Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Abbie Spiwak

Abbie Spiwak (left) is pictured with her scholarship donor, Judith Rossiter (right).

Abbie Spiwak (left) is pictured with her scholarship donor, Judith Rossiter (right).

Abbie Spiwak is a sophomore from Crystal Lake, Illinois, studying human nutrition and dietetics. She is a James M. Rossiter Memorial Scholarship recipient.

Why did you choose SIU?
I chose SIU because of the kind and caring students and faculty, the campus, the surrounding areas, and much more. Everyone is always involved and wants to do something to help others, or to help the community. Professors are willing to give you their time and effort to help you succeed. SIU helps make well-rounded and highly-educated students.

What inspired you to choose your area of study?
I have always been interested in health and helping others. This field of study gives me a wide range of opportunities in the health field. Americans are in great need of health and food specialists, and the need is only growing. I like making a difference in others’ lives. Also, I enjoy learning about the foods we eat, our bodies, and the systems food takes to get to us.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?
I have had many memorable experiences at SIU. I got to go on a trip with other Chancellor’s students to St. Louis to see a symphony, and visit the Blue’s museum. It was a great learning experience and a time to bond with others.

What do you brag about most when you tell your friends about SIU?
I love to brag about the Shawnee National Forest and all the amazing nature on and off campus. I love having access to water sports, hikes, bike rides, rock climbing, and more.

Could you tell us about the impact of the scholarship on your education at SIU and your life in general?
Scholarships have helped me to succeed in school without having the stress and worries involved with paying off loans or having to work full-time with studying. I know that this takes a burden off not just me, but my family as well. I have been able to devote my time to my studies, so that I can succeed in my future career. I am able to save money now that can be used towards my future and other expenses.

Why should people consider donating to SIU?
People should consider donating their money to SIU because it will always go towards good students who will benefit greatly, and whose lives will be changed for the better because of the money donated. You would be helping students to achieve their dreams and receive the best education they can. You can change someone’s future by donating to SIU.

If you had $1,000 to donate to SIU, what would you like to see that money benefit? Why?
I would like my money to help a student at SIU studying nutrition and dietetics who is doing well in his or her classes and who would greatly benefit from the extra money, whether it be paying for tuition or other school related expenses. I would want it to go to a student studying in the health field, specifically nutrition/dietetics. $1,000 would help a student in many ways. I want to know it is going to someone who will use the money to help them succeed in school and in their career.

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Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Simon Villegas

2018 Academic Scholarship Donor Luncheon

Simon Villegas is pictured with his scholarship donor, Debra Sarvela (left), and her daughter, Kristin Sarvela (right).

Simon Villegas is a sophomore from Morton Grove, Illinois, studying aviation technologies. He is a University Excellence Scholarship, David Rich Memorial Scholarship, and Jeremiah Eugene Price Aviation Technologies Scholarship recipient.

Why did you choose SIU?
I chose SIU because the aviation program is one of the best in the nation. Also, Carbondale is located in an area where there are a lot of activities.

What inspired you to choose your area of study?
My interest in planes is what inspired me to study aviation technologies. The whole aviation industry amazes me.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?
It was my first day of class when I was arriving on the bus to the airport and seeing the airport for the first time. My most memorable experience was when I saw the planes flying and the facilities and hangar with all the aircraft. I still remember the excitement and how good I felt about studying in this place.

What do you brag about most when you tell your friends about SIU?
Since I am in aviation technologies, I brag about all the planes we have, about my classes being hands-on and about the facility and airport we have where I go to class every day.

Could you tell us about the impact of the scholarship on your education at SIU and your life in general?
Being an immigrant who has been in the United states for five years, and the first to go to college here, my family can’t afford to pay for my education. I also have another brother who just started college too, and a sister in high school, so it is a lot of money for my family. Thanks to these scholarships, I am able to stay in school and pay for my tuition and living costs without my parents having to worry about it.

Why should people consider donating to SIU?
Because there are a lot of talented students who struggle to pay the cost of education, and all these scholarships and money invested on students makes a huge impact on their education, like it did on me.

If you had $1,000 to donate to SIU, what would you like to see that money benefit? Why?
I would like to see a student benefit from it, because I see the difference it made this year on my finances.

About the scholarship:
Mrs. Debra A. Sarvela wanted to establish a fund to provide financial support to students enrolled in the Aviation Technologies Program, in memory of her father, J. Eugene Price. Mr. Price established a career as an electrical engineer, specializing in flight simulation. His career began when Mr. Price was serving in the U.S. Army and continued for 40 years until his retirement from Hughes Aircraft.

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New Student Programs benefits from SIU Credit Union corporate gift

SIU Credit Union gives $20,000 on SIU Day of Giving

In March, SIU Credit Union kicked off the 2018 SIU Day of Giving with a $20,000 donation to New Student Programs.

“We are thrilled to receive the donation and are appreciative of the great corporate partnership the university has with SIU Credit Union,” said Cordy Love, director of New Student Programs.

The money will support the annual Saluki Start Up and Weeks of Welcome programs, which help new students as they begin their Saluki journey.

This year, representatives from the credit union will speak to new students and their families about financial planning and banking. During these sessions, New Student Programs will give away 3,000 USBs containing a pre-made budget and other financial information.

Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Chelesea Lewellen

Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Chelsea Lewellen

Chelesea Lewellen is a Ph.D. student from Chicago studying education. She is a Marita A. Weaver Scholarship and Wayne S. Ramp Vocational Education Endowed Scholarship recipient.

Why did you choose SIU?
SIU has the benefit of close proximity to major metropolitan areas (Chicago and St. Louis) with a distinctive small-town feel. I appreciate the history SIU has to offer of being both an educational institution with a significant diverse student body alongside a feel-good approach to school-life balance. As a former SIU student, I enjoyed the far-reaching spirit of being a Saluki and encountered alumni both locally and nationally during my travels. SIU encourages the potential and challenges you to rethink authority, information, personal beliefs and trends. This institution inspires individual pontificate and creates thinkers. I returned to SIU to further embrace that spirit of education and atmosphere of positive change.

What inspired you to choose your area of study?
I chose to pursue a degree in education because education is the cornerstone of life. Whether one is seeking personal enhancement or professional development, education is the key component needed to realize one’s goal. Education is not terminal but a journey wherein the student acquires new knowledge, discards long-held assumptions and/or improves upon their knowledge base. Education is not terminal and continues long after a degree is earned or retirement reached. I find it thrilling to participate in such a vibrant area of study and continue my own never-ending path of knowledge and hope to inspire others to continue in an unending pursuit of knowledge.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?
My most memorable experience at SIU occurred during my return to pursue my current degree. During graduate student orientation, Dr. Lee, then dean of the Graduate School, told us about the awesome responsibility and the exciting future graduate school held for each of us. His passion was not only evident, it was also infectious. I walked away from that orientation with an increased sense of the support that was available to me and eager to start my program of study. Each and every time I encountered Dean Lee, I felt a renewed sense of motivation. His warmth and sincerity is sorely missed.

Could you tell us about the impact of the scholarship on your education at SIU and your life in general?
Both scholarships are extremely generous and helped to offset the cost of pursuing my degree. As a graduate student, books, supplies and the cost of living is exceptional. The addition of these two scholarships reduced the out-of-pocket financial contribution and allowed me to refocus my finances and time towards other areas. I was able to relax and study without the distraction of an upcoming bursar payment. It helped both with my time and peace of mind; I am immensely grateful.

Why should people consider donating to SIU?
People should consider donating to SIU to contribute to the continued efforts to educate our society and help financially challenged students pursue their degrees. Financial burdens prevent far too many from pursuing advanced degrees. Additionally, the confidence boost a recipient feels is tangible. Donations are the gift that keeps on giving, and an investment in another person who otherwise may not be able to pursue a long-held dream of higher education.

If you had $1,000 to donate to SIU, what would you like to see that money benefit? Why?
If I had $1,000 to contribute to SIU, I would like to see the money awarded to an underserved and deserving student. Oftentimes, money is the one determining factor that prevents students from seeking advanced degrees. Investing in a student could ease the burden of fiscal concern and enable the distraction of making ends meet to be directed toward self-improvement. Small investments have the benefit of a huge return and the result is often invaluable.

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Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Allison Kellerman

Alli Kellerman, SIU Scholarship recipient studies abroad in Australia

Allison Kellerman is a senior from Nashville, Illinois, studying zoology and chemistry. She is a Chancellor’s Scholarship recipient. Kellerman is currently studying abroad in Australia.

Why did you choose SIU?
I chose SIU because it is one of three schools in Illinois that offers a degree in zoology, and it is by far the best of those three. I grew up going to the St. Louis Zoo fairly often, which inspired me to become a zoologist and research animals. SIU happens to be one of the main places St. Louis Zoo looks to hire employees from.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?
I am so grateful that I chose SIU as this semester I am currently in Melbourne, Australia! I am absolutely loving my time studying abroad. I have seen so many interesting animals and had so many amazing experiences that I couldn’t even imagine growing up in the small town cornfields of Southern Illinois. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store.

What do you brag about most when you tell your friends about SIU?
I love to brag about SIU’s amazing zoology program. I love the research the professors are doing and I love that I get to be a part of it by studying poison frogs in Dr. Brown’s lab.

Could you tell us about the impact of the scholarship on your education at SIU and your life in general?
This scholarship has absolutely changed my life. There is no exaggerating when I say that I probably would not be in school without this scholarship. My family has had a pretty tough financial time, particularly right as I was looking for schools. When that letter came in the mail, it was without a doubt the happiest day of my life as of yet. I knew this opportunity would open so many doors such as, an internship last summer with my favorite place on earth, the St Louis Zoo, and this study abroad opportunity that I am currently undertaking in the wonderful country of Australia. I cannot thank you enough for allowing these experiences to be possible for me, but also allowing me to go to college in the first place.

Why should people consider donating to SIU?
Donating to SIU allows the college to continue changing the lives of students from all over the world. There is such an interesting group of students that attends SIU, and I am so happy to be able to know so many of them. I would probably not be able to get a higher education without the scholarship I received, so I will be eternally grateful to those that donate to SIU.

If you had $1,000 to donate to SIU, what would you like to see that money benefit? Why?
I would like to see the money benefit research at SIU. They are currently cutting so many research opportunities at the school, which is a real shame. Now that so many people are getting a higher education, research is what sets the driven, dedicated, and brilliant students apart from the average. Do we still have opportunities to research? Yes, but the problem is now there is little to no chance of getting an undergraduate assistantship, which allows students to get paid for working at their research position. Because I cannot get paid for research, I have such little time to dedicate to really focusing on a project. Between my studies, the groups and clubs and sports teams I am in, and my job to make money, I have maybe two hours a week to put towards my research which is not nearly enough to develop a quality research topic and follow through with collecting and interpreting the data. This is why more money should be put back into the Undergraduate Research Program so that students like me can continue to do research.

You can support Chancellor’s Scholarships by making a gift online.

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The power of crowdfunding at SIU

SIU Crowdfunding platform Salukifunder

The power of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows students, faculty and staff to secure funding for the projects that matter to them most. It connects donors to memories of their alma mater, what is currently happening on campus, and creates a sense of community and connectivity for everyone.

So who benefits from crowdfunding?

Everyone does.

Over a year ago, SIU Carbondale began SalukiFunder, a crowdfunding platform that helps SIU students, faculty and staff raise money to make an impact on campus, in the community and globally.

SIU Crowdfunding platform SalukifunderJust recently, a group started a fund to memorialize a longtime friend, SIU alum, and staunch supporter of SIU athletics – Remy Billips. They hoped to raise $1,100 to install a memorial bench at SIU Campus Lake to honor Billips.

In less than two weeks, the group raised $1,100, which was the amount needed to purchase the bench and memorial plaque.

The power of crowdfunding at the SIU Carbondale campus serves as a reminder that this valuable resource is available and open to students, staff, and the community. For more information visit

The story of Remy Billips

Remy Billups was a loyal two-degree SIU alumnus who loved his alma mater.  From his days as a Saluki Cheerleader and team mascot in school, to serving in leadership roles for the SIU Carbondale & SIU Edwardsville Alumni Associations, Saluki Maroon was in his blood.  A devoted sports fan, Remy rooted hard for his Salukis and beloved Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks & Chicago Bulls.  He also held a position in merchandise sales for the latter three organizations: a role Remy truly thrived in.  Most important, Remy was a beloved friend to so many.  So many of us were blessed to have known Remy and call him ‘friend.’  And quite a few people would refer to him as their ‘best friend.’  His quick wit, humor and good nature made him a joy to be around.

SIU Unveils Impressive New Boathouse

Ralph E. Becker Pavilion at SIU Campus Lake

by Rebecca Renshaw

Carbondale, IL – Southern Illinois University Carbondale will unveil an impressive renovation of the Campus Lake boathouse on April 28.

Alumnus Ralph Becker contributed $1 million to renovate the popular boathouse, a focal point of Campus Lake for more than six decades. Construction workers have put the finishing touches on the project just in time for this year’s 45th annual Cardboard Boat Regatta, which is returning to Campus Lake this year. The structure sits at the starting point for the race.

The SIU Foundation will host a dedication celebration of the boathouse, located at 1493 Douglas Drive on campus, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 28. The 45th Annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta will be held at 1:00 pm that day.

“This boathouse holds many sentimental memories for our alumni, and I am pleased to say that it will create many more lasting memories for our students and those to come,” said Jim Salmo, CEO of the SIU Foundation and vice chancellor for development and alumni relations.

Ralph Becker’s vision

Becker, who will attend the dedication with his family, was one of the pioneers of the university’s radio-television program. He is a 1955 SIU graduate and an Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

Becker and his wife, Jane, live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and have been generous supporters of SIU. Becker’s philosophy is that once a goal has been achieved, one should work hard and set additional goals.

“I want to challenge everyone to give back to others, and to what is important to them,” Becker said. “It is extremely important to challenge others to do bigger and better than what I am able to accomplish. That is the only way progress will be made.”

Xanadu on the lake

Generations of SIU students, staff and community members have flocked to the boat house to enjoy a variety of outdoor experiences. One of the most popular was moonlight canoeing. Each month, when the moon was full, students and community members enjoyed a free canoe or paddleboat ride across the lake.

The boathouse has also been home to weddings, receptions and countless celebrations. The renovated facility will include event space for a variety of purposes, including classroom and social activities.

Many other events such as the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta were hosted at the boat house for over 40 years. Due to the draining and cleaning of the lake, the regatta was temporarily moved to a different location. Thanks to the restoration of the lake and the added benefit of a renovated boat house, the race is back where it all began.

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Meet SIU Scholarship Recipient – Victoria Estes

Scholarship Donor Luncheon: Victoria Estes and Christian Moe.

Victoria Estes, scholarship recipient, pictured with Christian Moe, scholarship donor.

Victoria Estes is a sophomore from Tremont, Illinois, studying theater. She is the recipient of the following scholarships: University Excellence Scholarship, Christian H. Moe Playwriting Scholarship, and Theater Scholarship.

Why did you choose SIU?
The campus is absolutely gorgeous, and the people are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. It felt so welcoming!

What inspired you to choose your area of study?
I have always had a passion for theater. I love to act, write and sing! Theater is the best avenue for me to explore all of those aspects.

What is your most memorable experience at SIU?
My most memorable experience was definitely the first Dawgs Nite Out when I was a freshman. I went with my newly found friends and we had a blast!

What do you brag about most when you tell your friends about SIU?
I’m a sophomore and I’ve already added so many new experiences that will look impressive when I go into the workforce.

Could you tell us about the impact of the scholarship on your education at SIU and your life in general?
It has allowed me to branch out and try more avenues of theater that I may not have had the finances to try without the scholarships. I’ve had more opportunities to add to my résumé than I ever thought possible!

Why should people consider donating to SIU?
There are many students that are brilliant and have wonderful plans to better the world, but they may not have the finances to receive every possible opportunity to reach those goals.

If you had $1,000 to donate to SIU, what would you like to see that money benefit? Why?
I would donate to a theater student interested in playwriting or dramaturgy because students should feel free to explore career paths that they never thought were possible!


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Design alumnus, entrepreneur strengthens legacy through philanthropy

Mark Stenftenagel, 1973 alumnus of the SIU Design program

By Jeff Wilson

Each spring, the SIU School of Art and Design hosts Design Days, which brings professional designers, both alumni and non-alumni, to campus.

With “Momentum” as this year’s theme, the focus was on moving the field of design forward. The event and its theme were each representative of the dedication needed to be successful.

Mark Stenftenagel is a good example of that dedication. A 1973 alumnus of the SIU Design program, Stenftenagel has made an impact through monetary donations and personal effort.

“I had an extremely rich, enjoyable experience at SIU,” he said. “The more I get involved, the more I enjoy it. It’s a great university. There are really good students here.”

Making a noticeable impact  

His philanthropy has helped the university’s Design program stay modern. In 2014, the program moved to a new workspace in Pulliam Hall, leaving behind the Blue Barracks on East Campus. A $30,000 donation from Stenftenagel helped ensure the program could thrive in its new location.

“Because of people like Mark, we have dedicated Design scholarships,” said Rob Lopez, interim director of the School of Art and Design. “It helps with recruitment and retention. Our students can be proud when they leave.”

Stenftenagel also facilitates the delivery of free furniture that comes from Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The mart is a wholesale design center, and when it gets new inventory, the old items need a home. Stenftenagel has made sure the SIU Design program is one of those new homes.

Before visiting SIU for Design Days on April 6, he loaded a truck and trailer (donated by his colleagues at Installation Specialists in Itasca) and brought a shipment of new furniture along with him.

From football to furniture design and beyond

Stenftenagel came to SIU on a football scholarship. He later decided to forgo football and focus on design.

“I wanted to study design, and I also wanted to play football,” he said. “Southern was the best place to do that. I hated to leave the team. It was tough.”

After his junior year, Stenftenagel took a break from the design program and started an on-campus preschool. He designed the furniture for the school so that it could be easily set up and broken down each day.

“It was called Alpha Preschool,” he said. “It had a really open environment, which is what a lot of schools are going to nowadays.”

After meeting his future wife, Margaret, a 1972 SIU alumna, Stenftenagel sold the preschool and finished his design degree. After graduating, the couple moved to Boston for about two years, before returning to Illinois and settling in Elmhurst.

In 1984, he founded Whitney Architects, which focuses on architecture and interior design. A year later, he started Q Design, which does industrial design, focusing mostly on furniture.

Mark Stenftenagel, 1973 alumnus of the SIU Design programA giant Q on the wall in the Pulliam Hall Design Wing, denotes Stenftenagel’s impact on the program. It represents the Q Lounge, which is filled with furniture he helped acquire.

“The world needs good design,” Stenftenagel said. “What we learned (at SIU) is more pertinent today. Design is the essence of problem solving. All kinds of companies are looking for design. The need is there.”

To learn more about the School of Art & Design, visit

The SIU Foundation is in the midst of Forever SIU, a three-year fundraising campaign. To learn more about the campaign and how to give, visit


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Estate gift will help others rise

Susan McClary (left) and her parents, Dan and Toccoa McClary (right).

Susan McClary (left) and her parents, Dan and Toccoa McClary (right).

By Rebecca Renshaw and Jeff Wilson

Dan and Toccoa McClary worked to ensure that their daughter, Susan McClary, had every opportunity to succeed. She didn’t let them down.

Susan, a renowned musicologist and 1968 SIU graduate, is furthering her parents’ mission by making a $400,000 estate gift through the SIU Foundation. The Don and Toccoa McClary Scholarship will benefit female Native American or African American students who enter programs focused on science, technology, engineering or math (commonly known as STEM).

Her parents were SIU professors who taught microbiology and math. Her father, who was Cherokee, grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. He served in World War II; through the GI Bill, he was able to attend college and earn his doctorate.

“My parents were deeply committed to education, because the education they received allowed them to get out of the Dust Bowl,” Susan said. “They made an enormous jump in life by the virtue of education.”

That drive was instilled in their daughter, and Susan took their ambition to another level. After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from SIU, she received her master’s and doctoral degrees in musicology from Harvard University.

“My parents insisted on excellence in education. It was clear I had to make the best grades and always be focused on moving forward,” Susan said. “My father wept when he learned I was going to Harvard.”

She went on to hold a number of positions in higher education, spending time at the University of Minnesota, McGill University, the University of Oslo and UCLA. Currently, she is a professor in the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I work with a program that brings kids from the inner city to campus,” Susan said. “My parents would want kids who are disadvantaged to have the same opportunities I did.”

Her many accomplishments include being awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship from 1995 to 2000. In the spring of 2017, she received an honorary Doctor of Music Arts degree from SIU, the place her parents loved so dearly.

“It’s a beautiful area. My parents loved going to Giant City and Little Grassy,” she said. “The landscape is just gorgeous.”

Dan and Toccoa McClary stayed in Carbondale until their deaths in 1984 and 2005, respectively.

“It was quite obvious that I wanted to reinvest in higher education,” Susan said. “SIU is a really good place for kids who are the first generation to get their degrees. It’s where the money will have the greatest impact.”

For more information about the Forever SIU campaign, visit


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