Saluki Ball raises funds that bridge the gap for students

Chancellor Austin Lane speaks at the Saluki Ball.
Chancellor Austin Lane speaks Saturday, April 20, during the Saluki Ball at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk hotel.

More than 500 attend second annual fundraiser

By Jeff Wilson

The second annual Saluki Ball was a spectacular example of the generous nature of the Saluki spirit.

Attended by 520 SIU alumni and friends, the ball was hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and the SIU Foundation on Saturday, April 20, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk hotel in Chicago. The funds raised benefit students who need assistance with their bursar bills to ensure they can stay enrolled in classes at SIU.

“Our focus here tonight is on our students, especially those who need your help the most,” Lane said. “Increasing our enrollment to 15,000 students by 2030 – as established by our strategic plan – requires not only efforts in recruitment but retention.”

Guests Julie Guida, Lynn McPheeters, and SIU Foundation Board of Directors President Diane Compardo, and her husband, Ron Wienstroer, pledged $20,000 apiece during the fundraising portion of the event. Many others donated amounts ranging from $10,000 to $100. McPheeters was also the Platinum Sponsor for the event, donating $25,000 beforehand.

Lane honored three alumni with the Saluki Lifetime Achievement Award – Greg Cook, Scott Moller, and Toni Williams.

Cook, who founded Cook Portable Warehouses with his father, attended SIU in the 1970s and has been a supporter of the university for decades. He has made significant contributions to Saluki Athletics, the School of Aviation, Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center, and much more.

“I was always surrounded by a tremendous group of people,” he said. “It’s all about the giving of their time, talent, and treasure. I’m accepting the award not only on my behalf but also on behalf of all those who work behind the scenes and do so much for the university. It’s not just me, it’s a group of people coming together.”

Moller ’85 ’19 is the president-elect of the SIU Alumni Association Board of Directors. He has contributed to SIU in many ways. He and his sister, Julie Guida, donated $500,000 to the Alumni Association, and the Guida Moller Family Alumni Center was named in their honor. He has also contributed to the Saluki Alumni Plaza project and established scholarships in both the College of Business & Analytics and the College of Arts and Media.

“My journey is that of an unlikely college student who discovered his passion at SIU and put it to work to achieve professional success,” he said. “I meet Salukis regularly who express that something about SIU transformed them. It is a special place.”

After a 10-year career in the Chicago Public Schools system, Williams opened the Children’s Center for Creative Learning, which provides a nurturing and creative learning environment for children ages 6 months to 6 years. She is also the only Black women who currently owns and operates a McDonald’s franchise in Illinois and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

“This honor is a celebration of my life’s work and a validation of the collective effort and dedication of all those who have been a part of my personal and professional journey,” she said. “Moreover, this honor is a testament of our beloved university and how SIU has always led the pack in a diverse, inclusive and equitable manner.”

Two SIU seniors were recognized with the Saluki Success Award during the Saluki Ball. Emily Bakri, vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and Dylan Chambers, president of the Dawg Pound and vice president of student affairs in the USG, accepted their awards from Chancellor Lane, President Dan Mahony, and Compardo.

Marc Silverman ’93, who co-hosts the popular daily radio show “Waddle & Silvy” on ESPN 1000, was the emcee, and Steve Falat hosted the fundraising portion of the evening. The crowd also heard speeches from Lane, Mahony, Compardo, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

The night was capped with a live performance by legendary R&B group En Vogue.

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