By Steve Robinson | August 21, 2021 - 10:23 pm
Posted in Category: ISU, The Normalite

NORMAL – During what was his next-to-last public function with Illinois State University, Dr. Larry Dietz, now President Emeritus of the University since retiring June 30, told a group of 40 invited guests

The ceremony was held in the patio area between the newly-renovated Bone Student Center and the University’ Bowling and Billiards Center Aug. 20. With Dr. Aondover Tarhule, ISU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, serving as emcee for the event, guests heard from current ISU President Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy followed by remarks from Dr. Dietz as his wife, Marlene, stood by his side.

“I’d like to say, a little bit selfishly, that it’s really wonderful to have the opportunity as a new president to be part of celebrating the legacy of your predecessor,” Dr. Kinzy told the gathering. She added she knew she had “big shoes to fill but that Larry has been helping us to get to this point today.”

“The reputation of Larry and his wife, Marlene, and their leadership and will always be part of their legacy are that Larry leaves behind a strong institution, with the infrastructure to withstand tough times,” Dr. Kinzy told the gathering. She also credited Dr. Dietz’s financial acumen with helping guide the University through recent national financial tough times. She also credited Dr. Dietz’s guidance with making ISU “a more resilient institution” during the current pandemic.

Dr. Kinzy added that even with the Dietzes stepping away from day-to-day relations with the University, she said she knew the couple “will be there, with their hand on our back helping us more forward.” She said the role the Dietzes played in making ISU strong “will stay with us forever.”

“How Humbled” Dietz Felt: For his part, Dr. Dietz told the gathering “how humbled and honored and grateful that I am to go and have a wonderful partner like Marlene. She’s been a partner all the way and that’s just our routine. Thank you for all that you’ve done to support this University and support me and it’s been a terrific ride for both of us.”

Dr. Dietz then quickly pivoted to mentioning his successor who came from ISU from Western Michigan University where she was vice president of research and professor of biological sciences at Western Michigan University since 2018. “She’s going to do a fantastic job and she already is,” Dr. Dietz said, telling her, “I’m delighted about the leadership you are providing and I know we’re in great hands.”

Dr. Dietz was also quick to say he often received credit for things during his tenure he said he didn’t do, explaining, it was the University’s employees who should be credited. He explained that by saying, “Any University has great team members as a central part of that. So, regardless of the role that you played, if you’re a proud Redbird, and I know that you all are, and you have that ‘can do spirit,’ and value individualized attention, and value integrity, and all the other values that this institution represents, you’re going to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

“That’s why this institution has been strong and stable all this time, even during trying times,” Dr. Dietz explained. “All of you are responsible for that.” He explained people ISU staff come in contact with “feel” the integrity ISU staff present to those they serve.

He said those who work at ISU “are the reason the University has been strong and stable,” adding, “my job has simply been to hire good people, try to keep good people, and try to be a partner with each of you.”

“Marlene and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have served, and appreciate the opportunity that we were given back in 2014 during a very interesting time of the institution.” He said ISU will always face challenges, adding, “I know President Kinzy is up for that, the management team is up for that, and that’s going to continue to drive the success that is Illinois State University.” He concluded by saying he and his wife were “deeply humbled, deeply honored, and deeply grateful” by honoring us with your presence today.”

Dietz Arrived In 2011, Appointed To President In 2014: Dr. Dietz came to Illinois State in June 2011 assuming the post of vice president for Student Affairs and tenured associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations. ISU’s Board of Trustees appointed him to be Illinois State’s 19th president in March 2014 following the resignation of his predecessor, Dr. Timothy Flanagan. Flanagan resigned after only spending nine months in that post.

Farewell Dinner Held At Bone Student Center Saturday: The very last University function Dr. and Mrs. Dietz attended was a farewell dinner Saturday evening held at the Bone Student Center Ballroom. A total of 600 guests attended the evening’s festivities. In addition to being able to mingle with current and former employees invited to the event, the Dietzes received farewell messages during the event from notable friends and alumni wishing them well in their retirement. Those messages came on videotape messages from former U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and ISU alum Dr. Donald McHenry; ISU alum and former Chicago Bulls head coach Doug Collins; The Honorable James Knecht, and former ISU Vice President and Provost Dr. Jan Murphy.

By Steve Robinson | May 11, 2021 - 11:33 am
Posted in Category: ISU, The Normalite

NORMAL – With 14 months of reconstruction and renovations of Bone Student Center completed, Illinois State University officials celebrated the achievement of the 48-year-old facility with a May 7 ceremony recounting efforts to update the building considered the University’s centerpiece and looked to the years ahead in the now revitalized building.

The ceremony was held just outside the entrance to the building adjacent to its parking lot. Members of ISU’s Board of Trustees and other University officials and invited guests were among 100 people in attendance but socially distanced as a result of the ongoing pandemic for the ceremony. The event was one of the first public gatherings held by the University since the worldwide pandemic began in March 2020.

Ground was broken for the revitalization in 2017, explained Dr. Danielle Miller-Schuster, assistant vice president in the University’s Office of Student Affairs.

She added it was a meeting six years earlier between former Mayor Paul Harmon and ISU President Dr. Larry Dietz, who at the time was the University’s vice president for student affairs, which set in motion actions which would get the revitalization started. Dietz recalled Harmon presenting him with notebooks related to the subject explaining that, up to that point, nothing had been done. Dietz recalled Harmon explaining saying at the time, “Will you do something?” He then added, gesturing toward the building, “I think we’ve done something.” It was a line that brought applause from attendees.

Dr. Dietz thanked a list of University employees for their efforts in making the revitalization possible. Those folks included Bill Legett, director of the University’s Event Management, Dining, and Hospitality office and his staff; members of ISU’s Facilities Planning and Construction office; members of ISU’s Office of Student Affairs; members of ISU’s Information Technology Office, and ISU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Dr. Dietz also thanked the University’s Board of Trustees for approving various resolutions which helped the project move forward, and to “the many people who made financial gifts in support of this revitalization, and thank you to the thousands of Bone Student Center patrons and visitors who have patiently waited for this wonderful day.”

He also thanked alumni, past and present students, and welcomed future students and their families.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, I offer congratulations and gratitude to everyone whose passion made this vision into a reality,” was the greeting extended to the gathering by Julie Annette Jones, Chairperson of ISU’s governing body. She added, “The Board has provided fiduciary oversight for literally, hundreds of University projects and initiatives. At times, Board members have had to address complex challenges and make very difficult decisions.

“But I am happy to say the decision to authorize the Bone Student Center revitalization project was not one of the difficult ones,” Jones stated. She said ISU invested $43.7 million for the revitalization project, $40 million going toward the overall revitalization with the remainder earmarked for building improvements. Funding came from reserve dollars the University had on hand, as well as agency and institutional funds. As a result, Jones explained, no new student fees or additional taxpayer dollars were needed. It was information which brought applause for those in attendance.

Jones said Bone Student Center also serves as a community center, in addition to its daily function of serving ISU’s students, staff, and faculty. “Once the pandemic is in our rear view mirror, the Bone Student Center will return to its customary vibrance, welcoming up to 5,000 visitors each day, holding 4,000 meetings annually, and contributing to Illinois State’s local impact in the excess of $830 million.”

Dr. Levester Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs, added a little levity to the event placing the large coffee he had purchased at the facility’s Starbuck’s on top of the podium before speaking. He explained “Students’ needs were at the very forefront of the planning process.

“We were intentional about the services we wanted to provide throughout the building,” Johnson said. “For years, it’s been where students purchased their first Redbirds spirit wear, and where they pick up their student ID.

“But now,” Johnson said, “Their relationship with the Bone begins earlier, at the beautiful new Admissions atrium.” He added students wishing to find out about organizations to become involved with can visit an expanded Student Involvement Center. He called it “a one-stop shop for getting involved at Illinois State.”

The University’s Career Services Office has an office in the Bone Student Center, too, allowing students a place to get information on their majors and receive guidance on future internship opportunities.

“Even in the pandemic, you can walk through the Bone on any given day and see students utilizing every space throughout the building,” Dr. Johnson said. He said that would be “whether students are gathering in small groups to enjoy a meal, studying near the warmth of a nearby fireplace, visiting the Student Involvement Center, or taking advantage of one of the building’s technology hubs, it’s clear students are already enjoying these spaces.”

Student Trustee Jada Turner told audience members she gave her first speech at the Bone and was now giving her last one there, too, in a moment she characterized as “very bittersweet.” She recalled how she and her friends studied or attended events together there. “I am so happy that I am here today for the completion of this project so I can take advantage of the new services.” In fact, she said she had a job interview in one of the new interview rooms on the building’s third floor.

The ceremony was one of the last functions Dr. Dietz participated in as he prepares to retire June 30 ending a career of over 50 years in higher education. He became ISU’s 19th president in March 2014.

Among the improvements to the building were redesigned entrances at the building east and west sides; the building’s Brown Ballroom is now divisible by three individual spaces complete with an area designed for pre-function needs; a three-story addition was constructed on the building’s east side where guests can find an updated ‘welcome’ desk, the box office, and a lobby complete with fireplace.

Many of the building’s regular features, including on its first floor, its lobby shop, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the satellite office of ISU’s Printing Services Office, ISU’s TechZone computer services office, and the ISU Credit Union office were relocated within the building during the remodel. Also on the first floor is a display of international flags and new digital signage.

Its second floor features three food options including QDoba Mexican Food, Star Ginger Asian Cuisine, and Timbers Grille. A new outdoor balcony can also be on the second floor, as well. A room for presentations is among the amenities which are now found on its third floor.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos, newly-elected Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe, and State Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th district) were among dignitaries invited to the event. Former Mayor Paul Harmon said he gave Dr. Dietz the results of a study done for the University which indicated ways “the Bone could be made more user friendly.” The subject came up between Dr. Dietz and Harmon when the couples met socially.

Following the ceremony, each of the attendees were able to take a tour or the revamped facility, and received a goodie bag with the Rededication logo on it which had inside it, along with some snacks, also had a sketch of the building’s east side which was done by Sean Thornton, an ISU alum who graduated from the University in 2002 and returned to receive a Master’s Degree in 2017.

By Steve Robinson | February 17, 2017 - 12:37 pm
Posted in Category: ISU, The Normalite

jane lynch
NORMAL – Having played a variety of roles in her acting career, upon returning to her alma mater for the first time since her graduation from Illinois State University in 1982, Jane Lynch could add one more role to resume: Honorary Doctoral Recipient. At the Founder’s Day celebration held Feb. 16 in the Brown Ballroom at the school’s Bone Student Center, the University bestowed upon the 56-year-old actress an honorary doctorate from her alma mater.

Lynch began her day at ISU taking part in the ceremonial bell ringing in the Brown Ballroom, leading a parade of nearly 30 people who each took a turn registering a chime as an audience of roughly 300 looked on. After graduating from ISU, Lynch earned a Master of Fine Arts in theatre from Cornell University.

Those degrees – particularly the earned ones – underscore her accomplishments considering, as she explained, ISU was the only school that would accept her in spite of her not being a very good student when she first arrived. She said ISU has raised their admissions standards since she took that test.

For Lynch, the bell-ringing ceremony was followed by a brief news conference, and being part of a Founder’s Day Convocation, and Awards Dinner. An actress, singer, and comedian, Lynch received an Emmy Award in 2010 and a Golden Globe Award a year later for her portrayal of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on the Fox TV Network musical comedy-drama Glee. She has also won two Emmy awards for her stint as host of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night.

Among her film credits are appearances in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Julie & Julia, and Role Models.

She credits three theatre professors at ISU during her time as an underclassman as early influences on her career – Alvin Goldfarb, Jean Scharfenberg, and Don LaCasse. Goldfarb, a former president of Western Illinois University, was among those who helped Lynch celebrate her achieving the honorary doctorate.

Having not been back to ISU since she graduated, Lynch said among the old haunts she wanted to tour again was the University’s quad. She explained she used to cut through the quad area even during trips when it wasn’t called for.

Fellow ISU Alum Sean Hayes Is A Mentor: Another ISU acting alum who Lynch has kept in close contact with is Sean Hayes who, Lynch told reporters, “is a mentor” to her, referring to one of the stars of the NBC comedy, “Will & Grace,” which will get a brief revival this year. “He’s one of the most open-hearted people I’ve ever met,” Lynch said.

Lynch reminded that Hayes received this honorary degree a couple of years ago during a visit to ISU. At that time, Lynch said, “Sean said to me, ‘I’ll bet they’ll ask you to do this, and you should say yes.’”

By Steve Robinson | April 17, 2007 - 1:45 am
Posted in Category: ISU, Pekin Daily Times

Robert BallardNORMAL – Given the opportunity, Dr. Robert Ballard, the man who found the wreckage of the RMS Titanic over 20 years ago, said Tuesday, he would like to help preserve the ship that has sat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for over 90 years by giving the vessel a paint job.

Ballard, founding chairman for the JASON Foundation for Education, and president for the Institute for Exploration, is not being flip when he speaks of the British luxury ship which struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage on April 14, 1912, from Southampton, England to New York City after hitting an iceberg, sinking the next day. While nearly 1,500 passengers died in the cold seas of the Atlantic as a result, roughly 700 other passengers survived the ordeal.

Ballard and a team of scientists discovered the exact location of the RMS Titanic in 1985 after a few previous unsuccessful tries.

“If we were to (raise) the Titanic, it would stink, there would be rust, and it just would not look right (to resurrect the ship) in its current condition,” Ballard said following a talk he gave to 100 people – 30 of them who were local third graders who had been studying about the Titanic during the school year.

The ship left fresh from a port at Southampton and now sits at the bottom of the ocean graying and deteriorating since it sank almost a century ago. Ballard said what people ought to want “is for the ship to keep its current look, but not for the ship to disintegrate.”

He said the most poignant moment for him upon discovering the Titanic was when he and the team that discovered the sunken ship and saw empty shoes among the watery ruins.

“Seeing the shoes was just powerful for me,” Ballard said. “The shoes show the exact position the person was in when they died.”

In a way, finding the shoes demonstrated a point for Ballard to pass on to his audience about how lightly he and other scientists should tread when they come upon ruins like the Titanic.

“When we find something, unless there is a fundamental reason for not preserving it, (such remains) should not be touched,” Ballard told his audience.

He told the students that today’s world is, thanks to the Internet, the world is “one-fourth of a second away and the career paths the students will take as a result have not even been defined yet.”

After the talk, Ballard said that “the idea is to preserve it, and that does not mean change it,” Ballard said. “It’s already changed, and it’ll never be what it used to be,” Ballard said. “But it could always be what it is.”

Premier Exhibitions, Inc., an Atlanta, Ga.-based company that puts exhibits together has an exhibit of artifacts from the RMS Titanic currently at Las Vegas’ Tropicana Hotel. Ballard said he is troubled by the exhibition, and apparently, has himself heard from people who have taken a tour of the exhibition who have come away with the same reaction.

Ballard, 64, compared people to attend the Las Vegas exhibit to people who, in 18th Century England used to attend public executions. “In many ways, (the Las Vegas exhibit) is a public execution of the Titanic.”

Ballard said he has heard from people who attended the exhibit but later regretted doing so. “(The exhibit) fascinates people, so they come. But a lot of them… go away not exactly happy about it.”

ISU 150 yearsIn addition to the presentation at Illinois State’s Milner Library and a news conference, Ballard was to give an evening talk at Braden Auditorium, followed by a book signing event.

Ballard’s visit to the campus was the third in a series of visits to ISU by local and national newsmakers as the University continues a year-long 150th anniversary celebration. Historian David McCullough kicked off the festivities at a convocation last March, and Caterpillar CEO James W. Owens spoke two weeks ago. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, singer Naomi Judd, and filmmaker Ken Burns are all scheduled to visit ISU in the fall.

By Steve Robinson | February 18, 2007 - 1:16 am
Posted in Category: ISU, The Normalite

ISU 150 yearsNORMAL – Illinois State University began its year-long celebration of its 150th year in historic fashion Thursday, Feb. 16 with a convocation address by noted prize-winning author and historian David McCullough.

McCullough is the first of a series of speakers who will visit ISU over the course of the University’s year-long celebration.

Thursday, before he addressed a packed crowd of students, staff, and members of the Illinois State Historical Society, who were holding their annual two-day conference at ISU, McCullough addressed the media in the Faculty/Staff Commons Room of the Bone Student Center.

“I’m both pleased, and highly complimented to be asked to take part in this celebration, and particularly, to come to a university that has such a long-standing role in how we teach our children,” said McCullough, who has written numerous historical books, including 1776, Truman, and The Johnstown Flood.

McCullough said that leaders need to learn and understand history. He said for history not to be taught or learned by people “diminishes the chances of leaders to excel in their responsibilities.”

McCullough declined, however, to elaborate on whether today’s politicians, President George W. Bush, for example, have been able to use history’s lessons to help in today’s current world circumstances.

“I’m not going to pass judgment on current politicians of either party or of any position,” McCullough said. “That’s not my role.

“I will say that President Bush is far better read than most people realize,” McCullough said, attempting to debunk a public perception that the Commander-In-Chief chooses not to pay attention to media reports.

He said further that Bush has “a sense of history.”

David McCullough“I don’t think it’s possible to have a father who was President of the United States and not have a certain sense of history,” McCullough said of the Texas Republican incumbent

McCullough said in order for history to capture the interest of young minds will have to begin with “revising how we teach our teachers. That’s paramount.”

“We are graduating far too many teachers from schools of education who have learned nothing but education,” McCullough said, explaining that those who want to enter the field should graduate in some other field of study.

“You cannot graduate from this university without taken some courses in history,” McCullough said. He said that that is not the case at a number of other universities in the country.

“That is a terrible mistake,” McCullough said. “If you have teachers who don’t know the subject they’re teaching, whether it’s history or mathematics or English literature or whatever, (the problem) goes beyond that.

“You can’t love what you don’t know,” McCullough explained. “The great teachers, the effective teachers, the teachers that can change lives are those teachers who love what they are teaching.”

To drive that point home, McCullough quoted Margaret McFarlane, who taught teachers at the University of Pittsburgh.

McCullough said McFarlane said attitude is what matters in education. “McFarlane said attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught. It is the attitude of the teacher toward the subject they are teaching.”

McCullough said children who grew up watching Public Broadcasting’s “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” saw an example of what loving to learn meant because the program’s host, Fred Rogers, studied under McFarlane and used the same technique of loving to learn, trying to pass it to his young viewers.

After that press conference, McCullough moved on to participate in the University’s 150th anniversary convocation ceremony, which recognized staff and faculty for their accomplishments. At the conclusion of his talk in Braden Auditorium, ISU President Al Bowman and Karl Kasten, Chairman of ISU’s Board of Trustees, presented McCullough with an Honorary Doctorate of Literature degree as the crowd provided thunderous applause.

Following the convocation ceremony, McCullough autographed copies of his books at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on the second floor of the Bone Student Center.

Other speakers due to visit ISU over the course of the next year include Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and singer Naomi Judd.