Photo from Daily Egyptian
By Sue Davis
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale today launched its first-ever comprehensive capital campaign through the SIU Foundation with a goal to raise at least $100 million and with the news that the University has a pledge for the largest gift in its history.
The campaign kick-off event featured an upscale, black-tie dinner held under a sophisticated tent that filled the floor of the SIU Arena – home to the nationally acclaimed basketball Salukis.
SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler praised the volunteers, alumni and friends of the University for their continued support. "We are very pleased because those who are closest to Southern, continue to show us that they care about this great university, " he said. "They recognize the opportunity we provide. Today, as we announce the largest gift commitment in the University's history -- a $10.2 million gift from SimmonsCooper LLC to fund the new cancer institute at our School of Medicine in Springfield – we can be sure that others will follow the example set by SimmonsCooper. We greatly appreciate their generosity and support."
The comprehensive campaign, Opportunity Through Excellence, grew from Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the comprehensive plan for Southern. It calls for the University to become one of the Top 75 public research universities by 2019 – the year it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
SIU Board of Trustees member John Simmons founded SimmonsCooper, based in East Alton with offices in Chicago. "We believe this is the only instance where a law firm has made such a sizable commitment in this area of vital medical research," he said. "SimmonsCooper has been at the forefront in fighting for justice for cancer victims. We will continue to show that commitment with our hearts and with our pocketbook."
The University's comprehensive campaign focuses on raising money for scholarships, establishing endowed faculty positions, expanding graduate fellowships and assistantships, enhancement of facilities, and other programs and services that will directly elevate the student experience.
Marsha Ryan, chair of the Opportunity Through Excellence Campaign, said, "The campaign is an opportunity for everyone to play a part in the University's future. The gift we announced today as well as all of the gifts we have received to date are examples of the power of public-private partnerships. We know that private giving will give us the support we need to continue to improve. In an era where state dollars are in increasing demand, private donations are needed to make a difference."
In a special news conference carried by satellite uplink, SIUC officials announced that they already have $54 million in pledges and gifts toward the final goal.
SIUC Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and SIU Foundation CEO, Rickey N. McCurry said the University has served as home to many first-generation college students. The institution also has a history of providing access and opportunity to a diverse student body. "This is Southern's time to shine and for our alumni and friends to give back to an institution that has a legacy of opening doors," McCurry said. "The excitement on campus today is overwhelming."
Keynote speaker for the campaign dinner was former Secretary of State from New York Randy Daniels. Daniels, who holds degrees in journalism and government from Southern, said the campaign represents the inherent power of public-private partnerships. "In New York state we became aware of just what these partnerships could do when we saw them fuel a renaissance in Harlem," he said. "They accomplished what the government could not do alone and they accomplished what the private sector could not do on its own."
The SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU is named just two years into the institute's existence. Ground was broken on a new facility for the treatment center in July at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield. It employs a staff of 50 people and that is expected to grow to 100 in the course of the next two years.
"Building a Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine that provides state-of-the-art treatment and compassionate care for our patients will take investments and support from many," said Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of the medical school. "Having generous donors like John Simmons and Jeff Cooper obviously propels this young cancer institute towards the comprehensive cancer care program serving the entire region that we're committed to developing in Springfield."