We have just over three years to raise about $78 million. Our great supporters are going to carry us to the end.”

The campaign will feature a new logo, new promotional materials, and much more. Visit for more information or to make a gift.

Dunbar Leadership Society Supports Diverse Students, Thoughts


Vintage Dunbar Society - SIU Photo

by Jeff Wilson

SIU’s commitment to diversity is represented through the Dunbar Leadership Society.

Named after Paul Laurence Dunbar, a turn-of-the-century poet and novelist, the society was established in 1904 to organize the activities of African American students. It served as the precursor to the university’s Africana Studies program and the Black Affairs Council. Recently, through the SIU Foundation, the Dunbar Leadership Society has been reintroduced.

“I see great potential at SIU. We’re just scratching the surface,” said society chair Kennard Tucker ’91. “Having engaged and involved alumni is crucial.”

Through the Dunbar Leadership Society, Tucker hopes to reinvigorate SIU’s diverse alumni and create opportunities for current and future Salukis. It’s his plan to raise scholarship funds and host events that resonate with members of a multicultural campus.

“As Black alumni, we want to create a society that is synonymous with the SIU we knew and loved and share that experience with the next generation of leaders,” he said. “There are important conversations happening around the country right now, and campus is a microcosm of what’s happening nationally. We hope to provide the construct so that dialogue can exist and thrive.”

While there are mechanisms in place at the state and federal level to help low-income and minority students, the Dunbar Leadership Society seeks to fill some of the gaps.

“It’s important for students to have support services and social opportunities. There needs to be that balance,” said society board member Dr. Carl Flowers ’75, MS ’85, Ph.D. ’93. “The Dunbar Leadership Society can lead to more access for students who fall in the middle.”

Beginning a college career can be a difficult time for any student, but that can be especially true for students who feel like they don’t belong.

“SIU has been good to my family, but when I started, I was the only Black student in many of my classes,” said society board member Dr. Linda Flowers ’78, MS ’88, Ph.D. ’06. “It’s important for students to see people who look like themselves.”

Having a diverse campus goes beyond the vital step of ensuring equality for Black students, it provides a richer, more fulfilling experience for every member of the campus community.

“Diversity is important for students of all races and ethnicities,” said society board member Susan Smith Ross ’79. “For many, college is the first time you’re included with people who aren’t like you. A diverse campus is an opportunity for all students to gain respect and knowledge of others.”

With the assistance of the SIU Foundation, the Dunbar Leadership Society hopes to raise enough money to endow scholarships, host speaker series, and support diversity initiatives. Gifts of any size are welcome and can be made at

“We want to galvanize the alumni base and create a source of pride for all alumni,” Tucker said. “The program was created to promote and encourage African-American philanthropic giving at the leadership level of $1,000 or greater. Our plan is to support significant scholarship funds and implement important programming. The opportunities are nearly unlimited.”

To donate to the Dunbar Leadership Society or for more information, contact Kevin Clark, director of development, at 618-453-6742 or

A family legacy of teaching

Marilyn Black smiles as she signs her gift agreement for the Marilyn A. Black Scholarship in Elementary Education.

The legacy of teaching runs strong in Marilyn Black’s family. Black, a 1960 alumna from the SIU College of Education, learned about the value of teaching from her parents, who were themselves graduates of the SIU College of Education. Black’s father was a school superintendent and her mother was her high school English teacher. “Education was important to them,” said Black.

At SIU, Black benefitted from a scholarship that helped her reach her goal of becoming a teacher, ultimately teaching in the Carbondale elementary school district for over 20 years. Black and her late husband, Frank, had three children who all attended SIU.  Marilyn loved teaching and inspired two of her children to become educators as well.

In recognition of the importance of teachers, she recently established the Marilyn A. Black Scholarship in Elementary Education, saying simply, “Somebody helped me, so I want to help now.” Her scholarship will support aspiring elementary education students to reach their goals of becoming teachers, just as Black did.

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