Smith focusing on the future of education

Dean M Cecil Smith HeadshotM Cecil Smith had big plans as the first dean for the new School of Education, despite arriving in July 2020 amid a pandemic.

“I feel as if the past 30-plus years of my career have prepared me well for this position. Now, we can accelerate and implement the exciting initiatives,” he said.

Smith said he wants to revitalize and enhance the school’s existing community partnerships and establish new relationships.

“This is my vision, my mantra for SIU’s School of Education: ‘Always learning, always leading,’” he said. “My goal is to work with the faculty and staff to assure we have a high-quality, rigorous program.”

While the School of Education has a dedicated legion of supporters, Smith said it’s more important than ever to ensure students are fully supported.

“We are fortunate to have many scholarships for our students, and we are grateful. But we need other kinds of funding support,” he said. “The pandemic took a toll on our students’ well-being and their ability to manage the various aspects of their lives.”

“We also need to recruit teacher candidates from underrepresented groups. We need teachers to reflect the diversity that is growing in the Southern Illinois region. Research shows that students of color who have teachers who are persons of color are much more likely to stay in school.”

Implementing initiatives

Smith is especially excited about an initiative known as the Saluki Teacher Residency Partnership, funded by a recent award from the Illinois State Board of Education.

It awarded $50,000 to plan the partnership and $200,000 to implement the residency partnership. Currently, the school is working with five local districts: Cairo, Meridian, Vienna, Murphysboro, and Carbondale’s two school districts.

“The plan is to create a teacher residency, much like a medical residency, geared toward recruiting students from under-represented racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups,” Smith said.

Christie McIntyre, director of teaching and education and an associate professor, wrote the grant. In it, a student resident teacher collaborates with a community mentor and works in the school for an entire school year.

“We are proud to be implementing the fruits of Christie’s efforts this fall with three teacher residents placed in each of those five communities. The community mentors will provide the residents with advice on professionalism, inform them about the larger community, and will give the teacher residents overall support,” Smith said.

During the pandemic, students suffered a significant amount of learning loss. To get these students up to speed, the School of Education will employ retired teachers, community mentors, and university students to provide afterschool tutoring as part of the Illinois Tutoring Initiative, a statewide project funded through the governor’s office. Thus far, the school has partnered with four local districts with plans to expand the program this fall.

Smith is especially excited about the Illinois Grow Your Own (GYO) initiative, which provides funding to prepare local community members for teaching careers in early childhood education and special education. GYO supports racially and economically diverse individuals who have a desire to become teachers within their home communities. The goal is to prepare teachers who will become leaders inside and outside their hometown classrooms.

The funding pays up to $25,000 for tuition, books, childcare, and transportation for each qualified student. The school graduated 17 special education teachers who were supported by the program. Eight students will graduate in December 2022 and seven will graduate in 2023. The school also has a cohort of 12 early childhood educator candidates who will graduate in 2023.

To support scholarships and initiatives such as these, visit ehs.siu.edu/giving.

Enjoying a new home

Smith and his wife, Ellin, are finding Southern Illinois a great fit for their lifestyle.

“We enjoy cycling, kayaking and visiting local wineries, and this region provides a wide array of opportunities for us to enjoy those activities,” Smith said.

Smith is also enjoying the close camaraderie he is experiencing with the other SIU deans.

“We had everyone over for dinner recently, and it is great that we all get along and support one another. The future looks bright for our colleges and schools at SIU. I’m proud to play a part,” he said.

Remembering the past and building a better future

Gene and Laura Basanta have always been interested in society and what is going on around them, particularly societal injustices. When they came across information while researching their ancestors, they knew they needed to act.

In late 2021, the Basantas established a $25,000 scholarship fund for Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color (BIPOC) students studying agriculture at SIUC. In 2022, they donated another $25,000 to the scholarship.

“Recently, we began researching our ancestries. I come from a deep farming background and our farmland is still actively being farmed,” Laura said. “Doing some research, I discovered that in the will of my fourth great-grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran, there is a listing of his property, which included slaves. Just reading the names, ages, and gender of those individuals listed next to curtains, a ladle, and a mule was deeply disturbing to me.”

Both Laura and Gene’s ancestors came from an agrarian background. Laura’s ancestors have been farming in Kentucky for 150 years and Gene’s ancestors owned a sugar plantation in West Indies in the 1800s.

Gene, who is the SIU School of Law’s Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law Emeritus, made a similar discovery when he began searching his family roots. Like Laura, his ancestors owned several slaves.

“I learned my family operated a sugar plantation in Trinidad. Slaves fueled the operations of such plantations. While Laura and I honor and revere our ancestors, we also must acknowledge that our current privilege came in part from the work of enslaved individuals,” Gene said.

Supporting the future of ag

The Basantas have an interest in agriculture and are aware that SIU’s College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences is making great strides, especially through its sustainability programs.

“As we reflected on what we learned, we knew we had to do something and a scholarship for Black students at SIU seemed appropriate,” Laura said. “And because we both love agriculture, we turned to Dean (Eric) Brevik from the college and talked how we could set up an agriculture scholarship.”

Gene said the scholarship gives he and Laura personal satisfaction, and they hope it makes a difference in the lives of students.

“We want to give students opportunities to do great things. We know that our faculty accomplishes important work,” he said. “But when students go and accomplish greatness, that is the greatest satisfaction of all.”

Dean Brevik is thankful for the support of the Basantas.

“We are very grateful to the Basantas for supporting minority students who want to major in agriculture,” he said. “It is very important that we have a diverse agricultural workforce.”

SIU legacy

The Basantas have a long history with SIU and the Carbondale community.

Beyond his emeritus title, Gene was a professor in the Department of Medical Humanities at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He also founded SIU’s Center for Health Law & Policy. In 1989, he helped create the law school’s M.D./J.D. program. He served as interim dean for the law school in 2002.

Laura and Gene moved to Carbondale in 1980 and began establishing their family. Prior to their move, Laura received a BFA from Louisville School of Art and has produced art while working and raising their children.

Both have served the community with many groups, including The Varsity Center, Women’s Center, Carbondale Community Arts, and the General John A. Logan Museum.

Learn more about making a similar impact at siuf.org.

Compardo: Going Forward Together

Diane Compardo HeadshotDiane Compardo is not afraid of hard work. In fact, the drive to succeed was instilled in her at an early age.

“Both of my parents grew up on farms in Illinois and they eventually owned two farms where I was raised. I was one of six children who helped tend to the livestock and various crops,” she said. “I still remember waking up at 5 a.m. with my siblings to go pull weeds out of the bean fields. Growing up on a farm taught me what I wanted out of life and what I did not.”

Compardo knew early on that she wanted to go to SIU.

“My dad was a first-generation Saluki who received his degree in agriculture. He loved SIU so it just felt natural that I would follow in his footsteps,” she said.

When her parents dropped her off at Thompson Point, it was a defining moment in her life.

“I came from a rural area with a small town and high school nearby, and suddenly here I was in what felt like a big city. It was both scary and exhilarating as I watched my parents drive away,” she said. “SIU made a big imprint in my life from that moment on.”

Compardo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1991 and went on to receive her master’s degree in accounting in 1992.

The St. Louis resident’s career encompasses more than two and a half decades of high-level client service and management experience. Compardo began her career with the international accounting & consulting firm Price Waterhouse (now PwC). After rising to the level of manager at PwC, she left to join Moneta which today is consistently ranked as one of the largest Registered Investment Advisory firms in the country. At Moneta, she became the first professional in Moneta’s 150-year history to be promoted to the role of partner from within the firm’s advisor ranks. Today, Compardo leads her own team at Moneta comprised of 30 professionals specializing in providing financial planning & wealth management services to successful families throughout the world. A nationally recognized leader, Compardo has been consistently honored as one of America’s Top 100 Women Advisors by Forbes, Barron’s, and The Financial Times, and is the only advisor in Missouri named to all three lists. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal featured her for successfully developing a sustainable business and developing team talent to ensure a successful outcome to succession planning. Also in 2018, Ingram’s magazine named Compardo as one of “50 Missourians You Should Know.”

As president-elect of the SIU Foundation, Compardo’s goal is to be a passionate leader and a have big voice in reaching alumni who may have lost their connection with SIU.

“I would like to see more of our great alumni reconnect with SIU – see first-hand all the great things going on, find ways to give back, and perhaps help pay it forward to current Saluki students. It would be great to make it the university we remember when we were there,” she said. “It’s my hope that we continue to refocus and build on the momentum currently underway. After all, SIU gave us a great start on life and our careers, and it just makes sense for us to now lend a helping hand to students who need it.”

Compardo is also a well-known role model for professional women. In 2017 she was named by InvestmentNews as one of its “Women to Watch” based on her leadership. Working Mother magazine named her to its 2017 inaugural and subsequent lists of “Top Wealth Advisor Moms.”

“As my career grew, I became passionate about helping women obtain leadership roles in the financial services industry. As there are still comparatively few women role models and mentors in finance, I make it a point to mentor and coach as many women as possible in the industry to help them succeed,” she said.

Compardo is a longtime SIU supporter. She and her husband, Ron Wienstroer whom she met while at SIU, established the Compardo/Wienstroer School of Accounting Endowment Fund at SIU. They are both members of the SIU College of Business & Analytics Hall of Fame, the Rehn Society, and lifelong members of the SIU Alumni Association. Compardo currently serves on the Boards for the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Guardian Angel Settlement Association.

Compardo spends as much free time as possible with family. She enjoys reading, golfing, running, and spending time with friends. She and her husband have three children, Alex, 21, Sam, 19, and Jack, 15.

Remembering John Jones: Scholarship endowed, degree awarded

Professor-student bond inspires fundraising effort

Black and white photo of John Jones.

Image of John Jones.

By Jeff Wilson

When John Jones entered his first class with professor Brad Hagy he made an immediate impression.

“He sat in the front row,” said Hagy, a senior lecturer of information sciences and technology at SIU. “He was a model student and was going to do anything to further his future.”

Jones, who worked in IT for the SIU Foundation, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.  In Jones’ memory, Hagy donated $10,000 to establish the John E. Jones Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit non-traditional students who are majoring in Information Technology (ITEC).

With the large donation from Hagy and support from numerous donors through the SIU Foundation’s crowdfunding platform, SalukiFunder, the scholarship was recently endowed with $25,000. The scholarship will produce a $1,000 scholarship each year.

During the 2022 Spring Commencement, Jones was honored with a posthumous Bachelor of Science from the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics. Members of Jones’ family attended the ceremony to receive his degree.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and share your pride in his accomplishments,” Chancellor Austin Lane said.

To make a gift to the John E. Jones Memorial Scholarship, visit salukifunder.siu.edu/johnjones.

‘He wasn’t just a student’

The 37-year-old Jones was one semester away from earning his bachelor’s degree in information technology. He made straight A’s and was on the Dean’s List every semester.

“I want to promote what John loved,” Hagy said. “He was working to better his life. I want to help students like John.”

Jones had started his college career in 2002, but he left school after his father passed away. He returned to SIU more than 14 years later determined to get his degree. In an email to Hagy after the Spring 2020 semester, Jones shared his appreciation.

“The one thing that we all lose is time, and there is not a way to get that back,” Jones said in the email. “So, in my journey, I was fortunate enough to meet people at SIU that reminded me of myself as a young man fresh out of high school living carefree and people that are willing to help anyone who gives their time to learn. Mr. Hagy you have made this transition from working full-time to full-time student one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Reading that message, in which Jones goes on to express his hopes for the future, Hagy can’t help but become a bit choked up.

“John understood time,” he said. “He knew he had lost time, but he was still willing to go back and get his degree. In that email, he was speaking from his heart and for his future.”

Hagy spoke at Jones’ memorial service and has remained close to Jones family, to the point that Jones’ mother gifted a pair of blue and white Air Jordan from his shoe collection that matched the color of Jones’ motorcycle. They were both members of the Carbondale Eagles 2569 Eagle Riders motorcycle club that has an annual charity ride for the Southern Illinois Special Olympics.

“Those shoes are now on the shelf in my office,” Hagy said. “He wasn’t just a student. He was a great person, a friend.”

John Jones, 1983-2021

Born and raised in Carbondale, Jones exceled in math and information technology. More than anything, Jones is remembered as a family man.

He is survived by his son, Jerald Cameron Jones; and fiancé, Tamara Buchannan-Boens; and her sons, Christopher Buchannan, Warren Eanes, and Dominique Boens. He is also survived by his mother, Debra Johnson-Jones; sister, Raven-Iman Jones; grandmother, Barbara Sanders; and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Jones enjoyed participating in American Poolplayers Association competitions, riding his motorcycle with his fellow Eagle Riders, shooting targets at the gun range, and working on and building computer/robotics systems.

After his planned graduation, the SIU Foundation was set to make Jones a full-time member of the IT staff.

“We thought the world of John,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “He was liked by all. His words and his actions were always consistent. Everyone at the Foundation was deeply saddened by his untimely passing. Professor Hagy’s inspiring gift is a testament to their connection and the impact they had on one another.”

Pictured left to right: Brad Hagy and Matt Kupec

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