Category Archives: Donor Stories

McPheeters: Saluki Ball recognizes SIU’s excellence

Lynn McPheeters

By Jeff Wilson

Few SIU alumni have created a legacy as impactful as F. 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.

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

The Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals. The presenting sponsors of the ball are the Honorable Glenn and Jo Poshard and ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773.

“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.”

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and Mrs. Loren Lane, the ball is black-tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight. It will be hosted by ESPN radio host and SIU alumnus Marc Silverman.

“Personally, I am very impressed with Chancellor Lane, what he’s doing, and his plan for the future,” McPheeters said.

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 chief financial officer for Caterpillar and vice president of the Corporate Services Division.

“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 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

Legence Bank donates $5K to the Saluki Food Pantry

Pictured left to right: Kent Epplin, Student Center director, Tena Bennett, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary enterprise and student affairs, Shane Bennett, senior director of corporate foundation relations, John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager, Kevin Beckemeyer, Legence Bank president and CEO, Tricia Overturf, Legence Bank vice president of marketing and communications, Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for development & alumni relations and SIU Foundation CEO

By Jeff Wilson

The SIU Day of Giving offers individuals and businesses the opportunity to support the university in many ways. This year, Legence Bank donated $5,000 to the Saluki Food Pantry.

“This gift from Legence Bank makes an enormous impact – $5,000 provides food and items, such as toiletries, that allow our students to thrive on a daily basis,” said Tena Bennett, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary enterprise and student affairs. “As a result, our students can come here and focus on the most important things – their education, growth, and wellbeing – instead of worrying about where their next meal will come from.”

Legence Bank’s gift was set up as a match, so that they could inspire others to give to the food pantry. This provided thousands more dollars to the food pantry on the Day of Giving, which was March 28. In total, nearly $8,000 was raised.

“This food pantry covers so many people that deal with food insecurity,” said Tricia Overturf, vice president of marketing and communications for Legence Bank. “We’re excited to be a part of this and give back to the community.”

The gift represents Legence Bank’s continued support of local institutions.

Tricia Overturf, Legence Bank vice president of marketing and communications, John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager, Kevin Beckemeyer, Legence Bank president and CEO

“Legence Bank is always glad to help Saluki Nation and all the communities we serve,” said Kevin Beckemeyer, president and CEO of Legence Bank.

With support from Legence Bank and other donors, the food pantry will be able to keep its shelves stocked for students in need and their families.

“I’m so happy about the effort to help with food insecurity. It’s so important in today’s world,” said John Dorris, Legence Bank Carbondale branch manager.

The Saluki Food Pantry is located on the Lower Level of the Student Center, and it serves all SIU students. The food pantry carries non-perishable food items and toiletries. Every item is free, and students can receive enough food to feed every family member in their household for up to three days.

Even with the generosity of Legence Bank and Day of Giving donors, the need for donations never ceases. Beyond monetary donations, anyone can drop off donations of canned goods, instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other non-perishable food items and toiletries. To learn more, email

ULLICO, Laborers’ Local 773 sponsoring Saluki Ball

Members of Laborers’ Local 773, seen here while working at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, have completed many projects on campus, donating their time and efforts.

By Jeff Wilson

The relationship between SIU and union labor goes back a long way.

Now, that relationship is getting even stronger as ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773 stepped up to become one of the presenting sponsors of the inaugural Saluki Ball.

“SIU is the crown jewel of Southern Illinois. It’s the economic engine of this region, and we are committed to SIU,” said Ed Smith, president and CEO of ULLICO. “SIU has one of the most diverse, unionized workforces in America.”

While dedicating $100,000 to become a presenting sponsor of the ball is a major investment, Laborers’ Local 773 has handed out scholarships to its members’ children since 1986.

“We have given out more than $336,000 in scholarships, and that number is about to go up,” said Jerry Womick, International Representative and Business Manager for Laborers’ Local 773. “We give students $500 extra if they choose to attend SIU.”

Many of those scholarship recipients are first-generation students. The union and its members understand the value of financial assistance. The union averages about 70 employees on campus at any moment.

“Union members feed their families through SIU,” Smith said. “They put their blood, sweat, and tears into the university. They do the dirty work.”

The union has been involved with most of SIU’s biggest projects, and much of the work is done with donated time and supplies. Union laborers have done many of the site improvements at Touch of Nature Environmental Center, installed the walking path around Campus Lake, and put in flower planters around the REC Center. ULLICO and Laborers’ Local 773 have also supported WSIU broadcasting and Saluki Athletics for many years.

“Our fingerprints are all over SIU,” Smith said. “We are joined at the hip, and we’re there through thick and thin.”

The Saluki Ball

Hosted by Chancellor Austin Lane and Mrs. Loren Lane, the inaugural Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals.

“You have to have a vision, a positive attitude,” Smith said. “You also have to go where the students are. Chancellor Lane has done a great job of recruiting locally, but this is a competitive business. SIU has to recruit against the schools in and around Chicago.”

The ball is black-tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight. It will be hosted by ESPN radio host and SIU alumnus Marc Silverman and NBC Chicago reporter Regina Waldroup. There will be special awards for outstanding alumni and students. The other presenting sponsors of the ball are Dr. Glenn and Jo Poshard. The event is nearly sold out.

“Southern Illinois rises and falls with the university,” Smith said. “Too many times we think we’re the underdog, but SIU is staging a comeback.”

To learn more about the Saluki Ball or get your tickets, visit

Poshards take the lead at the Saluki Ball

By Jeff Wilson

When Glenn and Jo Poshard were told about the fundraising focus of the Saluki Ball, they knew it was the perfect initiative to support. Thus, they decided to become presenting sponsors of the ball, dedicating $100,000 to the cause.

The inaugural Saluki Ball, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, will help students bridge the financial gap as they strive to reach their ultimate goals.

“We both love the university. It gave us both opportunities we would have never had otherwise,” Dr. Glenn Poshard said. “The purpose of the ball – supporting low-income students – is consistent with what we believe in.”

For many students, alumni support is vital to their pursuit of a degree and the opportunity to improve their lives.

“Across the country, students are being forced to take time off school, and then are unable to finish,” Dr. Poshard said. “The funds raised during the Saluki Ball will enable them to finish on time. This kind of commitment to our students builds the reputation of our university.”

The Saluki Ball is black tie optional and will feature a performance by R&B legend Brian McKnight. It will be hosted by ESPN radio host and SIU alum Marc Silverman. There will be special awards for outstanding alumni and students.

“We are very excited about the ball,” Jo Poshard said. “It’s new, and it’s a first. The event itself is going to be fabulous. We’ll have family attending, many friends, and be surrounded by our Saluki family.”

The Poshards were also inspired by the current administration’s dedication to community outreach.

“I have been so impressed with Chancellor Austin Lane and President Dan Mahony,” Dr. Poshard said. “Chancellor Lane has become the face of the university, meeting more and more students locally. Through the Saluki Ball and other events, he’s sending the same message to Chicago alumni.”

A lifetime of service

Dr. Poshard is a three-degree graduate of SIU, receiving a bachelor’s in secondary education in 1970, a master’s in educational administration in 1974, and a Ph.D. in administration of higher education in 1984.

He taught high school and served as the director of the Southern Illinois Educational Service Center in Benton until 1984 after being elected to the Illinois State Senate. In 1989, he earned a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran for governor in 1998 and left Congress the following year.

Dr. Poshard returned to SIU in 1999 as the vice chancellor of administration, where he served until his appointment to the SIU Board of Trustees in 2004. At the start of 2006, he was hired as the SIU system president, serving in that role until 2014.

Jo Poshard is a 1971 alumna of SIU’s College of Education. She is a retired schoolteacher, who has served on numerous university and community boards.

Together, they started the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, which raises funds to care for abused children and victims of domestic abuse throughout Southern Illinois. The Poshards are longtime benefactors of SIU and many local charities.

“Somebody was there for us when we were students,” Dr. Poshard said. “If you’re an alumnus, try to give something back. You’ll feel better for having done it. The university benefits. The students benefit.”

The ball’s other presenting sponsor is ULLICO, Inc., and Laborers’ Local 773. To learn more about the Saluki Ball, visit

SIU Aviation receives Boeing donation for student scholarships, other resources

SIU aviation students Leslie Duran, left, and Valarie Meyer, represent two of the aviation-related registered student organizations who are benefitting from a recent $50,000 donation by The Boeing Company. They are standing in front of a Boeing 737 jet that aviation technologies students use in their training. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s nationally recognized aviation program recently received a donation from The Boeing Company to further enhance offerings to its students.

Boeing’s latest gift of $50,000 will be used toward scholarships and enabling students in aviation-related student registered organizations to attend conferences where they gain additional knowledge and network.

“Partnerships with outstanding aviation organizations, like The Boeing Company, play a pivotal role in assisting the School of Aviation in acquiring the funding and equipment resources necessary to educate and develop the finest aviation industry workforce in the world,” said José R. Ruiz, professor and interim director.

Ruiz said the funds will be used to subsidize aviation education costs. Each of the three programs within the School of Aviation — aviation flight, aviation management and aviation technologies — will receive $10,000 in student scholarship funds. The remaining $20,000 is earmarked to support aviation-related RSOs and aviation outreach programs, such as Girls in Aviation, which introduces girls ages 6-13 from local communities to aviation, engage in aviation activities and explore the vast career possibilities. A portion of the funds will also be used to host a diversity luncheon in April with speakers focusing on diversity within the industry.

Strong SIU supporter

Since 2016, Boeing and its employees, through the assistance of the Boeing gift match program, have provided more than $344,000 to the Southern Illinois University Foundation.

“Boeing remains committed to ensuring that students of all backgrounds have access to globally competitive learning and are equipped with skills for the modern workplace,” said Randell Gelzer, Boeing senior director of state and local government operations. “Our partnership with the SIU School of Aviation will provide safe and inclusive learning environments and professional development opportunities for students from underrepresented communities, women and military veterans. This program is a key contributor to economic growth and talent development for our local aerospace industry.”

Student organizations will benefit greatly

Leslie Duran, a senior in aviation flight, is president of SIU’s chapter of the Women in Aviation (WIA), and Valarie Meyer, a senior who is in her second year in aviation flight and management, is the SIU chapter president of the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA). Both emphasize Boeing’s gift is critical to the activities their organizations sponsor.

Meyer said the gift allowed chapter members to attend the NGPA Industry Expo in Palm Springs, California, earlier this month.

“This conference is one of the biggest gatherings of aviation companies, airlines and aviation enthusiasts. This event will allow our students to network and create lasting career connections,” said Meyer, of Salem, Wisconsin, who will graduate in spring 2024. “Attending this conference allowed many of our past members to secure jobs, create lasting friendships and solidify their place in aviation. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to connect even further with the aviation community.”

The Women in Aviation chapter will have six of its 40 members attend the WIA conference, Feb. 22-25, in Long Beach, California, including five members whose trips will be fully funded. Including this year, a total of 12 members will have attended the last two years.

Fell in love with SIU’s opportunities

In high school, Meyer was part of a program that allowed her to build and then fly an experimental aircraft. The program introduced her to mentors who guided her toward an aviation career and SIU, said Meyer, who wants to become a professional pilot for a Chicago-based corporate flight department.

Duran, a first-generation transfer student from Elgin, Illinois, had “zero aviation history or knowledge” after attending community college and considered pursuing a career as a flight attendant. Duran is in her second year at SIU and said participating in the RSO is one way to encourage other women. She wants to work for an airline after she graduates.

“I had never considered becoming a pilot because it was not catered to women,” she said. “The more I researched, the more I got excited and fell in love with the possibility. SIU became the answer to achieving this dream when I realized I could earn a bachelor’s and fly! SIU became home when it recognized me not only as a first-generation Latina woman but as a pilot.”

Alumnus honors Werlichs with $525K in donations

Assistantship, scholarship named for longtime professor, family

SIU Morris Library

Most worthwhile college experiences include connecting with others. Some of these interactions are fleeting, but some make a lasting impact.

One such connection from decades ago inspired an SIU alumnus to ensure that impact stretches decades into the future. With two gifts, totaling $525,000, he and his wife have honored Dr. David Werlich and his family.

“I don’t think I would have ever finished my graduate degree without their support,” said the alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous. The first is a $425,000 gift that will establish the Werlich Family Graduate Assistantship in Digital Humanities at Morris Library Endowment Fund. The other is a $100,000 donation that creates the David P. Werlich Graduate Scholarship Endowment Fund in the Department of History.

Dr. David Werlich, an emeritus history professor, taught courses in Latin American history. However, it wasn’t his classes that inspired such a philanthropic gesture.

“I never took a class with Dr. Werlich, but I knew his son, Tom, and we went to graduate school at the same time. When I was there, all my undergrad friends had left, and I felt kind of alone,” said the alumnus. “That’s when we became extremely good friends. He introduced me to his family, and I ended up spending a lot of time at his home in Carbondale.

“Dr. Werlich would talk about a lot of things – history, politics, and particularly South America. The Werlichs were very good to me. It was like having a second family. It was vital for me.”


A recipient of five assistantships during his time at SIU, the alumnus felt it was important to give other students similar opportunities. The Werlich Family Graduate Assistantship will help the library with its digitalization project.

Graduate students will be able to apply for the assistantship and receive it multiple times to help SIU and Morris Library develop future leaders in the field of digitalization.

“This gift will allow us to bring more of the treasures held in the Special Collections Research Center to our students and faculty in a digital format that leads to a deeper engagement with the actual documents,” said John Pollitz, dean of Library Affairs. “It promotes collaboration with the history department directly but will and provides the foundation for more digital humanities projects across campus.”

Pollitz shared his experience with Dr. Werlich, which makes this donation that much more meaningful.

“I took two classes in Latin American history from Dr. Werlich. They had a real impact on my life,” he said. “Many things about Dr. Werlich’s teaching have stayed with me since those times. He made the subject come alive and exciting. The idea of honoring this wonderful professor and making the library part of this gift was a high point in my life as a librarian.”

The David P. Werlich Graduate Scholarship will benefit a student in the Department of History who is focusing on Latino Studies.

“Dr. Werlich’s career at SIU spanned four decades and left a deep imprint on the teaching of history to thousands of students,” said Dr. Jonathan Bean, professor of history at SIU. “Under his leadership, SIU hired a new generation of history professors to reinvigorate the field.”

Dr. Bean, too, was directly impacted by the career of Dr. Werlich.

“He was famous for his wicked sense of humor, and he was popular as an instructor,” he said. “He was also mentor to students and faculty in ways that went beyond the imparting of advice. I am indebted to him for his mentoring – he made my early years at SIU a pleasure and his mentoring is something I aspire to pay forward to the next generation. The ripples of his influence will be felt for years to come.”


After years of making smaller scale donations, including spreading funds to multiple areas during recent SIU Days of Giving, a conversation about something more substantial began.

“I was donating to a wide variety of causes, but I had not committed to a larger donation,” the alumnus said. “I knew I wanted to honor Dr. Werlich and his family.”

Both projects are forward-thinking in their nature, considering the value of digital records and understanding the importance of diversity, particularly that of the Latino culture.

“It’s important for the future success of the university. We want kids who are interested in focusing on these things,” he said.

The spirit of what Dr. Werlich was able to do for this particular alumnus is reflected in his generous donation.

“This is what it takes to have extras at the university,” he said. “There’s an element of feeling good about helping people out. It’s not easy out there.”

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Family honors alumnus’ wishes, memory: Youchoff fund will help students finish

Johnny Youchoff stands in front of Saluki Stadium next to the King Tut pyramid memorial.

Seventy years after Johnny Youchoff ’s graduation from SIU, his family is honoring his memory by establishing the Johnny Youchoff and Mary Agnes Youchoff Finish Line Endowed Scholarship.

His cousin, John Savio, and John’s wife, Anita, donated $250,000 to create this endowed scholarship honoring Youchoff and his wife, Mary Agnes. The term “finish line” refers to the goal of the fund, which aims to help students complete their degrees.

The scholarship is designed for SIU juniors and seniors who are graduates of his former high school in West Frankfort or his mother’s high school in Christopher and have experienced a major life event that may prevent them from graduating.

“Johnny had every sticker the SIU Alumni Association had sent him on his garage wall,” said John Savio. “He hoped to be a member of the Alumni Association for at least 50 years, and was proud to exceed that goal.”

Youchoff, a West Frankfort native worked at his family business, Heights Bakery, as a youth and graduated from Frankfort Community High School. At SIU, he majored in geography and graduated in 1952. In May of 2021 he passed away at age 91 and was buried with his SIU 150th anniversary pin.

“Education was very important to Johnny, and he was particularly eager to help students from his and his mother’s hometowns,” Anita Savio said. “He would love that his legacy will be supporting these students on the brink of completing their degrees.”

Family Memories

John Savio never lived in Southern Illinois, but as a youth he and his parents often visited his grandmother, and aunt and uncle there.

“That was a vacation our family took every summer for at least a week, sometimes 10 days. I had so much fun with Johnny and his brother Louis,” said John Savio, a longtime Michigan resident. “We would go fishing, boating and hiking, and travel all around the area … to Crab Orchard, Cave-in-Rock, Shawnee National Forest.”

After earning his degree, Youchoff joined the Army and served proudly during the Korean War. Upon his return he went to work at General Motors in Atlanta, and, before meeting his wife-to-be, spent his evenings studying law at John Marshall Law School.

“That was the kind of guy Johnny was,” John Savio said. “He had no interest in practicing law and never mentioned his degree. I didn’t even know he went to law school until I saw the diploma on his wall about 10 years ago. Even at SIU, he studied Russian for the fun of it. He just loved learning.”

Always a Saluki

Through the years, Youchoff never lost his Saluki spirit. Although he lived in Georgia and Tennessee, he followed Saluki Athletics closely, particularly Saluki Men’s Basketball. For years, until Mary Agnes became ill, they would travel to Carbondale for the SIU Homecoming games. Later, it was a 2014 trip to campus that reignited his plan to help students.

“After so many years, Johnny wanted to visit his alma mater,” Anita Savio said. “So, he and John went on a road trip to SIU, where they ran into the associate athletic director of marketing. Their conversation brought back many great memories, reminding him of how much he loved the school.”

Youchoff then began working with the SIU Foundation on making a large-scale gift, but, due to life-changing events, it was never finalized. The Savios knew it was important to make this dream a reality.

“He had talked often about doing this,” John Savio said. “I reached out to the SIU Foundation and had lengthy discussions about what this fund would be. Of course, Johnny passed away before it came to fruition.”

Now, with the establishment of his fund, John and Anita Savio are confident that Youchoff would be pleased with the outcome.

“He really wanted to make sure that other young people could benefit from an education like he received at SIU,” Anita Savio said. “We are thrilled that we are able to fulfill this wish in his honor.”

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Saluki love story leads to scholarships

Nick and Amanda Martin are paying it forward by establishing the Martin First-Generation Agricultural Student Scholarship.

Two $500 scholarships will be awarded annually to support first-generation students studying agricultural sciences who are also members of Sigma Alpha sorority or Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.

Nick graduated from SIU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science, and Amanda earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 and master’s degree in 2008 in agribusiness economics.

Amanda grew up in the small town of Du Bois, Illinois, and credits her agriculture teacher for igniting her love of agriculture.

“I got involved in FFA in high school, and I fell in love with the service mindset,” Amanda said. “Farmers work every day making sure we can all live.

They are literally responsible for feeding and clothing the world. It is a noble profession.”

Nick fondly remembers helping his grandfather with his farm and working on other farms.

“I initially majored in architecture at SIU but it just wasn’t the right fit,” Nick said. “I talked to Karen Midden in SIU’s Department of Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems, and she helped steer me to a major in agriculture. Like Amanda, I fell in love with agriculture, especially landscape horticulture.”


Nick and Amanda met through the Agbassador program, which is a student recruitment organization comprised of 12 outstanding students selected by faculty, administrators, and students. Students serve as speakers and present at high schools, community colleges, and attend career fairs and open houses across the country.

“Our advisor was Lucas Maxwell, and he would drive us to conferences and recruitment activities, so we had a lot of van time,” Amanda said. “I met Nick Martin through this organization and our team was always together. The longest journey was to the University of Florida for the national agriculture ambassador conference. I figured if we could stand someone for that long of a trip, then that’s a good indication that we’d get along.”

After their graduation, the Martins stayed in touch with Maxwell, and they developed a strong friendship that still exists today.

“We knew exactly who we wanted to officiate our wedding, the mentor that was with us from the start. Lucas became ordained online so he could officiate our wedding,” Nick said. “We got married in a historic little church called Kornthal Church in Jonesboro that sits in the middle of farmland. We felt it was appropriate to get married in the middle of such a big agricultural area. It felt natural and right to us.”

The wedding reception was basically a Saluki alumni event, Dean Gary Minish even gave a speech.

After leaving Carbondale, Nick and Amanda moved to Auburn, Alabama, where Nick graduated from Auburn University in 2011 with a master’s degree in forestry. During this time, Amanda served as the coordinator of recruitment for the Department of Poultry Science. They moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Nick joined Bartlett Tree Experts, the world’s leading scientific tree and shrub care company. During this time, Amanda served as a middle school science teacher as part of the TEACH Charlotte program. Nick was then able to transition to a remote position in 2012, so Amanda could pursue her Ph.D. in higher education administration, which began at Auburn University. While enrolled in classes she worked with the Auburn University College of Agriculture as the coordinator of recruitment and alumni relations. Another door opened for Amanda and the team moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2016. Amanda finished her doctorate at LSU and became an Assistant Dean for the LSU College of Agriculture.

The couple recently moved to Algonquin, Illinois, where Amanda works with the executive team at the American Egg Board at the Chicago headquarters. Amanda’s background within agriculture and education, continue to guide her professional career. She assisted with the White House Easter Egg Roll, and her current focus project is on developing the college internship program. Nick is now the vice president of Bartlett Consulting where he leads an international team throughout the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. His work has taken him to numerous university campuses in the U.S., several U.S. Army bases, oil refineries in Canada, hurricane-ravaged properties in Florida, the historic mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, and his all-time favorite, several royal properties in the United Kingdom including Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace.


The impetus behind establishing the two $500 scholarships is due to a $500 scholarship Amanda was offered through the SIU College of Agriculture.

“No one in my family had gone to college, and it just wasn’t on my radar,” Amanda said. “So, when I received that scholarship offer, it made me feel like someone believed in me. I felt for the first time that I could be successful, and it was enough to make me commit. We would love to grow our scholarship and help more students in the future.”

Nick says he hopes more people give back to SIU in whatever capacity they have.

“With our careers, we don’t have a lot of time to volunteer, but over the years we saved and what we can give just might help a student out with paying for books,” he said. “Whatever you can do to help out is important.”

Nick was recently honored at last year’s Ag Banquet and received a MidCareer Alumni Award.

“It was great to be back in Carbondale last fall to receive such a great honor. We would love to get more involved with SIU now that we live in Illinois,” he said. “We have plans for attending Homecoming and going to a football game. We love being back in the place where we fell in love.”

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Saluki Friendship Leads to Major Donation

Gift reinforces fund that support students with disabilities

Gail Mrkvicka headshot

When Gail Mrkvicka, ’64 and ’66, befriended Jim Greenwood they had an instant connection.

“Jim was such a positive person,” Mrkvicka said. “Even though he was confined to a wheelchair, I never heard him once complain. Instead, he was probably one of the most positive people I have ever met in my life. He never let his disability keep him from doing anything – whether it was attending sporting events or going to Shryock Auditorium. The physical challenges never seemed to affect his college years, and he was one of the most popular and magnetic students I ever met. He became one of my closest friends while at SIU.”

Both Greenwood and Mrkvicka worked as resident fellows, he at Thompson Point and she at Kellogg Hall.

“I remember we would always eat lunch together at the cafeteria in Lentz Hall. We also used to hang out and get coffee at the coffee shop at University Drug Store,” Mrkvicka said. “We really enjoyed each other’s company, and we would share our challenges of being resident fellows. Both Jim and I stayed at SIU, got our bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Jim and I both received our master’s degrees in higher education administration.”

Upon graduation, their paths went in separate directions. Mrkvicka eventually became a dean at Russell Sage College, a small women’s college in Troy, New York. She later worked for the city of Rensselaer, New York, as a grants administrator.

A Friendship Rekindled

Mrkvicka grew tired of the harsh winters and was battling health issues in 1999 when a friend suggested she relocate to Sarasota, Florida.

“Florida sounded really good to me at the time, and it has proven to be a great place to retire,” she said.

Soon after she moved to Sarasota, Mrkvicka recalls reading the local newspaper where she saw a photo of a vaguely familiar face.

“I hadn’t seen Jim Greenwood in years, but in the photo that accompanied the article, the man had a SIU baseball cap on. I knew then that had to be Jim,” she said.

She reached out to Jim, and they renewed their friendship along with Jim’s wife, Martha.

“Jim came to SIU from Maine, partly because SIU was one of the few institutions that provided access to students with disabilities in the 1960s,” Mrkvicka said. “He loved SIU and was a life member of the SIU Alumni Association and was active in its Central Florida Chapter.”

SIU has been an advocate for people with disabilities since the 1950s, when Delyte Morris tasked Guy Renzaglia with equipping campus with necessary improvements. Renzaglia helped make SIU one of the few universities at the time to provide services for the blind, deaf, and persons using wheelchairs.

A Commitment Reinforced

In 2013, the Greenwoods established the Jim and Martha Greenwood Fund, created through their estate. It provides $1.3 million in scholarships for students with disabilities who are studying science and engineering. The first scholarship was awarded in 2014.

“The Greenwoods left a powerful legacy by supporting the university that welcomed him in the 1960s, well before the Americans with Disabilities Act required campuses to be accessible,” said SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec. “It is the generosity of people like the Greenwoods for which we are forever grateful. He and his wife’s substantial gift make it possible for other students with disabilities to attend SIU.”

Mrkvicka recently decided to make a $1 million estate gift to the Jim and Martha Greenwood Fund.

“Like Jim and Martha, I just want to make the lives of students with disabilities easier while they attend SIU,” she said. “I don’t want them worrying about paying tuition or renting books. I just want them to enjoy their college years like Jim did.”

Matt Solverson, president of the SIU Foundation, said Mrkvicka’s gift will broaden the Greenwoods’ fund and continue SIU’s national reputation for assisting students with disabilities.

“Fortunately, when he came to SIU, our facilities and staff were able to accommodate him and provide an outstanding educational experience, which he remembered for the rest of his life,” Solverson said. “Ms. Mrkvicka’s gift is a great testament to the lifelong friendships that SIU cultivates.”

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The George Bates Foundation Continues its Philanthropy to SIU and the Southern Illinois Region

Left to right: Dr. Bruce DeRuntz, Director of Development Jason Fairfield, Dr. Mike Murray, Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu, and SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec

By Rebecca Renshaw

The College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics received $50,000 from a longtime supporter of the university.

Dr. Mike Murray, trustee of the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, presented Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu with a $50,000 check to go toward the George A. Bates Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship supports the college, the Leadership Development Program and the STEM Research Center.

“Dr. Murray and the George Bates Memorial Foundation have been great supporters of our college,” Dean Liu said. “These scholarships are important to our college, and we are deeply grateful to the Bates Foundation for its history of partnering with SIU.

“We have the passion and the dedication. Not only that, we deliver. We are working on enrollment growth and retention as well as the student activities. This generous gift will help us achieve our goals.”

Bates was a successful stock market investor and avid big game hunter. He was born in 1903 in the Chicago area, and resided in Cary until his death. The Bates Foundation was formed when he passed away in 1989. The foundation provides funding to numerous charitable organizations, as determined by its board of trustees. Along with SIU, the foundation supports The Hope Light Project, a cancer awareness organization, also located in southern Illinois.

“Mr. Bates believed in supporting education,” Murray said. “It has been an honor to be a trustee for the George A. Bates Memorial Foundation, and it was a privilege to deliver this check.”

Other organizations the foundation has supported in Southern Illinois include Brehm School, SIH Cancer Institute, the Poshard Foundation, Saluki Kids Academy, and Lead SI. The foundation supports eight different charities and has donated over $3 million dollars in the last 10 years. A total of $6 million has been donated since its inception.

“It is my hope that more people in this area recognize that a Chicago-based foundation cares deeply about the Southern Illinois region and its residents,” Murray said.

Murray was instrumental in securing funding from the Bates Foundation. As a close friend and confidant of Bates, Murray was aware of Bates’ philanthropic tendencies. He submitted a proposal for support in 1997 while working as a central development officer for the SIU Foundation. Now, as a Bates Foundation trustee, he continues to provide funding to scholarships at the College of Engineering.

“The SIU Foundation appreciates the long-time support Mike Murray and the Bates Foundation has given to SIU. Support from organizations such as the Bates Foundation is integral to advancing our academic mission,” said Matt Kupec, CEO of the SIU Foundation. “These types of gifts show a truly inspiring commitment to higher education and the Saluki spirit.”

The Bates Foundation looks for two things when deciding to support an organization: Dedication by the organization to the mission and passion for the cause of those representing the organization.

“I know Dean Liu and know Matt Kupec very well,” Murray said. “I have no doubt this money will be put to good use.”

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