Alumnus pays it forward with an endowed scholarship for East St. Louis graduates

Darius Robinson and his wife Norlander

Darius Robinson ’95 ’98 recently established an endowment at SIU for students graduating from East St. Louis High School. Robinson graduated from SIU with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and a master’s degree in manufacturing systems.

Robinson said his father was a contributing factor in deciding to establish the scholarship.

“My father, Johnnie Robinson, was a big giver in terms of leadership, discipline, and being a role model. He was my baseball coach in East St. Louis when I was eight years old until I reached 18 years of age. There were a lot of kids on the team who did not have a father figure, so I learned to share my dad with the rest of the team. What is remarkable about my dad is that he did not get paid for that, and he gave many hours to bridge the gap for so many young people,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s father always taught him that when you come home from work, you don’t just come home and focus on yourself.

“You make yourself productive by helping others. He taught me that giving back is how you make a difference in your community and in your life,” he said.

In 2016, Robinson joined I AM ABLE, a not-for-profit Chicago charity that enriches the lives of students from 8th grade through college who aspire to become medical doctors. In addition, Darius joined the Sister Cities Committee of Hanover Park. As a Sister Cities Committee member, Darius volunteers to support an elementary school in Cape Coast Ghana, West Africa. In addition to Cape Coast Ghana, volunteer support is given to an elementary school in Zacatecas Mexico. He volunteers on the weekend and often travels to other countries to help local schools with supplies and needed assistance. Robinson said that by volunteering and through the SIU scholarship he established, he can help a student want to be a better person and get an education so that it gives their life purpose.

“I hope this example of how I am living my life spurs others to pay it forward in their communities and create a cycle of giving back to others,” Robinson said.

Robinson and his wife, Norlander, reside in Hanover Park, Illinois, where Robinson works as an operations manager for Menzies Aviation. His role is to manage the jet fuel and hydrant system that is used to fuel the aircrafts at O’Hare International Airport.

“SIU prepared me well for my career. Most of my professors were industrial engineers and they did a great job of teaching me how to analyze a situation and how to trouble shoot and achieve my objectives,” Robinson said.

When Robinson is not volunteering, he enjoys studying ancient history and religion.

“I consider myself a life student. I’ve made several trips to the pyramids in Egypt and by going through the tombs, I learned how Africans contributed to the world by building the pyramids. I am fascinated by history,” Robinson said.

Kruse: Donors Drive SIU School of Medicine Forward

SIU School of Medicine Dean Jerry Kruse portrait in courtyard

If you talk to Dr. Jerry Kruse for more than a few minutes, you’ll recognize that his life passion is reflected within the mission of SIU School of Medicine, which he has led since 2015. That mission is “to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.”

Kruse, who has been with the school since 1984, said it was founded to improve the health of central and southern Illinois residents.

Kruse is proud of the advances the School of Medicine has accomplished over the past few years, and he is hopeful for continued improvement with the help of loyal alumni and donors.

“We have been very successful raising scholarships for our students, and we are continuously easing their burden by increasing the number of scholarships we offer each year,” Kruse said. “Yet, our medical students still graduate with significant debt. The median debt is $210,000 so we still have a way to go to produce a balanced workforce.”

Kruse said there are several sectors of healthcare that are rapidly growing, and the SIU School of Medicine is committed to meeting the needs of those sectors.

“The care of women of childbearing age and children has come into focus for us, and we have put significant resources to improve that sector,” he said. “In fact, we are partnering with Community Foundation Springfield-Nurse Family Partnership where physicians and nurses work together to identify women with highest pregnancy risks. We are very pleased with partnerships such as this one and are always looking to partner with other quality like-minded agencies.”

The School of Medicine is also experiencing growing pains, and Kruse recognizes the opportunity for expansion.

“Our student base is growing, and our current educational building is reaching 50 years in age. We are to the point where a new facility is needed. Donors would have the opportunity to honor those close to them by naming lecture halls, reception areas and cafeterias,” he said.

He also said that the school has been successful in receiving named lectureships, endowed professorships, and endowed visiting professorships but that there is always room for more endowments.

“We really appreciate those who have partnered with us in the mission we have developed,” he said.

The school offers an M.D., a master’s degree, and doctoral degree in various biomedical sciences, including a master’s degree for physician assistant students, as well as advanced training in clinical specialties (17 residencies and 13 fellowships). There also is a small number of SIU students each year who pursue combined degree programs in law and medicine, or in medicine and public health.

To support the SIU School of Medicine, visit

Dr. Kelly Higgins: SIU Foundation Board Member and Loyal Supporter of SIU

Dr. Kelly Higgins HeadshotIt has been over 20 years since Dr. Kelly Higgins graduated from SIU School of Medicine, but her loyalty and commitment to the university are what brought her to the SIU Foundation Board of Directors.

“SIU gives students so many opportunities to change the course of their life. I just want to support it in any way I can,” Higgins said. “I got my undergraduate degree here, and I went on to get my medical degree from the SIU School of Medicine. You could say that my blood runs maroon.”

She graduated from SIU in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in physiology and a minor in chemistry. During her time as an undergraduate at the Carbondale campus, she was a member of the Saluki Softball team from 1992 to 1994 and a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.

After graduating from SIU School of Medicine in 2001, she completed her residency training in internal medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and served as chief resident for the Department of Internal Medicine from 2003 to 2004. She then practiced medicine in Memphis and Springfield, Illinois, before relocating to Carbondale in 2012. Dr. Higgins practiced medicine at Shawnee Healthcare for seven years before leaving clinical practice in 2020. During her time as an internist with Shawnee Healthcare, Dr. Higgins served as the assistant dean of students for the SIU School of Medicine on the Carbondale campus from January 2016 until June 2017. She also served as a clinical mentor to SIU School of Medicine first-year medical students and was voted Mentor of the Year for 2017-18.

Dr. Higgins is working as an adjunct assistant instructor in the Office of Education and Curriculum at SIU School of Medicine.

Dr. Higgins resides in Carbondale with her husband, Dr. Jeff Lehman, who is also a graduate of SIU School of Medicine Class of 2001, and two children, Lauren and Will. She is a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association. Dr. Higgins and her family enjoy attending SIU sporting events, and she enjoys coaching her daughter’s softball teams. Dr. Higgins is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Council and the Women’s Leadership Council Board of Directors, and will start mentoring students when this year’s program launches.

“We’ve been season ticket holders for SIU football and basketball for over 10 years, and we love watching our Salukis compete with some of the strongest teams in the nation,” she said. “The football team’s recent success has energized the university and the community, especially the win against Northwestern. We’re looking forward to a strong finish.”

Dr. Higgins is always encouraging others to give back to SIU and helping students. In July 2021, she was asked to become a board member for the SIU Foundation.

“I received a fantastic education from SIU, and the SIU Medical School is nationally recognized for its many achievements,” she said. “I encourage everyone to continue to support the university’s vision. Getting involved with the university and the SIU Foundation is a great way to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

People, Purpose & Passion: The Pathway to Success

SIU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jeffery Burgin headshot

By SIU Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeffery Burgin

“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.” Warren Bennis

During the spring semester 2022, Southern Illinois University launched its strategic plan IMAGINE 2030. Which describes five main pillars as the guiding initiatives for the next seven years. As the foundation of this plan is student success and engagement. Upon conversation with students and having experienced leadership development at other institutions it was decided that a week of celebration and leadership development would be integral in fostering the very best Salukis moving forward. We are excited to re-establish a week of leadership development activities culminating in a weeks end leadership conference themed People, Purpose & Passion: The Pathway to Success.

Students who actively participate in these leadership development activities will experience the following:

  • Hear from renown speakers and experts in the field of leadership
  • Gain personal competencies
  • Learn to foster an SIU community that focuses on improving programs, services, and the overall experiences of SIU students.
  • Strengthen those leadership skills inherent in all of us (i.e. conflict and risk management, communication, teamwork, and time management).
  • Better understand their ability to work with others and how their personal leadership identity shapes their leadership style and growth.
    • Reflect on one’s own identities through sessions, active engagement, and interactions with others
    • Cultivate further ideas that continue to build community on and off campus

In higher education we recognize that an engaged student is a retained student. As we had record breaking numbers of first year students in 2022, our focus currently is to retain those and all students through academics and overall engagement. This leadership development opportunity will enhance them as individuals and our Saluki community.

Register for the Student Leadership Conference.

Salukis take over Chicago with series of events, college partnership agreements and celebrations

SIU touts many successes including a 46% increase in freshman class enrollment over the past five years

SIU Chancellor Austin A. Lane addresses the crowd at the Saluki Takeover Tour Chicago Chancellor’s Reception.

By Jeff Wilson

For the second straight year, the Saluki Takeover Tour brought SIU alumni, friends, faculty, and staff together all over the Windy City.

Hosted by Chancellor Austin A. Lane and the SIU Foundation, the takeover tour featured 16 school visits, seven receptions, a posthumous degree presentation, and the Alumni Association tailgate and Saluki Football game at Northwestern.

The kickoff event was the Chancellor’s Reception on Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant. Chancellor Lane touted the impact of the Imagine 2030 strategic plan and encouraging enrollment trends.

“There’s a lot of history of Salukis in Chicago,” said Chancellor Lane. “Our goal is to have 15,000 students by 2030, and Chicago is going to play a major role in that plan.”

President Dan Mahony echoed the chancellor’s message about enrollment.

“I’m here to tell you our freshmen enrollment is up 46 percent over the past five years, which is one of the best numbers in the country,” he said.

Marc Silverman
Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman, an SIU alumnus and host of “Waddle & Silvy” on ESPN Chicago 1000 AM, opened the night by telling the hundreds of alumni and guests to let their Saluki spirit shine.

“Embrace our students. Embrace the region. Embrace it all,” he said. “Tell your friends about SIU. Let’s make sure it’s not the best-kept secret.”

Honoring a Saluki

Ronald Regan Jr’s daughter, Qianna, is pictured with (from left) SIU College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Robert Morgan, SIU System President Dan Mahony, Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt, SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin A. Lane, and Lindsay Laycoax, lead site coordinator for SIU’s Public Safety Management program.

Chicago Fire Department Capt. Ronald Regan Jr. was honored with a posthumous bachelor’s degree in public safety management during a ceremony Friday, Sept. 16, at the Chicago Fire Academy.

Regan passed away Dec. 19, 2021, at the age of 58 after a bout with COVID-19. He was just one semester away from earning his degree.

“Ron was not just a firefighter or captain, he was a friend,” Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. “He did so much for everybody else. He never thought about himself.”

Chancellor Lane, President Mahony, and College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Robert Morgan presented the diploma.

“Faculty members who knew Ron say he was very outgoing and full of life,” Chancellor Lane said. “We hope this diploma will provide his family and friends with a measure of comfort.”

Recognizing diversity

On Friday afternoon, a sold-out crowd filled the dining room at the Residence Inn in downtown Chicago for the Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion luncheon.

Dr. Paul Frazier, the vice chancellor for anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, honored 10 SIU alumni with Ascension Awards, which recognize alumni who have demonstrated a commitment to leadership and service at SIU.

“We’re honoring these incredible Salukis for their contributions to SIU and society,” he said.

Each award winner made brief remarks:

  • Eric Alvarez – “After serving in the military, SIU welcomed me with wide open arms. I plan to give back in a big way.”
  • Robert Beverly – “I felt like SIU took a chance on me. I’m encouraged to recommit to the university.”
  • Andrea Brookins – “Family is everything. You all bring out the best in me. We look forward to the future.”
  • Juana Duran Charicata – “I thank SIU for opening the doors for immigrants, including those who are undocumented. I am thankful for the warmth and care that SIU gives.”
  • Pervis Conway – “I can honestly say my support structure from SIU is still touching me today.”
  • Carlos Hernandez – “We must ensure people of color and those from poor backgrounds have access to higher learning.”
  • Beth Mueller – “Me and my employer, Deloitte, are passionate about DEI initiatives. The numbers in accounting don’t reflect society. That’s what has spurred this call to action.”
  • Freddie Taylor, Jr. – “Thanks to SIU for believing in a little Black boy from the ghetto. I’m a Saluki through and through.”
  • Brothers Everett and Timothy Rand were also honored but were unable to attend.

Enhancing opportunity

Agreement signing with College of DuPage.

Chancellor Lane, President Mahony, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Wendell Williams, and other SIU Admissions representatives visited multiple high schools and community colleges.

The university signed agreements with Prairie State College and the College of DuPage, making it easier for students from those schools to enroll at SIU.

Agreement signing with Prairie State College.

There were also visits to multiple high schools, which included three schools involved in the Hope Chicago program, which provides opportunities for students from underserved communities.

Tiny Tapp Takeover

The SIU Alumni Association and members of the Carbondale in the ‘80s and ‘90s Facebook group hosted an event on the Chicago Riverwalk at Tiny Tapp & Café. The beer of choice, Salukitoberfest, was brewed by students in SIU’s Fermentation Science Institute (FSI) through its partnership with Ravinia Brewing Co.

“This is really exciting,” Matt McCarroll, director of the FSI, said. “This beer is just the first of many we’ll be producing with Ravinia.”

Dunbar Leadership Society

Alumnus Darius Robinson was honored during the Dunbar Leadership Society event.

Later Friday evening, dozens of alumni and friends gathered at the Promontory Fieldhouse for the Dunbar Leadership Society reception. The society is hoping to reinvigorate SIU’s diverse alumni and create opportunities for current and future Salukis. Its plan is to raise scholarship funds and host events that resonate with members of a multicultural campus.

“With our improved freshmen enrollment, the No. 1 category to see an increase was African-American students, and they are largely from Chicago,” Chancellor Lane said.

Kennard Tucker, chair of the Dunbar Leadership Society, and Sherrica Hunt, director of development at the SIU Foundation, spoke about the importance of philanthropy as it pertains to supporting diversity initiatives.

Alumnus Darius Robinson was honored during the event. The East St. Louis native is the operations manager at Menzies Aviation. He received a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and manufacturing systems in 1995.

Alumni Tailgate & Saluki Football at Northwestern

Hundreds of Salukis made the trip even further upstate to Evanston to take part in the Alumni Association tailgate before SIU’s football game against Northwestern.

“We had such a great crowd. It was a great weekend in Chicago for the takeover tour,” said Jeff Gleim, executive director of the Alumni Association. “We couldn’t be any happier with the turnout for all of the events.”

Little did the high-spirited crowd know what was in store when the game began.

The Saluki Takeover Tour was capped with a historic, 31-24, win for SIU Football against Northwestern. The Dawgs earned their first win of the 2022 season with their second-ever win against a Big Ten opponent.

“We had a daunting task, staring 0-3 in the face if we don’t beat a Big Ten school,” said head coach Nick Hill. “Man, they battled. It was fun to watch the competitiveness, the competitive spirit.”

It was the perfect exclamation point to an exciting, engaging weekend for hundreds of Salukis and friends.

More to come

The Saluki Takeover Tour may soon come to a city or area near you, including Southern Illinois. Follow the SIU Foundation on social media and visit to stay up to date as things are announced.

See the full photo albums on the SIU Foundation Facebook page.

Engage with us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Chicago firefighter honored with posthumous degree from SIU Carbondale

Ronald Regan Jr’s daughter, Qianna, is pictured with (from left) SIU College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Robert Morgan, SIU System President Dan Mahony, Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt, SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin A. Lane, and Lindsay Laycoax, lead site coordinator for SIU’s Public Safety Management program.

SIU Foundation Media Services

CHICAGO – Chicago Fire Department Capt. Ronald Regan Jr. was honored Friday morning with a posthumous degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Regan passed away Dec. 19, 2021, at the age of 58 after a bout with COVID-19. He was just one semester away from earning his bachelor’s degree in public safety management.

During a ceremony in front of the Chicago Fire Academy, Regan was remembered by his fellow firefighters, family members, friends, and SIU representatives.

“Ron was not just a firefighter or captain, he was a friend,” Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. “He did so much for everybody else. He never thought about himself.”

SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin A. Lane, SIU System President Dan Mahony, and College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Robert Morgan presented the diploma.

“Faculty members who knew Ron say he was very outgoing and full of life,” Chancellor Lane said. “We hope this diploma will provide his family and friends with a measure of comfort.”

A dedicated family man and respected firefighter, Regan made a positive impression on everyone he met.

“Ron embodied both the spirit of a firefighter and the spirit of a Saluki,” Chancellor Lane said. “His commitment to bravery, along with the vision, tenacity, curiosity, and compassion of Saluki, form a remarkable combination worthy of celebration and remembrance.”

Regan’s wife, Cheryl, was unable to attend the ceremony, so his daughter, Qianna, accepted his diploma and spoke on the family’s behalf.

“My dad inspired me, and it’s amazing to see how he inspired others,” she said.

Regan started his career in the Chicago Park District, where he built successful swim teams. He later moved on to the Chicago Fire Department Academy, from which he graduated in 1996. He began his career at Truck 40. Over the years, he rose through the ranks of firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, and captain.

“Ron is definitely gone too soon,” Nance-Holt said. “He was so very special. He wanted this degree so much. I know he’s watching us today with a smile.”

Saluki Women’s Weekend engages, inspires

Image of crowd of women at the Saluki Women's Weekend.

The inaugural Saluki Women’s Weekend celebrated the empowerment and continued advancement of women in education, athletics, and philanthropy.

Hosted by the SIU Foundation Women’s Leadership Council and Saluki Athletics, the two-day affair featured multiple events and many of SIU’s most inspiring women.

Starting on Friday, Sept. 9, with the Women in Philanthropy Luncheon at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, nearly 100 women gathered for an afternoon of engaging events.

The Women’s Leadership Council is a network of alumnae, parents, and friends who are committed to creating a culture of women-driven philanthropy at SIU and mentoring future generations of Salukis.

“Our mission is to build a powerful and diverse network of female philanthropists to support mentorships, scholarships, and gender-focused grants campuswide,” said Loren Lane, wife of Chancellor Austin Lane, in a video address at the beginning of the luncheon.

Diane Compardo speaks to the crowd at the inaugural Saluki Women's Weekend.Among the opening speakers was Diane Compardo, whose employer Moneta Group, presented the luncheon.

“We have underestimated the power of our philanthropic capital,” said Compardo, who is a member of the WLC board. “It’s not just about money. We must share our voices, talents, time, and wisdom.”

The power of Title IX

The weekend’s events partially centered around the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other educational program that receives federal funding.

Dr. Linda Baker gives her keynote speech at the Saluki Women's Weekend.The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Dr. Linda Baker, who held key managerial positions under three Illinois governors, including secretary of the Department of Human Services, before coming to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in 2003. Dr. Baker now focuses on expanding access to high-quality health care and helping minorities and people with disabilities realize their full potential.

“The impact of Title IX is all around us,” she said. “From the classroom to the boardroom to the halls of Congress, we can see it. I believe in the power of women. We have a responsibility to make a difference.”

Southern Illinois Healthcare hosted the Saluki Women’s Reception on Friday evening, during which Dr. Charlotte West was named the Saluki Woman of the Year. Dr. West retired as SIU’s associate athletics director in 1998 after serving 42 years as a faculty member, coach, and administrator. The Saluki Hall of Famer is considered a pioneer of Title IX, which she exemplified during her time with Saluki Athletics.

Marsha Ryan, MD/JD, and Lolita Mack were also honored. Ryan was honored with the Saluki Women’s Trailblazer Award, and Mack received the Saluki Women’s Emerging Leader Award.

Engaging with Saluki women

Yoga on the Lawn on Saturday morning for the Saluki Women's Weekend.Over a dozen women brought their mats to the lawn of Davies Gym on Saturday morning to participate in Yoga on the Lawn. Melissa Hahn, a WLC board member, led participants in the hour-long session.

“It was a great workout and a nice way to meet new people,” said Dr. Kelly Higgins, who is also a WLC board member, said after the session.

Later Saturday morning, Dawn Korte kicked off the Mentorship Brunch at Dunn-Richmond Center. The Mentorship Program was established by the WLC as a priority to facilitate the connection of students with successful women mentors. Its priorities include aligning classroom learning with real-life experiences, developing leadership skills, providing networking, and creating lifelong ties to each other and SIU.

Korte, who serves on the WLC board and hosted the event along with fellow board members Dr. Ryan and Julie Staley, said the initial goal was to have eight mentees for the year, but they are mentoring 17 young Saluki women.

“Every time I talk to one of my mentees, I learn something new,” said Korte. “I also get a deeper appreciation for the value they have to offer. It provides us with an opportunity to reflect on progress we have made in our careers, polish our leadership skills, and create authentic relationships that we would not otherwise have.”

Tammera L. Holmes, CEO of Aerostar Aviation attended the Saluki Women's Weekend.Tammera L. Holmes, CEO of Aerostar Aviation attended the event. A 2000 graduate of SIU’s School of Aviation, Holmes said the Saluki Women’s Weekend provides a refreshing way to look at the progress SIU has made in gender equity.

“Seeing so many accomplished women come together is inspiring,” she said. “One of my professional goals is to create resources for my aviation program, and this weekend I have connected to so many people and have come away with valuable information and ideas.”

Other hosts for various events were SIU Credit Union, HireLevel, First Mid Bank & Trust, Walker’s Bluff, Walmart Marion Supercenter #216, Rendleman Orchards, Marion Sam’s Club No. 8180, and Panera Bread in Carbondale.

A Long Lifetime of Blessings

Duward Bean (wearing a suit, front row, third from left) is pictured in the 1948 SIU Obelisk holding the landlord’s middle child.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Duward Bean’s personal narrative over the past nine decades offers a touching portrait of the American dream. SIU played a big part in his story of accomplishment, generosity and determination. Born in Anna to a farming family, Bean knew that hard work was going to be his personal key to achieving success.

“I worked and put my way through college. I washed dishes to pay for school and babysat my landlord’s children in exchange for a bed. I worked hard for my education, but I loved my time at SIU,” Bean said.

Bean shared that his experiences at SIU taught him a great deal about people. “Coming from a small town like Anna, I had never been exposed to people who talked, thought, and looked differently than myself. I met all types of people from other cultures and it was a great experience.”

“I believe part of my success comes from my outlook on life that I formed at SIU. I have always tried to fit in with people wherever I was. And, I have always looked at life through a positive lens. I think that is why I got along well in my career,” Bean said.

Bean received a degree in business from SIU in 1952 and began an insurance career with Country Companies in Pinkneyville. He was quickly promoted to an agency manager and moved to Benton where he spent his professional career.

During his time in Benton, Bean developed a close friendship with SIU’s legendary basketball coach, Rich Herrin.

“Before Rich came to SIU, he served as Benton’s high school basketball coach, so we were both established members in the Benton community. I helped him out during that time, and when he went on to coach at SIU, Rich did not forget me. In fact, one year when he took the Salukis to the NCAA tournament, Rich called me up and invited me to fly with the team. He was a great friend and a giving person,” said Bean.

Bean recalls that his favorite memories of SIU revolved around his membership in Nu Epsilon Alpha fraternity.

“We had about 20 guys in the fraternity and our house was called The Manor.  My roommate was John S. Rendeman who was also from Anna, so we had a lot in common. The best part about living there was that I often had to go babysit at my landlord’s house where I could watch television. That was a treat in 1952 considering very few people even had televisions back in those days,” said Bean.

Bean attributes his longevity to clean living and taking good care of his health.

“Besides Country Companies, I also owned farm land and I watched other farmers around me die early. So, I stopped eating meat several decades back and I stay physically fit. In fact, I still walk three miles a day. I think that’s what has kept me around for so long,” said Bean.

Bean is passionate about helping others.

“I’ve been blessed, so I have always tried to give back to my church and my community. When Rich Herrin passed away at the end of 2020, it reminded me of SIU and the good people and friendships I made there. I haven’t been back to SIU since those days with Rich Herrin, so my plan is to present my donation to the College of Business and Analytics during homecoming. I’m looking forward to coming home again.”

To find out how you can contribute to the SIU College of Business and Analytics, visit

SIH, SIU partner for Saluki Women’s Weekend

Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH) Logo

By Jeff Wilson

Excitement is building for the upcoming Saluki Women’s Weekend, which will be hosted by the SIU Women’s Leadership Council on September 9 and 10.

The two-day event will feature many events, open to the public, honoring the 50th anniversary of Title IX and celebrating women in education and philanthropy.

Southern Illinois Healthcare is one of the major supporters of the event and is sponsoring the Saluki Women’s Reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

“SIH is proud to support the Saluki Women’s Weekend,” said Sarah Gray, system director of business and economic development at SIH. “SIU’s efforts to connect with female students to develop leadership skills, professional skills, and exploring career paths post-graduation is beneficial for SIH as well. We are also invested in developing well-qualified candidates for job opportunities within our organization upon graduation.”

The SIU Women’s Leadership Council is a group focused on creating a pipeline of mentors for future and current female SIU students. Female Saluki alumni mentor female students as they experience college and prepare for the future.

“At SIH, just as important as the academic journey to discovering your career path as a young woman, is the importance of developing those professional relationships that can help you in reaching those goals,” Gray said. “Many of us have achieved our career aspirations by learning from other women who have paved the way before us. Having a professional network of female mentors to whom you can turn to for advice, to collaborate on some amazing projects, or even talk to in a safe space about possible career goals you may have, is a great way to realize those goals.”

Passed in 1972, Title IX prohibited sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program that receives funding from the government.

“Gender equality in leadership positions is a critical aspect of progressing the global economy,” Gray said. “Promoting women into leadership positions is crucial to ensuring that women are treated equally and assessed not on the basis of gender, but on the basis of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.”

The partnership during the Saluki Women’s Weekend is another step in the relationship between SIU and SIH. Recently, SIH announced the creation of a scholarship program for SIU’s accelerated Bachelor Science in Nursing program.

“As two of the region’s largest employers, it’s beneficial for SIH and SIU to work together to address needs in the region, including supporting students in their professional growth and connecting them with employment opportunities,” Gray said. “Our recent partnership with SIU on the nursing scholarship program is another notable example of meaningful collaboration between SIH and SIU to address the region’s workforce needs.”

To learn more about the Saluki Women’s Weekend, visit

Jensen: His Saluki roots run deep

Pictured left to right: Melissa Jensen, Grey Dawg, and Robert Jensen
Pictured left to right: Melissa Jensen, Grey Dawg, and Robert Jensen

When Rob Jensen retired from SIU in 2005 after 24 years of service, it was no surprise that over 300 people showed up to pay their respects at his retirement ceremony. Throughout his rich career, Rob served as a positive influence to many people at SIU and has always done so with a servant’s heart.

“When I walked into Corker Lounge for the reception, I could not believe the number of people who came to say goodbye,” Jensen said. “The Chancellor and the system President were there along with my colleagues and friends from over the years. I will never forget that special day.”

As a member of the SIU Foundation’s Board of Directors, Jensen is highly respected by his peers on the Board.

“Dr. Jensen provides the Foundation with a deep institutional understanding of SIU,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “We are grateful to have his guidance in our outreach and fundraising efforts.”

Rob came to SIU in 1981 as an Assistant Professor after teaching for six years at University California, Irvine and conducting research in their Department of Psychobiology.

“I knew that southern California just wasn’t the right fit for me with too much traffic and pollution,” he said. “SIU came calling and, with its strong psychology department and outstanding academic track record, I knew it was the right fit for me.”

At SIU, Jensen specialized in studies of the biology of memory and changes that occur in the brain when new information is learned. He was particularly interested in the modulation of memory and trying to gain an understanding of why some memories are stored better than others.

“I was fortunate to have an excellent research career at SIU. I received grants from NSF, NIH, and the Office of Naval Research. This external support allowed me to maintain an active research laboratory, to publish, and to support outstanding graduate assistants. I was also appointed to the position of  Associate Dean for Budget, Personnel, and Research for the College of Liberal Arts, where I served for nine years under Dean John S. Jackson,” he said. “After that, I served two years as Dean of the college and ended up in Anthony Hall as Associate Provost. During my time in administration, I was still able to run my lab and publish over 40 peer-reviewed articles with my colleagues and students. In retrospect, the combination of the two made for a really satisfying academic career.”

Jensen’s interest in fundraising blossomed when he joined the Friends of Morris Library – the very center of academic life on the SIU campus. Since 1960, the Friends have contributed to the improvement of facilities; purchased books, journals, and library equipment; supported historical art restoration; preserved existing materials; and sponsored numerous community events.

“When we began a campaign to build a patio on the southeast corner of the library, I came up with the slogan, ‘Essential Extras.’ There are a lot of essential items that departments, faculty, and students need that state allocations just can’t provide. We ended up raising around $130,000 from generous donors and by selling engraved bricks to build that patio and that’s when I realized what a positive impact philanthropy can have on campus life – and how donor support can make the university as a whole a much better place,” he said.

Rob and his wife Melissa are also active donors to SIU Athletics, the School of Music, and the Summer Music Festival.  Additionally, they’ve made a commitment through the Foundation’s planned giving program.

Rob has served on the SIU Foundation Board since 2018 and said he is honored to play a part in supporting the foundation and promoting its work.

“What some may not know is the extent the SIU Foundation plays in providing essential extras across the university. It makes me proud to be a part of an organization that is actively making a difference,” he said.

Since retiring in 2005, Rob and Melissa have traveled extensively around the world. ”We have visited over 80 countries since our retirement. We’ve had marvelous adventures together. We slid down glaciers on our fannies in Antarctica, participated in a tea ceremony in Japan, and explored the Galapagos Islands. We have been extremely fortunate to maintain good health as the years have gone by, and are looking forward to further adventures together,” Jensen said.

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