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!

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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.

July COAP Employee Spotlight: Matt Tanney

Tanney on TourIf you were patronizing any of Macomb’s businesses this past Monday, you may have gotten a glimpse of the blur that was “Tanney on Tour.”

Yesterday, Matt Tanney, the interim director of Western Illinois Athletics, was spotted all over the fair city that is Western Illinois University’s home, as he traveled to area businesses to give a special “THANKS!” to ALL of Leatherneck Athletics’ corporate partnership sponsors.

The whirlwind tour (check out all of the photos at http://bit.ly/TanneyonTour) demonstrates Matt’s inspirational motivation.

Other achievements, too, here at WIU demonstrate his drive: Matt (who was named the interim director of Western Illinois Athletics in May 2015) was honored with WIU’s Division of Student Services “Administrative Employee of the Year” in May 2014, and a Western Illinois Athletics’ press release also notes he has presented nationally at the NCAA Regional Rules conference. Additionally, he teaches undergraduate courses here at WIU, as well as serves as a guest lecturer at several colleges. He will also teach a sports law class in the WIU graduate program this fall.

As the subject of the July installment of the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Employee Spotlight feature, Matt was kind enough to take some time out of his hectic schedule to answer some questions about his job here at Western. Thanks, Matt!

Q. Tell me a bit about your background… How did you wind up working at WIU?

Matt: I grew up in an athletically minded family that also valued the pursuit of high academic achievement. My father had a successful career as a high school football coach, and my two younger brothers are presently in the NFL (Mitch works for the Denver Broncos, and Alex is a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans). So, athletics has always been a part of my life that’s well complemented my academic interests. I was a collegiate student athlete at the NCAA Division III level and earned my undergraduate and law degrees from Wabash College and the Robert H. McKinney School of Law, respectively.

While in law school, I worked at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which opened some doors in the athletics industry. I worked in the athletics department at The Ohio State University after law school, and eventually the University of Dayton and the University of Oklahoma. I joined the Leathernecks in July 2012 as the associate director of WIU Athletics. I’m originally from the Bloomington-Normal area, so it’s been a pleasure to return closer to friends and family in Central Illinois.

Tanney

Western Illinois Athletics’ Interim Director Matt Tanney and Western’s mascot, Rocky.

Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you as the interim director of Athletics?

Matt: There’s no such thing as a “typical day” in the office, which is great. It’s a diverse, well-rounded experience. I’m constantly exploring new avenues to generate additional revenue for the department, developing strategies on financial planning and facilities initiatives, and hiring new coaches and staff. The reality is division I intercollegiate athletics is a fast-paced environment, and if you’re not nimble on the job, you’ll fail.

Q. What are some of the best aspects of your job?

Matt: I started working in college athletics because of the student-athletes. I often say that if you’re not working toward the best interests of the student-athletes, then you’re in the wrong business. The most rewarding moments of the job aren’t always the wins on the court or field–they are often the less publicized stories… for example, the student-athlete who gets accepted into his or her first choice of graduate school, or knowing that athletics provided the access and opportunity for a first-generation college student to obtain his or her degree.

Q. What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?

Matt: The athletics department is not immune to the budgetary challenges facing the university and the state of Illinois, so I’m always striving to identify ways we can become more efficient in our financial operations.

Q. Tell me a little about your favorite activities outside of your job (e.g., hobbies, family or friend activities, etc.)

Matt: I’m blessed with an amazing wife and twin daughters, so I spend as much time with them as possible.

Q. What is your favorite quote?

Matt: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” — F.Scott Fitzgerald

WIU Alum’s Cubs Victory Song Makes Final 4 Cut in Tribune Contest

Joey White - WIU Baseball 2013

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

“What should we sing after a Cubs win?” asks Mark Caro in a March 23 Chicago Tribune article, “Go song go: Final four voting for the next Cubs hit.”

Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU Baseball student athlete Joey White knows which song he’d like tried-and-true Cubs fans to sing. The song, “Raise the W,” composed by White and his brother, Jimmy, might just have a shot at being the one.

The White brothers’ song is now in the “Final Four” of the Tribune’s Cubs victory song contest, which began in January.

White, who grew up in Downers Grove (IL) and graduated last May with his bachelor’s of business in marketing, is a lifelong Cubs fan, as are his family members “for a few generations,” he explained. (As a former North Side Chicagoan, I too have a fondness for the Cubbies; thus, I can appreciate the White family’s dedication to their team.) The contest’s final showdown–between the two final songs that garner the most votes–is slated to begin next Monday, March 30.

Joey, who works in the Chicagoland area, answered a few questions about his and his brother’s song via email the other day. (And you can vote through 9 a.m. this Sunday, March 29, on the Tribune’s website.)

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Chicago Tribune Cubs Victory Song Contest: "Raise the W" by Jimmy and Joey White

You can vote for the White brothers’ song on the Chicago Tribune website until 9 a.m. Sunday, March 29.

Q: Why did you enter the contest?

Joey: My uncle actually saw the competition while he was reading the ‘Chicago Tribune’ and took a picture and sent it to my brother and me and suggested we create a song and submit it. When I saw the text message, my brother and I both thought it would be fun to do, and we started the process. As lifelong Cubs’ fans, we knew this would be a fun project to complete and share with friends and family.

Q: Tell me about the process of composing the song with your brother.

Joey: My brother lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, now so it was a long-distance project. We have created songs in the past for fun and have a good time doing it. After we decided we were going to create a Cubs song, my brother went to work on the instrumental (guitar, drums, bass). He has always been more inclined with the instruments and composing a beat. When he came up with his idea of how he wanted the song to go, he sent me a rough draft recorded through a text message. When he completed the instrumental, which took about two days, he sent it to me so I could start on the lyrics. I watched some Cubs videos on YouTube and a DVD that I have to help me with some ideas.

The writing process took about another two days, and then I went to my friend Justin Harzich’s house and recorded the song. With the instrumental that my brother sent, we uploaded it onto the program we used to record the song, then sent it back to my brother. After the song was complete, my brother created a video to go along with the song and posted it onto YouTube and emailed the final product to the ‘Chicago Tribune.’

Q: What are you doing now that you’ve graduated from Western?

Joey: At the moment I am gaining professional experience in sales. My future career goals consist of working with Live Nation. I’ve heard it is a great company to work for, and I am very interested in that industry. I’m interested in entertainment, like professional sports and music, and this company works with both.

Q. Anything you would like to highlight about your time at Western?

Joey: I walked on to the baseball team and played in 2012-13. My time at Western was very enjoyable and cherish the experience and education I received from the institution. The years I attended came and went too fast, but are very memorable!

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Hope springs eternal, as the White brothers and all those who entered the contest have demonstrated with their songs. So those of us Leathernecks who are Cubs’ fans keep heart… in this “lucky” (?) “Year of the Goat” — and now with a WIU alumnus possibly the author of the Cubs victory song — just maybe the infamous curse will end its reign!

Kowal: Leathernecks Help Leathernecks

Connie Kowal at WIU Feb. 9, 2015

Conrad “Connie” Kowal–who graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Western in 1974 and, that same year, played on Western’s baseball team, which was one of the most successful baseball teams in WIU history?spoke to students in a few management and marketing classes Monday, Feb. 9.

Last Monday, Western Illinois University students were able to meet–and learn from–one of Western’s many accomplished legacies.

Conrad “Connie” Kowal, who was named one of Western’s “Distinguished Alumni” in 1992, traveled back to his alma mater to attend the third annual Western Illinois Baseball Lead Off Dinner Sunday, Feb. 8.

Although he’s a busy sports marketing executive–Connie is currently the director of the Libertyville Sports Complex & Recreation Department (he also served as a sports executive with the Chicago Cubs for 14 years, 1985-98, and was the senior director of marketing and business development/business chief of staff for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints from 2003-05)–Connie stayed over in Macomb through Monday in order to share his 30+ years of experience in the sports marketing/management industry with many soon-to-be fellow Leatherneck alumni.

WIU Management and Marketing Assistant Professor Cathy Onion “booked” Connie–who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1974 and, that same year, played on Western’s baseball team, which was one of the most successful baseball teams in WIU history–to speak to students taking courses in business communications, management principles, direct marketing management, marketing management, and recreation sport principles, as well as to members of the Marketing Club and Sport Management Association student organizations.

While many Western students didn’t get to meet Connie last week, Professor Onion shared some nuggets of Connie’s wisdom (and stories about his career and WIU experiences) below.

WIU Alumnus '74 Connie Kowal

WIU Alum (’74) Connie Kowal

Q). Why do you feel it’s important to invite successful alumni back to talk with students?

Prof. Onion: It’s one thing to hear tips and advice from your advisers and professors, but when an alum speaks to students, he/she lends credibility to what a professor is saying. In my experience, the alumni who return to campus to speak typically share three traits:

  1. They love the institution and value the education they earned at WIU.
  2. They want to offer advice and expertise in their markets (areas of work or study).
  3. They want to help students. As Connie says, “Leathernecks Help Leathernecks.”

Q). What was his presentation about?

Onion: He talked about his experience with the Cubs and his good friend Ernie Banks. He also discussed his work with the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints in 2003, 2004, as well as in 2005–the Hurricane Katrina year.

WIU alumnus Connie Kowal's presentation to WIU students Feb. 9, 2015.

WIU alumnus Connie Kowal’s presentation to WIU students Feb. 9, 2015.

In April of 2005 (draft day), he established the marketing theme “Ya Gotta Have Faith.” As he shared his experiences with WIU students, he noted: “Little did we know that just a few months later, when Katrina hit New Orleans August 29, our marketing campaign would have two meanings.”

He continued:

“We evacuated New Orleans and moved our operation to the San Antonio’s Alamodome. Our operation was set up in the basement of the Alamodome with piping and drapes. We were a glorified trade show. We put in 23-hour days, and I grew a beard because I simply did not have time to shave. We were managing our jobs, but we were also managing lives of players and personnel. Everything they had was eight hours away. The NFL season–which was only two weeks away–was not going to wait on us. We had to do whatever it took to be ready. We had guys (players) practicing in parking lots and just anywhere they could find a space. When we won that opening game September 11 by three points (23-20) against the Carolina Panthers, there was not a dry eye in the locker room–not one. It was the most emotional win I’ve ever experienced. I’ll never forget it.”

When a student asked Connie: “Can you tell us a story of compassion shown after Hurricane Katrina?” He replied:

“All of America reached out to us. Everyone. Everywhere. Whatever they could do to help, they did.”

Below are some of his Connie “isms” he shared, too:

  • Mind your ABCs — Be Accessible, Be Reliable, Be Credible
  • Be the #1 fan of your own fan club
  • Work hard, do your job, work hard, do your job, work hard, do your job. Grinders win in life!
  • If I can do it, you can do it. I’m not that good. I just out-hustled people
  • Sports is a perishable product. If you don’t sell the seat today, you can’t resell it tomorrow–game over. Do your job.
  • The smallest task can lead to the biggest accomplishment.
  • Business is a contact sport. Learn to talk to people. I’ve never hired thumbs. I hire people.
  • Never pretend to be someone you are not.
  • This is not a one-and-done relationship. You have my contact information. If I can help you in anyway, please get in touch with me and remember: Leathernecks Help Leathernecks!

Q). Anything else you want to highlight about Connie’s presentations to students?

Onion: Just one of the stories he shared… His freshman year, Connie tried out for the WIU baseball team. He was cut.

“I didn’t blame the coach or say I got a bad deal. I worked at it and came back the next year,” he explained.

He watched every WIU baseball game from the stands and played in a summer league. The next year, he went back to the tryouts and introduced himself to Coach Pawlow again. He made the team. He was a utility player–until his senior year. Then the coach put him in as a back up at third base, and he went 4 for 4 at the plate. He never came out of the lineup again.

“I’m 5’5, my name is Connie for goodness sake, I have an overbite, and I’ve lost my hair,” he told students. “I had a lot of things to overcome, but I did it.”

The 1974 team he played on was one game away from the College World Series, when they lost in the bottom of the 11th inning, 0-1, due to a walk off.

Former WIU Student Up for Cosmo’s Bachelor of the Year 2012

Eric Anerino – Illinois Bachelor of the Year 2012 as selected by Cosmopolitan magazine

Former Leatherneck track and field athlete Eric Anerino, of Naperville, IL, is participating in Cosmopolitan magazine’s annual hunt for the country’s most eligible bachelor to be crowned Bachelor of the Year 2012.

A man from each state is chosen and eligible to win the title and $10,000. A picture and brief biography is provided for online voters.

Anerino, currently a high school English teacher, graduated from Western Illinois University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in English. While at Western, Anerino was involved in WIU academically as well as athletically. He was named the 2010 Department Scholar in English, and he was also active in Western’s track and field team, serving as captain and helping to host the Shaymus Relays, a fundraiser for WIU women’s soccer coach Tony Guinn’s son, who is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma. He was also a conference champion and regional qualifier on the team.

To find out more information about Anerino’s run for Bachelor of the Year, or to vote for Anerino, visit http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/bachelors-2012/bachelors-2012-illinois.

Caring for Col. Rock

Col. Rock, the newest member of the Leatherneck family, hasn’t even arrived on campus yet and already he’s a star. But once he gets here, where will he live? Who will take care of him?

picture of Colonel Rock at 8 weeks old

Col. Rock, here at 8 weeks old, will arrive in Macomb on Saturday, May 15.

picture of Joe Roselieb

Joe Roselieb, assistant director of residential facilities, will welcome Col. Rock to his new home.

While the 10-week-old bulldog puppy will one day have the important job of riding in convertibles during Homecoming parades and making the rounds at football games, he still, of course, will need an “assistant.”

Enter Joe Roselieb, Western’s assistant director of residential facilities. Roselieb should have plenty of school spirit to be up to the job: he graduated from WIU with bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies in 2007, was hired to his position in 2008, and earned a master’s degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) in 2009.

Find out how he became the keeper of Colonel Rock–and leave us your comments and questions–below!

Q&A

Can you tell us how you got this important new addition to your job duties?

It started with one of our football players, Victor Visoky, (a senior law enforcement and justice administration major from Northbrook, IL) when he was thinking of a way to try to generate more school spirit. Victor is from a big bulldog family; they have three they’ve adopted, rescued, or inherited. Then Victor bought one from the Siess Ranch in Kansas. Anyway, he was thinking about Western having that tradition of a four-legged mascot like some schools have, and his dad, George, just kind of took off. He contacted the Siess Ranch, he contacted the local [veterinarians], he got everyone on board. So then it came down to, “Who’s gonna take care of it?” So then, my director, John Biernbaum (University Housing and Dining Services), was at a Leatherneck Club meeting, and they were talking about it and John brought up my name.

So why did your boss suggest you? Are you a dog lover?

Well, my grandmother runs an animal shelter in Sterling (IL), and we always had animals when I was growing up. We’ve kind of accidentally become a lab family: we have three black labs. John loves them, too, and just because he’s my boss and we’ve talked about it before, he knew I was interested in dogs. I’ve always wanted a bulldog, but I knew they were kind of cashy–and my grandmother always said, “Don’t get a breed, get a rescued dog,” so that was always instilled in me. So then this opportunity came up. At first, I kind of met it with some resistance. I had three pages of questions, and when George called me we ended up talking for 45 minutes. After that, I was kind of excited and thought, “Why not?”

Will Col. Rock live with you in your house or apartment? Will he have a doghouse?

He’ll be indoors at my house. I bought my first house last March, and it’s really close to campus. I should never have an excuse not to come to work [laughs]. There’s a kennel in the house, there’s a big ‘W’ rug in front. It’s decorated with a Rocky logo above it just like the football players have above their lockers.

Are you going to have any help with taking care of him?

Yeah, my girlfriend will help out a little bit. She graduated from Western too, and she’s actually coming back here to do her master’s degree soon, so it’s perfect timing! I’ve found that so many people are excited about it, they just want to be part of it, be involved somehow. We’ve had a kennel in town offer to take care of him in case I ever need to leave for the weekend. I’m getting two to three people a day volunteering to babysit, walk him, etc., if I ever need help.

Will you be training the Colonel? Will he go to obedience school? What will be some of the day-to-day and larger responsibilities in taking care of him?

Obedience school is definitely on the plan. We’re still talking about it right now. I kind of want to get settled in, get to know him, get him into All Pets and get him checked out. Maybe we’ll do just a couple of sessions from some of the books that some of my grandma’s contacts have given me: just “sit,” “stay,” a few of those basic things. Potty training will be a big thing. That’s probably the biggest thing I’m not looking forward to.

Right now it will be about trying to get him acclimated to as many people as possible. It will be a little bit of a challenge to find events to take him to, since the school year just ended. But since he’s a puppy, he will naturally attract people when I’m out walking him, which will be nice. I’m going to bring him to Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR), so that will take care of two things at once: get people excited about our new mascot, and also get him acclimated. It will also be about how I’m going to get him acclimated to environmental things he’ll need to become immune to, like… the cannon going off on the football game.

When will you actually meet your new “housemate”? How are you feeling about it right now?

I’m getting him at 11:30 a.m. on [May] 15th, [before Col. Rock will make his official debut at the Leathernecks Baseball game]. There are a lot of expectations. I know there’ll be some frustrations dealing with a new puppy, but I’m excited to see how people interact with him, how things go with him. I’m excited, I’m nervous…everything.

History of Hero Street lives on (and has a descendant at WIU)!

Hero Street USA

Hero Street USA

Marc Wilson, author of the new book “Hero Street, U.S.A.: The Story of Little Mexico’s Fallen Soldiers,” spoke on campus Wed., Oct. 7–and brought with him an interesting companion.

Wilson, a former reporter and Associated Press executive now living in the Quad Cities area, researched the dramatic story of the “Little Mexico” neighborhood in Silvis, IL, which contributed 78 soldiers to the U.S. military during World War II and Korea, giving it the highest per-capita casualty rate of any street in the entire country. The neighborhood, established by immigrants from Guanajauto, Mexico, was officially renamed “Hero Street” in 1971.

But Wilson’s companion for the day could also be considered an expert on the topic: Tanilo “Tony” Sandoval, surviving younger brother of two of the eight soldiers from the block who were killed in action. As Wilson detailed his research, Sandoval provided his childhood memories about each of the eight soldiers killed in action.

Wilson, former owner of a newspaper in Montana, became interested in the story after hearing about it from a newspaper publisher in the Quad Cities.

“Many people in the Quad Cities still know nothing, or very little, about Hero Street,” he said.

Chronicling the prejudice, poverty, and other adversity the residents of Little Mexico had to deal with, especially during the Depression, Wilson pointed out that many of the veterans who gave their life for their country were never recognized as United States citizens, even being blackballed from the local VFW.

Their first-generation parents, unable to speak English, weren’t eligible to receive federal aid during the Depression due to their status as “aliens.” In fact, the street later recognized with the official “Hero Street” name was one of the last in the city to be paved, he said.

“These were ‘invisible’ people in many ways,” Wilson said.

At the end of the presentation, Sandoval shared with the audience the fact that, despite the poverty and prejudice he and his brothers experienced growing up, many from the younger generations of the Hero Street neighborhood, and in his family, have gone on to successful professional positions after earning an education.

Johnathon Sandoval, WIU sophomore

Johnathon Sandoval, WIU sophomore

And what could have been a better note to end on than this?:

Before the author and his guest speaker greeted audience members, Wilson explained they’d need to leave a bit early.

“We’re going to go try to catch the rest of the soccer game,” Wilson said. Sandoval’s grandson, Johnathan Sandoval, is a sophomore and Leatherneck soccer player at WIU.

Read more about the book and the story behind Hero Street in the University Relations news release and on the University Archives blog.