March 17, 2010

Friends, colleagues remember John Guyon

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- John C. Guyon, former chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, died at his home in Carbondale, Wednesday, March 17. He was 78.

Guyon led SIUC for nine years, from 1987 to 1996, the second-longest tenure after Delyte W. Morris.

Chancellor Samuel Goldman extended condolences on behalf of the University community to Trish Guyon, John’s wife, and their children.

“John’s commitment to improving our University and our region spanned decades,” Goldman said. “He guided the University with a steady hand, overseeing growth in enrollment as well as expansion of the campus physically. In all of his roles here, he always was a champion for students, mentoring, guiding and advocating so that they could achieve academic and career success. We all benefited from his passion for helping improve the lives of others.”

Guyon arrived at the University in 1974 as a professor in chemistry, and later became the first dean of the College of Science. He became associate vice president for research and dean of the graduate school in 1976, followed by posts as acting vice president and then vice president for academic affairs and research.

Guyon’s term as president began in July 1987, nine months after being named acting president. At the time, the president was the top administrator for the SIUC campus and the chancellor led the entire SIU system. Later, administrative restructuring while Guyon led SIUC changed duties and titles.

SIU President Glenn Poshard’s relationship with Guyon dates to when Poshard served in the state senate. He said that Guyon “always carried himself with a great deal of dignity.” Poshard also said that one of Guyon’s lasting legacies at the University is his commitment to diversity.

“He made an outstanding contribution to the University, especially in the area of diversity,” Poshard said. “He built a much more diversified student body than we previously had. Over the years, that diversity has really helped the University in many, many ways.”

When he was one of three finalists for the University’s top spot in 1987, Guyon said he believed the University’s mission statement should set horizons rather than boundaries.

During his tenure, Guyon oversaw a growth in enrollment along with an expanding campus, including Life Science III and what is now known as the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

Guyon was an “extraordinarily decent human being,” said John S. Jackson, a former interim chancellor and now a visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Jackson said Guyon appointed him to two of the three best jobs he has had -- interim dean of the graduate school, and later, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

“He was really a very kind and caring sort of person,” Jackson said. “He went out of his way to help people that he dealt with and make sure the University helped as many people as possible.”

Jackson also praised Guyon’s commitment “to advancing the excellence of the University.”

Guyon was honored in August with the dedication of the 200-seat John C. Guyon Auditorium in the expanded and renovated Morris Library. The John C. Guyon Scholarship annually provides financial assistance to a freshman student pursuing a career in science at SIUC.

Benjamin A. Shepherd, who served as an associate vice chancellor, vice president for academic affairs and research, and also provost under Guyon, believes Guyon ranks second to Morris among the University’s leadership.

“The institution, in my opinion, matured from a fledgling high enrollment state university to a mature state university with a substantial research mission and a commitment to excellence in undergraduate education,” he said.

Guyon was a visionary, and had an uncanny ability to build consensus among the various university constituencies, including students, faculty and staff, Shepherd said.

“To an individual, be it student, faculty or staff, John listened to them and they had value with him and they sensed it,” Shepherd said. That contributed greatly to a campus environment that fostered progress, harmony and hard work.

“We were all blessed to have had him in the various positions that he held while on campus,” Shepherd said. “We are better for it and he will be sorely missed.”

During his tenure as chancellor, the University became the first American university offering an off-campus program in Japan in May 1988. Classes at the Nakajo, Japan, campus mirrored American programs and a year later, a new $7 million campus was dedicated in the seaside community. The University also launched a distance-learning initiative, allowing students in the health care field to attend classes via interactive video linkages with the region’s community colleges.

Guyon also focused on minority recruitment and advancement while chancellor. He created a task force to study the status of women at the University, particularly with regard to female faculty and student recruitment.

The first campus Clean Air Policy went into effect and Saluki Express began during Guyon’s tenure.

The Carbondale NAACP presented its first Image Award to Guyon in 1989, recognizing him for making a positive impact on the region’s minority residents. The Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education also honored Guyon in 1989 for bringing African Americans into policy-making and administrative positions.

A native of Washington, Pa., Guyon, a chemist, taught and chaired the chemistry departments at Memphis State University and the University of Missouri at Columbia. He also worked in industry as an analytical chemist and served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. Guyon’s research focus included study of absorption spectroscopy, heteropoly compounds and fluorescence.

Guyon graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Jefferson College in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned a master’s degree in physical chemistry at Toledo University in 1957 and was an Owens Illinois fellow. He earned a doctorate in analytical chemistry from Purdue University in 1961, where he was an Eli Lilly Fellow.

A Requiem Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 27, at Shryock Auditorium. The Right Rev. Peter H. Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield will preside over the mass. Bishop Beckwith will be assisted by the Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Carbondale. Musical selections will begin at 10:30 a.m.