Saluki Takeover Tour rolls out red carpet in Hollywood

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane addresses the crowd of nearly 100 alumni at the inaugural Saluki Takeover Tour Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD – The Saluki Takeover Tour headed west for a stop in Hollywood on Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20.

Nearly 100 alumni and friends gathered June 20 at The Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood to celebrate the Saluki spirit during the Chancellor’s Reception.

“I can’t tell you enough how wonderful it is to see each of you doing so well, and we have some heavy hitters here,” said Dr. Austin Lane, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “I’ve heard about what you are doing out here. It’s amazing work.”

A highlight of the Saluki Takeover Tour in Hollywood was featuring the revitalized Hollywood Studies program, which will offer internships to SIU students who are seeking firsthand experience with film and television industry companies. During the takeover tour, SIU alumni facilitated tours of both Netflix and Warner Bros.

“The energy our alumni brought to the Hollywood events was incredible,” said Matt Kupec, vice chancellor of development and alumni relations and CEO of the SIU Foundation. “It was wonderful to see so many inspiring Salukis together in one room so far from campus.”

Three SIU alumni have been particularly instrumental in coordinating this initiative, Robert Dennis ’84, Diane Eaton ’80, and Todd Abrams ’90.

“I’m so grateful to each of you for what you have been doing in the industry and for our students, in particular,” said Dr. Hong Cheng, dean of the College of Arts and Media.

Students and faculty from the College of Arts and Media met with industry leaders, including SIU alumni Bob Odenkirk and Mike Dopud, during the takeover tour on June 19.

“Our students are so appreciative of you taking time to tell them how you got from Carbondale to here,” Lane said. “Our students don’t make a four-year decision; they make a 40-year decision. The information they get from you is going to help them 40 years from now.”

Spearheaded by the SIU Foundation, the Saluki Takeover Tour began in 2021 and has expanded its reach every year. During FY24, there have been takeover tours in Chicago, Springfield, Nashville, Florida, St. Louis, Southern Illinois, and now Hollywood. Looking ahead, more stops will be added to the Saluki Takeover Tour schedule.

Technical Service Center naming honor Missavage’s legacy

Family honors longtime director, professor with $500K gift

Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right) John Brajkovich, Dennis Missavage (Brother of Roger Missavage), Dean Liu, Arlene Liss (Sister of Roger), Gene Liss (Arlene’s Husband and Brother-In-Law of Roger), and Jason Fairfield

By Jeff Wilson

Roger J. Missavage, a longtime professor at Southern Illinois University, was an outstanding faculty of the College of Engineering. He was director of the Computer Assisted Instruction & Research Laboratory for 29 years.

When Roger passed away in November 2021 at age 71, his brother Dennis Missavage, and sister and brother-in-law, Arlene and Gene Liss, established the Roger J. Missavage Endowed Fund for Engineering Education with a $500,000 gift in Roger’s memory.

Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics

On April 19, 2024, Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics, hosted a dedication of the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center. The center will bolster information technology initiatives within the college.

“This is an exciting moment for this college,” Liu said. “Technology is the foundation of our college. The funds from this endowment will cover the technological needs of this college. Our students, faculty, and staff will benefit from this endowment in a significant way.”

Roger Missavage, a Herrin, Illinois, native, graduated from SIU in 1978 with a degree in engineering and added a master’s degree in mining engineering in 1991. He taught multiple courses at SIUC, including mechanics of rigid bodystatics, mechanics of rigid bodies-dynamics, rock mechanics principles and design, and analysis and design of mine excavations. He was also a Professional Engineer, which requires licensure from a state board of registration to practice engineering. He provided outstanding information technology support to the college for a long time.

John Brajkovich, director of the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center, gave a tour of the facility.

John Brajkovich, who will manage the Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center, was a student worker for Missavage and a former colleague.

“He was just a guy who would help you with anything you needed,” he said at the dedication. “He would make loans to students if they were having problems. Anything he could do to help. A very charitable man. A very giving man.”

Liu credited Roger Missavage with being influential in many of the college’s advancements in information technology and facility and philanthropic support.

“The Roger J. Missavage Technical Service Center will permanently establish Roger’s legacy at our college and SIU,” he said.

SIU’s cannabis research: An opportunity to lead

By Jeff Wilson

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, SIU has positioned itself on the forefront of the research that will drive it even further.

Dr. Jose Franco Da Cunha Leme Filho leads SIU’s Cannabis Science Center in the College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences (CALPS).

“We want to attract more students to horticulture, plant biology, agronomy, and other research-intensive initiatives,” he said.

This fall, CALPS will begin offering a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with a specialization in cannabis science, as well as a minor and certification. As the college moves forward with cannabis research, it faces numerous challenges. There are very few federal grants available to support the research, which means its expansion relies heavily on donations and collaboration with private companies.

“It’s a big challenge,” Dr. Leme said. “We are relying on partnerships with the private sector to advance toward our goals.”

SIU’s research only works with low-THC cannabis plants, and Dr. Leme is unable to accept monetary donations from companies that focus on recreational or medical marijuana, which compounds the challenge.

Dr. Leme has secured equipment donations from companies such as AC Infinity, which donated controlled-environment growth units that now fill the limited lab space used for cannabis research in Life Science II.

“I am very appreciative of SIU,” he said. “The university has been very open-minded in creating these opportunities. What we’re doing is the best in the state. We are the ones to collaborate with.”

Now, the goal is to expand, but that requires resources. Dr. Leme has created a plan to establish a new controlled-environment agriculture lab in the basement of McLafferty Annex.

“We would be starting from the ground up,” he said. “Currently, we have more equipment than we can fit in our space. We’re crammed into many small labs, which we’re happy to have, but we need more space. A company could come in and put its name on a new, state-of-the-art lab space.”

With more than 20 students currently working on the research, with more room, Dr. Leme said that number could double or even triple. Plus, a controlled-environment agriculture lab space would support more than cannabis research and include other indoor-production crops.

“Collaborating with private companies, we can help introduce them to academia and students,” Dr. Leme said. “We will provide reliable information and show the legitimacy of cannabis research and combat negative stereotypes that exist.”

To learn more about the program or how to support it, contact Dr. Leme at or CALPS Director of Development Susan Graham at

Dennis documents eclipse, connect with scholarship recipients

Left to right: Robert Dennis, Dorcas Brou and Ethan Grimm

By Jeff Wilson

Robert Dennis ’84 embarked on a unique journey to capture the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

His decision to travel to SIU for the eclipse was motivated by both professional and personal reasons. Invited to participate in the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative, Dennis seized the opportunity to witness the eclipse on campus, reconnect with SIU, and engage with students who have benefited from scholarships he has established.

“Several locations were considered, but Carbondale was the obvious choice … to experience the event on campus, come home so-to-speak, and visit with students in my old stomping grounds,” he said.

Equipped with an arsenal of photography gear, he immersed himself in the eclipse photography experience. Describing the thrill of the clear skies during the eclipse, Dennis was excited to photograph such a phenomenon at his alma mater.

“It was a bit overwhelming at times,” he said. “You could feel the crowd’s excitement like electricity in the air.”

Connecting with Scholarship Recipients

During the eclipse, Dennis connected with scholarship recipients Ethan Grimm and Dorcas Brou, sharing memorable moments and capturing a selfie together. Through interactions with students throughout the event, Dennis witnessed their enthusiasm and dedication to their craft.

“I shared my work on the day with many of the CAM (College of Arts and Media) students,” Dennis said. “It was a true pleasure to engage in their enthusiasm as they worked on the production.”

Dennis hopes that scholarship recipients will remember the privilege of witnessing such a rare astronomical phenomenon and be inspired to give back to their university.

“I encourage each recipient to reach back to the school during their careers … to bring others along to share in their success, and give back often,” Dennis said.

Beyond the eclipse, Dennis remains committed to supporting scholarship recipients throughout the year. From phone conversations to social media interactions, he maintains a connection with students, offering guidance and mentorship.