Saluki Ball bridges the gap for students

There’s a new premier fundraiser on the SIU calendar – the Saluki Ball.

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and Mrs. Loren Lane, the inaugural Saluki Ball brought 615 SIU alumni and friends together in an effort to raise funds that bridge the financial gap for students.

“Our focus tonight is on our students, especially those who need your help the most,” said Chancellor Lane during the ball, which was held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago. “Increasing our enrollment to 15,000 students by 2030 – as established by our strategic plan – requires not only efforts in recruitment but also retention. We must ensure the students that we bring to Carbondale or who enroll in online courses are able to stay enrolled and finish with their degree.”

The Saluki Ball was sponsored by the Honorable Glenn and Mrs. Jo Poshard and ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773. Each donated $100,000 in support of the fundraiser. The event was emceed by SIU alumnus and ESPN radio host Marc Silverman.

Many of SIU’s most resolute supporters bought tickets and sponsored tables in support of SIU students. The money raised will help enhance funding for students who require assistance with their bursar bills to stay enrolled.

Drs. Philip and Pamela Pfeffer were honored with the Saluki Lifetime Achievement Award. Pam Pfeffer began serving on the SIU Foundation Board in 1995 and has served two terms as board president. A Metropolis native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SIU Carbondale in 1967. She is also a mentor with the Women’s Leadership Council.

Phil Pfeffer is a two-degree SIU Carbondale graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1965 and a master’s degree in economics in 1966. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1997, the SIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998, and Alumni Achievement Award in 1992.

The Pfeffers are life members of the SIU Alumni Association, the Paul and Virginia Society, and both have served on boards for the Alumni Association, SIU Foundation, and College of Liberal Arts. They have also been awarded the university’s Distinguished Service Award.

Two students, Luis Barrera and BriYanna Robinson, were recognized with Saluki Success Awards.

“Pam and Phil Pfeffer, BriYanna Robinson, and Luis Barrera are great examples of what a Saluki can and should be,” Silverman said.

The night was capped by a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight and dancing.

McPheeters: Saluki Ball recognizes SIU’s excellence

Lynn McPheeters

By Jeff Wilson

Few SIU alumni have created a legacy as impactful as F. Lynn McPheeters.

His first major philanthropic act at SIU came in 2006 when he and his late wife, Susan, donated $585,000 to create the Susan F. and F. Lynn McPheeters College of Business Leadership Endowed Chair. In 2017, he donated $1 million to endow the McPheeters Family Scholarship, and in 2022, he announced a $1 million estate gift to supplement that fund and establish the F. Lynn McPheeters Chair of Finance Endowment Fund in the College of Business and Analytics.

Now, he is one of the major sponsors of the inaugural Saluki Ball. With a $25,000 donation, McPheeters is a Saluki Platinum sponsor.

The Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals. The presenting sponsors of the ball are the Honorable Glenn and Jo Poshard and ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773.

“This event celebrates SIU’s reputation for providing a first-class education and will raise money for scholarships,” said McPheeters, 1964 graduate of the College of Business. “It pains me that so many people are coming out of school with mounds of debt. In recognition of this situation, the SIU Foundation has significantly increased its efforts to provide scholarship assistance, as so many other universities have done.”

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and Mrs. Loren Lane, the ball is black-tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight. It will be hosted by ESPN radio host and SIU alumnus Marc Silverman.

“Personally, I am very impressed with Chancellor Lane, what he’s doing, and his plan for the future,” McPheeters said.

McPheeters transferred to SIU from Canton College, now Spoon River College, a community college in his hometown of Canton, Illinois, and finished his accounting degree at SIU.

Soon after, he started at Caterpillar, Inc., and began a steady rise through the company. In 1973, he moved to Switzerland to serve in a financial management position with Caterpillar overseas. He also worked in Tokyo for Caterpillar Mitsubishi and in Hong Kong at Caterpillar Far East Limited. He retired in 2005 as chief financial officer for Caterpillar and vice president of the Corporate Services Division.

“SIU led me to an incredible career with Caterpillar that took our family around the world and gave us tremendous opportunities,” McPheeters said. “I was very fortunate to have a supportive family throughout my 40 years with the company.”

In the decades since his graduation, McPheeters has served SIU in multiple ways. He joined the SIU Foundation Board in 2002 and served as chair of the audit committee and board president. He was one of the first members of the College of Business and Analytics external advisory board and inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame in 1988. Among other honors, he earned the College of Business Alumni Achievement Award in 2004. In 2016, he received one of the university’s highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award.

He never anticipated the success that his SIU education would help provide.

“When I graduated, I was just happy to have an education and a job,” McPheeters said. “I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I was very fortunate that SIU was there.”

For more information about the Saluki Ball, visit

Legence Bank donates $5K to the Saluki Food Pantry

Pictured left to right: Kent Epplin, Student Center director, Tena Bennett, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary enterprise and student affairs, Shane Bennett, senior director of corporate foundation relations, John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager, Kevin Beckemeyer, Legence Bank president and CEO, Tricia Overturf, Legence Bank vice president of marketing and communications, Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for development & alumni relations and SIU Foundation CEO

By Jeff Wilson

The SIU Day of Giving offers individuals and businesses the opportunity to support the university in many ways. This year, Legence Bank donated $5,000 to the Saluki Food Pantry.

“This gift from Legence Bank makes an enormous impact – $5,000 provides food and items, such as toiletries, that allow our students to thrive on a daily basis,” said Tena Bennett, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary enterprise and student affairs. “As a result, our students can come here and focus on the most important things – their education, growth, and wellbeing – instead of worrying about where their next meal will come from.”

Legence Bank’s gift was set up as a match, so that they could inspire others to give to the food pantry. This provided thousands more dollars to the food pantry on the Day of Giving, which was March 28. In total, nearly $8,000 was raised.

“This food pantry covers so many people that deal with food insecurity,” said Tricia Overturf, vice president of marketing and communications for Legence Bank. “We’re excited to be a part of this and give back to the community.”

The gift represents Legence Bank’s continued support of local institutions.

Tricia Overturf, Legence Bank vice president of marketing and communications, John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager, Kevin Beckemeyer, Legence Bank president and CEO

“Legence Bank is always glad to help Saluki Nation and all the communities we serve,” said Kevin Beckemeyer, president and CEO of Legence Bank.

With support from Legence Bank and other donors, the food pantry will be able to keep its shelves stocked for students in need and their families.

“I’m so happy about the effort to help with food insecurity. It’s so important in today’s world,” said John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager.

The Saluki Food Pantry is located on the Lower Level of the Student Center, and it serves all SIU students. The food pantry carries non-perishable food items and toiletries. Every item is free, and students can receive enough food to feed every family member in their household for up to three days.

Even with the generosity of Legence Bank and Day of Giving donors, the need for donations never ceases. Beyond monetary donations, anyone can drop off donations of canned goods, instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other non-perishable food items and toiletries. To learn more, email

ULLICO, Laborers’ Local 773 sponsoring Saluki Ball

Members of Laborers’ Local 773, seen here while working at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, have completed many projects on campus, donating their time and efforts.

By Jeff Wilson

The relationship between SIU and union labor goes back a long way.

Now, that relationship is getting even stronger as ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773 stepped up to become one of the presenting sponsors of the inaugural Saluki Ball.

“SIU is the crown jewel of Southern Illinois. It’s the economic engine of this region, and we are committed to SIU,” said Ed Smith, president and CEO of ULLICO. “SIU has one of the most diverse, unionized workforces in America.”

While dedicating $100,000 to become a presenting sponsor of the ball is a major investment, Laborers’ Local 773 has handed out scholarships to its members’ children since 1986.

“We have given out more than $336,000 in scholarships, and that number is about to go up,” said Jerry Womick, International Representative and Business Manager for Laborers’ Local 773. “We give students $500 extra if they choose to attend SIU.”

Many of those scholarship recipients are first-generation students. The union and its members understand the value of financial assistance. The union averages about 70 employees on campus at any moment.

“Union members feed their families through SIU,” Smith said. “They put their blood, sweat, and tears into the university. They do the dirty work.”

The union has been involved with most of SIU’s biggest projects, and much of the work is done with donated time and supplies. Union laborers have done many of the site improvements at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, installed the walking path around Campus Lake, and put in flower planters around the REC Center. ULLICO and Laborers’ Local 773 have also supported WSIU broadcasting and Saluki Athletics for many years.

“Our fingerprints are all over SIU,” Smith said. “We are joined at the hip, and we’re there through thick and thin.”

The Saluki Ball

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and Mrs. Loren Lane, the inaugural Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals.

“You have to have a vision, a positive attitude,” Smith said. “You also have to go where the students are. Chancellor Lane has done a great job of recruiting locally, but this is a competitive business. SIU has to recruit against the schools in and around Chicago.”

The ball is black-tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight. It will be hosted by ESPN radio host and SIU alumnus Marc Silverman and NBC Chicago reporter Regina Waldroup. There will be special awards for outstanding alumni and students. The other presenting sponsors of the ball are Dr. Glenn and Jo Poshard. The event is nearly sold out.

“Southern Illinois rises and falls with the university,” Smith said. “Too many times we think we’re the underdog, but SIU is staging a comeback.”

To learn more about the Saluki Ball or get your tickets, visit

Odenkirk experiences SIU all over again

Actor, SIU alumnus works with students, receives degrees

SIU alumnus Bob Odenkirk (middle) stands with SIU Chancellor Austin Lane (from left), Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Media Segun Ojewuyi, Dean of the College of Arts and Media Hong Cheng, and SIU System President Dan Mahony, during his degree ceremony Monday, April 3, at the Banterra Center.

By Jeff Wilson

It was a banner day for Bob Odenkirk and SIU.

For the first time since the early 1980s, one of the university’s most well-known alumni was back on campus. It kicked off with the City of Carbondale declaring Monday, April 3, as Bob Odenkirk Day and awarding him the key to the city.

“The idea of being celebrated like this is a little mind-blowing,” Odenkirk said. “I had a great time at SIU, and a big part of it was this town.”

The 1984 SIU graduate turned actor, comedian, filmmaker, and author returned to his alma mater for two main purposes – to receive the bachelor’s degree in radio-television that he earned as a student and an honorary doctorate and to interact with students and faculty within the College of Arts and Media.

Nearly 2,000 people came to SIU’s Banterra Center for Odenkirk’s degree ceremony and Q&A session.

“We want everyone that’s here as a student to realize that you can start here and go anywhere,” Chancellor Austin Lane said during the ceremony. “Bob is living proof of that. Hopefully, he gives you the courage and motivation to follow your dreams.”

After receiving his degrees, Odenkirk – Dr. Bob Odenkirk – sat down with WSIU’s Larry Hunter for a discussion, first addressing the crowd.

“Thank you for coming here tonight,” Odenkirk said. “You guys made me feel comfortable, and I’m happy to see you here tonight. It means a lot.”

Odenkirk covered many topics during the hour-long session, including his experiences at SIU, work as a comedy writer, TV and movie roles, and much more. Of particular interest to the crowd, was his most famous role of Saul Goodman on AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” He praised the shows’ writers and producers, particularly Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould.

“The variety within that part – he was a scoundrel; he was earnest and showed love and caring for people; he was tortured; he was sure of himself at times,” Odenkirk said. “There were scenes that would be pure comedy and then five pages later, heart-wrenching drama. I can’t think that there’s been a role that went to as many places as that one.”

Sharing experiences

Odenkirk met with two classes during his visit. The first was in the Northlight Room of the Communications Building, and the second was in the Christian H. Moe Theater.

“You can’t guarantee excellence,” he told the nearly 100 students and faculty in the Northlight Room. “You can just do your best all of the time.”

Throughout the day, he spoke fondly of his time at SIU, particularly his experience at the student radio station WIDB. He imparted wisdom, shared stories and advice, and answered numerous questions.

“SIU offered me the freedom to make stuff and do stuff,” he said. “If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t try. You have to take a risk.”

During his session in Moe Theater, he worked with multiple pairs of students as they performed various scenes. He offered the students cues and notes on everything from how to conceptualize the scene as a whole to how to deliver particular words.

“It means a lot to me that someone who’s time is so valuable made an effort to work with us in our creative space,” said Uriel Achilleus, one of the students who worked with Odenkirk in Moe Theater. “Mr. Odenkirk made it clear that he was working through his own creative process with us; he showed us what goes through his mind when analyzing a scene and portraying a character. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to work with someone as successful and experienced as he is.”

Fond memories

Squeezed between his speaking appearances, Odenkirk met with countless students, faculty, and staff, signing autographs and posing for photos.

He remarked on the beauty of campus and how it compared to his memories.

“It’s way more impressive than I had in my head,” he said. “It was such a sweet place to me. It’s a beautiful campus, ridiculously beautiful. It still has that great vibe. It feels like a place you can find yourself.”

He also made it a priority to stop by the former location of the WIDB radio station, which is now recognized by a plaque behind the towers on East Campus.

As he toured campus, Odenkirk took time to greet two groups of prospective students taking campus tours.

“I thrived here, and I always think of it fondly,” he said.

From Carbondale to Hollywood

After leaving SIU, Odenkirk moved to Chicago, where he performed comedy and took classes at the Players Workshop. He was later hired to write for “Saturday Night Live,” where he helped create beloved sketches such as “Da Bears” and “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker.”

After many other writing credits and parts in film and TV, Odenkirk co-created the HBO sketch comedy show “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” alongside comedian David Cross. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Odenkirk could be found in a number of movies and television shows.

In 2009, he joined the cast of “Breaking Bad,” which catapulted him into the limelight. His character, lawyer Saul Goodman, quickly became a fan favorite. The character was also the focus of the “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.”

Both shows were critically acclaimed, earning Odenkirk numerous awards and honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Odenkirk also recently starred in the hit movie, “Nobody,” and his newest show “Lucky Hank” premiered on AMC on March 19. “Lucky Hank” is based on the novel “Straight Man” by former SIU English professor Richard Russo.