PSPPI-Cheri Bustos

September 11, 2023

Former U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos to give SIU’s Morton-Kenney lecture

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Cheri Bustos, a former journalist and healthcare executive who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years and was a senior member of the House Democratic leadership team, is the guest for the Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Monday, Sept. 18.

The event is from 5-7 p.m. in Morris Library, with the lecture at 6 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium. A reception starts at 5 p.m. in the library’s rotunda. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended.

Bustos and John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, will discuss Bustos’ career, which included a decade representing Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, in the northwestern and central part of the state. They will also discuss her work as a journalist and healthcare executive as well as her current job heading the Illinois office of Mercury, a global public strategy firm. This spring, Bustos was a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

She served in the U.S. House from 2013 to 2023, where she served as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and  then co-chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee. From 2007 to 2011 Bustos was a member of the East Moline City Council.  A former journalist in the Quad Cities, Bustos also worked in health care for one of the nation’s largest non-denominational, non-profit health care systems.

Shaw expects Bustos also will reflect on her decision to return to private life, the current state of Congress, the complexity and cost of modern political campaigns “and the stern challenges now confronting American democracy.”

Bustos earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois Springfield.  She also attended Illinois College in Jacksonville.

Significant connections to SIU

Bustos has several close family affiliations with SIU. Her father, Gene Callahan, was a longtime aide to former U.S. Senator and institute founder Paul Simon and also to former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon. In addition, Callahan was a member of the SIU Board of Trustees and a founding member of the institute’s board of counselors. The institute offers the paid Gene Callahan Internship to Springfield, Illinois, during the spring semester to an SIU Carbondale student to work in the field of public policy, public service or government. Bustos’ late brother, Dan, was head coach of the Saluki baseball team for 16 seasons before passing away in November 2010.

Biannual lecture

The Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture Series is presented by the institute and the political science program in the School of Anthropology, Political Science, and Sociology, which is within the College of Liberal Arts. The lecture occurs in the spring and fall of each academic year.

The late Jerome Mileur, an SIU alumnus, established the series in 1995 in honor of two of his political science professors — Ward Morton and David Kenney — who inspired him as a student. Originally from Murphysboro, Mileur was a professor emeritus in political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for Bustos on the registration form or email questions to

Lists of the institute’s upcoming events and past speakers and events are available.