May 07, 2009

Buhman wins Sturgis public service award

by Christi Mathis

Steve Buhman
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For a quarter century, Stephen O. Buhman has been the man with the camera at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, snapping award-winning photos and earning, in the process, the nickname “the University Photographer.”

But, when the SIUC producer isn’t busy taking photographs or shooting video, he devotes his time and energy to a variety of area organizations.

In honor of his extensive community service, Buhman today (May 7) received the 2009 Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Public Service award. Roger Tedrick, chair of the SIU Board of Trustees, presented the award plaque and $750 cash prize to Buhman during today’s board meeting.

In typical self-effacing fashion, Buhman downplays his community service, saying he happily gives of his time and talents because “I just like to keep busy. I don’t watch TV much or anything like that. I really enjoy people. That’s probably why I enjoy being a photographer too, not just because I like to get the good shots but also because working with people is really enjoyable. I like to be around people, helping whenever I can.”

Since 1980, the board has presented the award annually to recognize SIUC employees for public service unrelated to their jobs. The Sturgis award bears the name of a Metropolis man who served more than three decades on the SIU Board, including chairing the board from 1969 until his 1971 retirement. Sturgis died in 1972.

“Steve Buhman is the kind of selfless individual that the Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Public Service Award was created for,” wrote Phil Bankester, director of University Photocommunications in a letter nominating Buhman for the award. He noted that while Buhman has worked long and late as required by his job, he “somehow, also found time to give to other community needs.”

A native of the Clarksdale, Mo., area, Buhman was the third of 10 children in a family of five daughters and five sons. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education at what is now Missouri Western State University, with a teaching certification. He worked four or five jobs while attending college. His early positions included being a university custodial tech, a farmer, a Holiday Inn night auditor, a welder, a custom harvester and a gun/camera salesperson. It was also at Missouri Western that he first began seeing what he could do with a camera, picking up freelance photography jobs and working for the school newspaper and later the school yearbook. Even then, he was often training other people, passing along what he’d learned on his own.

He continued his education at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, interrupting it just a few credits short of a second bachelor’s degree for career and family opportunities. He married wife Linda in June 1984 and began his tenure at SIUC on Nov. 19 of that year in the office then known as University Exhibits. It is now University Photocommunications, part of University Communications.

He soon became involved in helping to address community needs. He worked to make the SIUC Child Development Lab a better place, coordinating fundraisers, assisting with teacher appreciation lunches, documenting activities, serving on the board as a member and as president, helping secure funding for a new playground, assisting with an anniversary celebration, spearheading the annual rummage sale and more.

“Both of my kids went to the Child Development Lab. It’s a great place -- really it is,” Buhman said. He said the second and perhaps third generations of some families are attending the lab and it’s worthy of his efforts. Buhman son Michael is now a freshman Presidential Scholar at SIUC while Amy is a seventh-grader at Murphysboro Middle School.

Buhman also contributed his energies to the Murphysboro Apple Festival, cooking and helping in other ways, and to St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, serving on the parish committee, the liturgy committee and helping with various events. You’ll see him working at fish fries for scholarship fundraising, selling Tootsie Rolls to raise money for local charities and with other Knights of Columbus projects. He assists the Crimson Express, the Murphysboro High School Band. with the Drums at Appletime competition, parades and other events.

He’s Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 4 in Murphysboro too, helping with activities, campouts and earning badges. He has helped eight boys through the long process of becoming Eagle Scouts and is a member of the Order of the Arrow, a scouting organization dedicated to service to the Scouts and community. He also helped clean up roadways, provided rides to those who didn’t have transportation and been a mentor for many young men.

Buhman “leads by example, encouraging all of us to be the best that we can be. He lives by the Boy Scout slogan which is ‘Do a good turn daily,’” wrote Cathy Schmidt in support of Buhman’s nomination.

“To us, Steve Buhman is a wonderful example of a community worker and a community improver,” Larry and Ann Jeralds wrote in their recommendation.

Buhman said he’s honored and pleased to receive the Sturgis Award, particularly since it honors his work outside the University. He loves his job, proclaiming it “just fun” and saying that the camera is a passport of sorts, giving him access to wonderful places, people and experiences. And when duty doesn’t call, you’ll find him wherever someone needs help.

“Somebody’s got to do it,” he says with a smile.