September 17, 2007

Paul Simon Public Policy Institute SIUC to host variety of distinguished speakers

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Appearances by NASA astronaut and Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus Joan E. Higginbotham, and Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, highlight the remaining fall 2007 schedule for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the United Nation's World Food Programme, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke, will also present lectures this semester.

Here's the schedule:

  • Thursday, Oct. 4 — 7 p.m., Student Center Ballrooms. NASA astronaut and SIUC alumnus Joan E. Higginbotham
  • Monday, Oct. 15 — 7 p.m., Student Center Ballroom B. Catherine Bertini, the former executive director of the United Nation's World Food Programme, delivers the Gil and Jean Kroening Lecture Series lecture.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 17 — 7 p.m., Student Center Ballroom D. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke delivers the Jeanne Hurley Simon Lecture Series.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 6 — 7 p.m., Student Center Ballroom D. Morris Dees, founder and chief trial counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center, delivers the Bill and Molly Norwood Fellowship lecture.

Higginbotham operated the robotic arm and coordinated cargo transfers between Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station during the space shuttle's 13-day mission in December. A Chicago native, she earned her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from SIUC in 1987, and started her NASA career two weeks after graduation. NASA accepted her as an astronaut candidate in 1996. Higginbotham was selected as an SIUC Distinguished Alumni in 1997.

While at SIUC — which is Homecoming weekend — Higginbotham will meet with about 200 area high school students at the SIU School of Law on Friday, Oct. 5. She is the Homecoming Parade grand marshal. High school students interested in attending her Oct. 5 lecture may call the Institute at 618/453-4009.

As a part of her long history of international and national public service in humanitarian relief and nutrition policy, Bertini for 10 years served as executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Programme.

Bertini is a professor of public administration with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. In June, Bertini also joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Agricultural Development team as a senior fellow.

Bertini's appearance is part of the Gil and Jean Kroening Lecture Series. Gil Kroening, former dean of the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences, and his wife, Jean, a Carbondale Realtor, established the fellowship that brings a distinguished speaker to campus annually to address issues such as U.S. and world agriculture, food and environmental issues.

Burke was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in July 2006, filling the vacancy of the retiring Mary Ann G. McMorrow. She was appointed to the First District Appellate Court in 1995, and elected to the appellate court for a full term in 1996.

She received her bachelor's degree in education from DePaul University in 1976, and her law degree from ITT/Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1983. In 1987, she was appointed as a judge with the Illinois Court of Claims.

The Jeanne Hurley Simon Lecture Series honors Public Policy Institute founder Paul Simon's first wife, Jeanne, who died in February 2000. The series brings in prestigious speakers in the field of politics, government and other vital issues. Morris Library's Special Collections' Research Center will be opening and displaying Jeanne Hurley Simon's papers as part of the event.

Dees founded the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 with his law partner, Joseph J. Levin Jr., and civil rights activist Julian Bond. Dees, a 1960 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, was a successful book publisher and businessman in the late 1960s when he became active in the civil rights movement.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's successes are many — including legal victories against white supremacists groups — in the continuing fight against discrimination. The center also tracks hate groups. In 1998, Dees was on campus to deliver the Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture at the SIU School of Law.

The emphasis of the Norwood fellowship lecture series is on bringing in prominent speakers in the area of public policy and diversity in society. An anonymous friend initially created the $20,000 endowment – honoring the Norwoods. The endowment has doubled since its inception.

Bill Norwood earned a bachelor's degree from SIUC in 1959, was the University's first African-American quarterback and is a member of the Saluki Hall of Fame. He served in the U.S. Air Force until 1965 and then began a 31-year career with United Airlines, becoming the company's first African-American pilot and the first to achieve the rank of captain. He is a former member of the SIU Board of Trustees. Norwood and his family have established scholarships for SIUC students. Molly Norwood is a 1961 SIUC graduate.