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University to honor Beck and Sheffer for service

March 10, 2011, Christi Mathis, University Communications

${image-alt} George William "Bill" Beck (left) and George Sheffer (right) will be receiving the Distinguished Service Award at the May 2011 College of Business commencement ceremony.

At the May 2011 College of Business commencement, alumnus George William "Bill" Beck and Carbondale businessman George Sheffer will be receiving the Distinguished Service Award for their devotion and service to SIU and the community.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees' Executive Committee approved the award on February 14. The full board will be asked to ratify the action at its regular April meeting.

"Bill is an outstanding example of an alum who has continued to support his alma mater with a passion that is clear to all who interact with him. We are very proud that he is one of our own and very happy that he is being recognized with this award," said J. Dennis Cradit, Dean of the College of Business.

Beck is a 1970 graduate of SIU with a bachelor's degree in accounting and is currently the CEO of Beck Bus Transportation. Under his guiding hand, the company grew from a two-bus operation to a business employing more than 300 people and with 200 school buses, 12 charter coaches and 15 transit buses. Beck, of Mt. Vernon, serves as a trustee for the Good Samaritan Regional Health Center Foundation and since 1998 has been a member of Mt. Vernon Police and Fire Commission, currently serving as chair. He is a member of the Past-President's Council of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and a current member and past president of the Mt. Vernon Crime Stoppers.

Beck's commitment to service is obvious at the state level as well, according to the recommendation of the Honorary Degrees and Distinguished Service Awards Committee. He's twice been chairman of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and is currently finance chairman for the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce Executive Board. He also previously served on the Illinois Development Finance Authority Board and was the vice chairman of operations.

A member of the SIU School of Accountancy Advisory Board since 2000, he advises the director regarding student recruitment and retention, curriculum and professional development, and maintaining accreditation. Known for promoting the College of Business and University in the professional community and to the general public, Beck is a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association and an avid Saluki fan.

In addition, Beck and his wife Barbara, a 1971 elementary education SIU alumna, established a scholarship endowment to help students afford business degrees. One of the largest scholarship endowments in the College of Business, it funds the Bill and Barbara Beck Accounting Scholarship Endowment and Beck continues to contribute generously to the fund. Saluki Athletics, Saluki Way, the College of Business Accounting Circle, the James King Memorial Accounting Scholarship Endowment, WSIU Fantasy Auction and the Education Excellence Fund also benefit from Beck's philanthropy.

Beck donated a bus to the Lincoln's Challenge Academy, an organization in Rantoul aiding at-risk young men and women get a new start. He and Barbara are major contributors to the Mitchell Museum, where they established the Barbara J. Beck Family Education Center and the Beck Family Art Gallery.

"George is the epitome of distinguished service -- to this university and to this community. Whatever is needed, whenever it is needed, you can count on George Sheffer being ready and willing to step forward and assist. It is an honor to know and work with him," said J. Dennis Cradit, Dean of the College of Business.

Sheffer is a native of suburban Chicago and his entrepreneurship began early. By the time he began attending college, he already had years of construction industry experience. He arrived at SIU in 1971, studying engineering technology, but a year later the U.S. Army drafted him. He continued studies intermittently at SIU thereafter.

His business career really took off in 1979 with a partnership in the Harrisburg True Value store. Seven years later he sold the store and came to the Murdale True Value store in Carbondale. He is currently the owner and president.

Sheffer's involvement with SIU is extensive and longstanding. He has been an adjunct associate professor in the College of Business' marketing department and along with wife Diane, established the "Murdale True Value Carbondale and Carbondale Achieve Scholarship Fund" benefitting students applying to the SIU Achieve program.

In addition, Sheffer created the "Community Cares Scholarships" program and organized local businesses to contribute. Each year, Sheffer personally contacted small businesses in Carbondale and surrounding communities asking for a minimum $500 scholarship to the University, thus helping recruit new students to SIU. At his own expense, Sheffer then hosted a reception at his home for contributors, scholarship recipients and University personnel to celebrate the year's activities. The program continued for several years and today many of the businesses Sheffer brought on board continue to support scholarships for University students.

If you've ever noticed the painted Saluki paw prints on streets leading toward SIU, you've seen more of Sheffer's handiwork. The Saluki Pride Committee, with Sheffer as chairman, conceived the plan to paint the prints, marking Saluki territory. Each summer and early fall, under Sheffer's direction, a crew of volunteers spends about two full days painting the paw prints on local streets. The University incurs no expense.

Sheffer's contributions and involvement go above and beyond his business activities. He participates in numerous volunteer and community service activities. Currently president of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, he continues as a member of the Saluki Pride Committee and also served on the steering committee for Southern Illinois Regional Social Services. He has coached youth soccer, softball and baseball as well.