Scholarship dinner honors donors, encourages philanthropy

By Jeff Wilson

On Friday, Nov. 3, the SIU Foundation hosted the 10th annual SIU Scholarship Dinner in the Student Center Ballroom. The event, which celebrates the impact of scholarships, was attended by more than 100 donors and 73 scholarship recipients.

“We have so many more scholarships available, and so many more students accepting those scholarships, that we’re going to need a bigger room next year. This is our biggest crowd ever,” said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation.

During the 10 years of the event, the Foundation has awarded 12,748 scholarships, totaling more than $28 million. In the most recent fiscal year, the Foundation awarded a record number of scholarships (1,645) and total scholarship dollars ($4,931,584).

“Right now, one out of every seven students on our great campus receives a scholarship through the Foundation because of one of you and your generosity,” Kupec said.

SIU System President Dan Mahony emphasized the value scholarships present to the students and the university.

“For students, scholarship support can make the difference and enable them to finish or help them decide whether to come to SIU in the first place,” he said. “It’s critical to our university’s future and our ability to increase enrollment. It has a generational impact. It impacts the student, affects their families, and the generation after that.”

Dr. Amanda Martin ’07 ’08 provided the keynote address, and shared the story of how a fateful high school trip to SIU changed her life.

“We came to an event at SIU for FFA, and my name was randomly drawn to receive a scholarship,” she said. “I knew at that point I was meant to be a Saluki.”

Majoring in agribusiness economics, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s from SIU’s College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences. She also met her husband, Nick, in class.

“I absolutely loved the passion of the people that I had around who were focused on feeding a growing world and helping other people. I knew that one day, because of the experience I had at SIU, I wanted to give back to the place that helped me gain so much both personally and professionally,” Martin said.

LaMya Roach, a junior from Metropolis studying information technology in the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, gave the student perspective. A McNair Scholar, she has received the Sabrina Dawn Atkinson Scholarship and Mike Lawrence Scholarship. She was recently selected for the 2024 Alexander Lane Internship through the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

“As a first-generation college student, I knew that paying for college was going to be a huge hurdle. I was able to receive some amount of financial aid, but I knew that wasn’t going to cover all the costs. However, I wasn’t going to let that deter me,” she said. “When I saw the email that I had received a scholarship, I was so elated, and the stress I had been holding went away. I am so thankful for my donor because he is allowing me to continue my education, and he will never know how much that means to me.”

For more information about the SIU Foundation or to make a gift, visit

Smith endows chair, champions support for the university

By Jeff Wilson

Growing up in the small Randolph County town of Walsh, SIU was the only reasonable college option for Ron Smith.

“It was where you could get the most bang for your buck,” he said. “SIU was so good to me and changed my life and made it better than it would have been.”

Since graduating in 1964 with a degree in marketing and a master’s in business administration in 1966, Smith has stayed engaged with his alma mater, including donating close to $170,000 over the last 20 years. Now, he’s taken his support a step further, making a gift of stock worth more than $480,000 to endow the Ronald L. Smith Endowed Chair in Marketing at the College of Business and Analytics.

Endowed chairs help attract and retain high-level faculty members by making the position more attractive and keeping salaries competitive with other institutions.

“I’m doing this to help the students of SIU,” Smith said. “I want to make the program stronger and provide better opportunities and better training for the students. We want to attract big names and incentivize them to stay.”

Before making his major gift to endow the chair in COBA, much of Smith’s philanthropy has been directed toward Saluki Athletics. Despite living in California, he has maintained season tickets to Saluki Football games and supported the Blackout Cancer fundraiser.

Smith has fond memories of his time at SIU, noting that he attended the university during the Delyte Morris era and the time of College of Business Dean Henry J. Rhen, for which the COBA building is named. Smith was also classmates with another of SIU’s most prolific benefactors, F. Lynn McPheeters.

“Dr. Morris was wonderful to listen to, and I was lucky to be there during his era,” Smith said. “The university had lots of programs that were geared toward students with limited financial resources. I was fortunate enough to make good enough grades that my professors thought I was a good candidate for graduate school.”

After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and spent 30 months in Colombia. He worked with farmers and fishermen, teaching them how to make the most of their assets. He credits his education from SIU with giving him the expertise to share with those people and give them a vested interest in the business side of their industry.

Smith, a first-generation student whose niece now attends SIU as a fourth-generation student, said his continued support of the university shows the impact alumni can have even when they’re not able to get to campus as often as they may like.

“Is there a way you can help build up the university?” Smith said. “Even if you’re in California, like me, you can help folks in Southern Illinois.”

For more information about supporting the university, visit

Salukis Unleashed sets bold vision for SIU Athletics

Goal of $100M over 10 years to support championship-level programs

CARBONDALE – Saluki Athletics has announced a bold vision for the future of its programs, launching Imagine: Salukis Unleashed, a $100 million revenue enhancement plan.

In conjunction with the Imagine SIU 2030 strategic plan, Salukis Unleashed will enhance the athletics experience for student-athletes, coaches, and fans across the region. It will be included in the university-wide Imagine SIU 2030 fundraising campaign.

“Saluki Athletics showcases some of the best of SIU. It’s the way many of our alumni and friends connect with our university. When the Salukis win, we all win,” said Chancellor Austin Lane during a launch event Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Saluki Stadium.

Salukis Unleashed is a 10-year initiative that includes plans for fundraising and other revenue source increases. The plan centers around facility upgrades and enhancement of the Saluki Athletics’ footprint on campus.

“The athletic department is already invested in this mission,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Leonard. “We have replaced scoreboards in many venues, including the Jumbotron in the Banterra Center, and Saluki Baseball is getting new turf and fencing. We are moving forward with these and many other plans.”

Priorities during the Salukis Unleashed initiative include the following construction:

  • Basketball practice facility, which not only benefits men’s and women’s basketball, but will allow volleyball to regularly play in the Banterra Center

  • Indoor football practice facility and new locker room space for both the home and away teams

  • Enhanced baseball clubhouse and training facility, including an indoor hitting facility

  • New stadium for Saluki Women’s Soccer

  • Golf practice facility
  • Upgrades to Lingle Hall, Banterra Center, Charlotte West Stadium, and Shea Natatorium

“These state-of-the-art facilities will allow us to reach our maximum potential while recruiting players, hiring coaches, and maintaining championship-caliber programs,” Leonard said.

Beyond facilities, there will be an enhanced push to increase scholarship opportunities and wraparound services, including nutrition and mental health services. Together, these initiatives will push Saluki Athletics to new heights.

“We will show the Southern Illinois region and the rest of the world that we are focused on winning championships and making sure we succeed in every way possible,” Leonard said. “The future belongs to those who dream big, and no one is dreaming bigger than Saluki Athletics and SIU right now.”

To make a gift in support of the Imagine: Salukis Unleashed campaign, visit