SIU’s associate director of University Honors Program dies


By Daily Egyptian staff

Pamela Sue Gwaltney, SIU’s associate director of University Honors Program, died Friday, according to the G Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale. She was 51.

Born in Belleville, Gwaltney “loved to play cards and board games. She worked in real estate for 13 years until starting her second career at SIU,” according to her obituary

Gwaltney, who worked at SIU for 15 years, was one of 508 employees recognized Dec. 7 for their service to the university. She served as assistant to the director at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute from February 2000 to October 2010, when she became assistant director of the University Honors Program, according to her LinkedIn profile.


“Pam was a highly competent, dedicated and loyal administrative assistant to me at the Simon Institute — and so much more,” Mike Lawrence, who served as the institute’s director from 2004 to 2008, wrote Sunday in the condolences section. “Her professional and personal achievements and the impact she had on the students she guided and mentored are a wonderful legacy to a terrific human being.”

Madeleine Pfaff, who graduated from SIU in May with a degree in zoology, said she remembers meeting Gwaltney on her move-in day freshman year. She said Gwaltney brought snacks and ice-breaker games for the new students.

“She just made it so light-hearted and easy to talk to everyone,” said Pfaff, who described Gwaltney as her campus mom. “She was always vibrant and compassionate and fun. She made SIU feel like home.”

David Lynch, who graduated from SIU in May with a degree in political science, said he sometimes referred to Gwaltney as his Carbondale mom. Gwaltney was his supervisor in the honors office where he worked senior year.

“I can trace so many of the really cool formative experiences I had at SIU directly back to Pam,” including a job at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the opportunity to represent the honors program in Taiwan, Lynch said. “She encouraged me to take some crazy chances and follow some weird opportunities.”

Gwaltney tried to have personal relationships with each of her students, said ShaKyla McBee, a senior from Memphis, Tenn., studying biomedical science.

“You weren’t just a number,” McBee said. “She was willing to pull out the potential in each student individually.”


In September of her freshman year, McBee’s brother died. She went to Gwaltney’s office shortly after. “She just hugged me.”

When McBee got back from her brother’s funeral, she found her room filled with balloons, posters and a card from Gwaltney.

“She just let me know she was thinking about me,” McBee said. “At SIU, from day one, Pam was always there for me and other students. … Not a lot of other people could have filled that role like Pam did.”

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Meredith Funeral Home, and memorial services for Gwaltney will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday. She lived in Hurst and is survived by her husband — a sheet metal worker at SIU’s Physical Plant — two daughters and two brothers.

“Students in the honors program are losing someone who was absolutely always there fighting for them,” Lynch said. 

Anna Spoerre and Luke Nozicka contributed reporting.