2017 Sturgis Award

2017 Sturgis Award recipient: William “Bill” Bruns, center, recipient of the 2017 Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Public Service Award, receives the award from left, Sturgis’ daughter, Jean Easley, granddaughter Pamela Pfeffer, Interim SIU Carbondale Chancellor Brad Colwell, and SIU President Randy Dunn. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

June 20, 2017

Sturgis Public Service Winner is a “Serial Volunteer”

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- William “Bill” Bruns isn’t one to just sit idly by and watch things happen. He’d much rather lend a hand, whether that means coaching a children’s sports team, advising a service organization, caring for children in crisis or filling in whatever the need may be.

That’s precisely why the self-described “serial volunteer” earned Southern Illinois University’s 2017 Lindell W. Sturgis Memorial Public Service Award, presented today (June 20). Bruns, of Makanda, received the award and plaque during a ceremony at Stone Center with former award winners and SIU administrators in attendance. His name will also be added to a plaque that hangs permanently in Anthony Hall.

“Bill has made public service a top priority in his life,” former SIU employee John Jarvis wrote in his nomination of Bruns for the award. “The concept of service is at the core of Bill’s being.”

Bruns, deputy director of the Student Center, said he was humbled and grateful to learn he is being recognized.

“I’ve been volunteering for more than 25 years and can’t really say why I started. I think maybe it was a family thing,” Bruns said. “I remember as a child watching my dad serving on the school board and volunteering at our church. My father told stories of how my grandfather was the ‘mayor’ of Tyndall Town, which was a settlement of World War II veterans having just returned from the war to Indianapolis.

“As I grew up, it just seemed like the natural thing to do,” he added. “My general nature isn’t to sit back and let other people do everything. When I get an opportunity to help or lead, I’m going to take it. I’d rather be involved than sitting on the bench.”

Bruns has been employed at SIU since 2002, originally serving as instructor and coordinator for media and technology in the College of Education and Human Services. He was the Student Center’s webmaster and technology director from 2006 to 2009 before moving into his current role in 2009. The award is unrelated to his professional duties, but during his time at SIU, Bruns has also helped reestablish SIU’s Beta Chi Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity and served as the longtime faculty adviser/chapter adviser.

During his tenure with the fraternal organization, he has earned recognition for his work while the organization has won both local and national awards. In fact, Bruns is proud to note that under his leadership, the TKE chapters at SIU as well as those at Indiana University and the University of Illinois-Urbana, when he served as the TKE advisor, won multiple accolades. From more than 200 TKE chapters in the United States and Canada, each was chosen as the “Top TKE International Fraternity Award” winner with Bruns at the helm.

“At the fraternity of Tau Kappa Epsilon, his quarter-century of service literally has led to an international TKE award in his name,” Jarvis noted. The Bill Bruns Commitment to Service Award is a scholarship presented by the TKE Educational Foundation to undergraduate members who demonstrate a commitment to service to fraternity, university and community.

An alumnus of the service organization, Bruns’ employment doesn’t involve teaching students but by getting involved in a leadership role he’s able to connect more closely with students, work with them and help them while also assisting with the organization’s activities and philanthropy.

“I had such a good fraternal undergraduate experience, I want to perpetuate that experience for others,” he said. 

Touch of Nature Environmental Center is also the beneficiary of Bruns’ community service. He serves on the Friends of Touch of Nature board and helps raise funds for scholarships for Camp Little Giant, which provides a true summer camp experience for people with disabilities.

In addition, Bruns is active with the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Southeastern Missouri and Western Kentucky. He is a past president and chairman of the board and during his dozen years with the organization, has helped run a Jewish summer camp for children.

He has also coached children’s soccer and baseball for numerous years, as well as serving as a league commissioner, board member and secretary for Carbondale Soccer Inc. When residing previously in the Champaign/Urbana area, he was a scoreboard operator at the University of Illinois Assembly Hall and served as a Crisis Nursey volunteer in Urbana, going to the nursery at 5 a.m. each Sunday to prepare breakfast and care for children during their family’s emergency situations. He said he enjoyed the nursery work, although it was heartbreaking at times, and would enjoy getting involved in similar work again.

“It seems like every time my kids get into something or there’s something I’m interested in, I just dive in and get involved, helping wherever it’s needed,” Bruns said.

Bruns and wife Debbie, a special education professor for SIU’s College of Education and Human Services, are the parents of daughter Marlie, a sophomore at Indiana University, her father’s alma mater, and Will, a sophomore at Carbondale Community High School.