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Poshard installed as SIU president, officially

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SIU president Glenn Poshard

By AP/KWMU

Carbondale, Ill. – Former Illinois Congressman Glenn Poshard was inaugurated Thursday as the seventh president of Southern Illinois University.

The ceremony was the first time the school has staged a formal inauguration since 1949, when the president was the late Delyte W. Morris. Morris served 22 years during a time when the school had its largest growth spurt.

Poshard, an SIU alumnus, noted in his speech that Morris transformed the school from a one-campus teachers' college with an enrollment of 3,000 to a major university with two campuses and 35,000 students.

And in doing so, Poshard said, his predecessor used the post World War II education boom to lift large areas of southern Illinois out of backwardness and poverty.

"Forty years ago, I came here as a poor kid from a poor family with only the GI Bill for support," Poshard said. "I was the first one from our family to attend college. SIU was open to me and it was affordable. And here I met the world."

But Poshard, who was the unsuccessful Democratic challenger to former Gov. George Ryan in 1998, said government appears to have lost the vision it had 50 years ago when one out of every two college students in America was on the GI Bill.

"Our leaders appear to be ignoring how that boom in public education led to decades of technological advance and unprecedented prosperity," he said.

"Today, the vaulted place of public higher education in America is being challenged at both the state and national levels," Poshard said. "Indebtedness, the rising cost of health care, infrastructure needs, and massive military expenditures have reduced governmental support to dangerous levels.

He later added, "Very few of the crucial factors which contributed to the Golden Age of Higher Education in the 50's, 60's, and 70's are present today."

Because of falling levels of government support, Poshard said, the future of SIU and of American higher education as a whole will have to be "chiseled from the hard granite of reality." And that sculpting has to begin well before students reach their college years, Poshard said.

"Too many students come to SIU unprepared for a university education," he said. "Poor schools, poor communities, and inadequate parental involvement contribute to an excessive failure rate for these young people. Our retention and graduation rates for these students are unacceptable. We cannot improve access for these students without serious K-12 reform directed toward college preparation."

"We are not in the business to ensure failure," he said.

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