September 27, 2006
Mary Ellen Dillard honored for service
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Carbondale woman respected for her commitment to Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her impact in the community has won the 2006 Alumni Achievement Award for Distinguished Service at the University.
Mary Ellen Dillard, who retired in 1994 after a distinguished career as an educator, will receive the honor at a luncheon hosted by the SIU Alumni Association and SIU Foundation Board of Directors on Friday, Oct. 6, in the SIUC Student Center.
The award recognizes SIUC alumni or friends for exemplary service to the SIU Alumni Association and the University.
Dillard’s devotion to her alma mater has spanned more than 50 years. She has worked closely with the Jackson County Alumni Chapter of the SIU Alumni Association for many years, serving as its president from 1997 until 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from SIUC in 1951, and a master’s in special education in 1980.
According to Executive Director Ed Buerger, “Mary Ellen is deeply dedicated and loyal to her alma mater and community. She served as president of the Jackson County Alumni Chapter for a number of years and is deeply respected by alumni, campus leaders, classmates, members of the SIU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and all others who have benefited from her longtime service to Southern. Mary Ellen is also greatly appreciated for her positive influence as an educator and mentor to young people.”
Dillard’s presence has been felt in so many ways in Carbondale. She has been previously honored for volunteer efforts in her church, sorority, the community and at the University. For many years, during her husband Neil’s tenure as mayor of Carbondale, Dillard served as “The First Lady of Carbondale” and was active in countless activities that helped those around her. She volunteered for several organizations including The United Way, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Arts in Celebration and Arts in Education, among others.
A two-degree alumna of Southern, Dillard’s 39-year career as an educator included teaching stints in the Benton Community School District, the West Frankfort School District and Carbondale Middle School. She also became the principal of the Carbondale Thomas School before retiring.
Dillard is a member of the Delta Sigma Epsilon, the SIUC Emeritus Association, a founding member of the Chancellor’s Council, and served on the Teacher Education Advisory Committee. She has made countless contributions to education, including initiating Career Days at her school, starting annual field trips to Springfield to introduce students to the governmental process, and helping support and establish the DARE program at Thomas School. She has also been a person who has motivated countless students to attend SIUC and select teaching as a career.
Others have taken notice of Dillard’s professional prowess and community influence. She has been inducted into the Frankfort Community High School Hall of Fame, the Carbondale Elementary School Hall of Fame, and was named the “2003 Citizen of the Year" by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
Dillard and her husband, Neil, are life members of the SIU Alumni Association, and have a daughter, Tracy.