- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Oct. 14, 2018

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Montemagno’s death tragic in a number of different ways

We join the community of Southern Illinois University and the region at whole in mourning the passing of SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno.

Montemagno, 62, announced earlier this summer that he was battling cancer. Although his diagnosis had been made public, the region was shocked by the news of his passing on Oct. 11. Our sincere condolences are extended to his family, friends and colleagues.

First, and foremost, we should consider Carlo Montemagno, the man, the husband, the father, the human being.

Jerry Kill, SIUC Director of Athletics, got right to the heart of the matter with the statement he issued.

“This is one of the saddest days of my life,” Kill said. “We lost a great chancellor, a tough chancellor, a man with a vision, but most importantly, a good man.”

Montemagno came to SIUC just over a year ago. He was tasked with turning around the fortunes of a university that had seen its enrollment drop by nearly 50 percent over the past two decades.

Sadly, his legacy at SIU will be incomplete.

In his 14 months on the job, Montemagno laid out plans to reorganize the educational hierarchy at SIUC. He proposed a plan that would eliminate departments and reorganize degree programs under new schools. The theory being better interdisciplinary communication and innovation, which in turn, would make the university more attractive to prospective students.

Montemagno’s plan was met with skepticism and outspoken criticism by some faculty members. We can’t say with certainty that his vision would have turned the university around, but now we will never know.

What we do know is that Montemagno brought an impressive record of success in several fields to SIU. Although his time here was brief, he seemed to have developed a real affection for SIU. Unlike some administrators, his was a familiar face at campus functions.

But, his death leaves the university with a list of questions.

What if Montemagno had come to SIU during less turbulent political times?

How would Montemagno’s plans advanced if the university hadn’t been dealing with replacing a university president? How much easier would Montemagno’s task had been if previous administrators had maintained a viable recruitment budget?

And, one wonders how many more such body blows the SIU system can absorb. The entire system, particularly the Carbondale campus, reminds us of a heavyweight boxer absorbing one punch after another.

None of the blows are enough to bring the fighter to his knees, but the cumulative effect can be debilitating.

The past 20 years have been turbulent times at SIU. With dropping enrollment as a constant, SIU received negative publicity as the result of an ongoing conflict between the Board of Trustees and President Glenn Poshard.

Interim chancellor Paul Sarvela passed away in November 2014 after serving just a few months.

Now, we’re just a few months beyond President Randy Dunn being removed from office. And, there are factions within the university system looking to separate the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses. It’s a lot to deal with, no matter how accomplished.

Montemagno never had the opportunity to truly put his stamp on the SIU campus. With his death, SIUC must start dealing with these significant issues anew. Montemagno’s death is a tragedy in a variety of ways.


Oct. 13, 2018

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

Plan achieves respectful preservation of riot artifacts

No one likes to remember the bad chapters of our history. But to try to forget means we do not learn the lessons those painful times taught us.

That’s why finally having a proposed agreement about what to do with the remains of homes burned down during the 1908 Springfield Race Riots is an achievement worth noting.

The two-day race riots in August 1908 were perpetuated by a white mob, who, after being thwarted in an attempt to lynch two black inmates in the Sangamon County Jail, went on a rampage that ended in death and destruction of black lives, homes and businesses.

The riots shocked the city. Activists channeled their frustration of such an atrocity happening in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln into the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. But for decades, the stain of the riots shamed residents into rarely discussing, much less acknowledging, the incident.

Some of the actual physical signs of the riots were buried - literally - until being unearthed in 2014 during construction on the multimillion dollar project that will consolidate train traffic in Springfield from the Third Street rail corridor to 10th Street. An archaeological team found seven homes - five of which were burned during the riots - as well as other artifacts from a mid-1800s immigrant neighborhood.

Work was halted near the block-long site near the 10th Street rail tracks and Madison Street, and the site was covered with sand and grass while debates began over what to do with what was found. It appears a resolution is now at hand.

We’ve long advocated that the site and its historical valuables be respectfully preserved. The broad strokes of the plan before the four governmental entities that need to sign off on it show promising signs of doing that.

While the Federal Railroad Administration ruled that the rail project didn’t have to reroute its proposed tracks away from the burned homes, the tracks were nonetheless moved 20 feet to the east in order to minimally disturb the site. Doing so will leave one foundation untouched.

The proposed agreement states that artifacts would be curated by the city and the Illinois State Museum. A permanent barrier would be built on the south and east sides of the untouched home foundation so it’s protected during construction and beyond; the other foundations would be reburied after excavation was completed. Once it resumes, the excavation will be recorded and archaeologists interviewed. Guided tours will be offered at least one Saturday while the site is open for excavation.

It’s important that a draft of the agreement was reviewed by 27 consulting parties, and criticism was sought. Also critical: The Springfield and state chapters of the NAACP are “comfortable” with the agreement, organization president Teresa Haley told the SJ-R last week. She also hopes the artifacts eventually make their way to Library of Congress and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The NAACP hopes to put a memorial to mark where the homes once sat, with early plans showing a garden and structure that allows visitors to learn about the race riots and reflect on them. We’re eager to learn more about that idea too.

The FRA has signed off on the agreement, and the Springfield City Council is scheduled to give it consideration this week. The federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office also need to approve it. Once all four governmental entities sign off, excavation - which is expected to take about 12 weeks - can restart and work on the rail relocation near Carpenter and Jefferson streets can resume.

While past generations have sought to forget the riots, the same cannot be said for the present. In August, the city dedicated eight redesigned memorials that tell the story of the riots for anyone open to learning about the mistakes of the past. And if this agreement is implemented, important, though painful, parts of Springfield’s past will be preserved in a dignified manner.


Oct. 12, 2018

Sauk Valley Media

A hero’s story helps a city heal

The accolades are piling up for Mark Dallas, Dixon’s school resource officer, and they have come on the local, state, national and international levels.

The recognition went global Oct. 6 when Dallas went to Orlando, Florida, to receive the Officer of the Year award given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Two days later, Dallas and three other finalists for the award were praised by President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando for the awards ceremony.

When 19-year-old Matthew A. Milby Jr. opened fire in Dixon High School and headed toward the gym filled with students rehearsing for graduation, tragedy was narrowly averted thanks to the bravery and preparedness of Dallas.

The officer’s life has changed in ways he probably still can’t comprehend, but even though everything happened just right in the few seconds Dallas was given in which to react, the entire city of Dixon has been changed forever.

This has been a time of great pride for the Sauk Valley as they watch their local hero receive his much-deserved recognition. It’s been even nicer to watch because Dallas has been the picture of humility and grace throughout the aftermath of this horrible incident. He genuinely would rather skip the accolades and just use the platform he’s been given to advocate for more school resource officers.

The positive recognition the city has received goes a long way in helping people deal with the intense emotional rollercoaster a near-tragedy of this magnitude has put them on. Thoughts of what might have been will have residents feeling terrified, angry, and thanks to Dallas, grateful and incredibly blessed for the rest of their lives.

City officials and law enforcement will share their experience with other towns in an effort to make sure the story doesn’t have a different ending somewhere else. Dallas has taken the lead in educating others in a manner that mirrors his quick reactions on that fateful day.

The day might come when Dixon residents can reconcile their feelings through the belief that it was fortunate that something like this happened to them rather than another small town that wasn’t prepared for such a dire emergency. Even if that happens, you can bet that when residents watch media coverage of future school shootings - and sadly, there will be more - they’ll cry a little harder and hug their children a lot longer.

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