President Kenneth "Buzz" Shaw, a Granite City native, became the Southern Illinois University System's first Chancellor when the system was created in 1979. At that time he was the administrative head of campuses in Carbondale, Edwardsville and Springfield. Shaw was heavily involved in the establishment of both campuses as separate entities operating under an umbrella system.
During discussions about the future of a separate but joined SIU, then Illinois State Senator Sam Vadalabene, for whom the SIUE Vadalabene Center was named, expressed opposition to a plan that would place a single leader over both campuses. Shaw publicly expressed his desire for achieving "an optimum balance" point on the scale between centralization and decentralization, "which enables this system and its two universities to best serve their publics."
In June 1979, Shaw publicly announced his plans to seek the top position as System Chancellor, stating that his desire was "to exert as much influence as possible in shaping the actual role the chancellor will play." He was appointed the SIU System Chancellor on Sept. 15, 1979. During his installation, he stated that a challenge that will always face the SIU system will be "the creative tension between autonomy for Carbondale and Edwardsville and the need for a coordinated system." He pledged to seek "the happy balance between centralization and institutional autonomy."
Shaw left the SIU System in 1986 when he was appointed president of the University of Wisconsin, and later he became chancellor and president of Syracuse University. In 1996 he also received an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for career achievement by former student athletes.
Prior to his stint as SIUE president and SIU chancellor, he taught history and coached for two years at Rich Township High School in the Chicago suburb of Park Forest. He also was an assistant to the president at his alma mater, Illinois State University, and vice president of academic affairs at Towson State University for eight years. Shaw earned a master's in education from Illinois State in 1963 and a doctorate in education from Purdue.