By Jeff Wilson
Kim Fornero knows the importance of experience.
The 1990 alumnus earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of Agricultural Sciences and went into the hotel and tourism industry, specializing in food service. He recently made a sizeable estate gift to benefit the College of Ag and Saluki Athletics.
After working all over the country, Fornero settled in at Monmouth College in upstate Illinois. He has worked there for 19 years and is the executive chef for the university’s food service.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be where I am now if it wasn’t for SIU,” he said. “It’s an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m proud to be a Dawg.”
While on campus, Fornero met Trish Welch, an advisor and instructor.
“She really helped the students form their direction,” he said. “She took the students under her wing and really mentored them. She wanted them to do the best that they could.
“Trish and (her husband) Harvey are both wonderful people,” he added. “They are both very caring about, not only the university, but the community as a whole. They are some of the most generous people I know. It’s wonderful to see people like that, and it’s kind of what inspired me to give back.”
After Fornero graduated, Trish Welch asked him to join the Curriculum Advisory Committee for the College of Agricultural Sciences. Fornero became a founding member of the committee, which disbanded a few years ago.
“Our goal was to formulate a direction for students to go so they get that real-life experience,” he said.
The need for experience is one of the factors that Fornero noted when setting up his gift.
“I’m hoping it gives students the opportunity to learn and get that important experience,” he said. “For them to get a good job, they have to work in the real world, and it’s not always financially viable for them to make ends meet during college.”
His decision to become a benefactor for SIU Athletics was based on his school spirit.
“I’m a Saluki to the core. Athletes need to have support also,” he said. “It’s a little tougher for them sometimes, because they’re expected to hold a higher standard.”
Fornero wants his gift to inspire others to do the same.
“I’m just hoping that other people will look at that and say, ‘It’s time to give back to something that helped me.’”