August 17, 2005

Four named ‘Inspiring Women of Achievement'

by Bonnie Marx


Elaine H. Melby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will honor four "Inspiring Women of Achievement" for outstanding contributions to their communities at a gala on Saturday, Oct. 8, on campus. The list of honorees also includes three scholarship winners and the first-time presentation of a new alumni achievement award.

Launched a year ago, the Inspiring Women of Achievement program recognizes women from around the region, whose accomplishments and conduct are inspirations to others.

The program generates funds for scholarship endowments at SIUC. After awarding one scholarship in 2004, the program will award three scholarships this year, thanks to the program's success.

The 2005 Inspiring Women of Achievement are: Elaine H. Melby of Carterville; Margaret Nesbitt of Carbondale; Blanche Carlton Sloan of Carbondale; and Gloria Celesia Tison of Harrisburg.

There were 37 nominations for this year's award.

The Inspiring Women program will present a $2,000 Margaret H. Steele Scholarship to Justine Pruemer of Dieterich, a transfer from Lake Land College, and renew the scholarship for a second year for Diana Billingsley of Carterville, who transferred to SIUC from John A. Logan College. The Steele scholarships, which honor a woman who spent 39 years as a teacher in Southern Illinois, go only to transfer students.

The third scholarship, funded by donations during the program's inaugural year, is the Inspiring Women Scholarship and is worth $5,000. The first recipient will be Sarah Panici of Dongola, an incoming SIUC freshman.

A new award, the 2005 Alumna Achievement Award, will go to Beth A. Hinchee, a 1995 SIUC graduate in mechanical engineering and energy processes, who is now engineering recruiting manager for Caterpillar Inc. in Peoria. Hinchee, who began her tenure at Caterpillar as a student intern, is the recipient of several awards for quality improvements and owns three U.S. patents for her innovations.

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

The Oct. 8 gala will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. In addition to the dinner and program, the evening's festivities will include silent and live auctions. For reservations, call 618/453-2461.

A closer look at the Inspiring Women honorees:

Elaine H. Melby, who has been affiliated with Century 21 realty for more than 30 years, owns five Century 21 businesses in Southern Illinois. She is the recipient of numerous company awards.

Melby is the first woman elected to the Carterville school board. She also is a 15-year member and past president of the John A. Logan College Foundation board, and serves on the Williamson County Special Education Governance Board.

Melby's community activities include membership in the Rotary Club of Marion, the Carterville Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Heartland Regional Medical Center Board of Directors, Bank of Marion board of directors, Shagbark Council Girl Scouts and in her church, where she has served as a church council member and officer and as a Sunday school teacher for more than 29 years.

Margaret Nesbitt. A civil rights activist, Nesbitt, during her 31-year career at SIUC, was instrumental in establishing the Affirmative Action Office in 1969.

Today, as a lifetime member of the NAACP, Nesbitt also is president of the Northeast Community Development Congress, a member of the Attucks Community Service Board in Carbondale and the Attucks Youth Board. She also is founder and current president of Concerned Citizens of Carbondale.

Nesbitt's accomplishments include being the founder and coordinator of the local after-school program, I Can Read, for Carbondale elementary school students and her participation in Students Against Violence Freedom Council, which was instrumental in building the first federal housing for low-income residents of Carbondale.

Those accomplishments include Nesbitt's influence in securing equipment and supplies for the programs from local libraries and educational institutions.

Nesbitt also is the owner of D's Fish Shop.

Blanche Carlton Sloan, former director of development and executive director of the John A. Logan College Foundation, holds an influential position in resource development initiatives nationwide.

As a life member of the Council for Resource Development, Sloan has served on its board of directors and task forces and edited and reviewed publications and applications. At John A. Logan College, she wrote more than 400 successful proposals/applications for federal and state funding that totaled more than $10 million.

Sloan is a charter member and former president of the Carbondale Rotary Breakfast group and is a former district governor, among other positions, for Rotary International.

Within the community, Sloan is or has been a member of Southern Illinois Arts, the Carbondale branch of the American Association of University Women and an active supporter of the arts in Southern Illinois and the SIUC University Museum.

Gloria Celesia Tison is a corporate attorney for Raymond James Financial Services in Harrisburg and Marion and winner of the 2005 Citizen of the Year Award from the Saline County Chamber of Commerce.

The mother of two children (ages eight and seven), Tison is president of the parent-teacher organization at Harrisburg's West Side School, serves as a parent volunteer and is a member of the external study team for the local school district. She also is a member of the Saline County University Women, which is dedicated to promoting education for women.

Tison is a founding member of the Harrisburg Medical Center Foundation Board and a board member of the Bridge Medical Clinic, which provides free medical services for uninsured persons in Saline County, and volunteers with the First Presbyterian Church Kids club.

Tison's other activities include involvement in the Harrisburg Library, the Southeastern Illinois College Foundation, Harrisburg Arts and the Marion Civic Center.

For more information about the Inspiring Women program or application forms, go to the Web site at


Margaret Nesbitt


Blanche Carlton Sloan


Gloria Celesia Tison