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SIU alumni pony up to help current students hurt by pandemic

  • SIU alumni are donating money and supplies to the SIU Foundation to help current students financially survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

    SIU alumni are donating money and supplies to the SIU Foundation to help current students financially survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Courtesy of SIU

Submitted by SIU
updated: 4/20/2020 10:05 PM

More than $240,000 has been collected by the SIU Foundation to help SIU students who are in financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many college students are currently struggling to continue their education. Some lack adequate technology or internet access to make the sudden transition to online learning.

Others lost jobs due to the closure of businesses or can't work due to the closure of schools, making it hard to afford necessities like food, medication, rent and diapers.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale has long had an emergency fund to aid students in crisis, but the pandemic has depleted available funding.

That's when the SIU Foundation, which raises funds to benefit the university, turned to the university's alumni and friends for help.

Since the foundation's first appeal on March 24, more than 1,000 donors have contributed more than $240,000 to the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. The fund provides financial assistance for needs not covered by traditional financial aid or scholarships. Students apply for support by going to

Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, said SIU students are experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, an inability to pay rent and utilities, and difficulty securing medications and taking care of their dependents."

Thanks to the donations, SIU has been able to respond to more than 2,000 requests from students. The university has distributed hundreds of boxes of food and more than 100 laptops; offered to cover internet access; supplied diapers, baby food and other infant care items; and processed more than 300 emergency fund requests for rent, utilities, medicine, books and transportation.

"The generosity of our alumni has been amazing," Stettler said. "I am proud of our alumni who reached deep into their hearts and pockets to assist our students. We are all stronger together."

Many of the donations have been items for the Saluki Food Pantry. Walgreens donated more than $1,500 worth of toiletries, baby food and diapers thanks to 1991 alumnus Lisa Badgley, vice president of corporate relations. John Kabat, a two-degree alumnus and retired teacher, worked with his FFA students to donate and package more than 2,700 meals to the pantry.

Jo Lagerhausen, who graduated in 1993 and belongs to the "Carbondale in the '80s and '90s" Facebook group, offered to make SIU-themed masks for the first 72 alumni donating least $5. It wasn't long before all 72 masks had been claimed.

The SIU Foundation itself identified a $90,000 gift that was unrestricted, meaning that it could be used for any purpose to support the fund. Now, $50,000 of it is being used to match donations of others.

The foundation's campaign was a team effort, according to Rae Goldsmith, chief executive officer.

Chancellor John M. Dunn and men's basketball coach Bryan Mullins asked for help from alumni and donors. John Pollitz, dean of university libraries, appealed to SIU faculty and staff. Members of the SIU Foundation board were among many who reached out to their own Saluki Networks, and the foundation development staff connected personally with donors.

The Marching Salukis thanked donors with a remote version of the university fight song.

"Our goal is to help students stay on track to graduation," Goldsmith said. "Our donors are making that possible."

Goldsmith added that the foundation will continue to seek support for the emergency fund.

"Given the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, we anticipate that the needs of students will grow," she said.

• Donations can be made at