January 06, 2015

Miller receives internship honoring Callahan

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is creating an Illinois state government internship in honor of the late Gene Callahan. 

Callahan, a longtime aide to Simon and former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon, was a member of the SIU Board of Trustees and a founding member of the institute’s board of counselors. His son, the late Dan Callahan, was head baseball coach at SIU Carbondale and his daughter, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, was recently re-elected to her second term. 

The internship is supported by a gift from Jerry Mileur, who served with Callahan on the institute’s board of counselors.   The Callahan internship will replace one named for Mileur.  

Adrian Miller of Carbondale, former student body president and student member of the SIU Board of Trustees, has been selected for the internship, which this year will involve working in the Illinois House of Representatives during the spring semester. 

Mileur, a Murphysboro native and a two-degree SIU alumnus, thought the internship an appropriate way to honor his friend.  Mileur is the retired chairman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

“Gene Callahan had a lifelong love affair with politics, baseball, and the State of Illinois, all of which he served at the highest levels,” Mileur said. “Devoted to public service outside the limelight, he was widely known for his integrity, prized for his political wisdom, and appreciated by many as an enthusiastic and loyal friend.” 

He added: “American politics would work as our founders intended if all its practitioners were like Gene Callahan.  His example is a model of public service, and my hope is that an internship in his name will lead others along his path.” 

Congresswoman Bustos said: "My family and I are so proud that my father's legacy of public service will live on” in this internship. “It is fitting that the program that bears his name will help students at SIU, a university that he cared about so deeply, gain experience in politics and journalism, two of his great passions.” 

She also praised Miller saying “on behalf of the Callahan family, I'd like to congratulate Adrian Miller” on his selection as the inaugural recipient. “He has been a valuable member of the Carbondale and SIU communities, and I'm sure will go on to do great things in the future." 

Applicants for the 2016 award should apply to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.  Any current SIU Carbondale student intending to pursue a career in government or politics is eligible.  Previous recipients have worked in state agencies, including one who landed a job with the agency at the end of their internship. 

The internship provides a stipend to the student selected to help defray housing and meal expenses during the January to May semester.   Linda Baker, university professor at the institute and former Secretary of the state Department of Human Services in Gov. Jim Edgar’s administration, mentors the interns during their stay in Springfield and works to find internship opportunities in state agencies or the legislature. 

David Yepsen, institute director, praised Mileur’s gesture honoring Callahan. 

“These internships are life-changing experiences for the students,” Yepsen said.  “I think Paul Simon and Gene Callahan would both be grateful to Jerry for his generosity.  I’m glad Gene’s name will still be associated with education and good government in Illinois.” 

Callahan was born in Milford, the last of four children, and grew up on his family's hog farm outside the small town near the Indiana border. His father was a Democrat Party county official in heavily Republican Iroquois County and served in the Illinois House. Callahan graduated in 1955 from Illinois College in Jacksonville, where he majored in English.  Then he served two years in the U.S. Army. 

For more than 40 years, Callahan worked in the political arena, first as a journalist with the Illinois State Register in Springfield from 1957 to 1967, then as assistant press secretary for Gov. Sam Shapiro, and as Lt. Gov. Paul Simon's press secretary until 1972. 

In 1974 he began his long association with Alan Dixon, when Dixon served as Illinois treasurer and later as secretary of state.  When Dixon moved to the U.S. Senate in 1981, Callahan became his chief of staff and most trusted political adviser.  

After Dixon lost a re-election bid to Carol Moseley Braun in 1992, Callahan worked for several years as the chief lobbyist for Major League Baseball, fighting to preserve its exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act. His long friendship with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., dates back to the days when both worked for Lt. Gov. Simon.