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Gov. Quinn nominates 2 for SIU board

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nominated a former history professor and the retired head of the state's National Guard to the Southern Illinois University system's frayed board of trustees Friday after vetting the choices with lawmakers who spiked three of his previous candidates.

The selections of former Illinois Adjutant General Randal Thomas and former SIU-Edwardsville professor Shirley Portwood came three months after the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly panned three Quinn nominees to replace a trio whose terms on the board had expired.

But one of those lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Bill Haine of Alton, lauded the latest nominees agreed upon by Quinn and various members of Haine's chamber. Haine said he expected the Senate to sign off on the selections as early as next week, when SIU's board again is to meet.

"We're very pleased we had input, and we appreciate the governor listening to our concerns and acting upon them," Haine told The Associated Press. "I must say these nominees are excellent. I don't see any problem with these appointments. This is a great day for SIU."

Thomas, of Springfield, served more than four years as Illinois' adjutant general — the state's highest National Guard post — before retiring in 2007. A Vietnam veteran who earned a Purple Heart with the Army, Thomas held various roles in the Illinois National Guard since 1983 before taking on the top role.

Thomas also spent three decades as an English teacher, librarian and media director after getting a bachelor's degree in English in 1973 from SIU's Edwardsville campus, just northeast of St. Louis, and later a master's degree in education.

Portwood, of Godfrey, taught history at the Edwardsville campus for 30 years and since March 2010 has served on the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's governing board.

Quinn's nominees earlier this year all graduated from the university's Carbondale campus, drawing criticism from state senators who ultimately rejected the candidates because they said there would be scant representation of the university system beyond Carbondale.

Haine said Friday that issue has been put to rest.

"These (new nominees) should not be considered anything other than great additions to a board whose mission is the entire university" system, Haine said. "No one campus should take precedence over another."

It was not immediately clear Friday when Quinn might nominate someone to fill the remaining vacancy on the board.

Haine said he planned to table a measure he introduced days after the Senate quashed Quinn's earlier slate of nominees, calling for a stricter geographic makeup of SIU's board in requiring that three trustees be graduates of the Carbondale campus and an identical number from the Edwardsville one.

"I don't see any use in that bill now," Haine said. "It will just fan controversy, and this board needs to avoid controversy and focus on its mission of improving the university."

Also Friday, Quinn also named Jan Spivey Gilchrist, an author and illustrator, to the board of trustees at Eastern Illinois University, and he appointed Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage County's superintendent of schools, to the board of trustees at Northeastern Illinois University.

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