SIU President Randy Dunn to co-chair Illinois bicentennial commission  


Daily Egyptian File Image

SIU President Randy Dunn talks during his State of the System address Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at the Student Center in Carbondale.

By Marnie Leonard

SIU President Randy Dunn will serve as co-chair on a special commission to plan the 200th birthday celebrations for the state of Illinois, which will take place starting in the fall of 2017 and continue through 2018.

The commission, which was created through an executive order by Gov. Bruce Rauner, is made up of 40 members appointed by the governor and 11 chosen by legislators, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Dunn and co-chair Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of the non-profit organization Chicago United, were invited by Rauner to lead the commission at its first meeting Thursday in Springfield.


The two were chosen because they represent and have ties to both the northern and southern parts of the state, Dunn said in an interview Friday.

“We’re in a time right now where our state needs this sort of big event to bring us together and celebrate all the potential that Illinois has,” he said.

Dunn said because of the budget challenges facing Illinois, the state was late in setting up the commission. Early efforts will focus on securing sponsorships, which will be the primary source of funding for events.

Rather than one centralized location for the festivities, Dunn said different regions and entities in the state will plan their own celebrations under the “branding” of the bicentennial commission.

“The commission wants to put together a broad array of events that span the scope of all that Illinois does,” he said. “It’s going to take everyone to do the heavy lifting to pull this off in the way our state deserves.”

Meetings will be held throughout 2017 on a quarterly basis as planning continues. As new events are approved by the commission, they will be listed on the bicentennial website to create a statewide schedule, Dunn said.

So far, one event has been approved. The Bicentennial Birthday Gala is set to take place on Dec. 3, 2018, in Chicago, according to the bicentennial website.


“There’s so much that makes Illinois a wonderful state,” Dunn said. “It’s one of the most significant states in the country. We all want to do that justice.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.