April 20, 2007

Benton high, Lions Club to honor Keith Sanders

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Benton Consolidated High School and the Benton Lions Club this weekend will honor a native son widely recognized for his commitment to education.

Keith R. Sanders, a member of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, will receive the BCHS Alumnus of the Year award during a ceremony a 2 p.m. Sunday, April 22, at Benton's First Baptist Church, 201 S. Main St. The occasion is the Lions Club's annual Academic and Fine Arts Honors program, recognizing the top 15 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors as selected by school officials.

Sanders is a two-degree graduate of SIU Carbondale, holding bachelor of science and master of science degrees in speech/psychology. He earned his doctorate in communications from the University of Pittsburgh.

His career in higher education spans more than four decades. Sanders was on the faculty of both SIUC and George Washington University, and served as dean of what was known at the time as the College of Communication and Fine Arts at SIUC from 1983 until 1989. From 1989 to 1997, he was in the University of Wisconsin system, where he served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the entire University of Wisconsin system.

He returned to Illinois in 1998 to become executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, a post he held until his retirement in 2002. Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich appointed Sanders to the SIU Board of Trustees in 2004.

Billy G. Dixon, chair emeritus of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in SIUC's College of Education and Human Services, is a member of the Benton Lions Club.

"We're trying to say to the Benton students, 'Look at one of your own, a Benton graduate, look at what they've done, what they've achieved,' ' Dixon said. "Hopefully, that will rub off on them."

The criteria used by the selection committee – comprised of Lions Club members and school officials – are straightforward.

"We look for people who go beyond the ordinary," Dixon said.

Sanders and his wife, Carol, a public school teacher for 21 years before her retirement in 1989, live in Spring Grove, Ill.