Thursday, June 29, 2017

2016-17 Male Athlete of the Year: Rochester’s Collin Stallworth

Collin Stallworth was impossible to miss on both the football field and the basketball court, and not just because he was typically the tallest athlete.

It didn’t take long to see he was one of the best and most athletic players on either surface.

The State Journal-Register’s Male Athlete of the Year, as a wide receiver on the football team, caught 50 passes for 1,041 yards and scored 14 touchdowns to help Rochester High School go 13-1 and capture its sixth Class 4A state championship in seven seasons.

And the 6-foot-6 senior forward averaged 12.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 30 games for the Rockets’ basketball team.

Stallworth turned down multiple NCAA Division I scholarship offers for football to play basketball at D-II University of Illinois Springfield.

“I’ve always grown up wanting to play basketball (in college),” Stallworth said in April. “It was my dream. But I had some pretty big football schools talk to me. I wanted to give that consideration because it was big football schools, but I wasn’t in love with football like I was in love with basketball."

The story was reported on June 29, 2017 by The State Journal-Register.

Read the story online.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Area colleges: UIS students honored for academics

Rochester High School graduate Grant Fitzsimmons and Lincoln product Kena Bere are among 12 University of Illinois Springfield athletes named as Great Lakes Valley Conference Brother James Gaffney FSC Distinguished Scholar Award recipients.

The GLVC recognized 275 athletes for achieving a 4.0 grade point average during the academic year.

Bere plays for the women’s tennis team. Fitzsimmons is a member of the men’s tennis squad. The other UIS recipients are Hannah Blyth (women’s tennis), Amanda Gosbeth (softball), Haley Inman (softball), Brittany Moore (softball), Katie Wooldridge (softball), Hayley Hawkins (women’s soccer), Brooke Hill (women’s golf), Jacob Seidel (men’s cross country/track and field), Alex Ginglen (men’s cross country/track and field) and Sam Clarke (men’s tennis).

Seven UIS teams have been honored by the GLVC for maintaining a 3.30 GPA.

They are women’s tennis (3.70), softball (3.66), volleyball (3.52), women’s soccer (3.51), men’s tennis (3.49), women’s golf (3.44) and men’s cross country (3.31).

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 28, 2017.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

UIS Baseball lays down new infield turf

The University of Illinois Springfield baseball grounds crew put the finishing touches on the new infield turf over the weekend.

The new turf costed around $300 thousand. UIS Head Baseball Coach Chris Ramirez says he's excited to take the field.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 26, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Modernism and residency: The SAA kicks off a summer of unique programming

The Springfield Art Association is currently in high gear with a unique exhibit featuring nearly 300 specimens of modernist furniture and décor.

The SAA is also now hosting the first two visiting artists to participate in the recently established Enos Park residency program for visual artists.

James Pepper Kelly of Chicago and German-born Astrid Kaemmerling are both in the midst of six-week stays, during which they are creating new work relating to the Enos Park neighborhood or Springfield as a whole. The work will be presented later this summer in a special exhibit at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Visual Arts Gallery.

 Kaemmerling, who has shown work in Germany, Italy, Korea and the United States and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, is currently based in San Francisco. The concentration for her current Springfield-based project is in the field of “walking art,” in aid of which free tickets are currently available for her “Enos Park Community Walking Laboratory.”

According to Kaemmerling’s online event page, “while meandering the streets of Enos Park for one hour you and I will engage in a conversation about the past, present and future of the neighborhood while monitoring our thoughts and passageways.” The conversations will be recorded and later presented as part of the exhibit, along with maps of the paths taken in each walk.

Kaemmerling’s enthusiasm for the residency is palpable. “It’s a fantastic way for me to put some of the research I have done into action and really field test it,” she said. “The support here so far has been incredible. And welcoming! Wherever I go, even on the street, people are super friendly; they greet you and engage in conversation. It’s been really nice.”

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on June 22, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FMHS grad Ramirez made wise investment choosing coaching

Decisions. Decisions. You’re fresh out of college. Do you take the $50,000 a year job with a major investment firm? Or the $3-4,000 job helping coach the game you love for your nearby community college?

Chris Ramirez didn’t have to think long about that. The 2001 Fort Madison High School graduate opted to be the assistant baseball coach under Justin Schulte for Southeastern Community College, a year after graduating from High Point University in 2005.

Ramirez had a state championship on his résumé from high school and played four years of collegiate baseball. Why give up a good thing?

Besides: “I wasn’t ready to go buy a bunch of suits and sit in an office all day,” Ramirez said of rejecting an offer to be a financial advisor for American Express Financial Advisors.

Twelve years later, Ramirez is still coaching the game he loves, and now he’s a successful head coach at University of Illinois Springfield. He took over the fledgling three-year-old program four seasons ago and has kept raising the bar of expectations. The school had won no more than 12 games when he took job. The victory count so far has been: 22, 28, 28 and 33.

Ramirez grew up in Fort Madison and a fond memory was practicing and playing baseball with his father, Mike. But he wasn’t just an all-state baseball player. He competed for the Bloodhounds in football and basketball all four years, plus three spring seasons in tennis and his senior year in track. This, however, was back when being a four-sport, four-year athlete was no big deal (see separate story).

He committed to play baseball for Iowa State University. But the school dropped the program, so he went to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. There he started as the centerfield and was the closer on the pitching staff. He finished his college career with two years at Highpoint University, a small Division I program in North Carolina. He graduated with a business degree, but still had hopes for a career path to the major leagues. The opportunity never came.

 Then he was offered the high-paying job of financial advisor for American Express. At the same time, however, a call from his former coach — legendary Norway coach Jim Van Scoyoc — at Kirkwood, who informed Ramirez that Schulte, a former Norway standout, had taken the baseball coach at SCC. “(Schulte) offered me $3-4,000,” Ramirez said. “I called and turned down the $50,000 job at Greensboro.” He worked a golf course in the morning to make some extra money, “like a lot of coaches have to do to get started,” Ramirez said.

“I think it’s such an impressional age group,” Ramirez said. “You get to work with these young men and develop them. “Ultimately my message as a coach is to get these young men ready for life after baseball,”

This story appeared in The Fort Madison Daily Democrat.

Read the entire article online.

Military museum aims to give video gamers historical context

The Illinois State Military Museum is asking video gamers to put down their controllers and stop by to get a first-hand look at some of the equipment, uniforms and weapons they see as they fight in the digital world.

The “War Games” event at the museum (admission is free), which runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, was the idea of Lizzie Roehrs, 21, of Springfield, an intern at the museum and a student at the University of Illinois Springfield.

She noticed that kids coming through the museum on school field trips could easily identify many of the weapons on display. They told her they had seen them while playing video games. “The connection is already there. They are already associating what they see in video games with history,” Roehrs said. “But, with playing a video game, they don’t get a lot of context. So the idea for the event came from not only wanting to encourage kids to continue an interest in history, but also to teach them that there is more to the events in video games than what’s on the screen.”

During “War Games,” there will be re-enactors at the museum explaining how and why certain equipment was used. Attendees will also be able to try on uniforms and explore a trench.

In addition, Roehrs is setting up displays in the lobby with some of the tools and weapons in the museum’s collection that she’s seen in video games. One such item is a Japanese knee mortar that can be seen in “Call of Duty: World at War.”

Soldiers from the Illinois National Guard fought Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater during World War II as part of the 33rd Infantry Division. Roehrs has also found uniforms and uniform patches that are seen in some of the video games. “We have a ton of artifacts at the museum. We have an entire vault full of artifacts and an additional building on the National Guard base that is packed with these artifacts. We have items from the state militia through the modern, global war on terror,” Roehrs said.
“I look at these kids as potential history buffs,” Roehrs said. “Maybe they don’t realize that they are as into it as they are. If you give them a little more of the history, bring them out to the museum and show them the real thing, that could spark an interest in history.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 16, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Keeping international students safe at UIS

With just under 5,500 students, 20 percent of the University of Illinois Springfield's enrollment is made up of international students. New, eager, and unfamiliar with the surroundings, these students can be the most vulnerable.

"When we are taken outside of our normal context, sometimes we just become more susceptible," said Rick Lane, the director of the International Student Services Program at UIS.

UIS takes a proactive approach by contacting international students early and often helping them to understand what they can expect.

"What to expect in terms of procedures, but also what to expect in terms of looking out for folks who might be trying to take advantage of them," Lane said.

Yu Shao comes from China and she says her self-defense class, which is a free class for all students, was also a vital tool. "They have taught us a lot of skills: how to protect yourself or how to get away from the bad guy when you are caught by them," senior student Shao said.

In general, the services offered to international students helps prepare the students for realistic situations and guides them through their transition.

"Try to stay with someone you do trust while you're learning who these other people are and what they're doing," Lane said.

This story aired on WICS Newschannel 20 on June 16, 2017.

Watch the story online.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lincoln Papers suspending National Archives search

The state is shutting down a project to search the National Archives for papers written by Abraham Lincoln.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum confirmed Monday that the search for Lincoln documents is being suspended in Washington, D.C. The National Archives has provided the bulk of Lincoln documents added in recent years to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project.

“The current priority for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln is to improve its policies and procedures so that our staff’s hard work and the taxpayers’ money is not wasted,” ALPLM spokesman Chris Wills said in a statement. “The search for Lincoln-related documents at the National Archives is on hold while we focus on how to handle the 100,000 documents that have been collected and what additional material should be gathered. The Papers will not lose access to any additional Lincoln documents at the National Archives.”

Wills could not say how long the search will be suspended.

There are two researchers based in Washington conducting the search. They are employed under contract to the University of Illinois Springfield. Money for the workers is provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation. University of Illinois Springfield spokesman Derek Schnapp said contracts for the two workers, which run year-to-year, will expire June 30. He said it is his understanding no money will be provided by the foundation after that. Three other workers are employed on the project on a contractual basis in Springfield. Schnapp said it is his understanding funding for those contracts will also end on June 30.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 12, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Susan Koch: Praise for exceptional performing arts at UIS

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 10, 2017.

"Just a few days ago, The State Journal Register’s “Weekend and More” section featured the rollout of UIS Sangamon Auditorium’s 2017-18 performing arts season. 

The season represents the final encore for auditorium director Bob Vaughn. Bob is transitioning to a well-earned retirement after 11 years of bringing exceptional quality and diversity to the Sangamon Auditorium stage. 

But many of the more than 75,000 patrons who regularly attend Sangamon Auditorium Broadway Shows, Visiting Artists and Kitchen Sink Series each year are not aware of an additional slate of rich performances that are equally appreciated. I’m talking about the Class Acts program — special daytime performing arts programming offered for students from preschool through high school from across central Illinois. 

Thanks to enthusiastic partnerships with several school districts, including the Springfield Public Schools, almost 15,000 students attended at least one of 15 Class Acts performances this year, ranging from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” for high school students to “Pete the Cat” for primary-aged children. 

A complimentary program called “Grow Up Great” provides additional funding for professional development for teachers and opportunities for parents and Head Start children to attend an evening meal and performance. 

The Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs would not be possible were it not for the generosity of donors who believe in the importance of arts education and who help fund the programming, subsidize the purchase of tickets for the students and help pay the cost of bus transportation. 

In addition to being a show sponsor every year, PNC Bank is a major sponsor of both Class Acts and Grow Up Great. “We’re so appreciative of PNC’s consistent support for these programs,” says Vaughn. “They’re helping us create a point of entry to the performing arts for both students and educators who might not otherwise have access to these experiences.” 

Bob and Liz Staley have also been longtime supporters of the programs. Though Liz is now deceased, the Staley family continues to provide a generous grant each year to enable small-town schools in New Berlin, Auburn and Waverly to participate in the Class Acts program. 

The Staley gift also provides funding for teachers to attend an evening performance at the auditorium each year. Participating teachers are asked to provide feedback about their students’ experiences, and their words may provide the best commentary on the value of the Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs. 

A music teacher from Riverton High School reported, after her class attended a performance of the 
acappella group Vocalosity: “An excellent performance! The students loved it. Students need opportunities to compare and contrast real professionals with their own ensembles so they can better understand what a high quality performance really is.” 

As we bid director Bob Vaughn a fond farewell and welcome new Sangamon Auditorium director Bryan Rives in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to another exceptional year of performing arts at the University of Illinois Springfield — for audiences of all ages."

Read the entire column online.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Steve Stein's Sports Notebook

University of Illinois Springfield senior men’s golfer Talon Supak from Washington was named to the NCAA Division II Ping All-Midwest Region Team for the second straight year.

Supak had a heck of a senior season, which included a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA regionals.

His stroke average of 73.26 in 23 rounds broke his own school record. Other school records broken by Supak this season were national ranking (67), rounds at par or better (11), eagles (3), low round (64), low 36-hole total (139) and low 54-hole total (203).

Supak finished in the top 10 in seven of 11 tournaments during the season.

This story appeared in the Washington Times-Reporter on June 5, 2017.

Read the entire article online.

Monday, June 5, 2017

State Finances, Health Care Among Top Concerns in Sangamon County

The results of the University of Illinois Springfield's biannual economic outlook survey for Sangamon County have been released.

Sixty-one percent of organizations say state finances is one of their top three concerns, which is the highest percentage ever.

The survey also found many people are worried about the healthcare sector in Sangamon County.

"It's a very large and very important part of Sangamon County economy," Matthew Case, director of Survey Research Office, said. "But in this survey, there's a little bit of a drop off in this survey in terms of the optimism. So right now only 55 percent say they expect the health care industry will grow compared to about 70 percent in the last two surveys."

This story aired in WICS Newschannel 20 on June 2, 2017.

Watch the story online.

State budget impasse weighs on local economic outlook

The prospect of a third Illinois fiscal year without a budget is weighing more than ever on expectations of local employers.

A spring economic-outlook survey released Friday showed 61 percent of businesses and other organizations listed state finances among their top three concerns for the coming year, the highest percentage since the University of Illinois Springfield Survey Research Office began spring and fall surveys in 2008.

The percentage listing state government has steadily increased since 2012, said Josh Collins, director of business and community development for The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“Obviously, it affects cash flow of those who are owed money, and even business-to-business folks. A lot of their suppliers are owed money,” said Collins. “It’s just a cyclical issue. You’re either worried about getting money or you’re worried about your customers.”

The chamber and UIS are partners in the survey.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Baseball: Stars’ Taylor gets another All-America honor

University of Illinois Springfield junior shortstop Cole Taylor has been named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division II All-American third team.

He led the Great Lakes Valley Conference in hits (85), runs (63), doubles (25), triples (four) and on-base percentage (.461). He hit a team-high .395 for UIS.

Taylor, a transfer from Parkland College who is from Fairmount, was named earlier to the National College Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division II All-America honorable mention team.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

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Volleyball: UIS signs Parkland player

Outside hitter Taylor Bauer is transferring to the University of Illinois Springfield after winning back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championships with Parkland College.

She collected 437 kills, 496 digs and 85 blocks in her sophomore season.

Deer Creek-Mackinaw setter Caitlynn Whitaker and Chicago Marist rightside hitter Megan Krasowskih also have signed with the Prairie Stars.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Golf: Supak named to all-region team

University of Illinois Springfield player Talon Supak has been named to the Golf Coaches Association of America Division II Ping All-Region Team.

Supak finished in the top 10 in seven of 11 tournaments. He placed second at the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and tied for fourth at the NCAA Division II Midwest/Central Regional. He set multiple records in his final season including, scoring average (73.26), national ranking (67), rounds at par or better (11), eagles in a single season (three), par-3 scoring (3.08), par-4 scoring (4.18), par-5 scoring (4.81), low round (64), low 36-hole total (139) and low 54-hole total (203).

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

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Softball: Gosbeth honored for academics

University of Illinois Springfield catcher Amanda Gosbeth received Academic All-America Division II Softball third-team honors.

She earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average over four years. She graduated in May with a degree in mathematics and minors in economics and marketing.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 2, 2017.

Read the story online.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sangamon Auditorium names new director

Bryan Rives, a performing arts center manager with more than 30 years of experience, has been named the next director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium.

Rives will be the auditorium’s “director designate” from July 3 to Sept. 30 and will take over as director on Oct. 1 following the retirement of director Robert Vaughn.

Most recently, Rives has served as tour manager and company manager for Talmi Entertainment, where he was responsible for the Moscow Ballet Nutcracker Tour, an eight-week, 43-city tour in the United States and Canada. In addition, he was a production manager for Celebrity Cruises in Miami from May 2014 to October 2016 and a company manager for several other touring productions.

From 2007 to 2011, Rives was director of event services at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where he oversaw the university’s performing arts center and regional ticketing system.

“I am excited to be returning to the great state of Illinois,” Rives said in a statement. “The University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium is not only a beautiful venue for the campus and greater metro area, but the current director and staff have put together a fantastic season of events for the upcoming year which I expect will bring out record attendance.”

Sangamon Auditorium, which seats 2,018, hosts more than 120 performances annually.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 1, 2017.

Read the story online. 

Chicago-area man free on bail, gets new trial in arson case

William Amor has walked out of a suburban Chicago prison after a judge vacated his 1997 conviction on charges of arson and murder in his mother-in-law's death.

Amor, 60, of Naperville, spent the last 22 years behind bars after he was arrested in 1995 accused of intentionally igniting the 1995 Naperville fire that killed Marianne Miceli. But DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan in early April vacated Amor's conviction after considering new advances in fire science.

Amor's new trial date is Sept. 12. He is represented by the University of Illinois-Springfield's Illinois Innocence Project. Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director of the group's Chicago office, said they believe the fire was an accident and he should have never been charged.

"We are ecstatic to be here today looking up at the clouds and breathing the fresh air with Bill," she said Tuesday. "It's really great."

The story was reported by the Associated Press on May 31, 2017.

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Column: One last check of the mailbag

Illinois-Springfield senior Amanda Gosbeth (West Chicago) had a season and career to remember. A third-team Division II CoSIDA Academic All-America selection with a perfect 4.0 GPA in mathematics, the -- yes -- catcher hit .336 and started 48 of 54 games to finish fourth in Prairie Stars history in games played. She's top-seven in 12 other categories, first in stolen base percentage (54 of 60) and sacrifice bunts. On April 30 Illinois-Springfield named Gosbeth its female athlete of the year, its senior scholar-athlete, and softball MVP.

The story was reported by the Chicago Daily Herald on June 1, 2017.

Read the article online.