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SIU At 150
Led by a legendary historian, SIUC looks back at 150 years with birthday book

CARBONDALE — John Jackson never set out to be a historian of SIU Carbondale.

He arrived at SIUC in 1969, the year the university turned 100, as a newly minted doctor of political science. He became known for his books on presidential elections and the political polling he runs for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

But 50 years into his SIUC career, a pesky thing Jackson calls “participant observation” is catching up with him.

At this point, no one on campus has seen more SIUC history than Jackson has. He’s been a professor, a dean and a chancellor. He has been a critic of university decisions, and he has been protested against for decisions he made in leadership roles.

Plus, for all his talents, Jackson is really bad at being retired. Officially, he is, but he still shows up to work at 7:30 every morning, and he still hasn’t learned to play golf.

All that made Jackson the natural choice to take the lead when it came time to reflect on SIUC’s 150th anniversary with a commemorative book.

And the 78-year-old professor had plenty of help, he’s quick to acknowledge, from a mix of “people who’ve been here a while, and people who’ve been here forever.”

Recently-retired SIUC photographer Steve Buhman dug up and digitized hundreds of photos. Vanessa Sneed, of the chancellor’s office, added research and photo captions.

Leaders of units across SIU, from the office of the president, to SIUC’s graduate education, to the Physical Plant — which oversees SIUC’s heating and cooling, clocks, streetlights and fire alarms — all chipped in with chapters on their histories.

“I never saw myself writing part of a book, and it was daunting,” said Lori Stettler, who oversees student affairs on campus. “But John is a taskmaster and he’s the sweetest, kindest man you’d ever want to work with.”

Combing through decades of growth and change in housing, recreation and student health, Stettler said she was reminded of the spirit of her job.

“We’re talking about the out-of-classroom experience that students had on our campus,” Stettler said, from the turbulence of the ‘60s and ‘70s, to the growth of the student center and the Rec into world-class facilities, thanks to student support and solidarity.



“This reminded me that everything we do is in service of the students, and it's all personal,” Stettler said. “It’s about relationships.”

Jackson wrote the book’s first and last chapters, and edited the rest, carefully checking every fact, date and photo.

The result is more than a coffee table book.

"Southern Illinois University at 150 Years: Growth, Accomplishments, and Challenges” has over 300 SIUC photos, of athletes, dignitaries, students and teachers.

But it’s not some “chamber of commerce puff piece,” Jackson said.

The book takes an objective look at the challenges the university has overcome and those it faces — from boosting enrollment to currying favor with Springfield and Chicago politicians who write state budgets from hundreds of miles away.

“SIU at 150” gives special focus to the last 50 years of SIU, all of which Jackson lived. What came before was already covered extensively in the university’s 50th, 75th and 100th anniversary history books, he said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

John Jackson, a professor at SIU since 1969, holds a copy of "Southern Illinois University at 150 Years," the book that he edited commemorating the university's 150th anniversary.

Those hefty old things are piled up at the back of Jackson’s office, underneath thousands of pages of drafts of the new book. Jackson read all three histories, and spent two and a half years putting together their successor.

When he started at SIUC in 1969, the university was emerging from a major transformation; under President Delyte Morris, it had grown in enrollment from about 3,000 to 20,000 students.

SIUC was also gripped by demonstrations, marches, and a student strike, in protest of the Vietnam War. Besides teaching, Jackson was assigned to nighttime guard duty, keeping watch over the building that is now the SIUC College of Business.

SIU campus shut down during Vietnam

CARBONDALE – On the evening of May 4, 1970 -- the day four Kent State University students died after members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators -- some 400 students gathered on the campus of Southern Illinois University and voted unanimously to join hundreds of other campuses in a class boycott.

“I was a brand new professor assigned to keep the kids from, they feared, burning the place down,” Jackson said. Old Main, the university’s oldest structure, burned in June of that year, in a suspected arson.

In its most recent 50 years, SIUC has translated the growth brought by Morris and the GI Bill into an international footprint, Jackson said.

In 1947, Saad Jabr, from Iraq, enrolled at SIU Carbondale as a freshman. He would become the first international student to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

By the early 1990s, the university had a thriving satellite campus in Nakajo, Japan, that brought hundreds of students to Carbondale.

“At one point we had more international enrollment than the University of Illinois,” Jackson said. “It has become one of the richest parts of our tradition.”

Jackson traveled around the world, including to Iraq in 2009, helping to build those international connections.

More recently, he said, the university has been shaken by a budget roller-coaster, with steady declines in state funding beginning in the early 2000s, and culminating with the 2015 to 2017 budget impasse.

“It has conditioned and hampered everything else we’ve tried to do,” Jackson said. But it has not defined SIU.

“We’ve had disastrous numbers before, plenty of setbacks and we’ve prevailed,” Jackson said. “We have survived in trying circumstances, and we’ll still be here in 2069.”

The book is available through the SIU University Press, which published it, for $40. It will be distributed through SIU Alumni Association chapters around the country and through local bookstores, like 710, in Carbondale, Jackson said.

A group of Japanese visitors, invited through Marion’s continuing sister city relationship with Kanie, Japan, will receive copies of the book when they visit Southern Illinois and meet Jackson, two weeks from now. The book will also be presented in Springfield, home to the SIU School of Medicine, soon.

Jackson isn’t mad that he was tapped for the book, even though it has added hundreds of hours of work to his so-called retirement.

“The good part is, I was there and I had a seat at the table for much of this stuff. I lived through it all and have a decent memory of most of it. That bad part, I think everyone would agree, is that it gives you certain biases,” Jackson said.

And his bias is pro-SIU, right?

“Well, yeah,” Jackson said. ”This is an amazing place.”

Shawnee Community College
Peggy Bradford to step down as president of Shawnee Community College in June

ULLIN — Peggy Bradford will step down from her role as president of Shawnee Community College in June.

Bradford has frequently tangled with faculty members since she was hired nearly two years ago. She will serve out the final year of her three-year contract in a new role as a liaison between the college and community and legislative partners.

The decision was announced in a joint statement from Bradford and the college’s board on Monday night shortly after the college’s monthly board meeting. The statement said that Bradford approached the board about the possibility of shifting her current duties last month.

“Based on this mutually agreed upon proposal, Dr. Bradford will continue to work on behalf of students at Shawnee through the remainder of her contractual obligation,” the joint statement said. “This new role requires significant absence from our campus, but the benefits of these actions are anticipated to produce positive outcomes for the students attending Shawnee Community College.

Shawnee Community College spokesman Rob Betts said the college has not determined who will take her place. The statement said that Bradford will turn over day-to-day operations of the college on Jan. 15 to an “interim team that will rely on the capable administrative staff currently in place at Shawnee.”

Bradford is the first woman, and first African-American to serve as Shawnee Community College’s president. In the statement, Bradford said she is excited about the future of the college, and noted some of her accomplishments. “We have seen many positive changes in the area of financial stability, increased community partnerships, internships and additional educational agreements with four-year institutions. The statement also noted that she established permanent extension centers in Cairo and Vienna, among other achievements.

But her short tenure has been mired in controversy. The union representing faculty has twice taken a “vote of no confidence” in her leadership, as they complained she did not work in a collaborative spirit. These internal disputes were so pervasive that the Higher Learning Commission, the organization that accredits colleges and universities, noted in a December report that the campus needed to take immediate steps to address the “climate of distrust” that threatens to affect college operations and student learning.

In the joint statement, Trustee Mike McMahan, on behalf of the board, praised Bradford’s ability to make inroads with the communities the college serves and the Legislature. “We are confident that by agreeing to allow Dr. Bradford to pursue new avenues for students success in this manner, she can help us to fulfill the mission of Shawnee Community College,” he said.

bhetzler / The Southern File Photo 

Peggy Bradford, president of Shawnee Community College in Ullin, is pictured in her office last year.

HerrinFesta 2020
HerrinFesta entertainment features Scotty McCreery, Jamey Johnson, Loverboy, Head East

HERRIN — HerrinFesta Italiana Committee has announced its 2019 entertainment lineup.

Headliners include country artist and “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, outlaw country singer Jamey Johnson, rock favorite Loverboy and Christian artist Jason Crabb, along with local favorites songwriter Kendall Marvel and classic rock favorite Head East.

In addition, Cris Trapani, president of the HerrinFesta Italiana committee, said they are excited about several changes to entertainment this year.

“We were able to lower our ticket prices by about 40 percent,” Trapani said.

Lower prices will enable more people to come and to attend multiple shows.

“For the first time ever, we are providing an everyday pass to our event. General admission is $15, plus fees. It is $30 for the everyday pass,” Trapani said. “We worked really hard to bring the prices down.”

They are also starting the concerts earlier this year.

Concerts will run Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27, in the Piazza, located behind Herrin Civic Center.

Thursday features Resurrection: A Journey Tribute. A press release from HerrinFesta says the band recreates a 1980s Journey arena-rock concert and includes some of Nashville’s hottest musicians. The opening act will be Seamstress. 

The concert starts at 7 p.m. Thursday. General admission is $10, and $15 for and the pit.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are typically larger nights, with people being able to stay out later. Concerts on these nights will start at 8 p.m.

“Friday, features outlaw country singers Kendall Marvel and Jamey Johnson. For that genre, that is excellent,” Trapani said.

Johnson, an 11-time Grammy nominee, has hits that include “The Dollar,” “In Color” and “The High Cost of Living." He has won two Song of the Year Awards from both the CMA and the ACM. His 2008 debut album, “That Lonesome Song,” received five Grammy nominations. He has written songs for George Strait, Willie Nelson, Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols and others.

Marvel grew up between Thompsonville and Galatia and is an award-winning Nashville song writer. He has penned songs for George Strait, Chris Stapleton, Jake Owen and Johnson. He released his own album called “Lowdown and Lonesome.” Marvel also is a HerrinFesta veteran, having appeared on the songwriters’ showcase several times. A follow up album is due out later this year.

General admission is $15, with reserved seats or the pit $35.

On Saturday, the young guns of country shine with Riley Green followed by headliner Scotty McCreery. Daniel E. Johnson opens the evening’s entertainment at 6:30.

“We are pretty excited about that,” Trapani said.

“American Idol Season 10” winner Scotty McCreery's current song, “This is It,” hit number one last month after 37 weeks on the chart. It was a love song he sang to his fiancé at their wedding in June 2018. It is the second hit from his album, “Seasons Change.” “Five More Minutes” led the charts in March 2018. McCreery was the first country music artist to have a debut album, Clear As Day, enter the Billboard Top 200 chart in the top spot. The album had two platinum singles, "I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble with Girls."

Green’s debut single, “There Was This Girl,” is number eight on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart. The Alabama native recently dropped his newest single, “In Love by Now.” Green learned songwriting and performing at a young age while spending time with his grandfather, Bufford Green, who ran Golden Saw Music Hall, taking the stage with him and others of his generation.

General admission is $15, with reserved seats or the pit $35.

“Sunday night is our classic rock night, featuring Head East and Loverboy," Trapani said.

High energy rock band Loverboy has been making music for almost 40 years. The band’s debut, self-titled album was released by Columbia Records Canada after it was turned down by every major U.S. record company. It sold more than two million copies in the U.S. and four million world-wide. Loverboy hits include “Working for the Weekend,” “Turn Me Loose,”  and “Heaven in Your Eyes.”

One of Southern Illinois’ favorite classic rock bands, Head East, takes the stage before Loverboy. Their signature song, "There's Never Been Any Reason (Save My Life)" is considered by many radio stations across the country as "The Rock & Roll National Anthem." The band says their first gig as Head East was at the Golden Gauntlet in Çarbondale on Aug. 6, 1969. Many of the original band members were from Southern Illinois and the group played many dates around the area in the early 70s before gaining national attention with 1974’s “Flat as a Pancake” album and its hit track, “Love Me Tonight.”

The Great Affairs get the evening started at 6:30 p.m. followed by Head East and Loverboy General admission is $15, with seats $30 and the pit $35.

“Monday we’re having our faith and family night, partnering with Southern Illinois Worship Center,” Trapani said. “This is the second year for Faith and Family Night.”  

American Idol third-place finisher Danny Gokey will headline at 7:30 pm.  Gokey had several chart-topping albums including “My Best Days” (2010) and “Rise” (2017). Dove Award winner and Grammy nominee’s current single is “Haven’t Seen it Yet.”

Jason Crabb, who just won his second Grammy Award last month for the album, “Unexpected,” will open Faith and Family Night at 6 pm. Crabb has 21 Dove Awards and is Male Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year winner. Crabb’s hometown is Beaver Dam, Kentucky, not too far from Herrin.

“That was a very, very popular thing we started last year,” Trapani said.

All stage times are subject to change due to weather. Tickets will be available at beginning March 6.

Illinois kids to get replacement for criticized PARCC exam

CHICAGO — Illinois third through eighth graders will be given a new, shorter standardized test called the Illinois Assessment of Readiness this month instead of the widely criticized PARCC exam, state officials said.

The new test, also known as the IAR, is about a third shorter than the PARCC exam and will have other significant differences, including a shorter wait for results, more locally created questions, a computer adaptive test model customized for each student and adjustments to how the test is translated for non-native English speakers, state Board of Education spokeswoman Jackie Matthews told the Chicago Tribune.

Although schools will begin administering the new test this month, those changes will be rolled out starting next year through 2022, she said.

The PARCC exam, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, launched in 2015 and was met with criticism from school administrators and parents, who said it was too long and too difficult. That led to an opt-out movement among parents that kept some students from taking it.

Chicago Public Schools also resisted PARCC testing in 2015 and got into a standoff with the state, which threatened to withhold millions of dollars in funding. The district ultimately relented.

PARCC was pulled from high schools in favor of a state-funded SAT college entrance exam. The test remained at elementary and middle schools until now.

Local administrators' criticisms were considered when designing the new test, Matthews said.

One administrator said he's glad to hear about the testing changes but are remaining guarded as they await them.

"We won't know until we see it," said Glenn Wood, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202. "We're hoping the test is more aligned to the standards than PARCC."