I usually walk around Campus Lake…as you know. Today I changed it up a bit and decided to walk the beautiful Campus of Southern Illinois University. Founded in 1869 as a Teachers College it grew into a preeminent Research University. Popular alumni of SIU are; Jenny McCarthy, Jim Belushi, John Belushi, Dick Gregory, and Melissa McCarthy, among many others.
Delyte Morris came to SIU in 1948 as its’ President and he became the longest serving leader of the University with twenty-two years of service. Dr. Morris built the small regional teachers college into the major Research University that it is today.
Having been associated with SIU for over thirty-two years I not only have a great love for our University but also some knowledge of leadership mis-steps that it has taken.
After the over nine year tenure of President John Guyon, Donald Beggs was elevated from the Dean of the College of Education to a two year appointment as President of SIU. Dr. Beggs was a beloved personality on the Campus and a natural leader. Under his benevolent oversight the Campus began to flourish. The SIU Community “took heart” and began to believe that our schools’ one time greatness could be achieved again. He and his lovely wife Shirley were admired and respected.
When the search for a new chancellor began, as the title of chancellor and president of the University had been reversed by then Campus system leader Ted Sanders, there were assurances made to me…as I was the civil service representative on the search committee…that if there was a “groundswell of support” Dr. Beggs would be appointed as the permanent Chancellor. Sadly the groundswell happened and the promise was not kept.
The Search Committee had the extreme good fortune to find an applicant with a dynamic personality who engaged everyone on Campus from the janitor and grounds worker to the professor and dean with her genuine concern and heartfelt belief that all of us were important and vital to the success of SIU! I said at a meeting of hundreds of members of the campus community that Chancellor Argersinger had caused us to dream again!
Chancellor Jo Ann Agersinger was terminated in under a year on sketchy trumped up charges that made no sense to anyone…and our Community felt like an orphan.
Since then Chancellors have been terminated on a regular basis…with many being less effective than their predecessor.
Now the Governor of Illinois has thwarted the budget of the state…and on July 1st Illinois will enter the second year without a budget. SIU is being starved to death…by our elected leaders…in the name of political expediency!
From the days of Chancellor Argersinger when enrollment was twenty-two thousand students…to now where it will be under seventeen thousand in the fall.
Southern Illinois University…the miracle in Little Egypt…and often termed the second jewel in the crown of the state of Illinois…with the University of Illinois being the first.
SIU…the hope of the middle class…a beacon to the world…an educational giant…first mismanaged…now awaiting the whims of a recalcitrant government with their own hidden agenda.