Grant Opens Door to Podcasting

SIU English department podcasting lab.

SIU English department podcasting lab.

By Rebecca Renshaw

It’s hard telling students in a creative writing class to be innovative if they are limited to methods taught only in the pre-internet era. That’s what English professor Pinckney Benedict was forced to do without the necessary technology at hand. When Benedict learned his department received a $7,500 grant from the SIU Foundation to purchase podcasting equipment last spring, he was thrilled.

“The money did not just help. I have no idea what I would have done without it,” Benedict said. He was scheduled to teach two podcasting classes last spring with minimal equipment. “It was going to be tough putting together the program, so the funds utterly changed what we were able to do.”

Benedict, a Princeton graduate who was taught by such greats as Joyce Carol Oates, long ago realized that captivating fictional writing is not just for the standard page. He believes writing using the latest technology is the next step and that podcasting is a growing outlet.

“Our stories should be tellable across the spectrum of technology and time,” he said.
The foundation’s funding resulted in two of Benedict’s students, who took his podcasting class last spring, to win awards for their creative works in the prestigious Missouri Review, one of the country’s oldest and respected literary magazines.

Miller Audio Prize
Mandi Jourdan, a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Vandalia, Illinois, won first place in the prose category of the Missouri Review’s Miller Audio Prize. Jourdan is extremely grateful to the foundation for the equipment it provided.

“Before we received the grant from the foundation, we were working with just one microphone in a corner of a professor’s office,” she said. “Without the podcasting equipment, I simply would not have won first place.”

Will Holcomb, also a third-year MFA student in creative writing from Kirksville, Missouri, received runner-up from the Missouri Review in the humor division.

Holcomb says that he came to SIU because he was looking for a workshop environment, and he heard great things about the SIU program.

“I am working on projects here that I never thought I could get near. Professor Benedict has been critical to my success. Without him, there would not be much of a fiction writing program at SIU. This entire podcasting experience is extremely worthwhile, and I have to thank everyone for giving me this experience,” Holcomb said.

Donations Transform Education
Benedict encourages other donors to help, regardless if their donations are large or small.

“While the foundation’s grant of $7,500 is certainly not a million dollars, it transformed the writing program here at SIU. We are doing things now we could never have done before, winning prizes we could never have received without it, and it has pushed us into new territories, such as podcasts and 360 film making,” he said.

In fact, based on the success from this initial foundation grant, an English department alumnus recently made a gift to launch a technology fund for the department, encouraging the continued use of more innovative technologies to teach writing and 21st century storytelling.

“I would encourage everyone to give a relatively modest gift to whatever fuels their passion. For me, personally, that $7,500 gift changed the direction of my research and my teaching,” Benedict said.

Want to learn how you can contribute?
If you would like to learn how to give, please visit siuf.org.
To listen to the one-minute trailers for the winning podcasts, visit anchor.fm/siuc-mfa-podcasting.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: SIU Day of Giving Makes Library’s Digital Scanner Dream Come True

Student uses SIU Morris Library SIU Morris Library Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Morris Library received 53 acts of kindness last March during SIU’s 3rd annual Day of Giving.

“We had gifts of all sizes, and we appreciated each and every one of them,” said Dean John Pollitz.

The total of those gifts amounted to $17,865, a steady increase in giving to the library since the university started the 24-hour online campaign in 2017. During that first year, the library received $4,000. Pollitz hopes the donations continue to rise as the event progresses.

“The SIU Day of Giving is an extraordinary event as it draws alumni, staff and students together for a unifying cause,” he said. “I’m not sure how we are going to top last year, but I’m sure hoping we can do it again this coming March.”

The increase in donations allowed for the purchase of a scanning machine that is drastically changing the way students and professors approach their research – free of charge.

With the Day of Giving funds, Morris Library purchased the Knowledge Imaging Center Bookeye 4 system. Associate Professor of Reference and Instruction Josh Vossler said the versatile system makes digital scanning and organizing research very simple, while also being easy on original materials. Documents and books are placed face-up, and an overhead digital scanner takes a picture. It adjusts automatically for the natural curve of bound books so users won’t have to crush the spine of a book to get the full image.

“A typical scanner takes 40 seconds to scan one page. This machine can scan in 3.5 seconds per page,” Vossler said. “It’s a game changer as far as time goes. This will save students and community members thousands of hours each year.”

Using the touch screen, users can edit and convert the image into a variety of formats. More importantly, the system identifies all of the scanned characters and allows the image to become searchable.

“Another benefit is that it is compatible with accessibility software features,” said Vossler. “There are so many positives that this machine brings. We are beyond grateful to the donors who helped us purchase this station.”

Pollitz thanks all of the donors who made this acquisition a reality.

“This is what can be accomplished through collaboration and a giving heart. I believe this new system will help our students and faculty become more productive than ever before possible,” he said.

How to Give to Morris Library

If you would like to help maintain Morris Library as one of the top 100 research libraries in the nation, please visit siuf.org and make a gift today.

150 Stories of Philanthropy: Money raised by kayak trip already being put into action

Nearly 300 donors contributed to $25,500 SalukiFunder campaign

By Jeff Wilson

Every journey has three parts – a beginning, middle and end.

With the presentation of a $25,500 check to the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature, it would be easy to assume a journey that began months ago had officially ended. Instead, it’s just another step of an ongoing process.

“If it wasn’t for this money, we’d have to rely on volunteers to run the program,” said Touch of Nature Director J.D. Tanner.

The funds were raised by Greg Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator, who hosted a Paddle for Patriots SalukiFunder campaign while kayaking down the entire Mississippi River. Now, he’s working on putting that money to good use.

“We’re in the process of planning our events,” Nejmanowski said. “Not only do we provide the experience, we also provide food, transportation, necessary permits and guidance during each Veteran Adventures event.”

Two events are already planned. The first is a sporting clay event Oct. 26 at Rend Lake Shooting Complex in Whittington. The second is a pheasant hunt Nov. 30 at Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. These events are open to all active military personnel and military veterans. For more information on these and future events, follow Veteran Adventures on Facebook.

“Greg’s journey represents his passion for outdoor education and serving veterans,” Tanner said. “His success speaks to the quality of outdoor education that SIU provides.”

Nejmanowski began his journey in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota and finished in early August in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, he met some alligators, new friends and inspired 289 donors to support his cause.

“A lot of people touched me during this process,” he said. “I’ve been inspired by those that supported my trip, supported the cause and supported veterans.”

Preparing for the excursion was just as taxing as the trip itself, even with support from the Touch of Nature staff and Wilderness Systems, an outdoors company that supported Nejmanowski from the beginning.

“Just as much went into the planning as the paddling,” he said.

Tanner and Nejmanowski were both thankful for the donations, but both are equally aware of the continued need for support.

“We encourage anyone interesting in contributing to take a look at what Touch of Nature has to offer,” Tanner said.

To support Veteran Adventures, email veteranadventures.siu.edu or call Nejmanowski at 618-453-1121.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Kayak trip ends; fundraiser continues

By Jeff Wilson

Nejmanowski reflects on his journey, the power of the great outdoors

Seventy-three days and a handful of alligators later, Greg Nejmanowski’s kayak trip down the Mississippi River was over.

He dropped his kayak in the water in May at Itasca State Park in Minnesota, and it came out earlier this month in the Gulf of Mexico. The trip, called Paddle for Patriots, is a fundraiser for the Veteran Adventures program at SIU’s Touch of Nature. The goal is to raise $25,000, and there’s still time to donate at https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/15565.

“It’s been worth it,” said Nejmanowski, an SIU alumnus, Touch of Nature graduate assistant and Veteran Adventures coordinator. “This trip has inspired me to continue helping vets, to serve those who served us.”

Other than a couple of close calls with recreational boats – including one instance when he thought he was going to have to abandon ship – Nejmanowski said the trip went well. Floodwaters complicated things a bit and forced one of his planned events to be moved from Grand Tower to Chester, but he said the high water also led to less river traffic.

“It went smoothly, but it was hard,” he said. “Had I not had an inspiration, a passion, it would’ve been much harder.”

The expedition started slowly, but picked up steam as he passed St. Louis. From that point on, it was mostly open water. Nejmanowski set up camp each night on sandy beaches, largely in areas inaccessible by land because of the flooding.

“It was kind of nice living on the minimum, and the simplicity of it,” he said. “So much wisdom comes from simplicity.”

Making a few friends along the way

The vast majority of the time, Nejmanowski was by himself. He did, however, have run-ins with a few alligators and several people along the way, including one particularly special family.

“It’s such a rush being in the water with an alligator, at their level,” he said. “They’re not really all that interested in you, but they will come check you out.”

As he neared the final section of his trip, he met the Leedom family in Louisiana. It wasn’t a planned meeting. They saw Nejmanowski walking by the river and asked if he needed a ride. The father, wife and son took Nejmanowski back to his kayak and along the way, they struck up a conversation.

“I told him what I was doing, and come to find out, the father was a Vietnam veteran,” Nejmanowski said. “He told me to take his number and call him if I needed anything. The next day I needed some water, so I called, and ended up having lunch at their home.”

The Leedoms asked to be notified when he was about to finish his trip, and Nejmanowski obliged. They were waiting at his final stop to help him celebrate.

“The kindness of humans, ya know?” Nejmanowski said. “We’re now friends for life.”

The healing power of nature

After more than two months on the river, Nejmanowski entered the final stretch of his trip. He took the Atchafalaya River through southern Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico.

“It wasn’t something I could see for a long time,” he said. “I basically went around some trees, and then boom, there’s the Gulf of Mexico. It was so beautiful. There was the prettiest sunset that night.”

Nejmanowski is a firm believer in the healing power of nature. His kayak trip only strengthened that belief.

“Being outdoors has great therapeutic benefits,” he said. “That’s what Veteran Adventures is all about, and I wanted to put it on the map.”

The program offers outdoor activities to veterans, including hunting, hiking, backpacking trips, whitewater rafting and more. The program is funded through grants and private donations, and it recently lost a large state grant.

Through Paddle for Patriots, Nejmanowski hopes to not only fund Veteran Adventures, but bring awareness to the scourge of veteran suicide. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans die each day from suicide. That’s approximately double the suicide rate of non-veterans.

“I feel empowered as an individual,” Nejmanowski said. “This trip inspired me to learn more about what nature and outdoor experiences can do to improve people’s quality of life.”

For more information about Paddle for Patriots and Veteran Adventures, search for Paddle for Patriots on Facebook or visit veteranadventures.siu.edu.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Cybersecurity program booming

SIU Cyber Security Dawgs

Welcome to a series of stories celebrating SIU’s 150th anniversary.

A growing number of attacks on computer networks worldwide has increased demand for university graduates with expertise in cyberdefense and cybersecurity, areas that barely existed just a decade ago.

This call comes as no surprise, as cyber criminals now show increasing new levels of ambition and sophistication – from multimillion-dollar bank heists to overt attempts at disrupting large networks that support production efforts for critical utilities.

SIU has responded to this demand by offering a specialization in cybersecurity through its School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, and students typically have jobs lined up before they graduate because of high demand.

A point of pride for the program is the Security Dawgs cyberdefense team, a student organization that gives students hands-on experience through participation in cyberdefense and cybersecurity competitions. The team consistently earns first- or second-place honors in the state’s annual college cyberdefense competitions.

Despite these strengths, the program is in need of financial support to help educate tomorrow’s cybersecurity experts and industry leaders, according to Tom Imboden, associate professor of information systems technologies.

“Investments in equipment and opportunities will keep SIU students in the forefront of the industry,” he said. “For example, we received a grant a few years ago to acquire a remote-access solution that allows SIU to host virtual machines with curriculum content. This gives our students all of the software needed to provide an environment where students can complete lab exercises for the information technology courses they are enrolled in.”

Upkeep to the servers is essential, but costly.

“Our servers are now five years old and need to be upgraded,” Imboden said. “New servers cost around $6,000 each, and they come with an annual fee of $3,000.”

The Security Dawgs also need support getting to, and participating in, competitions.

“Typically, the team has only three weeks’ notice informing them they are invited to compete in the state or regional competitions,” Imboden said. “Ensuring that we have transportation and lodging for 10 students is a challenge. These competitions help put SIU, the program and our students on the map.”

To learn more about the information technologies program, visit isat.siu.edu/. To learn more about the needs of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, visit http://foreversiu.org/colleges-units/applied-sciences-and-arts.php.

 

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Delaney elected president of SIU Foundation

David Delaney – SIU Foundation Board

CARBONDALE, Ill. – David Delaney, a 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has been elected to a two-year term as chairman of the SIU Foundation.

He replaces Susie Rashid, a 1987 SIU accounting graduate, who now serves as the board’s immediate past president.

Former immediate past president Roger Tedrick, a 1970 political science graduate, continues on the foundation board as a representative of the SIU Board of Trustees. Matthew Solverson, a 1986 engineering graduate, is the foundation’s new president-elect.

Delaney, who studied agriculture at SIU, said the SIU Foundation plays an important role supporting the university.

“The foundation connects the passions of donors with the needs of the university,” he said. “The gifts of alumni and friends support scholarships for students, provides needed funding for facilities and laboratories, and enhance faculty teaching and research.”

The foundation is currently engaged in “Forever SIU: The Campaign for Students,” a three-year fundraising effort that achieved its $75 million goal seven months ahead of schedule. The campaign runs through December 2019.

“Private support enhances the public support that is so critical to SIU’s success,” Delaney said. “The foundation board is very grateful to the governor and our state legislators for increasing funding for higher education across the state – and especially SIU – this year. State funding gives donors confidence and motivates them to further invest in the university.”

Delaney, who has served on the foundation board since 2012, thanked recent foundation board presidents Rashid and Tedrick for their leadership.

“All members of the board are volunteers who believe in the power of donors to advance SIU,” he said. “Susie and Roger have been models for all of us in terms of their dedication and leadership.”

Delaney is currently chief commercial officer for Farmer’s Business Network, which serves nearly 8,000 members across more than 30 million acres of farmland across the U.S. and Canada. He is based in northern Illinois. He was formerly executive vice president and chief operating officer at PotashCorp, the world’s largest fertilizer company.

Rashid owns SWR LLC in Evanston, Illinois, and Tedrick is president of Tedrick Group Risk Management Solutions in Mount Vernon. Solverson is a director of R&D programs for General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems in Marion.

The SIU Foundation is an independent, nonprofit corporation that exists solely to serve the educational, service and research missions of SIU Carbondale. As a designated 501(c)(3) organization, the foundation has approval from the Internal Revenue Service to issue tax-deductible receipts for private gifts received to support SIU.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Live Long and Prosper

Robert and Patricia Dennis

Welcome to a series of stories celebrating SIU’s 150th anniversary.

By Rebecca Renshaw

“Live long and prosper.” Most people are familiar with the Vulcan greeting of Mr. Spock in the television series “Star Trek,” which debuted in 1966 and went off the air just one month before Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Growing up in Decatur, Illinois, Robert Dennis was fascinated by “Star Trek” and its vision of outer space and space travel.

Both the reality of the moonwalk and the fantasy of “Star Trek” fueled Dennis’ desire to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, poor eyesight and a growth spurt dashed his hopes of physically traveling in outer space.

But he could still dream about it.

“I realized right then that if I couldn’t get into space as an astronaut, then maybe I could go to California and make a movie about space,” he says.

To do that, he would have to do more than dream. He would have to learn the art and science of cinematography.

So Dennis set his sights on SIU.

During his first few days on campus, two things surprised him. The first was a professor who announced to a room full of new students that “if you are in this class to get a job in Hollywood, you may as well walk right out the door.” At that defining moment, Dennis decided that not only would he go to Hollywood, but that he would become a success as well.

The other surprising revelation was that filmmaking had little resemblance to the shows he had watched growing up.

“Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I now know that SIU gave me a deeper appreciation for film – especially experimental, documentary and independent filmmaking,” he says. “SIU opened my mind to a whole world of filmmaking that had nothing to do with my childhood dreams of ‘Star Trek.’ ”

Upon graduating from SIU, Dennis got his master’s degree from the University of Southern California, a widely respected film school that also claims George Lucas as one of its most accomplished alums. Dennis soon met his wife, Patricia, also a USC alum who now serves as senior vice president for The CW television network.

Dennis’ career included working at Lucasfilm, becoming elected as president of the Large Format Cinema Association and serving as a director of post production for HBO Pictures. Dennis also served on a post supervision team for film restoration and preservation at Walt Disney Studios as well as overseeing the 70mm “IMAX” laboratory services at Technicolor. While he and his wife forged successful careers in the challenging world of filmmaking, the couple also shares a strong commitment to the power of education.

That brings us back to Mr. Spock’s desire that others “live long and prosper.”

While Robert and Patricia Dennis have certainly fulfilled that goal, they understand that others may need a hand to do the same. Several years ago, the couple established the Robert Dennis Filmmaking Award, which is given to an outstanding SIU student filmmaker for his or her accomplishments in cinematography.

This past spring they began revamping their wills and recognized it made the best financial sense to establish a revocable family trust. With no children of their own and no extended family members to provide for, the couple determined that they wanted to see most of their estate gift go to youths who really need the help.

They both immediately thought of SIU.

“Patricia and I understand how tough this business can be for young people,” Dennis says. “Patricia listened to my stories about SIU, and the important part it played in my life. We both decided to give back to SIU and encourage students with financial help who need it to continue their filmmaking education.”

The Dennis’ estimated $1.3 million gift is the largest estate gift in the history of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

“When we finalized the trust, we sent off a note to the SIU Foundation announcing our decision – and the reaction was amazing,” Dennis says. “We often ask ourselves, ‘How is it that we turned out to be the people who have pledged this amount to the school? Why haven’t others done the same?’ We’ve already set aside resources for others. It is just the right thing to do to help kids out who can use it more than us.”

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: School of Music brings entertainment, improves student experience

Young Artists Presentation at Southern Illinois Music Festival.

Young Artists Presentation at Southern Illinois Music Festival.

With a $15,000 grant from the SIU Foundation, the School of Music provided educational and artistic endeavors, benefiting students and the community at large.

“Within the School of Music, I tried to ensure the funds were allocated to activities benefiting a broad cross-section — including vocalists and instrumentalists, soloists and ensembles, classical and non-classical, new music and traditional,” Eric Lenz, the school’s interim director, said.

Below is a list of the events the grant helped fund:

Outside the Box

Arguably the most impactful activity sponsored by School of Music, this year’s new music festival featured an impressive slate of guest composers (Stephen Demski, Arthur Gottschalk) and performing artists (Apollo Chamber Players). The nine-concert series highlighted guest artists, SIU faculty and performance students.

Verdi Requiem at Shryock Auditorium

A performance of the Requiem Mass by Guiseppe Verdi is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This year’s marquee event was no exception. Filling the stage to capacity in Shryock Auditorium, SIU Symphony, Concert Choir and Choral Union were joined by guest ensembles from SEMO, John A. Logan College and Southeast Illinois College.

SIU Guitar Festival

Funds supported guest artists from Mexico and Puerto Rico, including Aldemar Valentín, who collaborated with SIU Assistant Professor of Guitar, Dr. Isaac Lausell. Additional funds helped defray cost of new equipment purchase (bass amp) associated with guest artists in the jazz area.

Southern Illinois Music Festival/Young Artist Program

The 15th annual Southern Illinois Music Festival (May 24 through June 9) featured more than 30 performances throughout Southern Illinois, at venues in Carbondale, Marion, Carterville, Murphysboro, Anna, Cairo, Makanda, Du Quoin, Christopher, Johnson City and Alto Pass. The highly acclaimed festival, which draws on members of the New Chicago Chamber Orchestra who perform side-by-side with SIU faculty and advanced performance students.

 

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: Ameren Corporation Frankie Muse Freeman Trailblazer Scholarship

Welcome to a series of stories celebrating SIU’s 150th anniversary.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Longtime civil rights leader, lawyer and activist Frankie Muse Freeman passed away earlier this year at the age of 101.

Freeman, whom some would later call “Frankie Freedom” became a civil rights attorney who fought to end segregated housing and promoted equal rights in St. Louis and nationwide during the civil rights movement.

Upon her passing, Ameren Corporation established the Ameren Corporation Frankie Muse Freeman Trailblazer Scholarship. In October 2018, Ameren contributed $5,000 to the SIU School of Law. This will be the first of four payments of $5,000.

The scholarship specifications stipulate that the award be given to a full-time third-year law student in good academic standing, with specific preference given to a student who identifies as a female from an under-represented community with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and social justice.

The first recipient of this award is SIU law school student Adaku Oti. Oti is a third-year SIU law school student from Toronto who is deeply committed to humanitarian efforts. She was nine-years-old when she created a foundation in support of orphanages along the coast of West Africa. The foundation’s most recent donation has gone to the Children’s Home for the Deaf and those with Mental Disabilities in Accra, Ghana in January 2018 in hopes to advance the quality of life for the children and young adults that reside there.

“Receiving a scholarship from a company such as Ameren encourages me tremendously,” said Oti. “I am humbled they thought enough of my humanitarian efforts to help. Receiving this from Ameren makes me realize that everyone can contribute something small and it just might end up becoming something bigger.”

“We are very proud of the work of Adaku Oti, whose passion for helping those less fortunate embodies the founding mission of the SIU School of Law, which was “created in the public interest to serve the public good,” said Cindy Buys, interim dean for the SIU School of Law.  “We also are grateful to Ameren Corporation for their support of our law students. These types of scholarships facilitate our students’ success in law school and beyond,” Buys said.

To learn more about how you can give to the SIU School of Law, visit http://foreversiu.org/colleges-units/law.php.To learn more about the Forever SIU campaign, visit www.foreversiu.org.

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150 Stories of Philanthropy: The power of “just a thought”

Group of donors to Balancing Education, Experience and Reality Scholarship.

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.) Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money. And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund. Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29

“Any interest in this group in starting up a scholarship fund to help current students? (Tuition is a lot higher than it was when we were there and I am sure that some students could use the help.)
Even if we averaged just a $10 donation per member, that would still be a decent amount of money.
And just think of the name(s) that we could assign to the scholarship fund.
Just a thought.” – Dan Giedeman, Facebook comment on January 29, 2019

By Rebecca Renshaw

In January 2019, Dan Giedeman, a three-degree SIU alumnus, posted this now-famous comment in the private Facebook group called “Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s.” The group, started by Craig S. Wilson in November 2018, swelled to nearly 15,000 members within three months.

Giedeman’s idea to raise money for a scholarship dovetailed perfectly into SIU’s Day of Giving on March 6. With the added excitement of the university’s 150th anniversary kickoff celebration, members of the group banded together and donated. The outpouring was phenomenal.

Jim Raffensperger, a member of the Facebook group, named the scholarship as a joke that brought a smile to many alums — The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality (BEER) Scholarship.

“I mean, what college kid doesn’t drink beer?” Raffensperger joked. The name stuck, and the group rallied behind it in a viral fashion. Nearly 1,100 people from the group donated more than $50,000 to create two endowed scholarships for students.

A ceremony on the steps of Shryock Auditorium held Friday, March 29, commemorated the creation of the scholarship. Many members of the group traveled from other states. One person who hadn’t been back to campus in over 28 years traveled from South Carolina to be part of the ceremony.

Giedeman, who traveled from Michigan, presented Chancellor John M. Dunn with a check for $50,000 from the group. Weeks after the presentation, donations continued to pour in.

Dunn presented the group of about 100 people with the Day of Giving trophy for most individual gifts for a non-academic unit. Dunn said he has always been impressed by the amount of pride at SIU, and it was evident in this group’s turnout.

“In the history of humankind, the really great people — the Mother Theresas, the Albert Schweitzers — have always reminded us that true happiness can only be obtained through giving,” Dunn said. “You represent that in spades, and I’m very, very proud of you. Thank you.”

Raffensperger said alumni came to the university for the education but left with memorable experiences, lifelong friends, and sometimes their soulmates.

“We’re all back because we came to love SIU and southern Illinois,” Raffensperger said.

Many who came to witness the celebration also took a tour of the campus, and some brought their high school children to take a look at all that SIU has to offer. That evening, a group took the trophy to several Carbondale establishments for bragging rights.

As well as raising funds for the university, Giedeman and Raffensperger said the Facebook group created a space for alumni to find opportunities to support current students with mentors and internships. The group also encourages former students to finish their degrees at the university.

The trophy will be shared among the group throughout the upcoming year. The trophy was scheduled to travel to SIU Days at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field in June.

 

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