Ashley endowed professorships announced

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Rehabilitation Institute recently named the recipients of the inaugural Dr. Mark and Susan Ashley Endowed Professorship of Audiology and Dr. Mark and Susan Ashley Endowed Professorship of Speech Pathology.

The professorships bear the names of alumni Mark and Sue Ashley and the recipients are Sandie M. Bass-Ringdahl and Kenneth O. Simpson. The Ashleys recently provided funding to endow the professorships.

“Mark and Susan Ashley have expressed a great deal of appreciation for the education they received at SIU Carbondale. Their support demonstrates a desire to afford students who follow them with that same opportunity. It also provides the University with resources to recognize outstanding professors who are mentoring our young people. We are honored by the generosity exhibited by Mark and Susan Ashley,” said Jeff Lorber, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of development for the SIU Foundation.

Bass-Ringdahl and Simpson recently received $5,000 with the funds earmarked for research, professional development and travel. Bass-Ringdahl is an assistant professor of audiology while Simpson is an associate professor of speech pathology.

“We are very pleased to provide this important support to the University and the Rehabilitation Institute. SIU has a proud and rich tradition in both education and clinical interventions for people with disabilities. Our career success derives from our experiences at SIU and it is only fitting that we enable these professorships,” Mark Ashley said.

Ashley earned his master’s degree in speech pathology at SIU Carbondale and while a graduate student, worked at the Center for Comprehensive Services. After graduation, he founded the Centre for Neuro Skills (CNS) in 1980 in Bakersfield, Calif., continuing his work providing services to people with brain injuries. He is currently president. Susan Ashley, vice president of the Centre for Neuro Skills, also earned her master’s degree in communication disorders and sciences at SIU Carbondale.

According to John J. Benshoff, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Services, the endowment allowed the college to attract Bass-Ringdahl to the faculty, opening a new dimension at the Center for Communication Disorders, as well as to provide a stipend to Simpson for his leadership and work.

Carl Flowers, acting director of the Rehabilitation Institute, said Bass-Ringdahl and Simpson are the first endowed professorships for the College of Education and Human Services.

“Mark and Susan’s support of the Rehabilitation Institute, in the form of the endowed professorships, is very much appreciated by the college as well as by the Rehabilitation Institute faculty, staff and students,” Flowers said.

Bass-Ringdahl earned her doctorate in speech and hearing science in 2002 at the University of Iowa. She earned a master’s degree in audiology from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from the University of Florida. Before joining the SIU Carbondale faculty, she held a number of teaching and research positions at the University of Iowa between 1998 and 2011, most recently as an assistant professor in communication sciences and disorders.

She previously held positions in audiology as well and is a licensed audiologist in Iowa. Her research interests include early speech development in young children with hearing loss, cochlear implants and early identification and intervention for those with hearing impairment.

Simpson holds a doctorate in speech/language pathology from the University of Nebraska in 1995. He earned his master’s degree in communication disorders and sciences and his bachelor’s degree in psychology education at the University of South Dakota. He joined the faculty at SIU Carbondale in 1994.

Simpson was the Rehabilitation Institute’s Teacher of the Year in 1998 and is program director for both the undergraduate and graduate communication disorders and sciences programs. Prior to joining the SIU Carbondale faculty, Simpson was a public school speech/language pathologist for 12 years in Iowa. He is a certified speech-language pathologist and his primary research interests include augmentative and alternative communication, interaction analysis and the social use of language by those with severe expressive communication impairment.

The Ashleys now have three CNS facilities in California and Texas, employing hundreds of people with clientele from a wide area. A few years ago, the CNS clinical research and education foundation began its efforts toward the furtherance of brain injury research efforts. The Ashley professorships are but the latest example of the commitment the couple has to its alma mater. Each year an outstanding Communication Disorders and Sciences graduate student in the College of Education and Human Services receives the Mark and Sue Ashley Scholarship during the Guy A. Renzaglia Lecture and Rehabilitation Awards Ceremony in late spring.

In addition, Mark Ashley has published jointly with a number of University faculty members while CNS has also offered internships and post-doctoral fellowships to SIU Carbondale students. In addition, there have been joint research efforts between CNS and University faculty and students.

SIU Carbondale awarded Ashley an honorary doctorate of science in 2002 and he earned recognition as the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1995 from the Rehabilitation Institute’s Communication Disorders and Sciences Program. He serves on the Brain Injury Association of America’s board of directors were he is immediate past chair and part of the Chairman’s Circle. He is also chair of the California Brain Injury Association’s board of directors.

Simon Institute unveils Alexander Lane Internship

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — As the first African American male student at what would become Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Alexander Lane was definitely a trailblazer and a change agent.

Lane rose from meager beginnings in pre-Civil War Mississippi to become a school principal, physician, and an Illinois state legislator, in addition to attending Southern Illinois Normal University.

To honor Lane’s legacy, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute today (Nov. 16) announced the Alexander Lane Internship Program. The paid internship will allow at least one student each spring to work with a minority member of the Illinois General Assembly toward a goal of carrying on Lane’s legacy of high achievement and public service.

“Not only is Alexander Lane an important, and overlooked, part of SIU history, but he serves as a role model for our students today,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “To come from his humble beginnings in the post-Civil War south to then graduate college and become a medical and political leader in Illinois is an impressive story that needs to be told. An internship in his honor will be a living legacy for him that can inspire and help our students — and provide a service to the community and policy makers today.”

The Institute is more than halfway to raising the $150,000 for the endowed internship. The first internship award will likely be in spring 2013, said Matt Baughman, Institute associate director.

Baughman directed the Institute’s research into Lane’s life earlier this year after he visited a presentation during Black History Month at Morris Library and learned there was still much to discover about Lane.

“I was immediately drawn to the Alexander Lane story and moved by the idea our University could have such an impressive and compelling account of its first black male student that was just waiting to be widely shared,” Baughman said.

The celebration of the history of diversity at SIU Carbondale included information on Lane, who lived in Tamaroa when he enrolled in the teachers college in 1876, just two years after instruction at Southern Illinois Normal University began. Historian Pamela A. Smoot, a clinical assistant professor at SIU Carbondale, along with students Michara T. Canty, and Andrew S. Barbero as research assistants, spent several months looking into Lane’s life and legacy. The Institute will release Smoot’s paper on Lane’s life in the coming weeks.

During her research, Smoot found varying dates for when Lane was born. Lane died Nov. 11, 1911, in Chicago. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Carbondale with his wife, Isabelle Holland, whom Lane met while a University student.

“He is one of SIU’s success stories whose story has not been told,” Smoot said. “He deserves his rightful place in SIU’s history, the history of the state of Illinois, and the medical profession.”

Lane’s history also is important for the University, she said.

“It speaks to the fact that Southern Illinois Normal University engaged in diversity almost at its inception. From the mid-19th century through today, diversity is still a part of SIU Carbondale.”

Lane was the third African American student to enroll at the University; two females enrolled earlier, although their names are unknown.

Smoot’s research included Morris Library’s Special Collections Research Center, in addition to trips to Lane’s hometown in Durant, Miss., and Chicago, where Lane’s granddaughter and great-grandson now live. They also went to Springfield and worked with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Illinois State Library, and the Legislative Research Unit, in addition to the Chicago Public Library’s Woodson Regional Library, and historical societies in Chicago and Perry County.

Records indicate there were only 10 free blacks in Holmes County, Miss., while Lane was a child, and Smoot believes Lane was born into slavery. As a youngster, Lane spent time around a nearby Union Army camp, where he befriended a Union Army colonel, she said. The colonel, whose last name is Lyons, stayed in Mississippi during the early years of Reconstruction and asked Lane’s mother if he could take her young son when he returned to Illinois. Lane’s mother agreed to the proposal on the promise her son would receive an education, Smoot said.

The mother’s decision to allow her child to leave is poignant, Smoot said. Lane’s mother didn’t know whether she would see or hear from her son again, or whether the colonel would keep his promise of providing her son an education. During that time many former slaves would apprentice their children to others, and included education as part of the agreement, Smoot said.

“In her heart she really believed it would be better for him than being in Mississippi,” Smoot said.

The colonel returned to Southern Illinois, and met Joseph B. Curlee, a “substantial landowner” in Tamaroa, Smoot said. The colonel allowed Curlee and his wife, Margaret, to raise Lane as part of their own family, and Lane worked as a servant and farm laborer. Lane’s obituary notes he had two brothers, and Smoot believes that was a reference to the Curlees’ two sons. Curlee was also a Civil War veteran.

“In one document I have it clearly says they were raised as brothers,” she said.

After attending Southern Illinois Normal University, Lane became the first principal of the black Carbondale primary school, later known as Attucks School. He moved to Chicago and graduated in 1895 from Rush Medical College, and then established his medical practice, becoming a prominent physician on the city’s south side, Smoot said. In 1906, Lane became the ninth African American elected to the Illinois General Assembly, and was re-elected in 1908.

A preference is that internship recipients are minority students. Internship recipients can major in any discipline. According to the Institute, interns will work with a member of the General Assembly’s black caucus on a variety of topics and assignments, which include reviewing and analyzing legislation, researching issues for proposed legislation, attending policy briefings and committee hearings, and establishing contacts with state agencies and other legislative offices “to develop a full understanding of how state government works to meet the needs of the public.”

The internship will provide students opportunities that embody Lane’s legacy, said Smoot, who speaks of Lane as a “change agent.”

“The internship program will be a wonderful tribute to Alexander Lane,” she said. “I’m hoping students will appreciate having such an opportunity to represent this icon that at some point, they will be interested enough to pursue a political career.”

Baughman said it was particularly fitting, given Paul Simon’s dedication to civil rights and diversity issues, that the Simon Institute hosts the Alexander Lane Internship.

“Paul Simon would have loved the Alexander Lane story,” Baughman said. “A major factor of his decision to create the institute at SIU Carbondale was to work with students who were first generation, disadvantaged or minorities.”

Donors can join the Alexander Lane Internship Founding Members Club by making a major gift or pledge by Dec. 31, 2011. Contributions of any amount are welcome and those making gifts by the end of the year will be considered a special part of the Alexander Lane Internship Endowment. More information on the internship endowment drive and the program is available at

Endowment to benefit microbiology grad students

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A retired microbiology professor who received initial inspiration for his research work from mentors at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has decided to return the favor at his alma mater.

Jnanendra Kumar Bhattacharjee, a graduate student in SIU Carbondale’s Department of Microbiology, 1961-1965, studied yeast genetics under the guidance of the late Carl Lindegren, a professor and department chair at the University. Bhattacharjee credits Lindegren for laying the groundwork for a distinguished career in which he conducted yeast genetics research for 45 years.

In appreciation for his experience at SIU Carbondale, Bhattacharjee, and his wife, Tripti, have established the Dr. Jnanendra K. and Tripti Bhattacharjee Endowment to support various endeavors of SIU Carbondale’s microbiology graduate students.

“The educational and research opportunities I received at SIU Carbondale were invaluable. And consequently, the professional success and accomplishments I’ve enjoyed occurred as a result of that experience,” Bhattacharjee says. “Additionally, my wife and I were quite impressed with the wonderful hospitality and the advances in the microbiology department during our visit to campus.

“Therefore, establishing this endowment presented me with an opportunity to give back to the department so that other graduate students can receive the same opportunities and encouragement that benefited me.”

Doug Fix, chair of the SIU Carbondale biology and microbiology department, says the endowment will provide funds for professional development activities. It will support graduate students interested in attending major conferences, which enables them to present their research and meet fellow researchers in the field to discuss future employment possibilities.

“Dr. Bhattacharjee has always been a contributor to the microbiology program. We are particularly grateful to him for providing this support for our graduate students,” Fix says. “And most recently, we are honored by his incredibly generous donation that has created a new endowment. The proceeds from this endowment will allow us to provide our graduate students with opportunities that have become increasingly difficult in these uncertain financial times when state and federal funding seem limited or dwindling. This is one of the most important ways we can help our students succeed and we thank Dr. Bhattacharjee for making this possible.”

Jeff Lorber, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of development for the SIU Foundation, says: “Dr. Bhattacharjee clearly treasures his experience at this institution and is pleased with the advances in its microbiology department. He values the mentors who guided him along the way, and aspires to support the educational and professional endeavors of young people who follow him.”

Bhattacharjee, a professor emeritus of microbiology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, received his doctorate in microbiology from SIU Carbondale in 1965. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research under the late Murray Strassman at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and ascended to assistant member, 1966-1968. Bhattacharjee joined Miami’s faculty in 1968, where he mentored a large number of undergraduate, M.S., Ph.D. students, and postdoctoral fellows until his retirement in 2005.

Bhattacharjee’s career is highlighted by numerous published research articles, several U.S. patents, grants, awards, honors, and memberships in professional organizations. A life member of the SIU Alumni Association, Bhattacharjee is grateful for his experience at SIU Carbondale.

“The University presented me with outstanding opportunities. I’m forever grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Lindegren, who were both scientists; other SIU Carbondale microbiology professors, and President and Mrs. Delyte Morris, as well as foreign students advisor Ms. Mary Wakeland who provided a welcoming environment for international students,” he says. “My successful family and professional life really goes back to the education and experiences I received at SIU.

“I relish that period in my life. I have a great deal of gratitude and I’m humble for the experience.”

Doctoral Student Wins Inaugural Swartz Award

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — An award named in memory of a former Southern Illinois University Carbondale administrator known for his generosity to international students has been presented for the first time.

Yuan Bingxin, an SIU Carbondale doctoral student from China, is this year’s recipient of the Willis Swartz Graduate Student Award. Scholarships will be presented on an annual basis through income generated from the Willis Swartz endowment. Preference is given to international and incoming graduate students.

Bingxin, who is studying chemistry and biochemistry, says the scholarship has special meaning.

“It demonstrates that others see me as having potential to impact our society’s future, and that my hard work has really paid off. The scholarship is also a great honor for my family, who has supported me from the beginning,” she says. “This award is not an ending; it’s just the beginning. It makes me want to be better personally and in my academic career. Additionally, I’m motivated to attain more achievements in chemistry.”

The Willis Swartz Graduate Student Award Endowment was established to honor the work of Willis Swartz, who was hired to chair the department of government at SIU Carbondale in 1930. He became the first chairman of the graduate council in 1943, and seven years later, Swartz was named the first dean of SIU Carbondale’s Graduate School. Additionally, Swartz, who served the University for 35 years, was chosen to direct foreign student programs at SIU Carbondale in 1947.

Swartz, who died in 1965, was known for making the transition to college life easier for international students. He was so appreciated that in 1957, a group of 26 Chinese students presented a plaque to Swartz and his wife in grateful appreciation for their help at SIU Carbondale.

A Carbondale couple — Juh Wah Chen, retired dean of SIU Carbondale’s College of Engineering, and his wife, Han Lin, who received her master’s in science from the University in 1958 — aspired to establish an endowment in honor of Dean Swartz. Han Lin communicated this concept to George and Nora Wang of Laguna Beach, Calif., and David and Isabella Yang of San Louis Obispo, Calif., and received their full support. The Wangs and Yangs obtained their graduate degrees from the University, with the support of Dean Swartz. Han Lin, along with the Wangs and Yangs, distributed letters to fellow international alumni — mostly Chinese students who attended from 1950 to 1965 — soliciting contributions and coordinated this effort.

“We were close to Dean Swartz because he treated international students really well,” Han Lin says. “Everybody thought very highly of Dean Swartz. His former students are contributing to this fund to continue this spirit.”

Han Lin says it only took less than a year to generate funds to establish the endowment.

“These alumni are successful and like to give back to SIU. And they appreciated Dean Swartz because he did so many little things to help international students as they made the adjustment to college life in the states,” Juh Wah says. “Dean Swartz often picked students up at the train station, and some international students even stayed at his home. Dean Swartz did so much for students and was highly regarded.”

John Koropchak, SIU Carbondale vice chancellor for research and graduate school dean, says the award appropriately honors a man who cared deeply for students.

“It is wonderful to learn of the great impact that someone like Dr. Swartz had on students’ lives. Even after 60 years, he is still fondly remembered,” Koropchak says. “Dr. and Mrs. Chen have rejuvenated that expression by reorganizing this alumni group to endow this award and create a vehicle for supporting incoming graduate students for years to come.”

Jeff Lorber, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of development for the SIU Foundation, says: “This award is a testament to the influence Dr. Swartz had on students. Particularly, international students who attended SIU Carbondale during that era are forever grateful, and now, they have chosen to give back and support current students in their educational endeavors. This is a true legacy in honor of a special man who contributed a great deal to this institution and its students.”

Teaching/research greenhouse gets boost from ISA

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The umbrella organization that serves the needs of all soybean farmers in the state of Illinois is making a substantial contribution, funded in part by the Illinois soybean checkoff, to Southern Illinois University Carbondale. This support will enhance educational and research opportunities for students in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A $250,000 contribution from the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) will help build a state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching and research greenhouse facility. This new 22,000-square-foot facility replaces a 50-year-old greenhouse that is a core learning laboratory for the entire Plant and Soil Science program.

The proposed modernized greenhouse facility will improve the hands-on education that inspires innovative solutions needed for the increasing global food demand.

“The Illinois Soybean Association is an important industry partner for the College of Agricultural Sciences. It has fostered growth of our soybean program, and it has created outstanding opportunities for our students and faculty,” says Todd Winters, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “It is yet another example of the Illinois Soybean Association’s commitment to higher education. Support of this new facility is essential to preparing our students for the work force.”

With the help of the Illinois Soybean Association, the soybean program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has evolved from research in soybean production management and weed science to biotechnology, genetics, environmental sustainability, health and nutrition.

“We’re committed to continuing our support for soybean research at SIU,” says SIU Carbondale graduate Dean Campbell, a Coulterville resident and ISA District 17 director. “This investment by our soybean farmers also aims to enhance our commitment to the soybean scholarship program by providing facilities for the recipients and other students to receive the training they need for careers in crop sciences.”

Jeff Lorber, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement, concurs.

“The Illinois Soybean Association has a longstanding commitment to research and education,” Lorber says. “The new greenhouse is going to expand and enhance the educational experience for our students. We are thankful for this generous contribution.”

In addition, the new Undergraduate Teaching and Research Greenhouse will create space to accommodate workshop and outreach initiatives for industry partners including the Illinois soybean growers. It will also encourage life-long learning by accommodating educational programming for children, adults, and teachers at grade schools and high schools.

McDonnoughs create scholarship endowment

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — As business and community leaders, Clint and Debra McDonnough know from experience the importance of a quality education in achieving success. That experience led the Texas couple with Southern Illinois roots to pledge funds for a scholarship endowment to help Southern Illinois University Carbondale students reach their educational goals.

The McDonnoughs are donating at least $30,000 to the Southern Illinois University Foundation to create the Clint and Debra McDonnough Scholarship Endowment. Interest income from the endowment is funding an annual scholarship award beginning in fall 2011.

The scholarship will go to a high school senior from one of the Connect SI counties: Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White and Williamson. Admittance to the College of Business at SIUC is also a requirement and preference will go to students who participate in Lead SI, a regional youth networking and leadership initiative.

“Clint and Debra McDonnough are strongly committed to the greater Dallas community, but they continue to be very devoted to their native Southern Illinois and SIUC,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “The McDonnoughs place great value on attaining a college degree and they are making quite a commitment to help Southern Illinois students in their educational quest. The McDonnoughs are doing their part to foster support of future business leaders. This is a wonderful gesture on their part.”

Clint McDonnough, a Pinckneyville native and 1977 accounting graduate of SIUC, is the Dallas office managing partner for Ernst and Young LLP. He oversees the daily operations for one of the firm’s largest markets and also serves as the company’s spokesman and representative in the area. Over his 34-year career with the firm, McDonnough initially worked in the St. Louis office, then at the global headquarters in Cleveland, before becoming the firm’s managing partner of assurance and advisory business services for the southwest area including northern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

His previous roles also included serving as national director of real estate advisory services, working to create a unified national real estate consulting practice with focus on development and new services implementation. He also served as managing partner for the Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group as well as a stint as coordinating partner for many of the agency’s clients.

McDonnough is active in numerous community organizations, including the Dallas Education Foundation Board, the Dallas Citizens Council Board, the Dallas Regional Chamber Board and Education Committee, the University of Texas at Dallas Development Board. McDonnough served two years as the United Way’s general campaign chairman and is presently a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Committee.

The greater Dallas community has shown its appreciation for his efforts with a number of awards, including the 2008 Ebby Halliday Executive’s Excellence Award from Executive Women International, the 2009 Chairman’s Award from the Dallas Regional Chamber and the 2009 Flame of Honor Award for Distinguished Community Service from the Southwest Jewish Congress. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc., also named him a 2010 Dallas Local Hero.

Debra McDonnough, originally from Highland, earned an accounting degree at SIU Edwardsville. Dallas residents since 1986, the couple has three children.

“There are probably two main reasons that served as the impetus for us creating this endowment,” Clint McDonnough said. During the couple’s return trips to the region, they saw a struggling economy with high unemployment, and while greatly encouraged by the efforts of the region’s residents, the McDonnoughs wanted to help.

“We wanted to do something, to give something back to the community that was so instrumental in helping us during our formative years,” McDonnough said.

In addition, he said his good friend Ron Barger, a Dallas attorney and 1973 Murphysboro High School graduate, was a co-founder and continuing supporter of LEAD SI, an initiative to encourage talented high school students to maximize their leadership skills and further their education. In talking with Barger, McDonnough learned about LEAD SI and found it to be a needed program and an excellent vehicle to help the McDonnoughs with their goal of assisting Southern Illinois teens pursue business degrees.

He said that although he and Debra are deeply involved in their work and charitable efforts and live in the Dallas area, creating the scholarship is something definitive they can do to help.

“Clint and Debra McDonnough have made a significant investment in Southern Illinois with a scholarship enabling LEAD SI students to pursue a business degree at SIUC. It is our hope that the recipients of this scholarship will develop into future business leaders and, following the McDonnoughs’ example, will give back to their communities,” said Dennis Cradit, dean of the College of Business.

LEAD SI, begun in 2008, invites youths to participate in a training institute at SIUC where they develop their communication, problem solving, team building and decision making skills while networking with leaders in the region. The high school juniors and seniors then participate in events throughout the year focusing on their development as future leaders able to address regional problems with regional solutions. LEAD SI is the youth leadership component of Connect SI, a regional economic and community development initiative.

“I’m very grateful for the vision of the McDonnough family in connecting this scholarship to LEAD SI. What they have accomplished is the creation of a strong linkage between collaborative leadership and a degree in business taught in an academic environment of excellence. Both are essential elements for regional and national growth. Together they form a powerful catalyst for positive change,” said Rex Duncan, director of community development at SIUC and president of the Connect SI Foundation board of directors.

The scholarship is renewable for up to three additional years for recipients maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 2.8.

“We believe that a college degree is the gateway to help fulfill career goals. After growing up in Southern Illinois, we want to provide financial support and opportunities for Southern Illinois high school graduates to pursue a college degree in business and inspire them to contribute to the Southern Illinois economy in a leadership role,” said Clint McDonnough.

Students’ investment fund success pays off

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Success is creating opportunity for the students who manage the Saluki Student Investment Fund.

Modeled after a real investment management firm, the Saluki Student Investment Fund (SSIF) is a Registered Student Organization at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with more than a decade of success investing funds for the Southern Illinois University Foundation. The SSIF Foundation portfolio, originally totaling $200,000, has grown to about $370,000 since May 2000. In recognition of that success, the foundation recently increased the SSIF management account total to $1 million.

“The SIU Foundation’s investment committee is clearly pleased with the performance exhibited by these young people,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “We’re excited to offer this opportunity to our students. SSIF is a pleasure to work with and we look forward to continuing this relationship well into the future.”

Students in SSIF select stocks and fund investments, study results and make presentations regarding their performance. It gives them real-world portfolio management and investment research experience, coupled with the opportunity to improve their written and oral communications skills. The goal is maximizing long-term investment results.

Shannon Daily, a finance major from Herrin, and Brad Bell, a finance/mathematics double major from Cobden, are both members of SSIF and say working with the group has been an invaluable experience.

Bell joined SSIF in fall 2010, initially just to get involved in a student activity and due to his interest in stocks and finance. But he said the choice “has been one of the best decisions I have made as an undergraduate. I learned how to apply the valuation models and finance techniques introduced in classes. My belief is that one doesn’t get true understanding without application and the SSIF is a forum for undergraduates to do that.”

Daily joined the team in January and said it is a professional organization of students who take their responsibility to their clients very seriously. She appreciates that SSIF provides “an experiential learning environment for the application of classroom knowledge” and she said she’s thankful the SIU Foundation gives SIUC students “this incredible opportunity.”

“During the last semester, I learned how to do a cash flow valuation. I also had the opportunity to participate in the presentation for the SIU Foundation, which allowed me to learn how asset managers present to their clients. The feedback the group received was nothing but positive. I was also one of the students who went to Dayton, Ohio, for R.I.S.E. XI, a forum for students to be able to interact and learn from professionals, and while there I learned how to operate trading software with real time market data and I gained incredible insight about what investment banking is like for professionals. Participating in SSIF has made me a more competitive candidate for the careers I’m interested in, especially investment banking. I am more confident in my ability to perform the job functions expected from me. Within the next year and a half, I know I will be prepared for whatever career I choose because of the things I have and will have learned from SSIF, the fantastic finance department and Dr. (Jason) Greene,” Daily said.

Bell agreed, saying his work with SSIF has been “extremely beneficial to my development.” He calls the organization an excellent “training ground for undergraduates moving out into the professional world. We do all of the things that an institutional asset manager does, all while attending classes. We learn a lot about all the things you have to do to keep an organization ticking and communicating well and also about the accountability necessary to work at a high-level organization. These are skills that are transferable to many different disciplines. The SSIF is a great group in that we hold each other to high standards and I think we all take pride in representing SIUC in a professional manner.”

Omar and Carol Winter, both SIUC alumni, provided a $25,000 gift to launch the student investment fund in May 2000. Shortly thereafter, the SIU Foundation essentially “hired” SSIF as one of its portfolio managers, investing $200,000 for the students to manage, according to Jason Greene, associate professor of finance and faculty adviser for SSIF.

“The goal of Mr. and Mrs. Winter and the SIU Foundation was to provide SIUC undergraduate students with hands-on experience in portfolio management and investment research,” Greene said. He said the students focus the foundation’s portfolio on U.S. Mid Cap stocks, those from publicly traded U.S. companies valued at about $2 billion-$6 billion.

“This portfolio is a part of the general endowment, with gains and income benefitting the general endowment fund. As of the end of the spring 2011 semester, the portfolio had grown from its original $200,000 to approximately $370,000, reflecting a return of approximately 6.3 percent per year. Over the past seven years in particular, the fund has performed very well, outperforming its benchmark by more than one percent per year,” Greene said.

About 100 students participated with SSIF during its first decade with Professor Mark Peterson as faculty adviser. When Peterson became chair of the finance department in summer 2010, Greene stepped into the adviser post, bringing with him years of investment experience. Prior to his arrival in 2009 at SIUC, Greene was an executive with an investment management firm executive that managed about $60 billion on behalf of institutional clients including public pension funds and university endowments.

SSIF is open to all undergraduate students, regardless of their major. Membership continues to grow and is now averaging about 20 students per semester, with the majority coming from the College of Business.

“These students have shown a great deal of professionalism in diligently working to do the best job possible in managing the foundation’s money. The students focus on making the best investments possible on behalf of their client. Their investment philosophy is to capitalize on investment opportunities through focused research. They believe that their competitive advantage is their unique and unbiased perspective as students who can spot trends in the markets, especially those that are driven by or favored by their generation,” Greene said.

Each student is a member of a team focusing its research on companies within a specific sector. Sectors include technology, finance, healthcare and more. The goal of the team is to choose within each sector the companies representing the best opportunity for the investment to perform well. Greene said the experience requires students to put their classroom lessons to the test within a professional environment while learning to collaborate and take responsibility for their analysis and investment decisions.

The SIU Foundation’s Investment Committee sets high standards, which in turn inspires the students to achieve great results in both the portfolio’s performance and in their SIUC educational experience, Greene said. He noted that the students worked very hard to earn the confidence of the committee and the foundation to secure the substantial boost in the SSIF’s SIU Foundation portfolio.

“The SIU Foundation Board and the Investment Committee thereof are very proud of the SSIF, the students and their advisers, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Greene. It has been a very exciting and rewarding experience for us as board members to observe the hard work and dedication of each student and to realize how important this learning tool is to them and their futures. To listen and watch the students make their reports to the Investment Committee and to see their dedication and excitement makes us feel that perhaps we are a part of their learning experience at SIU. Many of these students will become investment specialists and will help many people manage their investment portfolios,” said Roger Gray, chair of the SIU Foundation Investment Committee.

“Over the years, the Investment Committee itself has researched many money managers before employing them. We have to have a great deal of confidence in the SSIF to allow them to manage $1 million of the Foundation’s investments. The SSIF results compare well with other managers we employ and in some cases, exceed very large professional managers. We believe the SSIF, under the guidance of Dr. Jason Greene, will continue to grow and attract attention throughout the SIU community and the investing world,” said Gray.

Gowers’ gift helps address chemistry needs

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A Distinguished Alumnus is teaming with Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s administration to fund state-of-the-art research equipment for instructors and students in the chemistry and biochemistry department.

Bob Gower, a two-degree SIUC alumnus and chair of Ensysce Biosciences in Houston, communicates regularly with the University’s chemistry professors. When the West Frankfort native was informed of the department’s equipment deficiencies, he immediately made mention of the issue in a subsequent meeting with SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng.

“It’s pretty inefficient to have equipment constantly going down. I know it’s a problem that can’t exist; especially at a great University like SIU that is striving for recognition in various aspects of research,” Gower says. “Therefore, I told Chancellor Cheng that I would be willing to help if the University was willing to do the same.”

Cheng presented a proposal to Bob and Beth Gower for $75,000, to establish a Technology Fund in the chemistry and biochemistry department. Their commitment would be matched dollar-for-dollar by the University. The Gowers obliged. Therefore, $150,000 will fund the acquisition and maintenance of equipment for instruction and research. Additionally, the fund provides the department and college with a long-term resource plan for equipping and upgrading its teaching labs.

“This is a wonderful partnership that responds to a great need in this department,” Cheng said. “Cutting-edge equipment and technology are vital to the educational process. The Gowers’ generosity provides valuable support to our faculty’s teaching and research efforts, and will help our students be better prepared when they enter their professions.”

Gower, a researcher himself, says the gift is significant and beneficial to the chemistry department.

“I’m particularly pleased that Chancellor Cheng was interested, and like myself, wanted to address the problem,” he says. “As a matter of fact, she was already on top of the issue just weeks after assuming her role at the University. I was quite impressed with her commitment to strengthen our chemistry department.”

Jay C. Means, dean of the College of Science, says the funds provided by the Gowers and Chancellor Cheng will have an immediate impact this fall semester. The department is purchasing a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer and high performance liquid chromatograph to train advanced chemistry majors in the laboratory setting. Means went on to point out that significant gifts such as this are “unique and very much appreciated during a time of fiscal uncertainty.”

The gift will assist the University in preparing students for careers after college, according to Gary R. Kinsel, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“These funds will go a long way in allowing us to provide modern chemical instruments for our students to use in their laboratory experiences. This experience is critical because they’ll need to know how to use this equipment when they join the workforce,” Kinsel says. “This definitely helps move our program forward.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation, says: “Bob and Beth Gower have historically been quite generous in supporting SIU Carbondale. Dr. Gower is appreciative of his own experience at Southern, and is particularly fond of our chemistry department. Furthermore, the support demonstrated by the Gowers and Chancellor Cheng indicates a true commitment to provide essential resources that will benefit our students well into the future.”

Gower, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from SIU Carbondale in 1958 and 1960, knows first-hand the importance of research in the business world. One of his most telling accomplishments occurred after he became president and CEO of Lyondell Petrochemical Co., which was losing approximately $200 million a year when Gower took over in 1985. The SIU alumnus transformed the Houston-based firm into one of the 100 Best Managed Companies in the World, as named by Industry Week Magazine. Petrochemical Co. became a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange company in 1989.

Prior to his success at Lyondell, Gower held various leadership positions in Sinclair Oil and Atlantic Richfield, major oil and chemistry companies in the 1960s. Also, in 2000, Gower worked closely with the late Richard Smalley, a Rice University professor who, along with two associates, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996, in forming Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. He served as president and CEO until merging CNI into another company, Unidym Corp., and continues his involvement as an investor.

A recipient of the 1996 SIU Distinguished Alumni Award, Gower relishes the opportunity to support his alma mater.

“I have enjoyed some reasonable success. But I came from a pretty humble beginnings and I know there are students at Southern with a similar background,” he says. “I know it’s an overused statement, but I truly feel indebted to SIU. So many people paid attention and provided encouragement to me as a youth in West Frankfort, at SIU, and in the church and community.

“When you are a beneficiary of such actions, the least you can do is give back if you’re in the position to do so.”

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)

Scholarships will support high-achieving freshmen

by Greg Scott

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A new scholarship fund aims to foster support of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s student recruitment and enrollment challenges.

The SIU Foundation Board of Directors is establishing a scholarship fund for high-achieving freshmen. It is striving to attract some of the best and brightest incoming students to the institution, with aspirations of making funds available to students as early as the fall 2011 semester.

The Foundation created this fund to encourage contributions in support of incoming freshmen, thereby, increasing student enrollment figures and developing long-term financial stability for the University.

“The Foundation’s primary purpose is to raise money to support the educational mission of the institution,” says Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “Members of the University community and loyal supporters can have a positive impact on our budget issues by making a contribution that helps bring in new students.”

McCurry says that SIU Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng is making the first contribution to the new fund. Criteria for the Freshman Academic Scholarship include: (1) admission to SIU Carbondale as a freshman, and (2) status as a high-achieving student consistent with the criteria of the SIU Academic Scholarship for freshmen. Recipients of the scholarship will be known as Freshman Academic Fellows. The academic scholarship office within SIUC’s Division of Enrollment Management will select award recipients.

John Nicklow, interim assistant provost, says the scholarship is a pertinent factor in recruiting accomplished students to the University.

“This is a wonderful way to utilize the generous support of employees and friends of the campus,” Nicklow says. “It directly impacts enrollment by increasing our ability to attract more high-quality students and, in turn, increases revenue to support our mission.”

Those who are interested in supporting the scholarship can write a check payable to the SIU Foundation (1235 Douglas Drive, Colyer Hall, Carbondale, Illinois 62901), or visit the Foundation online at: Donors will need to designate: “Freshman Academic Scholarship” by typing these words in the comments portion of the online giving page. You can also make a contribution by visiting the Undergraduate Academic Scholarship page of the SIU website and click on the Opportunities to Support Scholarships button.

Students can apply for the scholarship by visiting the University’s website: (, and click on the Financial Aid link under “Current Students.”

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