As Jonathon and I were walking campus this morning I was reflecting on the value that SIUC brings to the Southern Illinois region. Having been employed there for over thirty-two years and retired for nearly nine, I have witnessed countless lives that have been enhanced by the outreach of our school.
I was talking with my friend the other evening and we were reflecting on the former location of the Old Main building prior to it’s burning in 1969.
You see in the above photo Altgeld Hall to the left, Shryock Auditorium in the middle, and the Allyn Building on the right.
It is still not known what caused the devastating fire.
This happened close to the conclusion of the tenure of President Delyte Morris. Dr. Morris came to the University in 1948 and was President for 22 years. When he arrived Southern Illinois University Normal was a small Teacher’s College and when he retired it was a Carnegie II University with a Medical School in Springfield and a Law School on the Carbondale Campus as well as a campus in Edwardsville.
SIUC is situated in the most lovely geographical location in the state. Students attend from around the world to enjoy the peaceful serene settings that are so conducive to reflection and study and thought.
President Morris understood that he was building an oasis of learning in the heart of the desert of Little Egypt! One of his founding precepts was innovation and entrepreneurship! SIUC is the economic engine of Southern Illinois and much of the success of the entire region can be directly attributed to our University!
Having been a direct recipient of the opportunity that SIUC affords I can attest that being associated with the University has been a significant blessing for both myself and my family! When I began on October 10, 1978 I was newly married and driving a 1962 Ford Fairlane automobile. Our grocery budget was $25 per week and I had a holes in my shoes. No one had ever suggested to me that I should take college courses and I was pleased to have a high school education. Soon after beginning my career I enrolled for a class or two per semester, along with my good friend, Steve, and we commenced what many thought we were incapable of!
I really did not know how to react when in 1984 Dr. Carol Burns asked to speak with me after class and whereupon she told me that I had the academic ability to succeed in any field that I chose! I was…what I am not often…speechless!
I was honored to be a member of the Building Services staff…and I have never know a more professional and hard working group of men and women in my life! Building Services is integral in the recruitment and retention of our most precious University citizens…our students! I have known countless students who would have withdrawn from SIUC if it had not been for the caring and mentoring of their civil service colleagues on the custodial crews that they worked on.
When I began my career…I knew few people that did not look like me and come from similar customs. On my first evening work-shift I began to interact with people from around the globe!
My first supervisor was a kind African American gentleman who smoked the most aromatic cigars! He told someone who had been giving me a difficult time that, ‘You understand that Jay is my son…he just won’t call me daddy?’
I have had the opportunity to visit Europe on several occasions and have met the most beautiful and loving people from many different cultures and faiths. The tapestry of our world is much larger than Southern Illinois…and Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…revealed that truth to me!
Note: The photos of Old Main burning are from ‘A Southern Illinois University Pictorial History,’ by Betty Mitchell