September 14, 2009

Association to honor five Distinguished Alumni

by Kathy Dillard

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Alumni Association will honor five prominent graduates as Distinguished Alumni during the University’s homecoming activities Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10.

The SIU Alumni Association will honor the recipients of the SIU Distinguished Alumni Award at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 9, at a public induction ceremony and reception in the Student Recreation Center’s Alumni Lounge. Their framed photos will become part of the University’s Distinguished Alumni wall in the Student Recreation Center.

Individuals were selected for the honor they bring to the University through outstanding performance in their career field or profession, or, for their exemplary history of service to SIUC, which has benefited the University, and enhanced educational opportunities for current students.

The 2009 SIU Distinguished Alumni are as follows: David Lloyd Briscoe, is a full professor of sociology and Distinguished Teaching Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and is also the first African-American male to be promoted to full professor. Briscoe has been recognized by the SIU College of Liberal Arts in 2003 as a Distinguished Alumnus, and he received the SIU Distinguished Service Award in 2008. Benjamin “Benny” Dunn, was the first SIU team baseball captain in 1947. Dunn served his country in World War II before serving his community as superintendent of schools in Gorham, as well as the Newman, Ill. and Anna districts. Richard “Dick” Gregory has demonstrated his many talents as an author, activist, philosopher, comedian, actor, recording artist, nutritionist and anti-drug crusader. At SIUC, Gregory became the first black student athlete to be named outstanding athlete of the year in 1953. John S. Heakin is a major contributor to the strides made in the marketing research world. Heakin has been elected into the SIUC College of Business Hall of Fame and is chair of the Marketing Department’s External Advisory Board. Col. Joe E. Johnson is a recipient of the Legion of Merit, one of the military’s highest honors. Johnson has flown more than 6,500 hours in his career. He was vice president of Untied Services Automobile Association, heading up life and health insurance, annuities and regulatory affairs. In addition to his many career successes, Johnson has been an active member in his community, including raising more than $100,000 to install youth football and soccer fields.

Here is a closer look at this year’s honorees:

Professor David Lloyd Briscoe has distinguished himself in higher education for nearly 20 years. He is a tenured full professor of sociology and Distinguished Teaching Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He holds the distinction of being the first African-American male to be promoted through the ranks to full professor in the history of the university, and the first African-American president of the university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

He is an alumnus of Princeton Theological Seminary Institute of Youth Ministry, Harvard Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Education Program, and the Oxford Roundtable, Oxford University.

Briscoe has been recognized nationally and internationally for guiding and mentoring youths for more than 44 years through such organizations as the Boy Scouts of America. Long an Eagle Scout, the National Council, Boy Scouts of America, presented him the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and the Silver Buffalo Award, a national honor he shares with 14 American presidents.

In 2003, the SIUC College of Liberal Arts recognized him as a Distinguished Alumnus and in 2008 he received the SIU Distinguished Service Award.

Briscoe is a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association.

Benjamin “Benny” Dunn has always maintained an unconditional love of education, teaching and baseball. He first came to SIU in 1935, excited to study history and become a teacher. He knew baseball would have to wait, however, as the sport had been discontinued at the University since 1924. Two years later, Dunn decided it was time to pass on his knowledge of history and athletics. He left Southern to teach and coach, until those plans were interrupted by World War II.

Dunn served in Southeast Asia as a member of the field artillery and was captured in March 1942. For three years he remained a prisoner of war working on the infamous “Death Railway” and then was sent to the prison camp at River Kwai. Refusing to give up, Dunn miraculously survived unimaginable hardships before being liberated in August of 1945. Arriving back in the United States, he quickly revisited his zeal for learning and decided to finish his education at Southern – 11years after first enrolling.

This time things would be different.

Coach Glenn “Abe” Martin began to revive the baseball program in 1946, the same year Dunn returned to Carbondale. He was soon able to fulfill his dream of playing college baseball a year later, something unattainable for so long. Noting his maturity and leadership ability, the legendary Martin named Dunn his first-ever team baseball captain in 1947.

Upon graduation that year, Dunn returned to teaching history and coaching baseball and basketball in Gorham. His love of learning never faded, and he walked Southern’s halls once again years later for a master’s degree in educational administration. This helped set a path to becoming superintendent of schools in Gorham, along with stints as superintendent in Illinois school districts at Newman and Anna.

Southern Illinois has always called out to this SIU Alumni Association member, and when it finally came time for Dunn to retire, staying in the area was an easy choice for “Abe’s first captain.” Even though he had traveled the world, this area would always be home.

Before Richard “Dick” Gregory embarked on a career dedicated to human rights, the St. Louis native came to Carbondale on a track scholarship. He chose SIUC from among 100 universities that made scholarship offers. At Southern, he was a nationally recognized athlete, one of the fastest milers and half-milers in the country. He captained both the cross country and track teams at SIUC and in 1953 became the first black student athlete named outstanding athlete of the year. He’s also credited with making great strides toward integration in Carbondale.

After leaving the University, Gregory went on to become an author, activist, philosopher, comedian, actor, recording artist, nutritionist and anti-drug crusader. His participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s is well documented, as are his personal relationships with such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, as well as legions of politicians, performers, and activists. He is the author of 15 books, beginning with “Nigger,” his autobiography, and leading up to his most recent publication, “Callus on My Soul.”

An advocate of nonviolence, Gregory uses fasting, prayer, and other peaceful means to make his point. He is acclaimed for his mobilizations for social change, his Bahamian diet, his comedy career, and his anti-drug activities. Gregory and his wife, Lillian Smith, have been married for 50 years and are the parents of 10 children.

He is a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association.

John S. Heakin founded North American Insights, a marketing research consumer interviewing service, in 2001 after a 27-year career as vice president of Heakin Research, Inc. Heakin Research was the second-largest interviewing service in America with locations in 70 malls from coast to coast, and was generally considered to be the industry’s leader in integrity, quality, and service; the company was named as one of Chicago’s Best Small Businesses in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990 by the University of Illinois-Chicago.

While at Heakin, Heakin won the Marketing Research Association’s President’s Award for Service to the Industry. But it was during his time as president of North American Insights that he made some of his greatest contributions to the Marketing Research Association and SIUC. As a member of the MRA’s Task Force on Professionalism in 2002-2003, Heakin established a plan for the MRA to turn away from entertaining its members in favor of professional education and career development. Today, the MRA is the only research trade association that offers professional certification of its members.

At the same time, Heakin was busy serving the SIUC College of Business, first as an Executive-in-Residence, then as a member of the College of Business (CoB) External Advisory Board after being elected to the CoB Hall of Fame. In 2005 Heakin was elected as chair of the Marketing Department’s External Advisory Board, and founded the Business Expo Breakfast at the Missouri Valley Basketball Tourney in St. Louis, a mentoring program known as the Marketing Leadership Program, and a junior board known as the Saluki Marketing Network for recent graduates. Heakin and his wife, Maureen, are Distinguished Gold Patrons of the Rehn Society and reside in River Forest and in Venice, Fla.

He is a life member of the Alumni Association.

Col. Joe E. Johnson, who earned honors through a SIU basketball scholarship, says his education enabled him to rise from poverty and a coal mining future in Mt. Vernon to the success he achieved as a military and corporate leader.

Johnson spent more than 26 years in the Air Force, retiring as a colonel. Early on, Johnson flew in “heavy-lift” aircraft, participating in the historic “Congo Airlift” in 1960, transporting UN forces, food, and medical supplies to the embattled Belgian Congo in Africa. He also flew nearly 1,000 combat hours in Vietnam delivering troops and materials to forward areas, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross twice and a Presidential Unit Citation, both for bravery. In all, Johnson flew more than 6,500 hours in his career.

Following Vietnam, Johnson spent time at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., serving as deputy chief of staff for Military Air Command Operations followed by major command director of personnel programs. While on temporary assignment to Alabama in 1974-1975, Johnson earned his master’s degree from Auburn University.

Johnson retired in 1982 as chief of the Air Force Manpower Utilization Policy and Control Division at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, headquarters for decisions affecting the entire Air Force and worldwide assignment of more than 500,000 officers and enlisted personnel. This assignment earned him the Legion of Merit, among the military’s highest honors.

After the military, Johnson served as vice president for the United Services Automobile Association (USAA), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. USAA, a Fortune 100 company, provides insurance and financial services to more than 5.6 million current and retired military personnel and families. He retired in 1992.

Johnson resides in Universal City, Texas, with his wife, the former Carole Chambless, a 1959 Southern graduate from Marion.

They are lifetime members of the SIU Alumni Association.

(For more information, contact Kathy Dillard at 618/453-2408.)

David Lloyd BriscoeBenjamin “Benny” DunnRichard “Dick” GregoryJohn S. Heakin Col. Joe E. Johnson