Donors make tremendous impact on Perry County’s Winter

Ink Winter, Perry County
Ink Winter, Perry County

By Jeff Wilson

The scholarships that Ink Winter has received have strengthened their bond to SIU since transferring from Rend Lake College.

Studying Japanese and German in SIU’s College of Liberal Arts, Winter has been awarded the Collins Family Saluki Scholarship and Helmut and Marry Liedloff in German Scholarship.

“It kind of warms my heart,” Winter said. “I’ll look more fondly on my time at SIU because of these scholarships. Someday I want to give back to people in a similar way.”

Despite commuting from Du Quoin, the Pinckneyville Community High School graduate is heavily involved both on and off campus. They are the secretary of two organizations, the Saluki Rainbow Network and Alternative Lifestyles, Identities, and Sexualities (ALIAS), and are also a COLA senator in the Undergraduate Student Governement and member of the Saluki Tabletop Gaming RSO.

“My scholarships prevent me from needing to take out student loans. If I didn’t have them, I would need a full-time job, which wouldn’t allow me to be so involved,” Winter said. “I work part-time now, so I’m thankful for the freedom scholarships offer.”

Winter plans to attend graduate school at SIU and study linguistics with a focus on Japanese.

“After graduation, I hope to travel and study the impact of bilingualism in certain areas,” they said.

Scholarships drive Metropolis’ Sparks forward

Dorian Sparks, Massac County
Dorian Sparks, Massac County

By Jeff Wilson

Saluki spirit runs deeply in Dorian Sparks’ family. Her grandmother attended SIU, and her parents met while SIU students.

“A lot of people from Metropolis go to Murray State,” said Sparks, a Massac County High School graduate. “I figured out my junior year of high school that SIU made the most sense for me.”

During her journey, she received two scholarships, one from the Friends of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the other from the Society for Civil Discourse.

“The Paul Simon Institute scholarships provided me with a cushion going into college,” Sparks said. “The Society for Civil Discourse scholarship came as I was going into the end of the semester and had $1,500 on my bursar bill to pay off. It helped me avoid taking out student loans.”

Sparks originally came to SIU for the health care management program, but she recently changed majors and is now pursuing her degree in nursing.

“I still love health care management, but I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m a certified nursing assistant now, but I want to become a registered nurse.”

The scholarships have created a connection with her school and its alumni. Being from Southern Illinois has just made it all that much more special.

“So often it seems like people want you to go to college, but that’s all they want to do,” she said. “Our alumni pride themselves on the fact they went to SIU. It makes me feel really supported here. Thank you to everyone who helps. It’s going to push me to keep going.”

Gallatin County scholarship recipient: SIU is special, it’s home

Chloe Dennison, Gallatin County
Chloe Dennison, Gallatin County

By Jeff Wilson

Saluki spirit has been part of Chloe Dennison’s life from an early age.

“I’m a third-generation Saluki,” she said. “My grandma and both parents went to SIU. For my second Halloween, I was an SIU football player. It was ingrained from early on that SIU was the place for me.”

Although she’s originally from Raleigh, Illinois, she attended Gallatin County High School, where her mother was a teacher. When SIU introduced its nursing program a few years ago, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“I wanted to be one of the early classes in the nursing program,” Dennison said. “I received lots of scholarships, including the SIU Nursing Start-up Scholarship, which made it a no-brainer.”

The financial support she received allowed her to avoid student loans and gave her extra appreciation for her time as an SIU student.

“I am extremely grateful. Alumni and donors have changed my life,” she said. “I have always been afraid of student loans, and these scholarships have allowed me to dedicate myself to being the best student and the best nurse I can be.”

She will graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and work as a registered nurse. She hopes to work locally in a neonatal intensive care unit or pediatric intensive care unit. She also plans to pursue her master’s and become an acute care pediatric nurse practitioner.

“I’m not ready to leave Southern Illinois quite yet,” Dennison said. “The SIU community is so tightly knit. Everyone on campus wants to build you up. When I go places and see people with SIU shirts on, I make a point to go up and talk to them. It’s extremely rewarding to see how far SIU can send you.

“For the past three years, I’ve lived in Abbot Hall and met three of the most incredible people who have become my best friends. I know there are people out there that give SIU a bad rep, and I want them to know they are completely wrong. It’s a family. It’s really special. It’s home.”

Saluki Ball raises funds that bridge the gap for students

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

More than 500 attend second annual fundraiser

By Jeff Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benton’s Bayless thankful for scholarship support

Peyton Bayless, Franklin County
Peyton Bayless, Franklin County

By Jeff Wilson

From an early age, Peyton Bayless has seen the impact SIU can have on local families and students.

“Both of my parents went to SIU,” said Bayless, a Benton Consolidated High School graduate. “My mom came back to school when I was little, so I came with her and grew up around campus.”

Studying elementary education, he plans to graduate in the Fall of 2025 and begin his career as an elementary school teacher. He also hopes to stay in Southern Illinois after graduation.

“I have had a great experience at SIU,” Bayless said. “All my teachers are really support. My classmates have been really great.”

Scholarships have played a significant role in his journey. He has received the Leo J. Brown Teacher Education Scholarship, Melinda and Pete LaBarre Elementary Education Scholarships, and the Roye R. and Floralee Q. Bryant Education Scholarship.

“Taking all the necessary steps to apply for the scholarships was a long process, but it was definitely worth it,” Bayless said. “They have helped me be able to get the experience that I need.”

Teaching candidates in the School of Education spend their entire final semester as student-teachers, which requires full days in local classrooms. Students aren’t paid for this work, and many require extra financial support.

“That last semester is five days a week of student teaching. The only time you can work a paid job is at night, and that’s after a full day of working in a classroom,” he said. “Scholarships show that people really care. They’ve been in my shoes, so they know the financial burden that exists. They know how much it takes, and they’re helping future teachers.”

Being an SIU student a Southern Illinois resident, the impact of his scholarships means a little extra to Bayless.

“If you’re lucky enough to receive a scholarship, it can change your life,” he said. “Someday I’ll look back at the great things that came from my experiences, and I really hope I can give back and offer those experiences to others.”

Scholarship helps Jelley navigate difficult path toward a law degree

Tristen Jelley, Jefferson County
Tristen Jelley, Jefferson County

By Jeff Wilson

Tristen Jelley’s path from Mount Vernon Township High School to an SIU law degree wasn’t a smooth one.

“I was involved in two different car accidents, at no fault of my own, within a period of 18 months. Both resulted in traumatic brain injuries,” she said. “Unfortunately, these are lifelong injuries that I can never fully recover from, but I have recovered better than expected.”

With assistance from scholarships, such as the Charles D. and Fairy B. Neal Scholarship, Jelley has been able to pursue his goal of becoming a personal injury attorney.

“Being a scholarship recipient allows me to focus on my studies and not have to worry about seeking employment to pay for my tuition and necessary expenses,” she said.

Upon graduation, she hopes to remain in Southern Illinois.

“I want to help those in similar situations because I know what it is like to be in those same shoes at no fault of your own,” she said. “I am forever grateful that this goal of mine wasn’t cut short and that I am one step closer to becoming an attorney every day.”

Great teachers, scholarship inspire Pope County’s Threet

Tayler Threet, Pope County
Tayler Threet, Pope County

By Jeff Wilson

Teachers inspire future teachers, and such is the case for Tayler Threet.

A graduate of Pope County High School, Threet is studying secondary English education in SIU’s School of Education.

“I had amazing teachers in high school that were there for me as more than just as teacher,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be that kind of teacher for other students.”

Threet was accepted to many colleges around the country, but she wanted to stay close to home, so she chose SIU. She has received scholarship support, including the Bettye and Gene Lauderdale Scholarship.

“I am paying for college all on my own,” she said. “Any help I received has really helped. I’m so grateful for people that donate.”

While studying at SIU, Threet’s mother passed away. The support she has received from her professors – particularly Dr. Joe Shapiro and Dr. Anne Chandler – has strengthened her resolve to become a caring educator.

“Those two professors were really there for me,” said Threet, a Vienna native. “I don’t know that I could have gotten through that without them.”

Both the financial and moral support she has received at SIU has driven her closer to her goals.

“I’m grateful for people like that,” she said. “If I had the means, I would want to help others.”

McPheeters continues support of SIU, Saluki Ball

Lynn McPheetersBy Jeff Wilson

Few SIU alumni have created a legacy as impactful as Lynn McPheeters.

His first major philanthropic act at SIU came in 2006 when he and his late wife, Susan, donated $585,000 to create the Susan F. and F. Lynn McPheeters College of Business Leadership Endowed Chair. In 2017, he donated $1 million to endow the McPheeters Family Scholarship, and in 2022, he announced a $1 million estate gift to supplement that fund and establish the F. Lynn McPheeters Chair of Finance Endowment Fund in the College of Business and Analytics.

For the second straight year, he is one of the major sponsors of the inaugural Saluki Ball. With a $25,000 donation, McPheeters is a Saluki Platinum sponsor.

“Last year’s inaugural Saluki Ball was such an exciting event. You could feel the electricity in the room as alumni came together to celebrate and raise much needed scholarship funds for existing and future students,” he said. “So, it was an easy decision to be a sponsor again this year. Thanks to Chancellor and Mrs. Lane for bringing an elevated level of commitment to the vision for SIUC’s long-term success.”


The Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 20, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk hotel, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals.

“This event celebrates SIU’s reputation for providing a first-class education and will raise money for scholarships,” said McPheeters, 1964 graduate of the College of Business. “It pains me that so many people are coming out of school with mounds of debt. In recognition of this situation, the SIU Foundation has significantly increased its efforts to provide scholarship assistance, as so many other universities have done.”

The ball is black-tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legends En Vogue. It will be emceed by ESPN radio host and SIU alumnus Marc Silverman.

McPheeters transferred to SIU from Canton College, now Spoon River College, a community college in his hometown of Canton, Illinois, and finished his accounting degree at SIU.

Soon after, he started at Caterpillar, Inc., and began a steady rise through the company. In 1973, he moved to Switzerland to serve in a financial management position with Caterpillar overseas. He also worked in Tokyo for Caterpillar Mitsubishi and in Hong Kong at Caterpillar Far East Limited. He retired in 2005 as vice president and chief financial officer for Caterpillar.

“SIU led me to an incredible career with Caterpillar that took our family around the world and gave us tremendous opportunities,” McPheeters said. “I was very fortunate to have a supportive family throughout my 40 years with the company.”

In the decades since his graduation, McPheeters has served SIU in multiple ways. He joined the SIU Foundation Board in 2002 and served as chair of the audit committee and board president. He was one of the first members of the College of Business and Analytics external advisory board and was inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame in 1988. Among other honors, he earned the College of Business Alumni Achievement Award in 2004. In 2016, he received one of the university’s highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award.

He never anticipated the success that his SIU education would help provide.

“When I graduated, I was just happy to have an education and a job,” McPheeters said. “I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I was very fortunate that SIU was there.”

For more information about the Saluki Ball, visit

Crothers honors counselor with major gift

Dr. Marti Crothers & Dr. Janet Coffman
Dr. Marti Crothers & Dr. Janet Coffman

Coffman-Crothers endowment will focus on complex trauma training

By Jeff Wilson

When Dr. Marti Crothers decided to see a therapist in the 1980s, she had no idea the impact it would have on her life.

Living in Southern Illinois and working as a counselor, it was difficult to find someone she didn’t already know. That’s why she chose someone new to the area, Dr. Janet Coffman.

Now, decades later, Dr. Crothers has made a gift of more than $1 million to honor Dr. Coffman and the treatment she provided. Her planned gift will establish the Coffman-Crothers Training Institute for Trauma and Psychological Health Endowment Fund.

“This training institute is in honor of Dr. Coffman. It is in recognition of her commitment and dedication to the treatment of victims, including myself, of complex trauma,” Dr. Crothers said. “Her skill, care, and compassion gave me the courage to become a survivor and to live a worthwhile life. This institute reflects my gratitude to her. It is dedicated to Dr. Coffman for all the lives she touched and saved.”

The institute will be in the SIU Clinical Center and will train students, faculty, and staff in psychology and counseling and community professionals in intensive treatments methods to assist clients suffering from complex trauma and dissociation. Complex trauma describes children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events and the long-term effects of these events, usually tied to abuse or profound neglect.

Dr. Coffman is the retired director of the Counseling and Psychological Services at SIU. Dr. Crothers is the former assistant coordinator of Literacy Connection at John A. Logan College. She was also a senior lecturer in counselor education and supervision.

Dr. Crothers originally came to Southern Illinois after growing up in Wisconsin and Kentucky. As a lover of the outdoors and an avid fox hunter, the natural beauty and horse-riding opportunities appealed to her. Coming to SIU in 1969, she studied recreation and worked under Dr. Bill Freeberg, one of the co-founders of the Special Olympics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1973 and a master’s in educational psychology in 1978. Later, she returned to SIU to earn her Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision in 1998.

“Dr. Coffman showed me that I had something to offer,” she said. “Many of the things I learned from her, especially as it pertains to self-care, I was able to pass on to my students.”

By establishing the Coffman Crothers Endowment, Dr. Crothers will train professionals to provide comprehensive treatment of people who are dealing with complex trauma as adults. She will be actively involved with the training institute for as long as possible, especially in the initial stages.

“There are adults out there everywhere in need of assistance,” she said. “I wish I had $10 million to give. I want this to be something the whole region can access.”

To support this or similar causes at SIU, visit

Smith endows chair, champions support for the university

Ron Smith

By Jeff Wilson

Growing up in the small Randolph County town of Walsh, SIU was the only reasonable college option for Ron Smith.

“It was where you could get the most bang for your buck,” he said. “SIU was so good to me and changed my life and made it better than it would have been.”

Since graduating in 1964 with a degree in marketing and a master’s in business administration in 1966, Smith has stayed engaged with his alma mater, including donating close to $170,000 over the last 20 years. Now, he’s taken his support a step further, making a gift of stock worth $500,000 to endow the Ronald L. Smith Endowed Chair in Marketing at the College of Business and Analytics.

Endowed chairs help attract and retain high-level faculty members by making the position more attractive and keeping salaries competitive with other institutions.

“I’m doing this to help the students of SIU,” Smith said. “I want to make the program stronger and provide better opportunities and better training for the students. We want to attract big names and incentivize them to stay.”

Before making his major gift to endow the chair in COBA, much of Smith’s philanthropy has been directed toward Saluki Athletics. Despite living in California, he has maintained season tickets to Saluki Football games and supported the Blackout Cancer fundraiser.

Smith has fond memories of his time at SIU, noting that he attended the university during the Delyte Morris era and the time of College of Business Dean Henry J. Rhen, for which the COBA building is named. Smith was also classmates with another of SIU’s most prolific benefactors, F. Lynn McPheeters.

“Dr. Morris was wonderful to listen to, and I was lucky to be there during his era,” Smith said. “The university had lots of programs that were geared toward students with limited financial resources. I was fortunate enough to make good enough grades that my professors thought I was a good candidate for graduate school.”

After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and spent 30 months in Colombia. He worked with farmers and fishermen, teaching them how to make the most of their assets. He credits his education from SIU with giving him the expertise to share with those people and give them a vested interest in the business side of their industry.

Smith, a first-generation student whose niece now attends SIU as a fourth-generation student, said his continued support of the university shows the impact alumni can have even when they’re not able to get to campus as often as they may like.

“Is there a way you can help build up the university?” Smith said. “Even if you’re in California, like me, you can help folks in Southern Illinois.”

For more information about supporting the university, visit

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