March 29, 2013

Lacey to receive Distinguished Service Award

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Ella M. Phillips Lacey will receive a Distinguished Service Award from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in recognition of her commitment and humanitarian efforts.

Lacey, a triple alumna of the University, will receive her award on May 11 during 1:30 p.m. commencement exercises at the SIU Arena.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees recently approved the award. Lacey earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1964, a master’s degree in rehabilitation and human services in 1972, and a doctorate in education in 1979. 

Her career at SIU began in 1972 as a field coordinator/instructor for the School of Medicine, and she spent 22 years meeting area health needs through her work with the medical school.  During her time at SIU, Lacey also served as assistant professor and associate professor as well as being the coordinator for the Office of Community Health Program Development.  For many years she held dual appointments with the School of Medicine and SIU Carbondale’s College of Education and Human Services.

Lacey has a lifelong and passionate commitment to improving healthcare for those with limited access to resources, whether in her community or around the globe, according to the award recommendation from Chancellor Rita Cheng and the University’s Honorary Degrees and Distinguished Service Awards Committee. 

While at SIU, Lacey played a vital role in developing and implementing a plan that improved ambulance services in seven Southern Illinois counties, and was also involved in other health systems planning work.  She served on state councils and commissions focusing on AIDS, welfare and hypertension.  She researched Pica, an eating disorder more commonly found in women with limited financial resources, and she served on state cancer prevention, adolescent pregnancy and child abuse committees.

Retirement didn’t slow Lacey down at all.  After retiring from the University in 1994, she became involved with the United Nations’ World Health Organization and UNICEF, serving seven separate three-month assignments as a polio consultant working in several countries.  While serving in Malawi, Lacey walked three miles each day to work where she trained people to instruct volunteers to help fight polio through the Worldwide Polio Eradication Program.

Her local volunteer work includes being an ambassador with the University’s International Chautauqua Seniors Program, helping at Carbondale Middle School, and working with the Eurma C. Hayes Center and the Rotary Club of Carbondale.  She helps with the “I Can Read” Program, and is involved with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, including serving on the organization’s national executive board.  In addition to all of her service work, she has spoken to numerous civic, educational and spiritual groups about her humanitarianism and experiences.

Lacey is the recipient of numerous national and local awards and honors for her efforts.  They include the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from the Peace Corps, the 1991 University Women of Distinction Award, the 1993 Ida B. Wells-Barnett Award, and the 2004 Rosemary Berkel Crisp Award.  She is an SIU Carbondale Distinguished Alumni, and received the Inspiring Women of Achievement Award in 2007. 

She was honored in 2009 by the Carbondale Rotary Club with a Service Above Self Day in recognition of her work to fight polio, secure clean water, provide HIV/AIDS testing and improve children’s lives, and for fighting discrimination against women in countries including Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, India, Malawi and Sierra Leone.  Lacey is one of just about 150 Rotarians among about 1.2 members worldwide to receive this honor.