SIU welcomes a new dean for the College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences

Meet Eric Brevik, a professor of geology and soil science from North Dakota’s Dickinson State University. Brevik began his duties as dean of the College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences (CALPS) on July 1, 2021.

Brevik said the job attracted him because the programs within it span his professional background, which includes deep study in both geology and soil science.

“I started my academic life as a geologist, getting my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology, and that fits in well with the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability. I then got a Ph.D. in soil science, which fits well with the School of Agricultural Sciences,” Brevik said. “I have also taught both geology and soil science coursework throughout my 20 years as a tenure-track faculty member and have published several papers that discuss the intersection of soil science and geology.”

In addition, Brevik has collaborated with biologists, chemists and physicists during his career.

“So the college is a really good fit for me professionally,” he said. “On a more personal note, SIU is also about as central to family for myself and my wife as it is currently possible to get, so that was appealing.”

Brevik is proud of what the college offers students and is eager to create an atmosphere of collaboration among the faculty, staff, alumni, and donors.

“The opportunities students have for a hands-on learning experience is phenomenal. Not all universities have farm facilities, but here at SIU, you can literally step outside the classrooms and be on the farm in five minutes,” he said. “There, our professors can provide personal training. Students can also find employment at our farms. We have some great scientists who do impressive field-based work. This region, with its rivers, bluffs, caves, and forests makes it a prime location for our students to learn outdoors. Our forestry program is ranked second in the country. It helps that the Shawnee National Forest is in our backyard for our students to get real-life experiences as they study. We also have highly-regarded fisheries, wildlife, and geology programs that take advantage of our surrounding environment.”

Brevik points to the relationship the college has with John Deere and hopes that other types of collaboration will occur in the coming years.

“I am so appreciative of Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners, a John Deere dealer. Thanks to a lease they gave us last year, we now have brand new farm equipment for the students to use. We have new tractors, combines and several other pieces of equipment valued at more than $2.5 million dollars,” he said. “Having such equipment positively impacts the education our students receive at SIU.”

Brevik notes that while the college has benefited from such partnerships, much remains to be done to keep the college thriving.

“It takes a lot to maintain the many buildings we have on the farm. We have several buildings that could definitely use updating. The Beef Center is an example where we recently got a generous helping hand from Compeer Financial,” he said. “As the state continues to cut our budget, we continue to have needs that cannot be ignored. Having alumni and donors give us a helping hand is a critical component to our success.”

Brevik is proud of the diversity of programs that CALPS offers students.

“We have over 1,500 undergraduate students, making us one of the largest colleges at SIU. We offer programs in agricultural sciences biological sciences, chemistry, earth systems and sustainability, fermentation science, and physics” he said. We offer great laboratory-based experiences for students with an interest in laboratory science work. Our chemistry and physics programs have also hosted a highly-regarded research experience for undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation for many years.”

During the past summer, CALPS was proactive in its efforts to recruit new students. Staff and professors engaged prospective and admitted students through phone calls, emails, and webinars, and they hosted open houses, academic showcases, virtual tours, and campus visits.

If you would like to learn more about the SIU College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences or you would like to provide your support, visit

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A love of teaching inspires others

Lida and her class at Tamaroa Grade School where she began her teaching career.

Lida Lisenby Taylor’s life and commitment to education are being remembered through a scholarship fund set up by her daughter, Cynthia Taylor Rice.

The Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship Fund is awarded to a student enrolled in the school of education and majoring in teaching, counseling, or administration. The student must be a graduate of DuQuoin High School, Pinckneyville High School, or Tamaroa Grade School.

The scholarship was created by Rice in honor of her mother, who strongly believed in the power of an education.

“She came from a family of educators. My mom began her teaching career in Tamaroa after graduating from SIU in 1942. She was offered a position in DuQuoin where she taught English and Latin until her retirement in 1968,” Rice said.

Rice said that through the years she has met many of her mother’s students and they would share how important Latin and her mother were to them throughout their lives.

Lida and her roommates in front of their Carbondale boarding
house when it was Southern Illinois Normal.

“I had one of her former students tell me what an influence my mom had been on his life. He said my mother wasn’t just a teacher but an educator of the highest degree. His message and the many letters she received from scholarship recipient students have made me very proud of my mother and her influence on others,” Rice said.

When Taylor passed away in 2003, Rice went through the process of cleaning out her mother’s home.

“I found Latin projects and posters and memorabilia throughout the house. She had Roman chariots and Parthenon replicas everywhere. I remember one of her biggest projects was throwing a Roman banquet for the students. They wore togas and drank Roman punch. She pulled out all the stops for her students,” Rice said.

Rice said the scholarship is a way for her mother to continue to influence future educators.

“There are not too many things in the world that are more important than being a teacher and loving what you do. That philosophy very accurately describes my mother and her love of teaching,” said Rice.

Meet Jamie Newton, recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education is a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. Newton looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” Newton said.

Newton is grateful for the Lida Lisenby Taylor scholarship and how it has lessened the burden of her student loans.

“I would like to tell Mrs. Rice how thankful I am that they have so graciously chosen me to be the recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship. I feel so grateful to have her support because she has helped give me the opportunity to further my education at SIU. The scholarship has definitely helped lift some of the weight of student loans,” she said. “Although Mrs. Rice does not know me personally, she will always be a part of my journey throughout college and into my future career. Her contribution has left its mark on my life and will affect the students that I will one day teach.”

Newton hopes others will follow in the path of Mrs. Rice and give to students who need financial assistance.

“For many students like me, scholarships help pursue our dreams and lessen the burden of student loans. Being the recipient of a scholarship, I understand how it comforts us to know that we don’t have to be alone while trying to pursue our dreams,” she said. “I also hope that someday I will provide the same sense of relief that I have felt after receiving a scholarship.”

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Putnam: Promoting a University of Access

It’s been 40 years since Adaire Putnam graduated from SIU, but her continued affinity for the school and its students is what brought her to the SIU Foundation Board of Directors.

“SIU is a tremendous place. It’s very important to me,” Putnam ’81 said. “My husband and I sent our two kids to SIU as students, but it wasn’t until recently that I became more involved on campus.”

It was a fellow alumnus who urged Putnam to join the SIU College of Business Advisory Board. She eventually became the chair of that board and was later elected to the SIU Foundation Board.

“The work done by the SIU Foundation is very powerful,” she said. “Our donors are investing in the future.”

Since joining the SIU Foundation Board in 2015, Putnam said she’s been excited by what she’s witnessed.

“I’m passionate about helping first-generation students, especially those of limited means,” she said. “Through scholarships and other programs, we’re able to help ensure that SIU is a university of access. I encourage alumni and others to continue to support the university’s vision.”

From then to now

After transferring to SIU following one year at Illinois Wesleyan, Putnam graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications in just two years. During this time, she also worked as an administrative assistant in the Department of Anthropology.

“Coming from a big city high school in Chicago, SIU was a good fit for me,” she said. “I was able to achieve my goals thanks to the dedicated faculty and outstanding courses.”

Directly thereafter, she started her lifelong career in corporate communications. She has worked for a number of large, global companies, including Edelman and Ketchum public relations agencies and Kellogg Company.

Currently, she’s the owner and president of Putnam Communications, helping companies advance and protect their reputations.

Through the years, she’s spent time living and working in Chicago and Michigan, but nowadays, she works and lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

“I’ve been working remotely long before the pandemic took it mainstream,” she said. “If I need to be in the U.S. for a meeting, I’m just a short flight away.”

While Putnam doesn’t live near SIU these days, her connection to the university has never been stronger.

“It’s never too late to get involved,” she said. “This is where I feel I can make a difference.”

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SIU Alumnus makes estate gift of $1 million

Brad Choate ’79, ’84 and his wife, Julie, are one of the university’s most devoted supporters. Their recent $1 million estate gift will provide funding for undergraduate scholarships and other key priorities.

The Choates, who reside in Georgetown, Texas, wanted to place SIU in their estate and help SIU remain strong for generations to come. The money will establish an endowed scholarship.

“I am so proud of SIU, and I thought this was the right way to give back to an institution that changed my life,” Brad Choate said. “While I am a first-generation alumnus, my parents drilled into my head at a young age that I would attend college. SIU just made sense as it was in the backyard of Marion, Illinois, where I grew up. I have to thank my parents for pointing me in a direction that would change my life.”

Choate is a veteran leader in the advancement industry, having served over 40 years as a fundraiser. He has served as president and CEO of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, vice president at the University of South Carolina, vice chancellor at the University of Arkansas as well as leadership positions at Penn State and Ohio State. He currently serves as special advisor to the vice president for development at the University of Texas at Austin. He and Julie, who is an accomplished artist, are also dedicated volunteers in their community.

“SIU is grateful to the Choates for their generosity and outstanding leadership,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “They demonstrate the values that we seek to instill in every SIU graduate.”

Choate said establishing the endowment through their estate just made sense, both financially and charitably for his family.

“I have seen the impact on both the donors and the students when a scholarship is created,” he said. “The impact positively affects our society and country at large.”

Raised in rural Carbondale and attending high school in Marion, Choate’s parents taught him the value of hard work, integrity, and giving back. “My parents had a clear vision of what they wanted for me so there was no doubt that getting a college degree was going to happen. I will be forever grateful to them for their direction,” he said.

Southern Illinois has a special place in his heart, largely because that is where he met Julie.

“I will never forget. I first laid eyes on her at the Dairy Queen in Marion. I was sitting at a picnic table with a friend one night, and this red Firebird drove up, and this beautiful girl jumped out,” he said. “She came over and we were introduced. I took her to Carbondale to see the sights, and we’ve never looked back since. We’ve been married 43 years.”

Choate’s Southern Illinois roots go back even further as his great uncle was Clyde Choate, a politician from Anna, Illinois, and a soldier. Choate served 30 years in the Illinois House of Representatives and during World War II, received the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for single-handedly destroying a German tank.

“SIU was always important to my Uncle Clyde. Even after he retired from the Legislature, he went to work for SIU to continue helping the university,” Choate said. Julie’s mother, Colleen Norman, has three degrees from SIU and taught at SIU and the university’s campus in Japan.

The Choates raised three children, Brent, Lauren, and Lindsey.

“Brent graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and became a fighter pilot. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin who works in marketing for a commercial insurance company in Texas, and Lindsey earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Arkansas and runs a prep school in Austin,” Choate said. “Julie and I are so blessed that all three of our children have grown up well and thrived in the world. Now, we want to ensure that other young people have the same opportunities as our children did.

“You don’t have to be phenomenally wealthy to help people. Lots of people can make an estate gift and really help others with a gift to SIU. It is our hope that we inspire others to do the same as we have done,” he said.


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Campaign Progress Strong; Foundation Making an Impact

Matt Kupec, CEO of the
SIU Foundation.

When the fiscal year ended June 30, it was clear the SIU Foundation had a terrific year, despite the pandemic.

During FY21, the SIU Foundation raised more than $25 million, which was just short of the record-setting $28 million raised in FY20. The Forever SIU campaign finished FY21 at just more than $130.5 million.

“Because of the generosity of our alumni and donors, we had our second-best fundraising year ever,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “The pandemic made things difficult for everyone, but it didn’t dampen the Saluki spirit. If anything, it strengthened it.”

Now, as FY22 gets off to a strong start, the campaign total sits at $134,015,976.

Interior photo of McLafferty Annex.

Acting as an accelerator

This summer, the SIU Foundation 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 Fermentation Science Institute into important new and exciting areas.

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

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.

Looking ahead

As the university focuses on increasing enrollment, the need for funding is great. Students are looking for financial support through scholarships and universities that offer state-of-the-art technology and facilities.

“The money raised through the Forever SIU campaign directly supports the effort to increase enrollment,” Kupec said. “The financial help provides critical funds for recruitment and retention, plus students see that our alumni are excited and engaged.”


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Crowdfunding campaign seeks to honor well-known poet, editor

Jon Tribble, a poet, editor, mentor, and friend to many, passed away in 2019. Now, the Department of English at SIU hopes to endow a scholarship in his memory.

For 22 years, Tribble served as the editor of the Crab Orchard Poetry series, published by Southern Illinois University Press. In that time, as in his capacity as managing editor of The Crab Orchard Review, Tribble played an unparalleled role in bringing hundreds of American literary voices into more prominent view.

“Jon Tribble was one of the first and best editors for creating an inclusive space in American publishing,” said Camille Dungy, author and winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Competition Award. “Many of the nation’s top writers, including women writers and BIPOC writers, got their starts because of Jon’s active, dedicated, and continuous efforts to build a more diverse and equitable writing world.”

Tribble received the 2003 Artist Fellowship Award in Poetry from the Illinois Arts Council, and his poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. At SIU, he taught creative writing and literature, and directed undergraduate and graduate students in internships and independent study in editing and literary publishing for the Department of English.

“The editorial work that Jon Tribble did for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry at SIU Press was little short of heroic. Scratch that; it was heroic,” said author Dan Albergotti. “He built that series into a powerhouse in the world of contemporary American poetry.”

By visiting and making a gift of any size, donors can help the scholarship reach the $25,000 plateau, which would create an endowed fund. That would allow a $1,000 scholarship to be granted to one poet every year in perpetuity.

Donors may also send a check made payable to: SIU Foundation, Jon Tribble Memorial Endowment, 1235 Douglas Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901.

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Meet Senior Taylor Hartke

Taylor Hartke, a Teutopolis, Illinois native, is a senior majoring in Agricultural Communications. Hartke is the recipient of the 2021-2022 College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship. In earlier years, Hartke received the  School of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship.

What do you enjoy most about being an SIU student?
I enjoy the opportunities SIU strives to provide its students. Regardless of your interest, major, or career path, there are opportunities to gain valuable experiences both inside and out of the classroom. SIU, its faculty, and staff are committed to supporting students and providing them with the necessary tools to be successful both now as well as after graduation.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
Growing up, I had the privilege of being raised on my family’s diversified grain and livestock farm. This immediate involvement in the agricultural industry allowed me to develop a deep passion and appreciation for agriculture. Through various leadership roles in organizations like 4-H and FFA, I built upon the foundation of being raised in agriculture and discovered my passion to communicate about it. Collectively a variety of experiences and opportunities have led me to be pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communications with the ultimate goal of serving the farm, the farmer, and the consumers. I plan on utilizing my knowledge from being raised in production agriculture to bridge the gap that lies between producers and consumers by generating consumer trust and cultivating understanding.

How would you describe your favorite(s) professors/staff/admin at your college?
Committed. I’m very grateful for the commitment they have to my success both inside and outside of their classroom. Regardless of the time of day or how busy their schedule is, they make time for me, and they value my perspective as a student.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I am extremely grateful for the financial support I have been gifted. The generosity of donors has provided me with some of the most amazing experiences to learn and explore a variety of opportunities. Their generosity has lessened the financial burden that paying for college can be ultimately providing me with ample time to focus on academics while maintaining high levels of involvement across campus and in my community.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am grateful for the involvement I have been able to have across our campus through a variety of student organizations as well as employment opportunities. I am currently serving as President of Sigma Alpha Sorority, which is a professional agricultural sorority, as well as President of our Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter, Financial Chair of Agricultural Student Council, an Agbassador, a Saluki Ambassador, and a member of the Agriculture Education Club, ATA, and Collegiate FFA. I also serve on the national scale as an Agriculture Future of America Student Ambassador.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
Your donation is an investment. You have the power to invest in the next generation of leaders across a variety of professions and industries. I am extremely humbled to have received such support and know that it serves as encouragement going forward as I strive to make a difference in the lives of others as I know that I will encounter challenges. Regardless of if you personally know a student or not, you become an integral role in their success both educationally and beyond.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
For my siblings and me, being part of the Saluki family started prior to stepping foot on campus as students. We were raised rooting on SIU and our frequent visits started at homecoming in 1999. My siblings and I, a set of quadruplets, were 5 months old and our mom marched as an Alumni of the Marching Salukis. My parents, David & Korrie Hartke, are both proud SIU Alumni. My mom received her degree in Radio/Television and my dad in Animal Science.

They, in fact, met at SIU!

Although my brother, Dustin, decided trade school would prepare him best, my brothers Alex and Garrett, as well as myself are all Salukis. Alex graduated in May 2021 with his degree in Agribusiness Economics and Garrett and I are seniors. Garrett is a Crop, Soil, and Environmental Management major, and I am an Agricultural Communications student. All three of us have worked in different capacities on campus while also being highly involved in a variety of RSO’s. In fact, a large majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins have chosen SIU to pursue their education as well.


Meet Freshman Lexi Mueller

Lexi Mueller, a Valmeyer, Illinois native, is a freshman majoring in Agricultural Education. She received the Chancellor Scholarship, the Harrisonville Telephone Company/Henry W. Gentsch Memorial Scholarship and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
My father and uncle both have degrees in Agricultural Education. Growing up on a rural small farm, I knew I wanted a career in agriculture. When I joined the Valmeyer FFA, the experiences that I had helped me find the specific aspect of agriculture I wanted to be involved in, which is education. I was also elected as the 2020-2021 Illinois FFA State President and seeing the behind-the-scenes of Agricultural Education made me want to give back to my future students and my community.

What do you enjoy most so far about your college?
In the agriculture department at SIU, I’ve found in my short time here that the professors, staff, and administration truly care about us as individuals instead of as a number. Our agriculture faculty go out of their way to ensure that we as students have the most opportunities and strive to learn who we are and our stories to better serve us as students.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am just beginning to look at joining student organizations here on campus. I am interested, however, in joining Ag Ed Club, Collegiate FFA, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Sigma Alpha. I look forward to seeing what these organizations can teach me.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I greatly benefited from scholarships here at SIU and from local sources at home. Here at SIU, I was honored to receive the Chancellor Scholarship, Harrisonville Telephone Company Scholarship, and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship. With the support of generous donors, I am able to attend school here for the academics and experience without the financial worry that a typical college student has. Without the support of scholarships, I don’t know if I’d be here at SIU.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
To donors, I would first like to say thank you for even considering giving to SIU. I am firsthand an individual who can obtain a college education because of generous donors. I encourage you to look at the stories of individual students who benefit and ask yourself if you want to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself. I am a farm kid from a small village in Illinois and because of outside support, I am able to make a name for myself. I am one of thousands of students here at SIU who can further their education to ultimately give back to our communities. A donation means so much to us students and we would forever be grateful for your support in us.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm. My family raises sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, horses, rabbits, corn, soybeans, rye, wheat, and pumpkins. I managed our family’s 8-12 acre pumpkin patch for four years before coming to school here.

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