CARBONDALE — Southern Illinoisans woke up to painful news Thursday: Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno had died at 62 while battling cancer.
The news provoked expressions of sadness and support for Montemagno’s wife, Pamela, his two children, and five grandchildren from SIU students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as local politicians and community leaders.
SIU Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey broke the news in a statement Thursday morning.
“I am deeply sorry to inform you of the passing of SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno earlier this morning,” Dorsey wrote in a statement posted to the university's Facebook page. “His loss will be deeply felt at SIU, in Southern Illinois and in the scientific and academic communities.”
A distinguished scientist and researcher, Montemagno arrived at SIUC in August of 2017, tasked with turning around declining enrollment at the Carbondale campus.
“He was so dedicated to the cause of putting SIU on its feet, and I swear nothing but this could have stopped him,” said Dr. Marsha Ryan, a member of the Board of Trustees who worked closely with Montemagno. “He was determined to succeed.”
Amy Sholar, chair of the SIU board, added her support, saying Montemagno’s loss would be “felt not only across the Carbondale campus, but the entire university system,” while trustee J. Phil Gilbert called the chancellor “a good man and a true visionary.” Trustee Joel Sambursky cited Montemagno’s “brief but great legacy of leadership at SIU.”
In late June, Montemagno announced he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and was treating it aggressively.
“He lost a lot of weight, and was really fighting through” the chemotherapy, said Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry. “But he stayed strong and upbeat. I think working was part of his therapy.”
“He was a very strong individual and he had a vision for SIUC and the region,” Henry said. "I consider him a friend.”
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SIUC Director of Athletics Jerry Kill called Montemagno “the reason I came back to Southern Illinois.”
"This is one of the saddest days of my life. We lost a great chancellor, a tough chancellor, a man with a vision, but most importantly, a good man,” Kill said in a news release.
Local politicians also expressed their support for Montemagno, his family and SIU Carbondale.
“During his short tenure as Chancellor of SIUC, Dr. Montemagno demonstrated visionary leadership and dedication to the well-being of all of Southern Illinois,” wrote State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo. “Carlo will be missed terribly.”
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, wrote that her heart was “breaking to hear of Dr. Carlo Montemagno's passing,” calling the SIU chancellor “a dear and valued friend.”
“He demonstrated visionary leadership and dedication to the well-being of all of Southern Illinois,” Bryant said.
“It was a privilege to work with him,” added Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton. “I’ll see you again friend.”
While recognizing their differences of opinion with Montemagno, students and faculty alike took to Facebook to express their condolences and honor the chancellor.
“This is a sad day for everyone at SIUC, particularly for Carlo Montemagno’s family and friends. Our thoughts are with them in their time of grief,” added Dave Johnson, president of the SIUC Faculty Association.
“Though I had differing views than him on many issues on campus, he was always willing to listen to student opinions and supported us,” wrote Tomas Daniel Cortez, a junior studying cinema.
A vigil will be held in Montemagno's honor Friday, at 5 p.m., at the Student Services Building Pavillion, on the SIUC campus.