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NORMAL — Bells big and small echoed across the Illinois State University campus Thursday as the school celebrated Founders Day.

The main morning event took place in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center where 161 bell ringers were selected to ring a replica of the Old Main bell — one for each of ISU's 161 years.

Among the bell ringers were Carson and Iris Varner. Not only did they donate the money to cast the bell, first used in 2010, they also were honored Thursday for their donation of $1 million to ISU's international business program, in which they have been involved since its start 40 years ago.

Throughout the day, people stopped at the original Old Main bell, which sits quietly on the north end of the quad the rest of the year. But each Founders Day, a long rope is tied to the clapper so people can take turns sending the deep tone echoing across campus.

In the afternoon, an honorary doctoral degree and numerous other awards for outstanding teaching, research and service were presented in the Brown Ballroom.

ISU alumnus Craig Bouchard is chairman of the board and CEO of Braidy Industries, which is building the first greenfield aluminum mill in the U.S. in 35 years in Ashland, Ky. He received an honorary doctor of science degree. President Larry Dietz described him as an internationally respected entrepreneur, best-selling author and philanthropist.

Bouchard, who received a bachelor's degree in 1975 and master's degree in 1977 from ISU, is the author of the New York Times best-seller “The Caterpillar Way: Lessons in Leadership, Growth, and Shareholder Value.”

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Illinois State University College of Arts and Sciences in 2008.

Bouchard said when he looked around his class at ISU, he thought, “I'm the dumbest guy in this room. How am I making it?”

But he said ISU was the key to his success.

“Here I learned to compete. Here I learned to write. Here I learned to solve problems and, in doing so, to recognize no boundaries to problems,” said Bouchard.

Also during the convocation, geology professor David Malone and Ali Riaz, professor of politics and government, were honored as distinguished professors, one of the highest honors for faculty.

Malone, a 1988 ISU graduate, joined the faculty in 1994. He has been the principal investigator in 62 grants, receiving more than $5 million in funds. He also has taught more than 3,400 students in 11 different classes.

Riaz has published 17 books in English and 12 in Bengali. He is an internationally recognized expert on political Islam, violent extremism, South Asia politics and Bangladeshi politics. He has testified twice before Congress.

Geology professor Eric Peterson, who has taught at ISU since 2002, was named university professor. He has obtained nearly $2 million in research grants, taught numerous field experiences and mentored 12 undergraduate students in research.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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