Category Archives: Donor Stories

Kuehns’ estate gift benefits agricultural research

Kuehns' estate gift benefits agriculture research

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s agriculture research efforts have received quite a lift through the Kuehn Research and Education Center.

SIU Carbondale’s College of Agricultural Sciences is the beneficiary of a significant estate gift to the SIU Foundation by the late Harold and Nora Kuehn. This gift includes the Kuehn farmland, located in Dowell, just 15 miles north of Carbondale. In accordance with the wishes of the estate, a portion of the property was sold for the purpose of funding scholarships in support of students pursuing degrees in Plant and Soil Sciences, and Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

The remaining acreage will be used for research and educational purposes. Jarrett Nehring, director of University Farms, says this will benefit the University and region well into the future.

“Having access to the Kuehn Research and Education Center is beneficial because we have large fields to conduct large-scale research. Most research on the Carbondale experimental farms is small-scale,” Nehring says. “It also provides another location for SIU researchers — such as our Weed Science and Soybean Breeding Group — to conduct their own research.

“These large-scale experiments are the final stages of our research that can demonstrate to farmers how this applies to their operation.”

Jim Klein, an assistant scientist, agrees with Nehring’s assessment.

“We didn’t have any more land in Carbondale that provided good, uniform ground for research,” he says. “The Kuehns’ gift greatly assists our efforts. It will become an even greater asset as we get to know the farm a little better.”

Nehring says maintenance is priority on the property. A member of the SIU agriculture research team since 2000, Nehring never met the Kuehns. But he aspires to make sure the Research Center reflects the commitment they had to the agriculture industry and to SIU Carbondale.

“I’ve heard great things about the Kuehns. I understand that Mr. Kuehn was always on the cutting edge and wanted to be involved in research,” he says. “The Kuehns believed in doing things the right way.

“That is one reason why we created grass waterways to prevent soil erosion. I think they would have appreciated that. We are going to maintain the farm the best we can to show the College of Ag Science cares about it.”

Nehring says the University will honor the Kuehns’ legacy well into the future.

Todd Winters, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, says: “We’re in the beginning stages of providing larger scale research to southern Illinois farmers. In the years to come, it will become a very beneficial center. Our plan is to make it is focal point of research and education.

“Whether we’re educating our own students who visit the facility, or hosting a field day for local farmers so they can see our research first-hand; it’s an opportunity to educate the farm community on new and upcoming products. It is quite a legacy for Harold and Nora Kuehn.”

Harold Kuehn, an Elkville native who received a bachelor’s in agriculture from Southern in 1951, became the first president of the Ag Alumni Society of SIU. He served on the board of directors for the SIU Alumni Association, including one year as president, 1984-85; and was a SIU Foundation board member for more than a decade, residing as its president from 1991-1994. Harold received distinguished service awards from both organizations, in addition to the Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Agriculture in 1996. He was on an advisory council to three SIU presidents.

A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Harold was a career farmer who produced grain and livestock; he was recognized with an Illinois Master Farmer Award. He was president of the Illinois Soybean Association in 1968 and one of its founders. The organization still funds a large amount of research at Southern, including the soybean breeding program efforts at the Kuehn farm this year. Kuehn’s leadership went well beyond the State of Illinois. Harold traveled to 49 countries doing market development work for the Foreign Agriculture Service in USDA and American Soybean Association, including the first trade mission to Russia in 1972. He was the American Soybean Association president at the time.

Nora worked at Croessman Wholesale Co. for 25 years before retiring and selling the business to two of her employees. She was a member of First United Methodist Church in Du Quoin. She often accompanied Harold to University events, and particularly enjoyed baseball and basketball. The Murphysboro native traveled to 38 foreign countries during the time of her husband’s service to agriculture.

Gift benefits research — Jarrett Nehring, director of University Farms, visits a cornfield at the Kuehn Research and Education Center. (Photo provided)

Expanding opportunities — Jim Klein, an assistant scientist, displays various types of soybeans grown on the Kuehn farmland. (Photo provided)

Young Business College Graduates Give Back

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Some alumni of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Business are wasting no time in offering financial assistance to support students who are following in their footsteps.

Recent graduates of the college — Candice McCloud (business management in 2007), Xavier Mims (management in 2008), and Janaya Tucker (accounting in 2007 and master’s in business administration in 2008) — have in short order made a commitment to establish scholarships and offer additional assistance to current students.

Michael Haywood, Director of the Office of Minority Affairs in the College, says these alumni were recipients of scholarships and are eager to return the favor now that they have launched their careers.

“These individuals endured some economic trials to attain their own education. They were grateful for receiving scholarships and want to support others,” he says. “Additionally, they take note of the college’s limited resources and want to give back. This isn’t anything new … we’ve had similar commitments from our alumni for close to 25 years. But recently, we’ve had people giving back much earlier in their careers.”

Haywood says all three alumni assumed leadership roles on campus, pursued opportunities to attain experience in their chosen field and worked hard to live up to the scholarship requirements. Each worked for Haywood in some capacity as a student at Southern.

McCloud was initially inspired after speaking with Mims.

xavier mims

Mims approached Haywood; Tammy Cavarretta, director of development for the College of Business; and Dean Dennis Cradit shortly after graduation about creating a scholarship to help new students. Mims was the beneficiary of scholarships and financial assistance and wanted to help others. Therefore, he and Haywood selected two students to receive brand new laptops purchased by Mims, currently executive district manager for Aldi, Inc., in Chicago. The students were recognized at the 2009 College of Business Honors Day ceremony.

Upon hearing of Mims’ generosity, McCloud took the initiative to follow suit. She established the Gloria Dean Battles Scholarship, named after her late grandmother, who was a teacher for 30 years. McCloud is honoring her grandmother’s lifelong commitment to education.

“My grandmother was the matriarch of our family. Education has always been important in my family and she instilled that in us,” McCloud says. “Also, my mother attended college and attained a master’s degree. She received the ‘Teacher of the Year’ award in O’Fallon in just her second year. My brother and sister attended college as well.”

Candice McCloud

McCloud named the scholarship after her grandmother so other family members could contribute. She would like to expand it beyond the current $1,000 amount. The award is geared toward students in the business college who have a 3.0 grade point average or higher with preference given to minority students.

McCloud’s mother, and her father, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who has served 22 years in the military and recently returned from duty in Iraq, paid their way through college. She had to do the same because she was not eligible to receive financial aid.

“I want to help people who don’t receive as much financial aid. But I don’t want that to be the only criteria,” she says. “They have to earn good grades, work hard, and be successful.”

The SIU graduate is quite a success herself. McCloud has been a key account manager for the Coca-Cola Co. in Niles since June. She previously served as a district manager and recruiter for Aldi, Inc. in Batavia.

“SIU laid a strong foundation for my career and I learned a great deal. The college prepared me to take that step into the professional world,” she says. “I grew and learned the importance of time management and prioritizing. The experience of working and developing relationships in the classroom, and working with fellow students on projects in student organizations really prepared me for the professional world.”

Janaya Tucker

The latest former student to follow in this path is Janaya Tucker, who received a bachelor’s in accounting in 2007 and attained a master’s in business administration in 2008. She derived inspiration from Mims and McCloud and established her own scholarship to assist current students in the College of Business. Tucker funded scholarships in the amount of $1,000, just three years after graduation.

An experienced associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, Tucker established the scholarship in appreciation for the education she received at Southern, which she says prepared her for a career in public accounting. She expresses appreciation for financial support earned that eased the financial burdens associated with attending college, and the guidance she received as a student at SIU Carbondale.

“I was not awarded financial aid, so my education was funded through multiple avenues including my parents, student work positions, scholarships, and assistantships from the College of Business, as well as external sources such as the Illinois CPA Society and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,” she says. “The funding I received allowed me to focus on my education and develop the knowledge and skills which I utilize on a daily basis in my career. Therefore, it’s only appropriate for me to give back.”

Tucker will fund her scholarship on an annual basis, with aspirations of increasing the amount in the future. The Janaya D. Tucker Scholarship will target an undergraduate majoring in accounting with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Preference will be given to an African American student.

“Hopefully, my scholarship will help ease the financial burden of attending college for current students, and in turn, allow them to focus on their college education. I do not want current students to be discouraged from earning their degree(s) from the College of Business due to the financial burdens associated with being a college student,” she says. “Also, I hope my scholarships will inspire other alums to give back to the College of Business.”

SIU Carbondale College of Business Dean J. Dennis Cradit says: “The generosity of Ms. McCloud, Mr. Mims and Ms. Tucker is inspiring. Their contributions exemplify their gratitude for the scholarships they received during their time at SIUC, as well as their strong commitment to education.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation, agrees: “The support exhibited by Candice, Xavier and Janaya is a tribute to their respective experiences in the College of Business and at SIU Carbondale. They are expressing their appreciation of their education by giving back to their alma mater in short order. We are thankful for their generosity and the fine examples they are setting for students who are striving to follow in their footsteps.”

The college has more students who plan to follow the examples set by McCloud, Mims and Tucker, according to Haywood. He also states that their support demonstrated by the graduates offer current students goes beyond monetary rewards.

“They volunteer time to return to campus and conduct workshops. When our students hear about their career paths, it motivates them to succeed,” he says. “It’s really an asset to the college when alumni are willing to come back and assist in educating our students on important qualities and skills that are pertinent to succeed in corporate America. When someone gives you a blueprint on how it’s done, that is just as important as donating money.”

Aisin Continues Support of Engineering Students

Aisin donates $20,000 to SIU College of Engineering

Aisin Manufacturing, a longtime donor to Southern Illinois University, presented a check for $20,000 to the College of Engineering recently. The funds will be used to support scholarships in the College. Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, LLC is one of three plants located in the Aisin Industrial Park in Marion. The plant manufactures sunroofs, slide and back door components, center pillar garnishes, and door handles for the companies in the automotive industry, including Toyota, General Motors, Lexus, and Mitsubishi.

Pictured from left to right are Rickey McCurry, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and Corporate Executive Officer for the SIU Foundation; Aisin Electronics Illinois, LLC President Akito Yamauchi; Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, LLC President Makoto Endo; Aisin Light Metals President Katsunori Maeda; and Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering.

University Achieves Minority Scholarships Goal

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Hope and Opportunity initiative has successfully reached its $1 million goal to provide equal opportunities and financial assistance to minority students and other traditionally underrepresented populations.

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, announced the success of Hope and Opportunity today (Oct. 7). The University initiated the fundraising drive in 2007, with the primary goal of seeking donations from individuals and corporations to support scholarships and other financial aid for minorities and women.

McCurry says attaining the $1 million goal marks the beginning — not an end — for what he says will continue to be a priority on the SIUC campus.

“The success of Hope and Opportunity demonstrates that alumni and friends of SIU Carbondale truly care about the next generation. Thanks to their generosity, many students will receive an opportunity to pursue dreams that otherwise, may not have been possible,” McCurry says. “Although we have attained our $1 million goal, the University will continue to seek funds to support the academic endeavors of minorities, women, and all underrepresented populations on campus.”

Seymour Bryson, who chaired the Hope and Opportunity initiative, says that donor contributions of any amount to support this effort are greatly appreciated.

“We’re very pleased and excited that people responded so positively to this effort. We raised funds that will help allow a lot of students to receive a quality education,” Bryson says. “This effort reflects the University’s longstanding commitment to racial, ethnic, economic and gender diversity. We are also pleased that University leadership has expressed an interest in continuing forward efforts to raise funds for underrepresented populations.”

SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng echoed the sentiments of McCurry and Bryson. She aspires to lead the University’s continued commitment to serving underrepresented populations on the Carbondale campus.

“Even in a challenging economic climate, alumni and many other friends of the University continue to invest in student success, and we appreciate their generosity,” she said. “Access and inclusiveness are part of our institutional DNA. We are committed to creating opportunities for more students because we know the education we offer transforms lives.”

Grant will support first-generation students

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A private foundation is investing in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s efforts to improve the graduation rate of first-generation students.

A longstanding commitment to first-generation students — those whose parents did not attend college — was one of the reasons The Suder Foundation, of Plano, Texas, selected the University for the five-year, $1 million program. Along with SIUC, the foundation awarded a grant to the University of Alabama. SIUC and Alabama competed with 32 other universities.

Nearly 43 percent of SIUC’s 2009 first-time entering freshmen were first-generation students.

“We appreciate The Suder Foundation’s confidence in our University and we are excited about what this program will mean for our students,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “We provide support systems and additional tools to help our first-year students make a successful transition to the University, because success in that first year is key to students reaching their educational goals. But first-generation students can face additional challenges, and this program will enhance our efforts at helping them succeed throughout their careers here.”

According to The Suder Foundation, first-generation students, once enrolled in a university, may face a variety of challenges, including: limited access to information about the college experience, either firsthand or from relatives; limited knowledge of time management, college finances, budget management, and the bureaucratic operations of higher education; doubts about their academic and motivational abilities, causing them to think they are “not college material”; and difficulty balancing family, work and school responsibilities.

The foundation is the creation of Eric Suder, founder and chief executive officer of ESI, based in Plano. As a result of the company’s success with significance philosophy, he has started or become involved with several philanthropic programs, including the ESI Humanitarian Relief Fund. That project initially was a response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but has grown into a more general effort to assist victims of disasters ranging from Hurricane Katrina to earthquakes in Asia.

Suder also assists students with financial need through endowments to the University of Texas and his alma mater, West Virginia University.

His foundation’s nationwide effort to help first-generation college students began last year, with the University of Utah and the University of Kentucky securing the inaugural grants. The Suder Foundation’s program focuses on four key areas for first-generation students: financial, academic, personal development and social integration.

“Our First Scholars program goals align well with initiatives in place at SIUC,” Suder said. “We were excited by the planning team’s level of energy and enthusiasm about what we are trying to accomplish through our data-driven approach to assisting first-generation students graduate from college.”

During this first year of the “First Scholars Program,” SIUC is receiving $60,000 for planning. The University will hire a planning coordinator to work with a core planning team to map out the program. According to the timeline submitted as part of the grant application, selection of a permanent First Scholars director is set for February 2011, with the individual beginning his or her duties that May.

The Suder Foundation will fund 20 scholarships at $5,000 each beginning in fall 2011, and will fund 20 additional scholarships at the same level in each of the succeeding three years. Students from Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee will be eligible for the scholarships. Financial need and demonstrated academic ability as shown by ACT and/or SAT scores and high school GPA will be among the scholarship criteria.

The scholarship will be renewable for three years as long as the First Scholar maintains at least a 2.5 GPA and meets other criteria established by The Suder Foundation. After the fourth year of the program, the University will be responsible for securing necessary funding to maintain scholarship renewals for existing students and to award scholarships to new groups of students.

One of The Suder Foundation’s requirements of scholarship recipients is “Pay-It-Forward.” In addition to volunteering in campus and community organizations, First Scholar upperclassmen can serve as mentors for incoming participants. In addition, the returning participants can tutor other First Scholars. At SIUC, key scholarship recipients, such as Presidential Scholars, will mentor first-year participants in the First Scholars program.

Saluki First Year will administer the First Scholars Program. SIUC introduced Saluki First Year last fall as a comprehensive approach designed to smooth the transition to the University for all first-year students. Mark Amos, associate professor of English and Academic Affairs director of Saluki First Year, was the principal investigator on the application to The Suder Foundation.

Noting that serving first-generation students is “part of our institutional DNA,” Amos said the First Scholars Program will have a number of benefits.

“This will allow us to bring in students who otherwise may not have been able to attend for financial reasons, or who could come with other kinds of financial assistance but now we’ll be able to offer more scholarship money,” he said. “With First Scholars, we will be using best practices on a small scale and we then can put them in place for all of our first-generation students. And since part of the intent of these kinds of programs is to generate best practices on a larger scale, this will allow us to publicize more widely what we are doing and establish SIUC as a model for meeting the needs of first-generation students.”

Amos and Julie Payne Kirchmeier, director of University Housing and Student Affairs director of Saluki First Year, both emphasized that the success in securing the Suder Foundation grant reflects a collaborative effort among academics, Student Affairs and the SIU Foundation.

“In the end, it’s our students who matter,” said Payne Kirchmeier, the co-principal investigator on the grant application. “When we collaborate like this as an institution, it’s the students who win, and when that happens, our institution and community become stronger.”

Jill Gobert, director of corporate and foundation relations for the SIU Foundation, and Charles Leonard, visiting professor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, were part of the core team that responded to The Suder Foundation grant proposal and will assist in its implementation.

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, applauded the collaborative effort.

“Foundation staff and University community members worked in harmony to make this possible,” he said. “Their cooperation and hard work has resulted in a partnership with The Suder Foundation that will have a positive impact on SIUC students. This effort really coincides with the SIU Foundation’s focus of ‘Investing in Saluki Futures.’”

To learn more about The Suder Foundation, visit

Art and Design Succeeds in Matching $500,000 Gift

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Art and Design enhanced its research and scholarship efforts by successfully raising funds to match a gift from an Arkansas-based visual arts foundation.

In April 2005, Windgate Charitable Foundation, located in Siloam Springs, Ark., pledged $500,000 to the SIU Foundation for the benefit of the School of Art of Design. The donation was a challenge gift, meaning $500,000 had to be raised to receive the Windgate pledge amount. With the support of generous alumni and donors, the School raised well over its goal.

“Windgate’s generosity enables us to enhance the quality of the academic experience for our students,” says Peter Chametzky, director of the School of Art and Design. “Alumni and donors from each department in the School assisted us in meeting this challenge. Everyone really came together; we appreciate Windgate’s support.”

Windgate funds arts programs nationwide, specifically visual arts, arts and crafts, and art history preservation efforts. The organization was founded to support the idea of healthy family relationships through education programs for parents, conferences for marriage enrichment, and classes to develop well-rounded children devoted to their families.

The School met Windgate’s challenge through its various comprehensive fundraising efforts, including a direct mail campaign to its alumni, and its popular Art Over Easy benefit. Art Over Easy features artwork produced by faculty, students, alumni, and community members. Funds are raised through an auction format. Additionally, Chametzky says students in metals and glass made a contribution through their fundraising activities.

“That says a lot about our students. It demonstrates that they are happy and feel a sense of loyalty to our program,” he says. “They were willing to part with their hard-earned money to support future students who will come here and benefit.”

Chametzky says funds will be split to support faculty and student research activities in addition to scholarships.

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “The Windgate Foundation and all the other generous alumni and donors realize the importance of providing resources to our young aspiring artists. Windgate’s challenge exhibits its respect and appreciation for the SIU Carbondale School of Art and Design. Furthermore, the support of our alumni, donors and students indicate that they want the School’s excellence to continue well into the future.”

Windgate has a history of supporting Southern. Richard Smith, a 1992 SIU Carbondale graduate and holder of the L. Brent Kington Chair in Blacksmithing, has a long relationship with Windgate. One of Smith’s art patrons is a Windgate employee, who assisted the University in establishing this relationship.

“I’m thankful that Windgate is contributing funding at this level. It speaks highly of our excellence in teaching and research,” Smith says. “It is critical for us to continue working with Windgate in the future. Hopefully, Windgate will further support various aspects of the School of Art and Design.”

Kuehns’ estate gift benefits agriculture students

by Greg Scott

Kuehns’ estate gift benefits agriculture students

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A Du Quoin couple remembered for their devotion to SIU Carbondale and the SIU Foundation will benefit students in the College of Agricultural Sciences for years to come. A significant estate gift to the SIU Foundation from Harold and Nora Kuehn will fund scholarships for students pursuing degrees in plant and soil science and animal science.

“The Kuehn estate gift will help us recruit outstanding students in our Plant and Soil Science and Animal Science programs through scholarships,” says Todd A. Winters, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “The Kuehns were proud supporters of our college. Agriculture students will continue to benefit from their outstanding show of philanthropy.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “This gift is a testament to the loyalty and generosity that Harold and Nora Kuehn exhibited to SIU Carbondale during their lifetime. The Kuehns cared a great deal for this institution, in particular, the College of Agricultural Sciences and its students. Harold was a leader who impacted the world of agriculture. The Kuehn’s legacy will be honored through the future generations of Salukis who will benefit from this bequest and forge new ground in the agriculture field.”

Harold, an Elkville native who received a bachelor’s in agriculture from Southern in 1951, became the first President of the Ag Alumni Society of SIU. He served on the board of directors for the SIU Alumni Association, including one year as president, 1984-85; and was a SIU Foundation board member for more than a decade, residing as its president from 1991-1994. Harold received distinguished service awards from both organizations, in addition to the Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Agriculture in 1996. He was on an advisory council to three SIU presidents.

A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Harold was a career farmer who produced grain and livestock; he was recognized with an Illinois Master Farmer Award. He was president of the Illinois Soybean Association in 1968 and one of its founders. His leadership went well beyond the state of Illinois. Harold traveled to 49 countries doing market development work for the Foreign Agriculture Service in USDA and American Soybean Association, including the first trade mission to Russia in 1972. He was the American Soybean Association president at the time.

Harold was a retired athletic official with the Illinois High School Association. He was also a longtime servant to the Board of Directors for Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin. The Kuehn Medical Center opened December 2009 in Du Quoin.

John Rednour, Du Quoin State Bank chairman and mayor of Du Quoin, says: “Harold Kuehn was a true gentleman, one that I respected greatly for his honesty and willingness to take on any kind of work in order to assist others.”

Former SIU Alumni Association president and Du Quoin native Doris Rottschalk adds: “Harold Kuehn was an inspiration to all who knew him. He was devoted to his wife Nora and SIU. He realized that his success came from the opportunities he received at SIU and he was always willing to give back to his alma mater. He was SIU’s ambassador who served with enthusiasm, dedication, and dignity.”

Nora worked at Croessman Wholesale Co. for 25 years, before retiring and selling the business to two of her employees. She was a member of First United Methodist Church in Du Quoin. She often accompanied Harold to university events, and particularly enjoyed baseball and basketball. The Murphysboro native traveled to 38 foreign countries during the time of her husband’s service to agriculture.

Nora was an active member of Beta Sigma Phi (Chapter Illinois Zeta Masters) since 1938, and her hobbies included ceramics, golf and swimming. Roger Neuhaus, 1990 SIU Carbondale graduate, met the Kuehns when he worked with the SIU Alumni Association staff. Neuhaus says the two complemented each other well.

“Harold’s gentle manner and diplomacy impressed me from the start. In particular, in the face of things that were perceived as crises for the organization,” Neuhaus says. “One of the things I loved about Nora is that you always knew where you stood with her. She was the antithesis of Harold; which is what made them a great team.

“I learned so much history about the region and the university while sitting in their living room on Main Street in Du Quoin. Theresa and I loved them both like family; as they did us. They are forever in our hearts.”

Harold and Nora Kuehn were married 46 years before they passed away.

Paul Conti, an SIU Foundation board member and retired executive in Glen Ellyn, says the Kuehns had a longstanding commitment to Southern. Conti, like Kuehn before him, has served on both the Foundation and Association boards.

“I followed Harold on both boards so we spent a lot of time together. It was through the work of Harold and others that the Association and Foundation boards became as strong as they are today,” Conti says. “Harold helped enhance our alumni relations and fundraising efforts. It transformed us from being more than a quiet, bucolic organization in southern Illinois.

“You couldn’t find nicer and sweeter people than Harold and Nora. The Kuehns had a great love for the university and community … we are blessed to have known them. They were leaders and willing to share with SIU, their community and church. This gift is a continuation of that leadership and generosity.”

Monsanto supports plant pathology research

by Emily Hunsaker

Monsanto supports plant pathology research

Frank Khon, Plant Health Research Lead for Monsanto, Jason Bond, professor of plant pathology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and Chris Vick, a soybean pathologist at SIUC, stand in a plot of soybeans at SIUC’s Agricultural Resource Center. They are part of a group of researchers testing the effects of agricultural products on soybeans, thanks to a donation made by Monsanto Co. (Photo provided)

CARBONDALE, Ill. — An agricultural company with a longstanding relationship with Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently made a donation to support two professors’ research in plant pathology.

Monsanto donated $104,000 to be used for research on soybean diseases under the direction of Jason Bond and Ahmad Fakhoury, professors of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Monsanto Co. is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. The company is focused on enabling both small and large-scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of the world’s natural resources.

“Monsanto’s relationship with the University has been extremely beneficial. Because of this donation, two of our top-tier professors are able to conduct research on a topic that is important to the agricultural community,” says Rickey McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “Support such as this is vital in moving Southern forward.”

The donation stems from an ongoing research agreement between Monsanto and the University. Bond has been conducting routine research trials using the company’s products for three years through Monsanto’s grant contract office. This donation will allow Bond and Fakhoury to expand on these trials and delve further into this research.

“The money will support plant pathology research and field trials. It has helped to understand the molecular quantification of plant pathogens,” Bond says. “The funding has also allowed us to run more samples with molecular tools that give us very precise results.”

With the help of a team of students and technicians, Bond tests Monsanto’s products on soybean fields in five Illinois locations, including Carbondale, Paris, Pontiac, Tamms and Valmeyer. The research team consists of six undergraduate student workers, two graduate students and three full-time technicians.

The group has planted soybeans on two to three acres of land in each location with seed provided by Monsanto. As the research progresses, the team will begin to spray each field with the company’s products and check for diseases in the soybean plants. Fakhoury’s group will use molecular techniques to detect and quantify plant pathogens in these soybeans.

“Funding such as this is important to the University. It not only allows Dr. Bond and Dr. Fakhoury to conduct much-needed research, but it also allows students to be involved in the research process,” says Todd Winters, associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “This research will have an impact on Monsanto’s products, as well as the farmers who utilize them.”

“Monsanto saw an opportunity to assist the college in a way that would also help them achieve their goals,” Bond adds. “This was an outgrowth of the University’s relationship with the company. They saw what we are capable of doing and made an investment in us.”

Blaudows’ gift supports additional scholarships

by Greg Scott

Blaudows’ gift supports additional SIU scholarships

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A common trait that successful executives share is the ability to recognize a solid investment. SIU Distinguished Alumnus Dick Blaudow, founder, chairman and CEO of Advanced Technology Services (ATS) Inc., in Peoria, is no different.

In 2006, Blaudow and his wife, Brigitte, donated $250,000 to SIU Carbondale’s College of Engineering to create an engineering leadership development program. Their gift funded 14 scholarships for community college graduates in the state of Illinois who planned on attending Southern. Just more than three years later, the Blaudows are contributing an additional $76,000 to fund five more scholarships. Recipients receive a two-year scholarship covering the cost of tuition, in addition to a paid summer internship at ATS offering hands-on manufacturing and leadership experience.

“I have great interest in the College of Engineering and SIU Carbondale. William Osborne (former engineering dean) motivated me to establish this program,” says Blaudow, a former member of the SIU Foundation Board of Directors. “It goes beyond ATS — I would like to see other corporations willing to support students through a leadership program like this one. Our University would be unique in this respect and stand for something.

“As our students continue to become leaders in supervision and management, it could urge parents to send their child to SIU. Leadership development is something our University could become known for.”

The 1970 electrical engineering graduate says ATS hired five SIU students who were recruited into the program. ATS provides managed services for production equipment maintenance, industrial parts repair and IT infrastructure support for manufacturers. The Peoria-based company employs more than 1,700 people, has five branch offices, and has more than 150 customer-site locations in the United States and Mexico.

“We were fortunate to have jobs for them when they graduated in May. These young people are doing well and we are very impressed,” he says. “I’ve had the privilege of spending time with them, meeting their families, and introducing them to other business and industry leaders. Brigitte and I call them ‘our kids.’

“We look forward to continuing the program.”

Bruce DeRuntz, an associate professor at Southern who directs the program, says Blaudow’s gift is a result of his strong desire to continue and expand the program. Recently, DeRuntz has also been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the program. The grant will allot the same basic funding for 29 students over the next four years.

“There is really no greater testament or validation of this program’s merit than to have the National Science Foundation exhibit this level of support,” DeRuntz says. “Our plan is for this program to mature into a leadership development institute with major corporate sponsors who have their own cohort of students participating. They will see the value of this early leadership development through high potential students.”

DeRuntz says the program is beneficial to all parties involved.

“Dick’s company is continuing to grow but a limiting factor is identifying and developing future technical leaders. This program provides ATS with an opportunity to develop their own leaders early on,” he says. “It presents Dick with an opportunity to give back to his alma mater which he has always maintained a strong relationship with. In addition, the leadership program provides financial support for students who are willing to work hard. This is what Dick and Brigitte set out to accomplish when they made the initial donation.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says the program supports multiple University objectives.

“This gift further exemplifies Dick and Brigitte Blaudow’s deep devotion to SIU Carbondale, the College of Engineering and its students. Their commitment accentuates the SIU Foundation’s motto of ‘Investing in Saluki Futures,’” he says. “The leadership program not only provides a significant recruitment vehicle for the College of Engineering, but it prepares our students to hit the ground running upon entering the workforce. The Blaudows have been extraordinarily supportive for several years and their vision continues to move this University forward.”

Blaudow’s vision is to develop leaders for the manufacturing industry, which he says has become a rare quality.

“There are fewer young people interested in manufacturing … which is disturbing and a challenge for those of us engaged in the industry,” he says. “In addition, the manufacturing environment is becoming more complex. As a result, we need a more educated, technology-savvy workforce and leadership skills are required.”

SIU’s engineering leadership program is designed to assist in developing and preparing students for leadership roles in manufacturing. DeRuntz says students are required to develop leadership skills via extra-curricular activities in the University and Carbondale communities.

“We meet weekly, invite military and industrial leaders in to speak and offer as much hands-on-experience as possible,” he says. “Our students are required to assume leadership roles in registered student organizations on campus, participate in the Beautify Southern Illinois clean-up project, and lead trail maintenance at Shawnee National Forest. Their leadership and ability to work as an effective team is beginning to gain national attention through their success the last two years in a national robotic competition.

“They nearly swept all of the awards at last year’s ATMAE competition. Other universities have begun to realize that SIU is always a contender for the championship.”

The expectations continue once they join ATS.

“We work these kids hard and have high expectations. They are introduced to industry and business leaders, and exposed to various large industry events,” Blaudow says. “They have to demonstrate leadership, be engaged in teamwork and resourcefulness. As a result, they spend a lot of time working on weekends as opposed to being out having fun.

“This is a good thing for our students who are ready to get a job when they graduate. It’s also good for companies who are making this investment in young people attending SIU. We’ve been very pleased and as a result, decided to step up again and bring in more students. It’s a really good thing for SIU.”

Brown’s $100,000 gift supports minority students

by Greg Scott

Ken Brown’s $100,000 gift supports minority students

CARBONDALE, Ill. — SIU Carbondale alumnus Ken Brown, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and success coach, proudly subscribes to Winston Churchill’s motto: “We make a living by what we got, but we make a life by what we give.” The 1988 food and nutrition graduate’s actions support his beliefs in a big way.

Brown, a Chicago native, is donating $100,000 to fund scholarships for minority students in various majors at Southern. His gift was made in cooperation with the University’s Hope and Opportunity initiative, which seeks to raise $1 million to provide equal opportunities and financial assistance to minority students and other traditionally underrepresented populations.

“My parents taught me that education was the way out of poverty. I took a leap of faith by attending SIU,” he says. “I’ve been afforded tremendous opportunities. According to the word of God, of whom much is given… much is required.

“I want to leave a legacy for students who have a desire to attend college, but may not necessarily have the means to do so. It is important for me to be a messenger of hope.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “Ken Brown is a gentleman who has conquered challenges to acquire a great deal of success. He is clearly thankful for the skills and knowledge he acquired as a student at SIU Carbondale and aspires to return the favor by supporting the educational goals of ambitious students who follow him. This represents an outstanding display of philanthropy and generosity on his part.”

The University and Carbondale communities can hear Brown’s story firsthand during his visit to campus on Monday, Jan. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 26. Brown will be speaking and visiting with various student organizations and leaders, the University’s student affairs division and campus administrators.

Presentations are open to the public at 7 p.m. both days. On Monday, attendees are invited to gather at the Student Center Auditorium, while Tuesday’s presentation will be held in the lower level of Grinnell Hall on campus. Book signing sessions are scheduled to take place after each event. In addition, Brown will also speak at a Brown Bag Luncheon at noon on Tuesday, in the Kaskaskia/Missouri Rooms of the Student Center.

The Division of Student Affairs is sponsoring Brown’s campus visit in conjunction with the SIU Foundation.

The owner and operator of two McDonald’s restaurants in the Detroit area by the age of 35, Brown says he relishes the opportunity to share his message with students at his alma mater.

“Life and success are about choices, challenges and change. Life is 10 percent of what happens to you, and 90 percent of how you respond to it,” he says. “Any student can be successful. Once you make your mind up to be successful, all that can stop this from happening is yourself. There is no other competition.”

Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs, says Brown’s message should resonate with the University community.

“I think he’s got a great message to share with people. It’s always good to have an alumnus come back and have a strong message to deliver to our students,” Dietz says. “This is a great opportunity for people to see a real success story and hear how he got from point A to point B. He came from very modest means and worked as a busboy and waiter when he came to SIUC as a student. He readily admits he could not have made it to where he is now if not for the support and assistance he received along the way.”

Brown, 43, was born to unmarried, teenage parents. He experienced a humble beginning to his life, including 10 home evictions. Despite financial challenges his family encountered, Brown’s parents stressed perseverance and insisted that each of their children attain a college education. He subsequently applied for Pell Grants, guaranteed loans and financial assistance. Brown entered SIUC in the fall of 1984. However, Brown had a modest C average in high school. Southern accepted him through its Center for Basic Skills (now Center for Academic Success), a special admissions program for students who display promise. He received probationary acceptance to SIUC, and had to earn at least a B average during his freshman year to be processed through general admissions. Brown wasn’t going to be denied; he accumulated a 3.15 grade point average and was accepted into full admission.

“I had a burning desire to be successful. I wasn’t the best student academically on campus, but there wasn’t anyone on campus with more desire. Desire is crucial to being successful as a student or employee,” he says. “My mother and father taught us that all things are possible if you believe. SIU presented me with an opportunity to be the author, director and star of my own destiny. “

Brown joined the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity his sophomore year. Additionally, he learned various facets of the restaurant business as a student worker at Saluki Grill, a small café on campus, which spurred his interest and passion for food service and management. After graduating from Southern, he was hired as an assistant director for ARA Services, a food management company. He spent the next 12 years progressing to various roles within the industry, including general manager for Wendy’s, sales manager for Kraft Foods, and sales consultant for The Assmussen Waxler Group and McDonald’s Corp., prior to becoming a McDonald’s owner.

The SIUC graduate’s book entitled, “From Welfare to Faring Well,” depicts his journey from welfare to millionaire. Brown has subsequently retired from McDonald’s, and currently serves as a life and success coach, and speaks to Fortune 400 companies, schools, churches and various organizations worldwide. In addition, he has authored and sold 20,000 copies of two life-changing books, “A Leap of Faith” and “L.I.F.E. – Living In Freedom Everyday.”

“As a life and success coach, my primary focus is to help people enhance their vision, find their passion and understand their actions,” Brown says. “The word of God is that to be truly great, you must first serve others. Once you find a need and fill it, you never want for money again. That is what SIU did for me. It provided solutions for me. I want our current students to have that sense of empowerment.”

Brown and his wife of 18 years, Deidre, live in West Bloomfield, Mich., with their three children – Austin, 14, Bradley, 11, and Drake, 8.