September 27, 2004

Association to honor three Distinguished Alumni

by Greg Scott

Contact: Greg Scott, 618-453-1328

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - The Southern Illinois University Alumni Association will recognize three prominent graduates as Distinguished Alumni during the University's homecoming activities Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2.

The association will honor the alumni at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 1, at a public reception and induction ceremony in the Student Recreation Center's Alumni Lounge. Their framed photos will become part of the University's Distinguished Alumni wall in the Student Recreation Center.

The 2004 SIUC Distinguished Alumni are: Joseph Ray Hancock, president of John A. Logan College in Carterville from 1989 to 2000; Charles Johnson, an award-winning author, literary critic, screenwriter, philosopher, international lecturer and cartoonist with more than 1,000 drawings published; and Thirachai Ongmahutmongkol, who held several key executive assignments with the DuPont Corp. from 1977 to 1998, eventually ascending to president of DuPont in Thailand.

Here is a closer look at this year's honorees:

Joseph Ray Hancock, a three-degree graduate of SIUC, was raised and mentored with humble roots in rural Pope County by a mother he describes as having "commitment and uncommon wisdom." He has parlayed positive influences from a variety of role models, spanning over 40 years, into a successful professional career in public education and community involvement. Hancock's journey began in the U.S. Navy in 1955 and following his honorable discharge three years later, he enrolled at SIUC on an Illinois Military Scholarship with additional support from the G.I. Bill and his own work. Hancock was inspired by the leadership style and vision of legendary SIU President Delyte Morris. After graduating from Southern in 1962, he taught and supervised at Marion High School for 12 years, directed the Marion Recreation Department and then accepted an administrative position at John A. Logan College in 1974. Hancock modeled his own leadership styles and visions after the positive role models of President Morris, numerous SIUC professors and the knowledge and wisdom that was offered to him at SIUC. He ascended to the role of president of John A. Logan College in 1989 and the next decade led to major expansion at the college with a variety of building projects, successful public referenda, budget growth and faculty, student and program enhancement. It all led to college recognition and awards on the state and national levels. A member of the SIU Alumni Association, Hancock left John A. Logan in 2000 and continues his work in education as president of the Illinois Community College System Foundation.

Charles Johnson, an Evanston native, arrived at SIUC in the fall of 1966, found his way to the Daily Egyptian and shared a portfolio of illustrations and cartoons he had published in high school. He was hired that day. Some 38 years later, Johnson's work has appeared in numerous publications in America and abroad, has been translated into eight languages and has earned him the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Corporate Council for the Arts. A literary critic, screenwriter, philosopher, international lecturer and cartoonist with more than 1,000 drawings published, Johnson is the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle. A 1998 MacArthur Fellow and 2002 recipient of the Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Johnson received the 1990 National Book Award for his novel "Middle Passage." Johnson has published three other novels, in addition to authoring "KING: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King Jr." Johnson received the Stephen Henderson Award for outstanding contributions to African-American literature and culture in 2004. A Ph.D. in philosophy who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from SIUC in 1971 and 1973, respectively, Johnson has lectured in nine countries and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.

Thirachai Ongmahutmongkol, a native of Thailand, served as president of the Thai Student Association during the 1969-70 school year at SIUC. Ongmahutmongkol was already exhibiting exemplary leadership skills he would later parlay into a highly successful career as an executive. Ongmahutmongkol began his career with DuPont Corp. in 1977. He held several key executive assignments during his tenure, including regional product manager for polymers in Asia Pacific, general manager for DuPont in Hong Kong and China, managing director of a joint-venture firm and president of DuPont in Thailand. The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand presented Ongmahutmongkol the "Annual Honorable Executive" award in 1990. In 1992, Ongmahutmongkol received the Chivas Regal "Young Entrepreneur" award for corporate leadership, and the "Marketing Management" award from the Asian Institute of Management. He was also named "Executive Award of the Year" from Thai Economic Relations in 1993. Ongmahutmongkol is a special lecturer on various subjects to MBA classes in his country. A 1972 graduate of Southern, Ongmahutmongkol is a life member of the SIU Alumni Association, and assists the University with international student recruitment in Asia, particularly in Thailand.