For the past, nearly 10 years, I have been retired and enjoying the ‘Life of Riley.’ I spent over 32 years of enjoyable service to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, and I have continued to visit my campus on a daily basis. SIUC never ceases to amaze me and I find something new each day that I visit the majesty of the Jewel of Little Egypt. I know I must appear unique to those who see me snapping photos across the campus on such a regular basis. I have noticed my satisfaction when I take a photo that I am pleased with.
I can recall, so many years ago, being intrigued with the university. As a youngster in Eldorado, Illinois, the annual visits of the SIUC students who were studying theatre and their performance in my little school…mesmerized me. As I watched the expertise of the actors, I was transported to another place and possibilities and hopes and dreams…for a boy from Chicago who was raised in Southern Illinois.
When I began at SIUC in October, 1978, I could not believe my good fortune at having become affiliated with such an institution for good. One of my first impressions was the amazing diversity that I was able to interact with on a nightly basis. In those halcyon days there were students from over 70 nations that attend Southern.
My first university class, ‘An introduction to computers,’ was a revelation to me in that I earned an, A, for the course and the professor encouraged me to continue my education.
The combination of enjoying success in Building Services, and being a member of a community that had no end to the vistas that it opened for those who chose to partake of them…was inspiring. SIUC is a university that is a working persons school. Planted amidst the farm land and coal fields of Southern Illinois, it is a place that welcomes the first generation college student. Yet, it is an international university.
The opportunity and hope that SIUC brings to the city of Carbondale and the surrounding Southern Illinois region is tremendous. Being the largest employer in the area, its economic impact is significant.
I mentioned to MJ soon after I began working at SIU that there was a different culture at the university. I had been accustomed to being rather myopic in my views…and I was surrounded by others who thought in a similar vein. When I became a member of the University Community. my eyes were opened to the much wider and diverse and ‘coat of many colors,’ of humanity that God had created. I found that many people thought differently than me and spoke differently than me and worshiped differently than me. I was enlightened to discover that the world was not contained, under a glass globe, but was rather much more interesting and lovely and encompassing…than I had imagined!
Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale gave me something to strive for and anticipation for not only what tomorrow will bring but what a thousand tomorrows will bring.
I reminisce about my former colleagues mentoring their student co-workers. How they brought food for the student members of their housekeeping crews on a nightly basis. How they took many of them into their homes on holidays…when they had no where to go. How they listened to their problems…and were surrogate moms and dads to young people who were lonely. I can still feel the happiness and the feeling of home, at our annual Thanksgiving Dinner @ SIU. For many years we fed 200 or more, smiling students, from all over our planet.
I can still see the little, thin, wide eyed boy as he sat in the darkened auditorium while the SIU’s theatre students performed on the stage…and his subsequent life in the land of his dreams.