The power of “just a thought”
By Rebecca Renshaw
In January 2019, Dan Giedeman, a three-degree SIU alumnus, posted this now-famous comment in the private Facebook group called “Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s.” The group, started by Craig S. Wilson in November 2018, swelled to nearly 15,000 members within three months.
Giedeman’s idea to raise money for a scholarship dovetailed perfectly into SIU’s Day of Giving on March 6. With the added excitement of the university’s 150th anniversary kickoff celebration, members of the group banded together and donated. The outpouring was phenomenal.
Jim Raffensperger, a member of the Facebook group, named the scholarship as a joke that brought a smile to many alums -- The Balancing Education, Experience and Reality (BEER) Scholarship.
“I mean, what college kid doesn’t drink beer?” Raffensperger joked. The name stuck, and the group rallied behind it in a viral fashion. Nearly 1,100 people from the group donated more than $50,000 to create two endowed scholarships for students.
A ceremony on the steps of Shryock Auditorium held Friday, March 29, commemorated the creation of the scholarship. Many members of the group traveled from other states. One person who hadn’t been back to campus in over 28 years traveled from South Carolina to be part of the ceremony.
Giedeman, who traveled from Michigan, presented Chancellor John M. Dunn with a check for $50,000 from the group. Weeks after the presentation, donations continued to pour in.
Dunn presented the group of about 100 people with the Day of Giving trophy for most individual gifts for a non-academic unit. Dunn said he has always been impressed by the amount of pride at SIU, and it was evident in this group’s turnout.
“In the history of humankind, the really great people — the Mother Theresas, the Albert Schweitzers — have always reminded us that true happiness can only be obtained through giving,” Dunn said. “You represent that in spades, and I’m very, very proud of you. Thank you.”
Raffensperger said alumni came to the university for the education but left with memorable experiences, lifelong friends, and sometimes their soulmates.
“We’re all back because we came to love SIU and southern Illinois,” Raffensperger said.
Many who came to witness the celebration also took a tour of the campus, and some brought their high school children to take a look at all that SIU has to offer. That evening, a group took the trophy to several Carbondale establishments for bragging rights.
As well as raising funds for the university, Giedeman and Raffensperger said the Facebook group created a space for alumni to find opportunities to support current students with mentors and internships. The group also encourages former students to finish their degrees at the university.
The trophy will be shared among the group throughout the upcoming year. The trophy was scheduled to travel to SIU Days at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field in June.