Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…A Land of Opportunity!

 

This is an exciting time of year for me!

SIU’s new and returning students have already started coming back to Carbondale and move in will be next week, in preparation for the first day of fall semester classes that begin on Monday, August 20th.

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I have been experiencing the first day of fall semester for 40 years.

When I was employed in Building Services, which is the housekeeping division of the Physical Plant, our department made every effort, including nightly overtime for the two weeks prior to opening day, to ensure that the over 200 campus buildings that we maintained were sparkling and immaculate…as a reflection of the elite academic offerings of our great school.

I recall, so fondly, the years that our custodial staff was integrated in and vital to the Saturday before the Monday opening of fall semester.

We had our staff in every major building and they were trained in assisting new students and their parents in finding where their classes were being held.

We understood how important that we were to the new and returning students SIU experience.  We knew that if our students felt that we cared about them…they would understand that SIU…cared about them.

During the last 13 years of my career, I was the Superintendent of the department.  Often we had in excess of 200 student staff working with us.  When a chancellor told me that he must cut our department by half a million dollars…I pleaded with him, a good man, regarding the permanent damage that would be done to our student staff, who would loose their jobs…and often be subsequently forced to leave SIU…due to  lack of finances.

The wonderful chancellor, that I was talking with, restored 100 thousand dollars to assist in retaining student custodial staff.

The pastoral beauty of SIUC is unparalleled in the State of Illinois…and through much of the nation.

Some famous entertainers, who are alumni of SIUC are: James Belushi, Hannibal Buress, Dennis Franz, Dick Gregory, Jenny McArthy, Melissa McCarthy, Bob Odenkirk,  Richard Roundtree, Robert K. Weiss.

Here is what our new Interim president says:

‘To the SIU Family and Community

It is hard to believe, but just over three weeks ago, the thought of being the president of Southern Illinois University had never crossed my mind.  But we all know things change – and sometimes rapidly.  As many of you have heard me say, I never aspired to or sought the position of SIU president.  After my fourteen years as dean and provost of the SIU School of Medicine, I was very happy to return to my first love: teaching medical students.  However, when I was asked to serve, I knew it was important for me to step up and respond to our university’s need.  I am proud and humbled to serve a university to which I have devoted most of my adult life.  Each campus has been important to me, to my family and friends, and to our communities.’

‘I have been asked to become president at a time when our university system is suffering from wounds that need immediate attention.  As you know, I am a physician by training , so my natural inclination is to heal.  To begin our road to recovery this physician is prescribing that we all take a step back and rededicate ourselves to our great institution.  We need time to walk in each other’s shoes.  We all need to realize that some changes are required to ensure the continued success of our campuses and our university as a whole.  Most importantly, we need to make a greater effort to reach beyond our own campus to get to know our fellow faculty and staff across the system.  I firmly believe that we have the ability to be stronger together through cooperation and collaboration.  If we are to heal SIU and serve our students and communities, we must do so by coming together.’    J. Kevin Dorsey, MD PhD.  Interim President, Southern Illinois University

When I first came to SIU I had little frame of reference, other than my upbringing in, virtually, all white schools, and fundamentalist christian doctrine.

SIU enabled me to see the extreme beauty of diversity and thought that is supported by facts and not fiction or fable.

I was humbled and inspired when students, from around the globe, thought of me as their friend.

I saw that the human family is a kaleidoscope of color and rich with traditions, that not only were unique and ancient…but replete with all the validity…and more…of my, closeted knowledge of God’s creation.

I have written, on more than one occasion, that Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale has a large sign that is posted over every entrance to the campus…the sign says…Opportunity…but you must visualize it with your heart!

I have many friends that are members of the faculty at SIU.  They are among the most passionate and caring professionals that I have ever met.  They not only love our students…but they give of themselves in a tireless manner…to see their proteges progress and flourish.

Having been a member of the staff, for over 32 years, I can speak with some knowledge regarding the affection and fondness that they have for our precious students.

Southern Illinois University is not the brick and mortar buildings or the lovely fountains or the Student Center or the Recreation Center…it is the members of the university community.

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Our wonderful staff, in Building Services, adopted their student custodial coworkers.

From bringing them food, on a nightly basis, to enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with them, we laughed with them…when they laughed….we rejoiced with them…when they rejoiced…and we wept with them…when they wept.

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The miracle of the oasis of harmony and inclusivity and love and free thought in the dessert of Little Egypt…is, truly, something that you must feel and see…to believe.

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Solomon, from Ghana, told me that international students wanted to work with me, when I was a custodial crew supervisor in 1980.  When I asked him why…he said…because you have no prejudice.

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I hope to be worthy of such a commendation…someday.  But his words were what I experienced each day that I was a member of the SIUC community.

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It is really a special place to receive an education and to become a citizen of our, majestic, Earth!

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