June 23, 2008

Michelle Suarez to lead Alumni Association

by Greg Scott

Michelle Suarez

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A woman who has successfully led SIU Carbondale to attaining its highest alumni membership enrollment ever has been selected as the associate vice chancellor of institutional advancement and executive director of the SIU Alumni Association.

Michelle J. Suarez, pending SIU Board of Trustees approval, will assume permanent leadership of the organization on Aug. 1. Suarez has served as interim executive director of the SIU Alumni Association since January. She became interim executive director when Ed Buerger, the Association’s former executive director for 17 years, announced his plans to retire Dec. 31. The Chicago native has also spearheaded the organization’s alumni member services department since 2003. Suarez was selected after a national search for the position.

“I am delighted to have Michelle Suarez lead our alumni relations department at SIU Carbondale,” says Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation. “While serving in this position on an acting basis, she has aggressively led the Alumni Association in providing quality programs, activities and services for alumni and friends of our University worldwide. Additionally, Michelle’s efforts to increase Association membership to the highest level in its 112-year history, her 22 years of service at this University, and her background as a strong leader and ambassador on behalf of SIU Carbondale make her an outstanding selection to serve the Division of Institutional Advancement and SIU Carbondale in this position.”

SIU Carbondale’s Division of Institutional Advancement is comprised of the SIU Alumni Association, SIU Foundation, Advancement Services, and Constituent Relations and Special Events. The Division is charged with enhancing the University’s relationships with alumni, students, and friends of SIU. The SIU Alumni Association, representing more than 220,000 graduates and nearly 300,000 alumni, is among the largest associations in America.

As associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director of the SIU Alumni Association, Suarez will direct the planning, organization, development, implementation and evaluation of SIU Carbondale’s alumni relations program. She is being charged with designing a program to mutually benefit alumni and the University, strengthening the connection between alumni and the University, and broadening the scope of alumni involvement with and interest in the University.

Suarez, 45, will work closely with the Alumni Association’s 39-member national board of directors to develop a shared vision with the University through the Division of Institutional Advancement.

“I have true passion for Southern Illinois University and a desire to see the University prosper. Additionally, my drive and enthusiasm will serve as assets in engaging our alumni to stay connected, support the initiatives of the Alumni Association and SIU Carbondale, and move this institution forward,” Suarez says. “I am excited about the opportunity to serve our alumni worldwide and Southern Illinois University in this role.”

Suarez is a two-degree SIUC alumna, receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1985 and a master’s of science in education in 2004. Since initially joining the Alumni Association staff as membership director in 2003, Suarez has coordinated and implemented marketing strategies to increase membership and assisted in the collection of information about alumni. Under her direction, alumni membership has reached an all-time high of 18,415. She has enhanced the benefits program by 100 percent, which offers discounts on products and services to members.

Additionally, Suarez initiated and established the popular alumni pre-game Saluki football tailgate series that draws an average of 700 attendees per event and recruits more than 100 alumni members each year. She also developed an online store that became a source of apparel for SIU alumni and fans worldwide.

Prior to joining the Alumni Association staff, Suarez was a member of the SIU Arena staff for 17 years, specializing in marketing, sponsorship and event coordination. She eventually ascended to the role of interim director of the facility in 2003. For 10 years, she fulfilled a dual role of publicizing events at the Arena and Shryock Auditorium. In 1994, she assumed supervisory responsibilities as deputy director and continued promoting programs at both facilities.

A strong University and community advocate, Suarez has served as chairperson for the Saluki Women’s Golf Scramble since 1991. The event raises an average of $40,000 annually for the team. She is also a member of the University’s Multicultural Committee, a committee composed of SIU and municipal representatives who examine the relations of SIU students to the City of Carbondale and the Southern Illinois region.

Suarez and her husband, Gary, a 1979 SIU graduate, have two children -- Elaina, 14, and Drew, 11 -- and live in Carbondale.