October 05, 2006

SIUC, Saluki Club of America to sign agreement

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two of the biggest boosters of the Saluki dog breed will ink a deal this coming weekend aimed at promoting the proud and ancient breed and University that maintains it as its mascot.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale, home of the Salukis, and the Saluki Club of America are agreeing to mutually pursue communication, education and social activities related to the special breed of dog known for its speed and uniquely aloof charisma. SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler and Jay Kappmeier, a member of the Saluki Club of America, will sign the memorandum of understanding at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in front of the SIUC Student Center, following the SIUC Homecoming Parade.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between SIUC and the Saluki Club of America at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in front of the Student Center.

An all-volunteer organization, the Saluki Club of America widely is recognized as the leading promoter and protector of the Saluki breed. SIUC is the only institution of higher learning in the world that has the Saluki as its mascot. Wendler said the agreement is a natural fit.

"We're very pleased to team up with the Saluki Club of America in this effort to bring greater awareness and reverence for the Saluki," Wendler said. "We anticipate a great many benefits to flow from this arrangement, which can only bring good things for our University."

Susan L. Davis, executive director of SIUC's Media & Communication Resources office, worked with the Saluki Club of America to draft the agreement.

The University hopes the five-year agreement will increase knowledge among faculty, staff, students and alumni about the Saluki and an increased presence of Saluki dogs at SIUC events as appropriate. It also will raise awareness of SIUC education and research programs among club members and increase the availability of Saluki breeders to SIUC students, faculty and alumni, among other benefits.

In addition to those benefits, Kappmeier said the agreement will help the Saluki Club of America place the dogs with responsible owners while increasing its profile among the vast SIUC community.

"The Saluki Club of America is interested in making sure these dogs are not over bred and go to good homes," Kappmeier said. "As more interest grows in the breed because of the national success of SIUC, both academically and athletically, we're interested in providing information about the dogs and good breeders to students, faculty and alumni."

Some of the activities that might stem from the agreement include Internet links between the two organizations and invitations to each other's events, such as to University athletic events and club shows and gatherings.

The University adopted the Saluki as its mascot after students voted overwhelmingly on March 19, 1951, to have it replace the previous nickname, "Maroons." Support for the Saluki mascot stemmed for the Southern Illinois region sometimes being referred to as "Egypt" and the dog's well-documented place in ancient Egyptian society.

Known for its keen hunting skills and sleek beauty, Salukis are the oldest known purebred dogs, with references to it dating back to 3600 B.C. Officials expect scores of dogs for this weekend's homecoming celebration activities.

Don Magee, who cared for the University-owned Salukis during his time as a student in the 1960s, said he fell in love with the breed's personality.

"Their aloofness, their composure and when they hunt, nothing can sway their mind," said Magee, of Springfield, who along with his wife, Karen, currently owns two Salukis. "They have a great ability to work with people and are very unique."

Magee said one benefit he sees is getting SIUC apparel — shirts, hats and other items — into the hands of Saluki owners around the world, which in turn will raise the University's profile.

"There's only one University that has the Salukis and people take great pride in that," he said.

John and Linda Saunders of Chester, both SIUC alumni, got their own dogs in 1985 and began caring for the last University-owned dogs, Khalid and Thunder, starting in 1986. They provided those and their own dogs to the University for events and promotion during the ensuing 19 years.

"It was a labor of love," John Saunders said. "I don't recall any time the University called us that we every said no. We brought them down for all sorts of things because we loved our dogs and we loved the University."

Saunders said the agreement is a great step forward in the relationship between the club and the University. One can help the other in the common mission to maintain and improve the public's knowledge about the breed and SIUC.

"It's been a long time and I'm really happy to see it," Saunders said. "A lot of people have worked very hard to make this happen."

Creating and supporting traditions that foster a lifelong attachment to the University is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.