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Edited by Rodd Whelpley

James E. Walker
Photograph courtesy of Southern Illinois University
James E. Walker

James E. Walker, who began his career in higher education as an assistant profes-sor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, is set to become president of SIU October 1. Walker has been president of Middle Tennessee State University since 1991.

George T. Wilkins left his seat on the SIU Board of Trustees. Wilkins was appointed to the board as a Democrat, but this spring drew criticism from some student protesters who contend-ed that his recent primary voting record was Republican, violating the requirement that the board have balanced party representation. Wilkins, who has a home in Indiana, resigned shortly after a law took effect that requires trustees to live in the state. He had been on the board since 1979.

The former chancellor of SIU-Carbondale wants her old job back. Jo Ann Argersinger filed a federal suit last month against current and former SIU administrators. She is seeking rein-statement and damages, claiming that her free speech rights were violated because she was dismissed for pointing out improprieties in insurance billings and contract awards at the school. Argersinger was removed from the chancellor's position in 1999 and returned to her tenured teaching position in the history department. She also maintains that she was dismissed without due process and that her recent pay cut is discriminatory because other administrators have returned to the faculty at their administrative salaries.

Gov. George Ryan appointed former state Rep. Pete Peters of Chicago to chair the Illinois Clean Energy Community Trust. The panel oversees a more than $200 million trust created in 1999 as a condition of Commonwealth Edison's sale of its coal-fired plants to a California company. The trust is designed to help fund clean coal and renewable energy initiatives. Some of the dollars will be designated for the Illinois Citizens Utility Board. Peters' appointment does not require Senate confirmation. He will receive an annual salary of $25,000 for the position.

U of I prof pioneers home-grown soy snacks
If Richard Bernard has his way, snack food addicts may soon have a new alternative to beer nuts. That's because the Japanese snack of cooked soybeans is catching on in this country and this University of Illinois professor emeritus has made it easier for backyard gardeners to grow the nutritional food.

Bernard, a plant breeder at the university's National Soybean Research Lab, has developed six varieties of garden soybeans for harvesting as a table vegetable. "We had over 1,200 requests for the seeds. We ran out and had to take names," he says.

Asians have been eating soybeans as vegetables for more than 2,000 years, says Bernard, but Americans think of them more as an industrial product. The Asian soybean, which tends to be bigger and tastier, does not produce well in the Illinois climate, nor does it have resistance to Illinois insects and diseases. Through crossbreed-ing with local beans, Bernard developed varieties that are at least 50 percent larger and, in some cases, twice as large as Illinois beans. Shiny green with a nutty taste, the soybeans are cooked in the pod, then shelled like peanuts and eaten cold or hot.

"They are easier to cook, easier to digest and have the highest amount of protein of any bean," says Bernard, who hopes some private seed company might take over marketing and distribution.

Scandal by the number
Dean Bauer, the former inspector general under Secretary of State George Ryan, pleaded not guilty last month to new federal charges that he failed to investigate allega-tions of corruption in that office. Bauer's case is expected to go to trial in early December. Federal authorities also charged five more driving school instructors with paying bribes to state employees. The two-year-old Operation Safe Road bribes-for-licenses investigation is ongoing.
Number of people charged in Operation Safe Road: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37*
Number of people who have pleaded guilty: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
Number of people convicted in contested cases: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Number of people sentenced: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
*All figures as of mid-August

Another bribes-for-licenses investigation heated up this summer, this time at the Waterloo and Jerseyville licensing facilities in southern Illinois. Federal investigators there have charged Gay Lynn Wielgus of Belleville and Michael A. Fahey Sr. of Bunker Hill with taking bribes for improperly passing applicants for truck driver's licenses. Former secretary of state employee Wielgus transferred to the Illinois Department of Transportation in May. Fahey is on unpaid leave. The Wielgus indictment charges that she granted licenses to some applicants after they made political contributions.

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Q & A Question & Answer
Lucia Perillo
The 41-year-old Southern Illinois University associate English professor recently received the illustrious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Founda-tionís genius grant, which awards a $500,000 no-strings-attached prize. Perilloís poetry has been published in magazines, such as The Atlantic Monthly, and in books. Random House published her latest: The Oldest Map with the Name America. The assistance comes at a fortuitous time for Perillo, who is facing an intensified struggle with multiple sclerosis, a disease that has often been the subject of her poetry.

from The Body Mutinies
When the doctor runs out of words and still I won't leave, he latches my shoulders and streers me out doors. Where I see his blurned hand through the milk glass, flapping goodbue like a sail
Perillo has taken a leave from Southern Illinois and is living in Olympia, Wash., where she taught prior coming to the Carbondale campus in 1991.

Photograph courtesy of Southern Illinois University
Photograph courtesy of Southern Illinois University

Q. Before you taught English you worked as a naturalist. How did you come to make the transition?
I worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after I graduated. I was working in the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and when I was there I started to take poetry classes [at San Jose State] with Robert Hass, who would subsequent-ly be [the U.S.] poet laureate. I went back to school and was exposed to a number of poets. After graduate school, I kept doing that [writing] and ended up in a teaching job.

Q. Is there a connection between poetry and the wild? Does nature figure prominently in your work?
It didnít in the old days. It does more and more now. In the beginning I was interested in social con-cerns. Iím always interested in nature in poetry as it relates to the human condition. The core of my second book [The Body Mutinies] has to do with the body. Iíve always written with the body in mind. Thatís where my naturalist background comes into play.

Q. Do you think of yourself as a writer or a teacher?
I think of myself as more of a writer. I think most writers want to be writing. I know Iíve learned so much from teaching. My knowledge of poetry has been enhanced. I guess I never thought writing would be my profession. I feel very lucky Iíve been able to have the amount of time Iíve had to write. I know there are many writers who canít get that.

Q. What is in your future? What will the award allow you to do?
I was planning to take some time to address my health concerns. The award will let me do that. [With the job at SIU], my husband and I have lived apart for the last decade. Domestically, there will be more harmony and commuting wonít eat up all my time.

Q. What goals do you hope to achieve?
I hope to get settled back into writing soon. I have tons of stuff Iíve tucked in boxes. I want to work on my short stories and nonfiction.

Q. Arenít you young to have accomplished so much?
My sense of it is they used to give these awards to people who were more at the peak of their professions, people who were older. I noticed with this yearís awards there were a lot of younger people. I think it is a good thing they are looking to younger people, people who have not yet reached the pinnacle of their careers and could really use financial assistance.
Maureen Foertsch McKinney

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William Maxwell
Celebrated native Illinois writer William Maxwell died July 31 at the age of 91.

"We tend to talk about him as an Illinois writer. He is one of the finest writers Illinois has ever produced, but his body of work is important on a national and international level," says Barbara Burkhardt, who turned her critical biography of Maxwell over to an agent just two weeks before the writer's death.

Illinois, primarily downstate Lincoln, often served as the backdrop for Maxwell's books, including the American Book Award-winning So Long, See You Tomorrow, a 1980 novel set in 1920 that explores a scandalous murder and its effects on the friendship of two boys.

"He has called Illinois 'his imagination's home,'" Burkhardt says. "Maxwell captured both the provincial nature of the small town in Illinois as well as the beauty of his life there."

Lincoln also played a role when Maxwell chronicled his mother's death during the 1918 influenza epidemic in his 1937 novel They Came Like Swallows. Maxwell's family moved to Chicago after his mother's death, which is mirrored in the action of his 1945 tale of youthful friendship, The Folded Leaf.

Though Illinois figured prominently in Maxwell's fiction, work drew him to the East Coast, where he served as a fiction editor for The New Yorker magazine for 40 years and worked with writers John Cheever, John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.

"I think with his death, his fiction will come to be known as his greatest contribution to American letters," says Burkhardt, who hopes her biography will advance Maxwell's stature as a fiction writer. "His fiction has been unrecognized in his lifetime, I believe." Maxwell's death came eight days after the death of Emily, his wife of 55 years.

Photograph courtesy of IMSA
Photograph courtesy of IMSA
School projects
Claiborne Skinner, social science teacher at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, supervised the construction of this diorama of Fort St. Louis des Illinois, Franceís westernmost outpost from 1682 to 1691. For more than three years, his students researched and built the fort, the site of a 10-day battle between the Iroquois, French officers and Illiniwek that ended in the defeat of the Iroquois, a prelude to the French and Indian War. It marked a turning point in the history of colonial America. The fort is on permanent display at Starved Rock State Park in Utica.

Arlington track on the block
A $100 million offer to buy the stateís premier horse racing venue has a legislator calling for a second look at the controversial 1999 gambling law.

Richard Duchossois agreed to sell Arlington International Racecourse this summer to Louisville, Ky.-based Churchill Downs Inc., owner of the home turf of the prestigious Kentucky Derby race. After the announcement, Rep. Jeff Schoenberg questioned whether Duchossois had planned the deal as he lobbied for passage of the gambling measure. The measure, since signed into law, will cut the owners of horse racing tracks in on tax revenue expected from a new riverboat gambling venue law-makers designated for Cook County. ďThis taxpayer subsidy significantly boosted the value of Arlington and gives [Duchossois] a considerable windfall,Ē says Schoenberg. ďNo legislators were aware that the bill would boost profits from a subsequent sale.Ē The Evanston Democrat is chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He says he may hold hearings to investigate the timing of the takeover. Duchossois had closed the track in 1997, saying competition from the burgeoning casino business made it unprof-itable. News of its sale came after Arlington reopened on Mothers Day, when about 32,000 well-wishers, including Gov. George Ryan, showed up to try their luck at the ponies. An Arlington spokesman says the sale is part of an ongoing consolidation in the racing industry. Still, if approved by the Illinois Racing Board, this could be a gam-ble that goes sour for Duchossois. Some of his take depends on the opening of a casi-no in Cook County, and that remains in limbo due to two continuing lawsuits.

Edgar-era scandal still has legs
Two judicial rulings revived the ghost of Management Services of Illinois Inc.
ē The five unindicted co-conspirators in the MSI Inc. contract scandal were named after a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. They are Michael Belletire, former Gov. Jim Edgarís deputy chief of staff; Janis Cellini, who was Edgarís personnel director; Jim Owen, former assistant to Senate President James ďPateĒ Philip; and Terry Bedgood and Terry Logsdon, aides to former Gov. James Thompson. The Illinois Press Association, The Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and Copley Press Inc. sued to make the names public because statements from some of them became evidence in the trial of James Berger, a Department of Public Aid admin-istrator charged with helping to defraud the state. Berger was acquitted. The U.S. attorneyís office had argued releasing the names could unfairly burden the five because they hadnít been charged with a crime and had no chance to clear their names legally.
ē U.S. District Judge Richard Mills reduced the restitution Michael Martin and Ronald Lowder owe the state from $12.3 million to $172,000. Mills held prosecutors didnít prove Martin and Lowderís actions cost the state any more than that. The two were convicted in the 1997 investigation of a contract between the public aid department and MSI Inc., a Springfield-based data management company.

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