Siefken Turley Award

Dr. Hugh Siefken with Greenville Chamber of Commerce President Michael Diaz.

The 24th annual Greenville Chamber of Commerce Gerald Turley Award was presented Thursday night to Dr. Hugh Siefken.

The former Greenville College professor, who distinguished himself in the world of physics, was also recognized for his involvement in the community on the Greenville Plan Commission, hospital board and Greenville Free Methodist Church Board. He was president of the Rod and Gun Club 12 years.

Three men spoke in honor of Siefken at the program.

Greenville Mayor Alan Gaffner said Siefken and other past recipients of the Turley award are role models for the community.

Click below to hear his comments:

Fellow professor William Ahern said he is proud Siefken is his friend.

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Gary Farnsworth served with Siefken on the plan commission and said Dr. Siefken is well deserving of the award.

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Chamber President Michael Diaz presented Siefken a plaque and read from it.

Click below to hear a portion of the text:

Siefken spoke glowingly about the City of Greenville and thanked the Chamber for their service to the town.

You can view the end of this post to read Dr. Siefken’s comments in full. You may also click below to hear a portion of them:

Approximately 50 people attended the Gerald Turley Award ceremony, at the Greenville College Krober Room, including Turley’s daughter Dawn Oldfield.

The video of Thursday’s Turley Award ceremony will be shown at 5 PM Tuesday, May 24 on New Wave Cable Channel 18 in Greenville.

Dr. Siefken’s acceptance speech follows…

Thank you Gary, Bill and Alan and to you Pat Kious and your committee.

When Pat Kious left a phone message a few weeks ago stating she was wearing her C.O.C. hat, I was quite puzzled. The day was my birthday, so I tried to understand why the Chamber would phone birthday wishes or if the Chamber wanted to purchase some walnut lumber for a project. When I returned her call I was very surprised to hear of the Turley Award. For that I am very honored and humbled. Just look at the list of previous honorees to see why I am so appreciative.

For a few minutes this evening, I would like to talk about Greenville. When I first saw Greenville in 1958 as a college freshman, I immediately liked it. Back then the places that caught my interest were Watson’s Drug Store and Hughey’s Hardware on the south side of the square, Purity Café and The Annex on the East, IGA operated by Frank Hunter on the North, and the Bond Theatre plus Breitie’s Café on the west, though the theatre was off limits for college students in those days. At that time I had no idea this small city would play such an important part of my life, meeting Marie Gieseke and calling it home for our family for many years to come.

After Kelly Ireland appointed me to the Plan Commission, I began to get acquainted with a few of the many facets and inner-workings of the planning code used by our city. A few years passed and I was given a chance to attend a workshop in Springfield on the factors related on the overall economic growth of a city. I recall meeting a person named Dewey Coulter from the Benton area who spoke about the positive things that can distinguish a city. When these things are taken together they become an attractive package, so that economic growth results. I left that conference realizing that Greenville is fortunate in several ways, so I am going to speak briefly about 4 of these items which to me make Greenville special, not unique, but certainly special. I am well aware that not everything in Greenville is perfect or completed. As a city we have our challenges, but believe it or not, Greenville is not as challenged as some of our southern Illinois neighbors. There are many more positive things about Greenville than the negative phone calls I used to get as chairman of the plan commission usually made with more heat than light.

The first special feature is that Greenville has a town square which, through the years, has had relatively few long term vacant business storefronts. Just visit some other towns, even larger than Greenville and you can find storefronts that have been vacant for many years, even decades in one case. Of course Greenville residents shop at stores in other towns, but the attitude of many is to purchase locally whenever possible. That has been mutually beneficial to the merchants and to the residents. We may not think of the square of Greenville as a positive benefit, but from what I pick up, persons in other cities see Greenville in general as a good place in which to do business. I just happen to like the arrangement of businesses around a central square and then located radially outward, as opposed to being strung out linearly for many blocks. A town square seems to give a focus to the commercial and governance sides of community life. The advertising jingle that Watson’s drugstore uses on the radio resonates with this idea when it sings “downtown on the square”.

The second area that I think is special about Greenville is the geographical location of the city and its industrial park. Residents of Greenville can easily commute to St. Louis for entertainment or employment or whatever and then enjoy the relative solitude of small community living. Many other cities would like to be located near a major interstate highway and be close to intersecting railroads. The set-up of the industrial park provides Greenville with a valuable asset for attracting potential companies.

When I first saw the city comprehensive plan in 1983, it almost had the look of a child’s finger-painting. A lot of spot zoning, industry located adjacent to residential housing etc. Today, though not text-book perfect, the comprehensive plan looks much better. Greenville is fortunate to have adequate space to use for its planning purposes. It seems to me the planning and steps taken in the past will be repaid many times over in future years because the planning has been solid and strategic.

A short story comes to mind that illustrates my point. When Marie and I left Greenville for our respective graduate studies in 1962, we moved to Lawrence, Kansas. KU had built many beautiful building over the years using native stone. One was the old physics building that was being torn down and removed when we arrived on campus. I soon learned an interesting story about the building. The building had been designed and built prior to1900 without the use of any steel, to let the earth’s magnetic field pass undisturbed into the building so experiments could be done without going outside. But when the building was completed, the experiments inside produced a wide range of values for the earth’s field. It was then discovered, too late, that the native stone was a low grade magnetite ore, so the earth’s field was distorted everywhere inside the building. The building had a great design, but no one had bothered to check the basic quality of the building material, so the building could not be used as planned. It seems to me that here at Greenville, the basic planning for the city and the industrial park has been done using our location to the full benefit of our community. We are fortunate and the future looks bright.

The third area that makes Greenville stand out to me is the fact that the residents really care about the quality of the public schools and the quality of health care. I am lumping these two areas together because almost every company contemplating a potential move to Greenville puts these two areas near the top of the list for their employees. Most residents of Greenville realize that adequate funding for our schools must be maintained for a high quality educational product. The continued success of the Academic Foundation is evidence of the amazing on-going support for our schools beyond the tax base.

The recent change in ownership of the local hospital at first caused some anxious thoughts because people wanted to be assured of quality health care. It is good to see that the transition has gone smoothly and that people are being well served. The word “great” comes to mind in describing our public schools and health care but I hesitate to use that adjective because “great” is a word that is sometimes overused and therefore loses its proper level of distinction. It may at times even be difficult to define. For example, the car, I drive serves me well, possess a few bells and whistles and I could call it great. But the owner of a newer, larger car would not view my car as great. This disconnect with the word “great” is similar to the Missouri license plate that I would often see during the years I commuted to St. Charles working on SDI. At the first on-ramp just over the Mississippi river on Hwy 270, a black sports car would enter very fast and zoom ahead of the flow of traffic. The vanity license plate was FXYLDY “foxy lady”. Once, that car entered next to me and was boxed in, so it couldn’t zoom ahead. We traveled side by side for some distance so during that time I looked over to see the driver. It was a lady but she was NOT foxy! Her license plate was a huge misuse of foxy. Similarly, the word “great” is sometimes misused, but most of us recognize genuine quality in our schools and all types of health care providers. Greenville is blessed to have a high level of expertise in each of these areas and that makes these two areas “great” and Greenville special.

The fourth area that makes Greenville standout to me is the presence of the institution called Greenville College, soon to be Greenville University. Many towns the size of Greenville would love to have an accredited 4 year institution of higher education because Colleges/Universities enrich a community by providing opportunities for people to advance and by offering various cultural programs. I used to tell parents and future students that though Greenville College may be small, it possessed the academic stature to propel a person into a large career.

Following grad school, our family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia so I could do a post doc and continue my research in nuclear physics for the Canadian Atomic Energy commission. Vancouver as you know is a beautiful, large, metropolitan city and fits many persons’ life style, but during that year it became clear that it would be better to give up a bit professionally and hit a home run for the family. So we chose to move back to a small town named Greenville, to fill a physics position at Greenville College. For us a small town environment was preferred to raise our two young boys and give them more opportunities for their individual growth. The choice between a higher professional level in my career, or a higher family opportunity level in Greenville has been rewarded many times over in favor of Greenville. In almost a repeat scenario, our son Phil and wife Sue went through a similar process when he decided to leave a promising career as part of the Indiana University Medical School faculty to come to Greenville. Through the various school and church activities, the Greenville touch has again been a positive benefit for Phil’s family. The enjoyment experienced by Phil’s children while performing on the athletic field or on the stage has been equally matched by the enjoyment of the grandparents and others watching them.

It almost goes without saying, for me Greenville College has been a powerful influence and help. As a faculty member I was given the encouragement and resources to design and construct an ion accelerator which was unique in this part of southern Illinois. It was because of the accelerator work in Greenville that I was chosen to be part of a larger Mc Donnell- Douglas team that designed a network of space based high energy accelerators as part of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. While many SDI projects were a waste of money, this project was so successful it was used as a negotiating chip by Reagan as he interacted with Gorbachov. Though it was a small part, this project helped aid the eventual break-up of the Soviet Union. The project was renamed and the first two parts of the accelerator, which I helped design, were flight tested in space on a rocket while I was at the Air Force Weapons Lab in Albuquerque the following summer. Everything worked and after that I lost track of the project as it was renamed again. I hope the system will never have to be used, but if it is, a little bit of Greenville will be involved in the design and operation as it travels high overhead.

I hope you can see that for me and my family Greenville has been a wonderful, meaningful, journey. To see the city grow and become more codified, to read about official work being done, and to witness many interesting activities on and off the square through-out the year, these are all very rewarding and progressive. I am appreciative for all the development in Greenville since I first saw it in 1958. I am anticipating even more development in the years ahead because Greenville has these four areas in place which, to me, make it special and give it a promising future.

So, thank you Chamber of Commerce for this honor. Thank you for the many ways you work for and represent our community and for being the chamber of a special, fortunate, wonderful, small, good, and yes, even great, city named- Greenville.

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