Feeding the Saluki spirit

Alumnus, high schoolers donate 2,700 meals to food pantry

John and wife, Marcia Kabat

By Rebecca Renshaw

As the nation grapples with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saluki spirit continues to shine. The kindness and generosity of one SIU Carbondale alumnus is one powerful example.

John Kabat ’84, ’85 is the president of the SIU Agriculture Alumni Association. After retiring last year from a 34-year teaching career at Mount Vernon Township High School, he continues to teach part-time in the Cooperative Education Program as well as agriculture-related classes. He also serves as the national Future Farmers of America advisor for Mount Vernon’s FFA Chapter.

Recently, he and his students packaged, delivered and donated more than 2,700 meals to the SIU’s Saluki Food Pantry to help students in need due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A desire to help

The 2,700 meals were part of Kabat’s larger effort to feed more than 10,000 people in his community.

Kabat got the idea when he encountered an organization called Meals of Hope at a national FFA convention in Indianapolis last fall. While there, he met with volunteers from the charitable organization, based in Naples, Florida. Its mission is to empower communities to come together to end hunger.

That mission resonated with what is dear to his heart: feeding people who suffer from food insecurities.

Kabat came back to Mount Vernon and began identifying organizations that could benefit from food donations. He and a small team assembled and donated more than 8,800 lunches to nursing homes, shelters and senior citizen centers throughout southern Illinois.

“When I heard that SIU’s Saluki Food Pantry had been gathering food to fill emergency bags for students who find themselves in need, I knew where I needed to focus my remaining efforts,” Kabat said.

With the help of 22 parents and students, who are involved with the FFA chapter, 2,700 meals were assembled in about three hours. The idea wasn’t entirely Kabat’s; several of his students expressed the desire to help feed those in need.

Instilling a love of giving back

“I try to instill a spirit of giving back in each of my students and, in this project, I feel I succeeded,” Kabat said. “Even though I run a farm that feeds about 4,000 people yearly, my priority remains with the 250 kids I teach each year. I want to show them what it feels like to help others, show kindness and give back.

“If I can encourage them to go forth and multiply good deeds of their own, then I will have done my job well. God has blessed me with a sound mind and body. He’s also blessed me with my family and the farm. I never have taken any of this for granted, and I have enjoyed living my life that way,” he said.

Kabat graduated from SIU in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and double minors in agricultural mechanics and animal science. He received his master’s degree from SIU in 1985 in agricultural education.

“I loved my time at SIU,” he said. “SIU showed me the beauty of diversity and learning from people and their cultures from all over the world. It showed me that we are all equal and we are all in life together.”

The impact of the donation

Tena Bennett, the director at the Student Center, home to the Saluki Food Pantry, called Kabat a truly great man and said the food donation came at a critical time.

“These meals will provide hundreds of our students with food during an unprecedented time in our world. The Saluki Food Pantry was completely stocked before the pandemic and has been nearly wiped out as we supply emergency food bags to our students, many of whom had community jobs that have been suspended during the ‘stay-at home’ order,” she said.

“These meals were provided at a key time that allows us to continue to support our students with food from the pantry,” Bennett added. “The generosity of the students at Mount Vernon High School under John’s direction is a true demonstration of servant leadership,” she said.

If you would like to join Kabat in supporting the  Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund, please visit https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/20468 and learn how you can give back to SIU and its students.

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SIU Credit Union Kicks Off the Donations to the 2020 SIU Day of Giving


Giving is in the DNA of those at the SIU Credit Union, and local charities have regularly been the beneficiaries of their benevolence. This year, the SIU Credit Union kicked off the Day of Giving with two gifts. The first donation of $20,000 will benefit SIU’s New Student Services and the second donation of $10,000 will go to Touch of Nature’s programs.

The SIU Credit Union was represented by Mike Lantrip, CEO, Mark Dynis, Marketing Director and Kim Babington, Vice President of Community Outreach.

Chancellor John M. Dunn received the donations from the group and said that the SIU Credit Union has been a good partner to SIU for many years.

“These gifts are generous and they represent a number of gifts they’ve given across the years for many endeavors,” he said.

Lori Stettler, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs says the support of the SIU Credit Union is priceless.

“The investment they made reaches far beyond New Student Programs and the University.  The work done by the team in New Student Programs impacts not only our students, but our community through the economic impact families make in our city and our region. We are grateful for their donation, their commitment and the time they invest in us each semester. The funds will support the annual Saluki Start Up and Weeks of Welcome programs, which help new students as they begin their Saluki journey,” she said.

“We are so proud to be a part of the SIU Day of Giving,” said Babington.

“This is such an important day and we want students to know they have a financial institution they can depend on,” she said.

Babington said that three years ago she did not know much about SIU’s Touch of Nature, but a colleague took her out to their facilities and introduced her to the many programs Touch of Nature offers. She knew then that SIU Credit Union had to play a part in their efforts.

J.D. Tanner, Touch of Nature’s Director, appreciates the ongoing support from SIU Credit Union.

“It’s important to have a community organization like SIU Credit Union to recognize what we do with students and the community,” he said.

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SIU Day of Giving totals top $1.6 million

Day of Giving – Chancellor John M. Dunn discusses the fourth SIU Carbondale Day of Giving campaign during festivities on Wednesday. The 24-hour fundraising campaign raised more than $1.6 million.

CARBONDALE, Ill., — The preliminary total raised through Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s fourth Day of Giving on March 4 reached more than $1.6 million. The total reflects more than 2,441 individual gifts from 43 states and 10 countries.

Chancellor John M. Dunn thanked donors for continued growth in support through the annual Day of Giving, from $340,000 in 2017 to more than $1 million in 2020. Last year, donors contributed $910,000 through the Day of Giving.

“The annual growth in contributions is another signal of confidence in the university’s momentum,” he said. “As we near the end of our 150th year, donors are positioning SIU for the next 150.”

Dunn added that ultimately, the Day of Giving is not about the number.

“It’s about impact,” he said. “Every gift made will help a student, support a program or contribute to the greater community through the arts, athletics and service. We are deeply grateful to everyone who gave.”

The theme of this year’s Day of Giving was “1 Vision. 24 Hours.” Between 6 a.m. March 4 and 5:59 a.m. March 5, donors visited siuday.siu.edu to support more than 150 programs, initiatives and scholarships.

The numbers aren’t final, said Rae Goldsmith, chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation.

“The immediate totals include gifts made online,” she said. “The numbers will grow as we count gifts made in person, by phone and by mail in the days ahead.”

The Day of Giving includes a friendly competition for traveling trophies recognizing academic and non-academic units raising the most funds or attracting the most individual gifts.

The College of Liberal Arts received more than $197,960, making it the academic unit that that raised the most funds. The School of Medicine had the highest number of individual gifts for an academic unit at 285. Among non-academic programs, Saluki Athletics received the most in total donations at $139,301. The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality Scholarship supported by the Carbondale ‘80s & 90s Facebook group received 815 individual gifts, earned the trophy for a most gifts raised by a non-academic unit.

“Every gift of any size makes a difference,” Goldsmith said. “The Day of Giving demonstrates the power of community and philanthropy.”

She added that all gifts to the Day of Giving also support the foundation’s current $200 million Forever SIU campaign for the university.

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SIU Scholarship Recipient Colton Newlin


Colton Newlin is a student with big aspirations – and it shows. A senior studying psychology and pre-law, Newlin plans to go to law school at either Vanderbilt University or Washington University after he graduates. A chancellor scholar, Newlin said the scholarship he received has made all the difference in his undergraduate experience and has helped pave the way for his plans to attend law school.

“Receiving the scholarship was hugely impactful in my life. I was faced with having to fund my undergraduate education by myself, so when I found out that burden was lifted, it shaved a lot of worry and stress from my life,” Newlin said. “It also allowed me to save money for law school.”

Newlin serves as the Undergraduate Student Government president and it is a position he takes very seriously. “I found running for USG president was a unique opportunity to affect positive change at an imperfect time for our university. I believe it is a way to foster positive relationships with students, faculty and staff,” Newlin said.

Newlin encourages other donors to give back to SIU so that future students can have the same experiences he has had. “It’s my hope that others will donate because they recognize the opportunities they received from others and give those same opportunities to future students.”


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Pizza & B.E.E.R.: Iconic duo spur Day of Giving donation

By Rebecca Renshaw

Greg Horrell of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, had not been back to SIU since he graduated in 1991. It was only when the Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s (the B.E.E.R. group) was established on Facebook that he reconnected with his alma mater.

“It was all the old stories in the group about how much fun we all had that pulled me back in,” Horrell said.

During the 2019 SIU Day of Giving, members of the group made 1,100 donations totaling more than $50,000, enough to endow two Balancing Education, Experience and Reality scholarships. The group earned a trophy for having the most individual gifts made for a non-academic unit.

Horrell made the trek from North Carolina to Carbondale last spring to participate in the trophy presentation. He took home a weekend full of memories, a Quatro’s cup and a koozie from the SIU Alumni Association.

“Every time I pull in the garage and see that cup, it reminds me of the good times at SIU and makes me smile,” he said.

Last September, Horrell started dropping his change into the Quatro’s cup for the B.E.E.R. Scholarship. Eventually, the cup overflowed, and he added two red solo cups to contain the six months’ worth of coins.

“My daughter took the coins to the bank machine and texted me that it was a perfect coin dump at $187 dollars,” he said. “I started in 1987. I’ve been asking myself, ‘What are the odds that it would be $187 even?’” Horrell said.

Fellow group member Jim Raffensperger recently challenged donors to add their graduation year onto any gift they make during this year’s SIU Day of Giving, which is Wednesday, March 4.

Horrell already planned to throw in an extra $100 to the $187 he saved in his Quatro’s cup.

“Jim made me want to add $.91 more, so count me in for $287.91,” he said.

Horrell has a new challenge for the rest of the group between now and the Day of Giving in 2021.

“What if just 40 percent of the group put their loose change in their Quatro’s cups for the next year? Could we raise $500,000 for B.E.E.R.?” he said.

That may sound like a lofty goal, but if the B.E.E.R. group has proven anything it’s that its members’ love for SIU, Carbondale’s iconic pizza joints and giving back shouldn’t be underestimated.


Support the Balancing Education, Experience and Reality scholarship on SIU Day of Giving March 4 at: https://siuday.siu.edu/giving-day/22291/department/22318

Meet Sarah Hagen – Solution Seeker and Problem Solver


Senior Sarah Hagen from Lemont, Illinois is going places – specifically France for the entire Spring semester of 2020. A chancellor scholar, Hagen is majoring in both physics and international studies with a specialization in French. Hagen will spend the upcoming semester immersing herself in the study of the French language.

When Hagen began considering her university options three years ago, she had plenty to choose from. She had received several acceptance letters, including ones from Purdue, University of Illinois, and Northwestern. But, as Hagen explains, there was something strongly appealing about SIU Carbondale.

“I felt incredibly welcome when I came to visit. I also liked that I would receive research opportunities while still working on my undergraduate degree. Plus, the fact that my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and brother all went to SIU played a determining factor in my choice as well,” she said.

Hagen felt so strongly about SIU that she determined she wanted to come here even if she did not receive the chancellor scholarship.

“I felt like SIU would give me the best opportunity to stand out and make a difference. It has turned out exceedingly well.”

When asked why others should give back to SIU, Hagen said that a donation will encourage other bright young minds and enable them to come to a university that will be attentive to their needs.

Make a gift online for SIU Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 4, 2020: siuday.siu.edu

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SIU School of Law students hope donors give on SIU Day of Giving

Chase Rich
Originally from Mattoon, Illinois, Chase Rich chose SIU for his undergraduate studies because he received a University Excellence scholarship. Rich earned an undergraduate degree in paralegal studies and immediately set his sights on a law degree from the SIU School of Law. Now a third-year law student, Rich does not regret his decisions.

“The SIU School of Law makes getting a law degree affordable without graduating with a $100,000 in debt,” he said. Rich also likes how the professors treat students. “I have found the professors treat the students extremely well. They are here to help and not to humiliate,” he said.

Rich hopes people will give to the School of Law during this year’s SIU Day of Giving. “There are several funds people could support, such as a student scholarship fund or moot court fund,” said Rich.

Patricia Pfeiffer
Patricia Pfeiffer, a second-year law student and a Carbondale, Illinois native, appreciates the financial help she received from the School of Law Strategic Excellent Fund. “As a single parent of a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old, the scholarship I received really has made all the difference,” said Pfeiffer.

“The financial support has lessened my student loan burden, helped pay for babysitters and overall helped me be a better parent and law school student,” said Powell.

“I remember when I was presented with the scholarship, I looked over at my children and I could see their beaming faces. They were so proud and happy for me, “she said.

Pfeiffer encourages everyone to give to the SIU School of Law initiative of their choice during the SIU Day of Giving.

Logan Wallace
Logan Wallace, a second-year law student from Homestead, Iowa, says receiving financial aid was the driving force in his decision to attend SIU School of Law. “It really made all the difference. I’m so glad I chose SIU because I’ve grown to love this university and this school,” he said. Wallace says he hopes donors will give back to help other students like him. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the financial help I received,” he said.

Deidre Powell
Deidre Powell is also a second-year law student and is a non-traditional student. Powell would recommend the SIU School of Law to other students.

“SIU School of Law is very welcoming and warm. I also like that the student to professor ratio is low,” said Powell. She received several scholarships to attend law school, one of which was the SIU Alumni Textbook Scholarship.

“That SIU Alumni Textbook Scholarship, along with others I received, helped me pay for the books I need and just eased my overall worry about my finances. I really appreciate the assistance I have received,” she said. Powell hopes that after graduation she can find a job in estate or tort law.


Make a gift online for SIU Day of Giving on Wednesday, March 4, 2020: siuday.siu.edu

SIU Scholarship Recipient Jamal Kinchen

Alfred Jamal Kinchen

Alfred Jamal Kinchen is a student with many talents. A junior at SIU, Kinchen is working on double majors in both Aviation Management and Piano Performance. His dream is to one day be a commercial airline pilot but he hopes he can continue to play piano on the side.

A University Excellence scholar and a recipient of the Steven Barwick scholarship, Kinchen says that if it wasn’t for those scholarships, he would not be enrolled at SIU today.

“My parents said they could not afford to send me to college. The only way I could go was if I received enough scholarships. When I opened that letter telling me I won those two scholarships, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” said Kinchen. “I am forever grateful for those scholarships.”

When asked what he likes most about SIU, he could not pick just one thing. “I really like the size of the university. For me, it’s not too small and yet it isn’t too big. I also don’t feel like I’m just another face in the crowd. Everyone in both the music and the aviation programs have been so helpful. I feel like I know everyone – from students to professors. It just feels very comfortable,” he said.

Kinchen encourages alumni to give back to SIU. “It is so hard financially for so many students here. I just hope that alumni remember how they felt when they were a student. A helping hand is what so many students need right now,” Kinchen said.

“I hope one day to create a scholarship specially for disadvantaged students. I’d like to focus on giving back to minorities. I think scholarships would encourage more minorities to receive an education like I have.”


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An Accomplished Alumnus with a Heart for Helping Others

thomas murrayBy Rebecca Renshaw

Tom Murray is a man of many accomplishments. From 1967 through 2007, he was employed at Sargent & Lundy, a global consultant to the electric utility industry. From 1993 through 2007, Murray was a senior vice president and an owner of the firm.

Murray completed a full two-year engineering program at Purdue University Calumet Campus in 1964 and became an engineering graduate at Southern Illinois University in 1967. He devoted more than 40 years to Sargent & Lundy before retiring in December 2007 as an executive vice president, owner and director of the company’s Power Delivery Services Business Group. He traveled extensively domestically and to the Middle East and Pacific Rim.

Murray is a registered professional engineer in many states and a member of several professional organizations.

As Murray neared the end of his company career, he and his wife, Jan, decided it was time to give back to others.

“We chose to focus on two areas – SIU and Special Olympics Illinois,” Murray said.

Since 2004, Murray has participated with the Special Olympics of Illinois. He served as chairman for the organization in 2008. He is a member of the board and serves on the executive and development committees.

At SIU, Murray serves on the Industrial Advisory Board of the College of Engineering. In 2012, he was awarded the SIU Alumni Achievement Award.

In 2008, the Murrays decided to establish a scholarship for students pursuing an engineering degree.

“We do not determine who should receive scholarship funding. We only care that the funds get into the hands of those students who deserve the help,” he said.

His desire to help others in need came from his early years at SIU. Times were hard financially.

“When I arrived on campus, it was bursting at the seams. There was not a single room available, so I ended up sleeping on a cot out at a farmer’s house outside of Murphysboro for a while,” Murray said. “I eventually found a space at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house.”

Murray said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at SIU, participating one year as a lifeguard at Campus Lake and working at The Club on the strip in Carbondale.

When he graduated from SIU, the country was at war in Vietnam.

“After graduation, I remember I submitted my application to Sargent & Lundy, but I didn’t hold much hope. Typically, you’d have to have many years of experience before you could be considered for a job at that company but, since many graduating candidates were in process to the Armed Forces and the company was under expansion, I got a chance to have an interview.”

Murray recalled that his interview took a full day filled with back-to-back interviews.

“The owner and the electrical department head of the company was the last to interview me. He looked at my résumé and said I have a question for you,” Murray said. “I see you took a transmission line design class at SIU. Are you familiar with the Maxwell-Boltzmann equations?”

Murray remembered his German professor at SIU explaining those equations so he gave him the answers he was looking for.

“He hired me on the spot and that started a 40-year career. I have reflected on that interaction many times. I am grateful for my education at SIU and how it prepared me for a great career at Sargent & Lundy,” Murray said.

The Murrays have given back, donating $230,000 over the last 10 years to SIU. The Murrays have significantly funded a unique annual scholarship mandating full distribution of the annual donation within five years. The couple has committed to donating $125,000 for the next five years.

Dean John Warwick of the College of Engineering said Murray’s commitment and generosity to SIU are commendable.

“These funds have and will support many accomplished and well-deserving students in our College of Engineering,” Warwick said.

Murray’s advice to students is simple and direct.

“Never give up,” he said. “If you develop a set of goals and a direction in mind, map out your path. As long as you stay committed, you will find success at many levels.”


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The Value of Yes

Sunil and Rupali Sinha

Sunil and Rupali Sinha

Dr. Atmesh Sinha brought his family to Carbondale in the early ‘70s to start the department of mining engineering at SIU, and retired 25 years later before moving to St. Louis, where he and his wife, Chinta, still reside.

Sunil, the eldest of their three children, spent many summers in Carbondale while attending school and college overseas and was able to experience small-town life revolving around family, community and helping others. As he grew up and pursued his dream of getting a medical degree, he never forgot the community that raised him.

Sinha and his wife, Rupali ’96, have recently established a five-year pledge at $10,000 a year to support the College of Business.

Upon completing his internal medicine residency in Chicago, he returned to Carbondale and began his career with the Carbondale Clinic (now the SIH Center for Medical Arts) as an internal medicine physician, where he practiced for five years.

“There was a particularly challenging weekend of being on call where I covered for multiple colleagues, which served as a tipping point for me,” he said. “I determined I had to do something else besides patient care, so I set out to get my MBA. Although at the time, it wasn’t clear how the MBA would help, I was confident that it would open a few more doors in my career.”

Prior to the start of each semester he recalls sitting down with his staff and working out his patient schedule to allow him to take the required courses for the MBA program at SIU’s College of Business. The challenge was to make Sinha’s course schedule work with his patient schedule for the two years needed to complete the degree. With the help of his staff and support of his family, he managed to balance both.

Upon completion of his MBA, Sinha accepted a job as the director of primary care with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Marion, Illinois. His work there opened the first of many doors in the field of administration, performance improvement and healthcare policy.

He next served as the director of managed care at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs health system in Maryland, and had the additional responsibility of chief quality officer for his network of hospitals covering Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Various opportunities allowed him to subsequently work for the United States Department of Health and Human Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington and as a Medical director for public health policy with Pfizer in New York and Washington.

He returned to clinical medicine first as the vice president for medical affairs at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, then as the chief medical officer for Chenmed for its operations in Virginia and back to his midwest roots as the vice president and chief medical officer for the BJC medical group in St. Louis.

Though he left southern Illinois in 2001, he maintained ties to the area through family as well as with SIU as a life member of the alumni association and as an external advisory board member for the College of Business administration.

“Getting my MBA from SIU was the foundation for the many changes over my career which have allowed me to experience and positively influence multiple facets of healthcare,” he said.

Sinha also remembers advice he received during his time at SIU that he says he has applied to every career move he has made. He recalls a guest speaker from Chicago came to speak to his class about career advice.

Unlike most of his classmates, Sinha already had a successful career, so he was doubtful he would learn much from the presentation. However, the speaker shared about his first interview and how he hoped to get a job in finance but the job offered was in human resources. But, he knew he wanted to move to Chicago and this was a path to get there. So, he said yes to most of the questions and landed the job in Chicago.

“The advice he gave was something I never forgot. He said if you feel strongly about accomplishing something, the answer is always yes and the rest you will figure out,” Sinha said. “In my career, every position has been new and something I had not done before, but I always knew I could figure it out. And I have – just by saying yes.”

If you would like to join Sinha in supporting the College of Business, visit https://siuf.org/giving/college-unit/business.php.