Quinn names two SIU Board appointees

News-DemocratMay 3, 2013 

A months-long dispute between the Illinois Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn ended Friday with the appointment of two new members to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

The new appointees are retired Maj. Gen. Randal Thomas, an SIUE alumnus, and former SIUE professor Shirley Portwood, who taught history for 30 years.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the two appointees have strong ties to the Edwardsville campus.

"I appreciate the governor taking our input and working with us to find these appointees," Haine said. "I am confident that the board will soon be able to resume its role representing each of SIU's campuses."

The dispute over the SIU board began when Quinn removed three trustees who represented the Edwardsville campus. The Senate rejected all of his replacements, none of whom had ties to SIUE.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said he was "grateful" that the metro-east legislators were able to negotiate with the governor on the nominations.

"It looks like they're very qualified people and will provide a balance to the board," Poshard said. "My prayer is that we can just unite the board now and go forward with a united front to take care of the business of the university."

Poshard said he had met Thomas briefly when the former general attended SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe's installation last month, but had not yet met Portwood.

The appointments of Thomas and Portwood now go to the Senate for approval. A third board position is still vacant.

Haine said the pair are "people of distinction and service who will fulfill the mission of the board by promoting the growth and success of the university as a whole."

Portwood, of Godfrey, is a retired professor of history who taught at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville from 1980 to 2010. Thomas, of Springfield, was the 36th Adjutant General of Illinois -- the highest National Guard post in the state.

Portwood earned a doctorate in history from Washington University in St. Louis in 1982 after completing her bachelor's and master's degrees in history at SIUE.

Portwood served as a member of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Board of Trustees since Quinn appointed her in March 2010. She was also recently appointed to the Illinois Amistad Commission, which was established to promote education and awareness of slavery and the African slave trade.

Portwood taught history at the college and university level for 40 years, has done considerable research, participated in numerous professional conference and published in assorted venues.

She organized a scholarly symposium examining the history of African Americans in Illinois. Using the African-American community in Alton as a case study, Portwood studied the career and impact of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy.

Portwood resides with her husband, Harry Portwood, in Madison County.

Thomas is a graduate of SIUE, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1973 and a master's degree in education in 1980. He also earned a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College.

Thomas received his commission as an infantry officer in 1967. He served in the Army Special Forces from 1966 to 1969, and was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor for his combat service in Vietnam.

Before he was appointed as the Adjutant General, Thomas worked for 30 years as an English teacher, librarian and media director in Hillsboro.

Thomas spent three years as a member of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. He volunteers as a certified master gardener. Thomas and his wife, Joanne, have two sons and two grandchildren.

Thomas is a lifetime member of the SIUE Alumni Association and a member of the 2011 SIUE Alumni Hall of Fame.

Assuming their confirmation by the state Senate, the nominees will take their seats at the regular board meeting next week in Carbondale. They will step in just as the board must decide tuition and fee increases for next year. The Edwardsville campus has requested a 7 percent increase; Carbondale has requested 5 percent.

"I will have to make a recommendation to the board, and I don't think my recommendation will be as high as either of those numbers," Poshard said.

His staff is still waiting to hear how much the state will cut SIU's appropriations, Poshard said. They also do not know the full impact of the federal sequester, or the final resolution of the state pension crisis, which could require that SIU take on the state's portion of pension payments.

"Without those three items, it's really hard to determine how much revenue you will need with respect to tuition," Poshard said. "I will have to weigh and balance the best I can do."

Regardless of the state's schedule, Poshard said SIU will have to put together a budget by the July trustees' meeting.

"Hopefully the legislature will have ended their business by then," he said. "We can't finalize anything until the state gets its business done."

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