December 07, 2007

Alumni Association executive director to retire

by Greg Scott


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Edward M. Buerger, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of the SIU Alumni Association, refers to himself as "extremely fortunate" to have served a University he loves for more than two decades. A 1970 business management graduate of SIU Carbondale, Buerger has announced his plans to retire Dec. 31. The SIU Alumni Association, representing more than 220,000 graduates and nearly 300,000 alumni, is among the largest associations in America. Buerger has led the University's Alumni Services area and SIU Alumni Association since 1989.

"I immediately became enthralled with Southern upon visiting the campus for the first time as a 17-year-old high school senior and had a wonderful undergraduate experience here," Buerger says. "It was my great fortune to serve my alma mater in a capacity I truly enjoyed for over 24 years. Mr. Bob Odaniell (former Alumni Association Executive Director) presented me with the opportunity to work for the Association for which I am eternally grateful."

"But no matter how rewarding your career is, you reach a point that it becomes important to focus on enjoying other aspects of your life. My parents instilled family values in me as a youth and my family continues to be very important to me. It was because of their sacrifice that my brother, sister and I could attend Southern."

Like many retirees, Buerger, 62, plans to spend more time with his parents, who reside in his native Decatur, and his three grandchildren, in addition to traveling with his wife, Janice.

Michelle J. Suarez will lead the organization until the University conducts a national search for a permanent replacement at a later date. Suarez has directed the alumni member services department since 2003.

Buerger says he treasures the relationships he forged during his tenure at the Alumni Association.

"I've had the tremendous opportunity to travel and meet wonderful, dedicated and loyal SIU alumni worldwide. I particularly enjoyed the acquaintance of numerous students through our Student Alumni Council and various scholarship committees," he says. "I've also had the great fortune to work with dedicated and creative people on the Alumni Association staff and garner the confidence and support of loyal and devoted alumni board members.

"The people I've met through this University – whether they are college roommates, staff or board members – are my very best friends. My career has afforded me the opportunity to establish wonderful friendships while working with these individuals to benefit our alma mater. Working with such devoted alumni has truly been a rare and special experience."

Doris J. Rottschalk, president of the SIU Alumni Association board of directors, says, "I congratulate Ed as he completes 24 years at SIU. Ed's sound thinking, fair-mindedness, and integrity have led the SIU Alumni Association to be what it is today. His genuine care and concern for every alum he meets has earned Ed many friends. The SIU Alumni Association Board of Directors appreciates all the effort Ed has shown in advising and informing us on the issues we need to address as we represent 220,000 alumni."

The University initially hired Buerger as the Association's assistant director in 1983.

Odaniell, who led the Association from 1951 to 1983, says the University has benefitted from Buerger's leadership.

"Under Ed's innovative leadership as executive director, he and his staff expanded and developed several new programs and services to keep alumni in touch and involved with their university," Odaniell says. "I have enjoyed working with Ed and following the success, growth and development of the Alumni Association and SIU."

In 1995, Buerger was inducted as a member in the Council of Alumni Association Executives, a professional organization made up some of the top alumni associations in North America.

Buerger's tenure is highlighted by the effort to raise money to illuminate Pulliam Tower on campus, which commemorated the organization's centennial celebration in 1996. This successful effort raised $55,000. Other accomplishments during his tenure include the establishment of the nationally recognized Extern Program, which matches students with alumni and friends in professional settings during the week of Spring Break. The Association's Southern Alumni magazine and Saluki Pride newsletter are recognized as among the very best alumni publications in the nation. In addition, the Association has initiated the Distinguished Alumni program, alumni member pre-game football tailgate series and designed the official SIU class ring.

"I was fortunate to have very creative staff members – we worked as a team," Buerger says. "The Association benefitted from individuals who were loyal and committed to our mission. Building alumni relationships was our calling … not our jobs."

Nadine Lucas, who served the Association as an administrative assistant for more than 35 years, lauded Buerger's leadership.

"I don't know of anyone that is as committed and devoted to the University and Association as Ed Buerger," says Lucas, who retired in 2006. "Ed always had time for alumni and students who wanted to visit with him and he enjoyed the interaction.

"He was a joy to work with. Ed is like a son to me."

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement, said, "Ed is one of the most passionate persons I have ever known. His devotion to SIU alumni and his love for his alma mater are unmatched. He is a Saluki through and through and a fine human being."

A rabid and loyal Saluki fan, Buerger says that he and his wife, Janice, also an SIU graduate, will continue their devotion as season-ticket holders and University supporters. Buerger's longstanding ties to the University go back to his grandmother, a teacher who graduated from Southern Illinois Normal University in 1918. He is one of 12 from his family to attend SIU. His son, Cameron Wright, and daughter-in-law, Elissa Wright, are also graduates.

"Everyone knows I love anything wearing the Saluki maroon and white. I may be more vocal than ever during games now," Buerger laughs. "I certainly won't drop out of the institution altogether. This University will always be a part of my life. Southern educated my grandmother and most of my family. I will always be grateful for the difference Southern has made in our lives."