Southern Illinois University Edwardsville-cited nationally as an "up and coming" school for making innovative changes in the areas of faculty, student life, campus life and facilities-officially began today the public phase of a $50 million major gifts campaign.
At a kickoff dinner over the weekend, SIUE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift announced that more than $26 million had already been contributed during the private phase of the campaign, which is named "Defining Excellence: The Campaign for SIUE." Vandegrift also announced the first major gift under the new public phase of the campaign-a $1 million gift that will create the East St. Louis 21st Century STEM Learning Center to be located at the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The contribution is from Robert H. and Norma J. Graebe of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Robert Graebe, a native of East St. Louis and an engineer, made the gift to give back to the East St. Louis community. The gift will be used to create a model, high-technology STEM classroom and companion STEM computer laboratory to provide charter high school students, as well as students from East St. Louis schools, access to state-of-the-art technology, equipment and curricula, and to support teachers in providing students with hands-on, "minds-on" science learning.
Calling it the first ever fundraising campaign of its kind for the University, Vandegrift asked for the support of the entire university community as well as the surrounding region. "SIUE has been defining excellence in the region for more than 50 years," Vandegrift said. "Our University is an excellent investment in the future of our region and our state.
"As the economic landscape of our region changes, we face a number of challenges and opportunities," he said. Vandegrift also pointed out that state funding has declined from 46 percent of the University's budget to 26 percent in the past decade. "Only private gifts can build the SIUE endowment, a permanent source of funding for scholarships, endowed professorships and other programs that attract the best students and faculty.
"We are preparing the next generation of civic, health care and business leaders who will lead us into a new era of growth."
Byron Farrell, chair of the campaign, said he has watched SIUE grow out of a cornfield in the mid-1960s to become a significant institution of higher education for the region. "We're asking everyone to 'Say Yes' to a quality education," Farrell said. "My philosophy is that education is the key to solving many of our problems in the world today. I'm not really sure you can put a value on the educational resources the University continues to bring to the people of this region."
Farrell also pointed out that SIUE has been "the key" to economic opportunity and upward mobility for the youth throughout the area. "SIUE cannot be the best it can be with just appropriations from the state of Illinois," he said. "It's up to us. We've got to advance our University."
As chairman of "Defining Excellence: The Campaign for SIUE," Farrell said he is charged with reminding those involved in the campaign how important their efforts are to the university and to students. "I'm also responsible for helping remind those in the community at large about how important SIUE is to the region," Farrell said.
"In fact, that's one of the key messages of this campaign-the importance of this institution as a viable resource."
Fernando Aguirre, CEO of Chiquita Brands International, and Patricia Mercurio, president of Bank of America Missouri, are honorary co-chairs of the campaign. Both are graduates of SIUE.
Patrick Hundley, vice chancellor for University Relations and executive director of the SIUE Foundation, said the campaign allows "our supporters and alumni to invest in our momentum. Their generous gifts will keep SIUE's quality educational opportunities affordable for all students," Hundley said. "We will be seeking further support from alumni, corporate leaders and the community.
"SIUE creates opportunities for students to receive a top-ranked education," he said. "More than half of our 90,000 graduates live and work in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, and SIUE makes a $471 million economic impact on our region every year."
Farrell echoed that sentiment: "Your support strengthens SIUE's commitment to meeting the needs of our region as well as ensuring the future viability of the programmatic, cultural, recreational and athletics resources on our campus," he said. "Our faculty, staff and alumni are committed to the growth and economic vitality of this region."