A Message of Appreciation to Macomb and Western Illinois University

by Meshari H. Alanazi

Meshari H. Alanazi is a graduate student in Western Illinois University’s School of Computer Science.

Meshari H. Alanazi is a graduate student in Western Illinois University’s School of Computer Science.

When I came to the United States in December 2012, I was worried about my new experience here because of the different language, culture, and religions. At the time, I did not know any English at all. I had come to Macomb to study English in Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Institute and had hopes to move on to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at WIU.

The beginning of this experience was amazing—from all of the great people who I met and dealt with. Everyone was very helpful and smiling all the time, which made the new experience much easier.

After I found a place to live, every day I was here in Macomb was becoming better more and more beautiful than the previous day. My neighbors, my teachers, and the members of the community created an environment for me that made me feel much more comfortable, and I even reached a point where I felt just as welcome here as I feel in my hometown. Everyone I interacted with was always smiling, and that is a great thing even in my religion. The Prophet Muhammad said, “A smile towards another is a charity.” It did not take long for the stereotypes that I had heard of to be proven inaccurate.

When I first came to Macomb, my wife was with me. Through all of the great experiences she had here, she came to the same conclusion. We have lived in happiness, safety, and comfort since we first came here.

In early February 2013, God blessed us both with the birth of my first son, Abdulrhman. Our experience with the hospital personnel and staff only increased our happiness and satisfaction with this great community. Every day, my love for the people and this city grows tremendously.

Meshari Alanazi near the Islamic Center of Macomb

Meshari Alanazi near the Islamic Center of Macomb.

Now, after being the vice president of the Islamic Center of Macomb for nearly two years and the president, from September 2015 until I graduate this May, I have found our community and all of its members love Macomb, Western Illinois University, and the people and friends who live here.

I wanted to write this message with all of the truth, respect, and love from my heart—and from the hearts of all of the members of the Islamic community—to convey how much I have come to love this place and this university. In our religion, we are taught to respect everyone, be truthful to everyone, love everyone, and wish peace upon everyone who we know and interact with.

Within the time I have been here in the United States (three years and four months), I learned so much about the U.S. as a country and as a society, and I have realized Americans are amazing, trustworthy, helpful, friendly, and respectful people. This is why I decided to write this message.

I ask that you please do not believe the negative image that I believe the media has created for Muslims. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and yet, unfortunately, some of those people—a very small number, less than 0.01 percent—are the bad people who have caused problems. Those people are acting on their own, not on the behalf of Islam; thus the people of Islamic countries, with Saudi Arabia as their leader, are working even harder to bring peace to this whole world.

In the end, this is a message and a truth from me for the purpose of portraying my love and respect to you all after living among you for the past three or so years. In my mind, I have a great relationship with all whom I have lived amongst and interacted with. I hope you all will continue to live in peace and happiness.

Finally, this May after graduation, I will go back to my country to live alongside my family in the great country, Saudi Arabia. I will never forget the wonderful life that I have lived amongst you all, and I thank you deeply and genuinely.
Meshari H. Alanazi is a graduate student in Western Illinois University’s School of Computer Science.

What’s in a Name?

by Darcie Shinberger

For nearly nine decades Western Illinois University has been known as the Leathernecks or the Fighting Leathernecks, but how did the University go from the “Fighting Teachers” to the Leathernecks? There’s only one answer …. because of one man.

Col. Ray "Rock" Hanson

Legendary WWI and WWII Hero and decorated Marine Corps Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson

Legendary WWI and WWII Hero and decorated Marine Corps Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson began his long tenure at Western in 1926. It was because of Hanson’s determination and persistence, along with his Marine Corps legacy, that helped secure The Fighting Leathernecks as WIU’s team name in 1927. Today, Western remains the only public school in the U.S. with permission to use the Leathernecks as its nickname.

Hanson, who coached football, baseball, and basketball, served as director of the physical education department and is distinguished as the longest-serving athletic director at Western. Even after his retirement in 1964, Coach Hanson remained active at Western and in the Macomb community. He passed away Jan. 4, 1982, at the age of 86.

Hanson’s name lives on at Western not only through the school’s nickname, but Col. Rock III (a/k/a Rocky), an English bulldog and Western’s mascot, is named in honor of this brave recipient of the Silver Star citation for bravery, a French Croix de Guerre, and a Purple Heart.

The first English Bulldog, a symbol of the U.S. Marine Corps, arrived at WIU in September 1959 to serve as the first official Leathernecks mascot. A few weeks later, the Student Government Association Executive Council selected the name Col. Rock for the new mascot from more than 200 entries in a naming contest. WIU student Richard Stevenson submitted the winning name.

Pennants from the Rock Hanson Collection at the Western Illinois University Bookstore

Pennants from the Rock Hanson Collection at the Western Illinois University Bookstore

While Col. Hanson has been gone for nearly 30 years, his legacy continues each and every day at Western Illinois University.

And as we say at WIU… Every Day Is a Great Day to Be a Leatherneck!


Next time you’re at the WIU Bookstore, check out the new Ray “Rock” Hanson Vintage Collection! (You can also order online at bookstore.wiu.edu/Rock-Hanson-Collection_c_23.html.) Read more about it at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=12897.

WIU alumnus, zoo director in Ohio, involved in search for exotic animals

With headlines like “Exotic animals escape from Ohio farm” and “Schools closed as exotic animals prowl,” the situation that unfolded on Oct. 18 and 19 sounded like something straight from a movie rather than from actual news sources.

But the very real situation is that dozens of exotic animals, including lions, tigers and cheetahs, escaped from a Zanesville, Ohio preserve following the death of its owner. According to CNN.com, a number of animals thought to be dangerous were still on the loose as of 8:35 a.m. (EST) today (Oct. 19).

Tom Stalf, a WIU graduate, is among the officials trying to get the situation under control. Stalf, who until recently served as director of the Niabi Zoo in the Quad Cities, is now the senior vice president of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo. The 1992 WIU alum was interviewed on TODAY this morning about the danger that these animals present on the loose.

Screen shot of Tom Stalf on Today show

Stalf earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor geology from WIU. He left the QC area for Ohio only recently, according to KWQC.com, to take the position in Ohio. Watch him being interviewed on the TODAY show here. (Stalf’s interview begins at approximately the 2:35 mark).

WIU Leaders Attend MLK Memorial Unveiling

Over the weekend, (on Sunday, Oct. 16), dignitaries gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at the official dedication ceremony for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, (during which President Obama spoke).

Earlier this academic year, (on Aug. 26), two of WIU’s own dignitaries—president Jack Thomas (center), and Ron Williams, assistant vice president of academic affairs—attended a special Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity dedication for the memorial. Thomas and Williams graciously agreed to share their impressions of this special day—which they experienced with noted Civil Rights leader C.T. Vivian, who grew up in Macomb—and explain the fraternity’s involvement in the dedication, below.

photo of WIU president with Rev. C.T. Vivian at dedication of MLK Memorial

WIU President Jack Thomas, (center), with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian (left) and Vivian's son (right) at the Alpha Phi Alpha MLK Memorial dedication ceremony

Was your attendance at the dedication ceremony tied to your membership in Alpha Phi Alpha, or were you there to represent WIU, or on your own as African American leaders in higher education?

Our attendance at the dedication ceremony was tied to all three. Dr. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and as members of the same fraternity, we have supported the development of the monument for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since the fraternity moved the idea forward through congress in the mid-1990s. During the celebration, Dr. Thomas represented Western Illinois University as president.

What was most memorable or surprising about the day? What were some of your impressions of the monument itself, or of the ceremony?

There were many memorable events of the day. The highlight of the dedication ceremony was the speech delivered by Rev. Bernice King, Dr. King’s youngest daughter. Many civil rights leaders were in attendance and gave remarks and/or were recognized. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was a leader in the civil rights movement and a personal friend and confidant to Dr. King, who is also a member of Alpha, provided timely, appropriate remarks that set the tone for the viewing of the memorial. We have been told that the day was similar to the sentiment that was felt almost 40 years to the day of the anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The actual memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King, emerging from between two mountains and flanked by granite edges that have inscriptions of Dr. King’s most recognized quotes.

Was it planned, or a coincidence, that you met with Rev. C.T. Vivian at this event? What did it feel like to be there with a contemporary of Dr. King’s?

Because Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian is a member of Alpha and was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, we imagined that he would be there. However, the time we were able to spend with him was not planned. Our time with him is particularly special because he attended college here and received an honorary doctorate from Western Illinois University. He also grew up (for the most part) in Macomb. As usual, we are honored to be in the presence of Dr. Vivian. He has spoken on campus a couple of times and he has a wealth of knowledge regarding civil rights, social justice, the negative affects of poverty, and the lack of access to quality (public) education.

It is a very humbling experience to be in the presence of “giants” like Rev. Dr. Vivian and others who made monumental sacrifices to ensure the civil liberties of under-resourced people in this country.

This project took a long time to get off the ground, in terms of fundraising and getting the design approved, according to news reports. What did you feel upon seeing this memorial finally “come to life”?

Seeing the memorial was absolutely awesome; it was a true testament to what hard work and determination can do. We had heard of it many years ago and are founding sponsors and donors to the “Build The Dream” project. The project was approved to move forward for space on the national mall in 1996.

Overall, what do you think is the most memorable or moving feature of the memorial? What do you hope college students—or anyone who sees it—take away from viewing it?

The most moving feature of the memorial is the statue of Dr. King. His image is chiseled out of the side of a mountain. The view, the image, and the overall theme serve as an example of Dr. King’s dream becoming more of a reality for many Americans. Witnessing the image of Dr. King on the national mall has special importance to us as the sons and grandsons of individuals who: participated in the March on Washington and other demonstrations, risked their lives to sit at lunch counters for service, were denied services and mortgages for homes in “restricted” areas, and traveled in spaces and places where they were hated for the color of the skin and their ethnicity. Additionally,

the quotes that are on display and the entire monument itself should speak to all people, without regard for ethnicity, education attainment level, social economic status, culture, creed, or race, who believe in equality and social justice for the entire U.S. citizenry and global society.

WIU English major ‘Transforms’ for summer blockbuster

Typically, when Alan Cale is in uniform, he’s serving his country as a Military Police officer. This past summer, however, his Army gear served as more of a costume, as Cale and several other “extras” appeared on the silver screen in Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, which debuted in theaters in June.

photo of WIU student and soldier Alan Cale

WIU student and soldier Alan Cale on his security mission in Afghanistan

photo of Alan Cale with movie extras

Cale, in the front row, poses with star Josh Duhamel and fellow extras on the set

So, how did he get this gig?

“One of my buddies in my unit from Chicago (and who is with me on this deployment) was the one who hooked me up with the opportunity,” he explained. “He has a friend who works as a liaison between Hollywood and the military, and she asked him to find a couple of volunteers with military gear who could come to Chicago in order to be military extras in the film. He called me and asked me if I wanted to be in ‘Transformers 3.’ I of course said yes without any hesitation.”

What were his duties as a big-time movie star?

“My only responsibilities for the film were to wear my uniform and gear, carry a gun, and look like a soldier. Fortunately that was something I have some experience in,” he said. “The Afghans don’t have the same regulations on pirating movies that we do in the States, so I have been able to see the movie. There are about 3-5 seconds towards the end of the movie where [actor] Tyrese Gibson runs around the corner of the Chicago Tribune building to link up with the military in the city. I am the second one standing as he runs by.”

Still, even though his role was a small one,

“The experience was one of a kind,” he said. “It’s one thing to see the finished product up on the big screen, and completely different to be behind the scenes seeing it in the making.

It was interesting to spend time with the stars of the film,” he continued. “I spent several hours just sitting on the set while they set up for the next shot chatting with Josh Duhamel. It was pretty cool to get to know them, and I came to the realization that they are regular people like the rest of us just with a really cool job.”

When he’s back in his role as a WIU student, Cale is a proud Peach Blossom, a.k.a. member of the WIU Veterans Club.

photo of WIU Veterans Club members dressed as "Peach Blossoms"

“Any current student or alumni can come check out one of our meetings,” he said. For more information, contact Derrick Bernabei, club president, or visit WIU Vets Club on Facebook.

Instructional technologist teaches at Cyber Camp

Teachers may be “off” for the summer, but for many, they’re not resting when it comes to learning about technology and how their students use it. Read about how a WIU instructional technologist helped local teachers learn about staying up-to-date during a summer Cyber Camp.


McLeod featured in a major magazine

Congrats to Western Illinois University Assistant Professor of English professor Charles McLeod, who was recently featured in Poets & Writers magazine in an article about the somewhat unconventional path to publication of his novel, American Weather. The book is available from Amazon.co.UK, and was released earlier this month.

McLeod is also a popular professor at Western. Best of luck to Professor McLeod up on the release of this exciting new work of fiction!



Broadcasting and Spanish student returns from study abroad

Western Illinois University student Karina Gavina was recently featured in her hometown paper after recently completing a three-month stint in Spain, (complete with Spanish-immersion courses and …a “struggle” involving shopping!). Be sure to check out the story above, and if you’re interested in study abroad at WIU, find out about all the possibilities here.