At commencement, our graduates celebrate their success and thank their families, professors and friends for making it possible.
Another group of people deserves thanks, as well: the alumni and donors who give back to the university. Among them are a very special group of volunteers.
Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting with our SIU Alumni Association board, the SIU Foundation board, and the committee leading the Forever SIU fundraising campaign. Working in partnership with our staff, these volunteer leaders meet regularly to provide guidance, share perspectives and offer ideas that help move their boards and the university forward.
Cheerleaders and challengers
While they are cheerleaders for SIU, our volunteer leaders also ask thoughtful, challenging questions that reflect their investment in SIU’s future. As representatives of our many alumni and friends, they want, quite simply, to help SIU be the best we can be.
While each member brings a unique perspective to the conversation, our volunteers also have much in common beyond their affinity with our university.
First, they model that hard-working, can-do attitude for which SIU is so well known. Many were first-generation college students who discovered themselves here. As one board member said: “SIU changed the trajectory of my life.” You could see heads nodding in agreement throughout the room.
Next, they attribute much of their ability to succeed at SIU to faculty and staff members who welcomed and supported them. The personal attention we give each and every student – past and present – is another hallmark of our university.
And finally, their commitment runs deep. When I first came to SIU, a number of people told me our alumni and friends are among the most loyal in higher education today, and I believe it. Our volunteer leaders and those they represent are willing to give back because they bleed maroon and love SIU.
A new generation
As a new generation of alumni walks across the stage this weekend, we should remember that each graduate is beginning a new phase of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with SIU. Their success is made possible because those who came before them believe in this university.
I thank each of our volunteer leaders for your insights and dedication. We couldn’t do it without you.