February 16, 2011

Burris donating papers to Morris Library

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Roland W. Burris has worn many titles -- athlete, scholar, alumnus, attorney, public servant and now guest of honor at an event celebrating the donation of his U.S. Senate and state government papers to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, his alma mater.

Burris is donating his collection of papers from his time as a U.S. senator as well as his terms as Illinois comptroller and attorney general to the Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library. A celebration of that donation is set for 3-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23, in the John C. Guyon Auditorium on the first floor of Morris Library.

Speakers at the celebration, in addition to Burris, will include SIU President Glenn Poshard, SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng, Library Affairs Dean David Carlson and Chris Shelton, president of the Beta Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the fraternity Burris belonged to as an SIUC student. William Norwood, former member of the SIU Board of Trustees and retired United Airlines captain and pilot, will deliver the keynote address.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the Roland W. Burris celebration 3-4:30 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. In addition, Burris will be available to talk with media 2:30-3 p.m. that day in the Morris Library Hall of Presidents and Chancellors.

A reception in the Hall of Presidents and Chancellors will immediately follow the program. Guests will enjoy refreshments and talking with Burris.

A native of Centralia, Burris came to SIUC as a student in 1955 on a $35 per quarter tuition scholarship. During his college years, Burris played football and wrestled. He graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and was one of just two students selected as an exchange student on scholarship studying international law at the University of Hamburg in Germany. He earned his law degree from Howard University in 1963.

After completing law school, he became the first black national bank examiner for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for the U.S. Treasurer Department and later worked in a number of capacities at Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co., now Bank of America. Former Gov. Dan Walker appointed Burris as the director of the Department of Central Management Services and he subsequently became the first black elected to statewide office in Illinois when chosen as comptroller in 1978. After twice winning re-election, he became the first black elected attorney general in Illinois and the second black in the country to hold the position.

Burris also served as U.S. senator 2009-2010, appointed after Barack Obama won the presidential election. Burris’ career also includes terms as executive director and operating officer for Operation PUSH, as CEO and manager of Burris and Lebed Consulting LLC, as an adjunct professor in the SIUC master of public administration program and in private law practice.

One of the 10 Most Distinguished Alumni of SIUC in 1997, Burris has maintained a strong connection to SIUC through the years and the donation of his papers is just the most recent of his contributions to the University. He announced in 2008 that he was creating a $100,000 endowment to provide scholarships for black American undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts from the Centralia or Chicago metropolitan areas.

“Roland Burris is an inspiration as a local student and alumnus who has done very well. We are proud to add his senatorial and state government papers to the Special Collections Research Center of Morris Library,” said Pamela Hackbart-Dean, director of the Special Collections Research Center.