April 06, 2009

Mead wins Excellence Through Commitment honor

by Tim Crosby

John Mead
CARBONDALE -- When it comes to new technology and coal’s potential to provide an environmentally friendly energy source, John S. Mead often finds himself as the go-to guy.

Mead, director of the Coal Extraction and Utilization Research Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is this year’s Excellence Through Commitment award winner in the Administrative/Professional category. He will receive a cash award, certificate, a watch from the SIU Alumni Association and parking space for one year.

Mead, along with other honorees, will attend a special dinner in their honor set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, at the Student Center.

As director of the coal research center since 1989, Mead oversees the operation and strategic direction of the center, including specialized development facilities. He supports staff and students in their research and scholarship and promotes coal and energy related research and development on the SIUC campus.

Mead, who also is associate dean of the SIUC graduate school, promotes SIUC nationally and internationally as a leader in coal research, while providing expertise to private and public organizations.

As director, Mead reorganized the center around providing service to the faculty and their academic units and oversaw the state and federally funded renovation of the Illinois Coal Development Park in Carterville. He helped attract support for the development of a state-of-the-art coal unit at the campus power plant, working closely with Plant and Service Operations staff in the development of innovative projects there.

Through a state legislative mandate, Mead helped secure a $25 million grant from the Commonwealth Edison Co. to support the development of clean coal technology projects. He worked with the University, the General Assembly and others to set up the Clean Coal Review Board and implement a program that has supported the development and commercialization of advanced coal projects in Illinois.

Mead also helped Illinois attract the federal FutureGen project to Mattoon. His work included site evaluations, presentations to government, industry and the public and the promotion of Illinois’ proposal, among other actions.

Mead previously served as manager of Coal Research Programs and director of Office of Coal Development and Marketing for the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources. A licensed attorney, Mead also previously served as staff attorney and staff director of the Illinois Energy Resources Commission. He is a member and past chair of the Illinois Clean Coal Institute Program Committee and has served on numerous other professional boards and commissions.

At SIUC, Mead served as the SIU president’s representative to the Illinois Board of Natural Resources and Conservation from 1997 to 2007. He was interim director of the SIUC Center for Environmental Health and Safety and has been an adviser for Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity and the station trustee and volunteer examiner liaison for the SIU Amateur Radio Club since 1997.

Mead’s colleagues recommended him for the honor, citing his vast knowledge, insightful leadership and professional dedication to service.

“John created and led teams who successfully submitted numerous proposals to the National Science Foundation and other agencies,” wrote Peter Filip, director of the Center for Advanced Friction Studies at SIUC, focusing his recommendation on Mead’s international collaborative efforts. “His vision (for international collaboration) came before the globalization efforts and this university is still benefiting from it.”

John C. Crelling, research professor in the SIUC Department of Geology, credited Mead with the success of the coal research center.

“(The center), mainly through his efforts, is now recognized all over the world as a leading institution for coal research,” Crelling wrote. “…John has also overcome extremely difficult administrative conditions to maintain the Coal Technology Laboratory, an outstanding research facility in Carterville. ... I know of no other place in the country where such valuable facilities are available to a university researcher.”

Ken B. Anderson, professor of geochemistry in the Department of Geology, said Mead was one of the top professionals he has worked with in a 20-year-long career in education, government and the private sector.

“John is an example of leadership rather than authority. His position as director gives him considerable authority to accomplish the mandate of the coal research center, however, I have never seen that authority exercised.

“Rather, John relies on a quiet, sometimes low-key leadership style that builds coalitions and collaborations, forges alliances and facilitates their success. John is one who practices the often ignored truism that a leader’s role is to know what obstacles inhibit the progress of those who follow, and to remove those obstacles,” Anderson wrote.

Mead earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976 at Indiana University. He earned his law degree in 1979 at the University of Illinois.