Millikin University - Decatur, IL
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Open for business

Many Millikin alumni answer to a boss they know very well: themselves.

Of all MU alumni who have reported their employer status to the alumni office, a large group list themselves as self-employed business owners.

Some Millikin alumni own companies with numerous employees while others run what the U.S. Census Bureau calls nonemployer businesses, companies without paid employees and sometimes based out of a private home. Despite a national decline in the total number of small businesses, Millikin boasts a growing number of emerging businesses among its alumni base, including one owned by Zane Peterson ’11 and his father, who together opened the University Dogs shop near campus last year (see page 21).

According to the Small Business Administration, there were 27.5 million total U.S. businesses in 2009; all but about 18,000 employed less than 500 employees, and a majority, 21.4 million, had no employees but the owner.

Nearly three out of every four owners founded the business they run, says the Census Bureau, and more than half of them earned a college degree before setting up their businesses.

At Millikin, students can get specialized training in how to succeed as business owners while in school. Millikin has offered entrepreneurship as a major through the Tabor School of Business for some years, and now non-business majors can minor in the field, taking 23 credit hours to learn how to make their business dreams come true.

One such student is Alexa Snyder, a junior art major from Springfield, Ill. Snyder enrolled in The Art of Entrepreneurship class to learn how to market herself as an artist. Her business, Ewe-sed (pronounced “Used”), sells women’s handbags made from recycled wool and cashmere sweaters.

“As a BFA studio art major, I can honestly say that I wondered how I was going to handle the logical side of my brain for business, but I was pleasantly surprised how the knowledge that I learned from being an entrepreneur has applied even to my creative side. My experiences in class taught me the fundamentals of creating and maintaining a successful business plan.”

After graduation, Snyder may take her new knowledge and join the ranks of other thriving business owners who are Millikin alumni, including those featured on these pages.

King of Campustown

Although he doesn't work with bricks and mortar on a daily basis, Gregg Meisenhelter '00 of Decatur is most certainly a builder. It's just that, in his case, he's doing what he can to build up and create a successful business community in the campustown area near Millikin as well as in other pockets throughout Decatur.

It was a path that started when he was only 14.

"My dad took me to the local small town bank to get the dollars so I could buy a blue '66 Mustang," he says. "That was the first time I met my banker. I've worked with that bank ever since."

That boost of faith by his loan officer led to Meisenhelter taking out other loans a few years later. This time, he was a Millikin art major, and he wanted a loan to buy a house near the university to live in while he attended school. He became the proud owner of a home that "at one time or another, almost every soccer player on the team lived in," says the former player.

He says he didn't start out to be an entrepreneur.

"I just get a kick out of buying things and making them better," he says. "In fact, I still don't know what I want to do with my life."

A few years later came graduation and the next day he was working full time for his brother in the family garbage hauling service. It wasn't long before Meisenhelter, by now in the business of regularly investing and selling real estate, bought half of his parents' garbage business and started United Waste, which he still owns today with his mother.

Eventually, he turned his attention to retail establishments and purchased a large section of real estate on Oakland Avenue then owned by Eichenauer Services Inc. Since taking it over, he's leased storefronts in that block to two restaurants, a comics shop and a bakery. While doing some exterior painting on the property one day, he was approached by Jim Gresham, who along with his wife Kathy Farleigh Gresham '70, owned the iconic restaurant and bar Lock Stock & Barrel (LSB) directly across the street.

Gresham was thinking of retiring and liked the thought of Meisenhelter as the owner of the business he'd started in 1977.

For Meisenhelter, it was the closing of a loop. While attending Millikin with his future wife, Dana Descaro '01, his future mother-in-law, was a waitress at LSB. Her husband had laid the building's bricks and even carved his last name on one. Meisenhelter had joked: "I want to own this place."

And now he does, in addition to sharing ownership of the almost 80-year-old Winery around the corner to the northeast with his brother and one of the LSB managers. Recently, he turned his focus to downtown Decatur, picking up ownership of Katz, another restaurant and bar, in late 2011.

It's been a big leap for someone who admits he had no hands-on restaurant or food experience until purchasing LSB. He's grateful that Gresham has stayed on part-time to offer his expertise after the purchase, and rues that he doesn't have time to be the "guy out front greeting people every day like I would like to and should be doing."

"I see how it works now," he says. "But my phone is always ringing and people tell me I'm always in a hurry, always running."

Despite a schedule that rarely gives him a full night's sleep, Meisenhelter makes a point to give back to Millikin by sharing his business observations with students, speaking to classes once or twice a semester.

"I have asked Gregg to be a part of my classes because he is so entrepreneurial; he is almost a classic textbook example of the entrepreneurial attitude," says Professor Dennis Schwieger of the Tabor School of Business. "I find him inspirational for this topic. He comes across as very believable, partly because of his age, and partly because of his 'straight-from-the-shoulder' presentation. He is not pretentious - he is very real, and that goes well with my students."

Meisenhelter's realism extends to being pragmatic about the needs of MU's campustown to draw local residents, too.

"I'm very glad that Millikin is a neighbor, and a very good one at that," he says, "but these places can't survive on MU alone."

It's a lesson he's planning to teach his twin boys, 8, and his daughter, 4, as he thinks about how to encourage them to be their own bosses, too.

"I'm thinking a snow cone business in campustown for them would be a good start once they're old enough," he says. "And I feel it would teach them business skills that will help them further down the road.

"Plus, I like snow cones," he adds with a grin.

Dr. Travis Stimeling: Assistant Professor of Music

Faculty member since: 2007
Education: Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; M.M. in Music History, West Virginia University; B.A., West Virginia Wesleyan College

Dr. Travis Stimeling holds up his thumb and forefinger and pinches about an inch of air. "This is the range of my knowledge … the rest of the room is everything else." The assistant professor of music says that the most important aspect of learning is being receptive and willing to have an open mind to new possibilities. No one should be content with just the knowledge they already have, he says. "It is really easy to have that mindset coming out of college. I know I did," he remembers.

Because of this, he works to show students that they can find new avenues beyond what's taught in the classroom. But it's not as easy as it sounds.

"You have to convey excitement and interest to someone else to get them excited and interested," he says.

This excitement and interest was a prominent part of Stimeling's education. Throughout his life, passionate teachers have served as inspiration to him, he explains.

"Teachers have the power to open new pathways and doors for the students they inspire," he says. "Because of this, I knew I needed to teach."

Stimeling loves teaching at Millikin, where he says the small school atmosphere allows him to get to know students individually. Although he teaches courses in music history and ethnomusicology (the study of the relationship between music and culture), he was also drawn to Millikin by the level of integration in the music program compared to many larger schools.

"At Millikin, I can break down barriers and teach the whole musician," he says.

Stimeling recently wrote his first book, "Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Counter-Cultural Sounds of Austin's Progressive Country Music Scene," which he explains was an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation and his West Virginian roots. A lifelong country music fan, his dissertation explored the progressive country music scene in Texas. Here, he found it fascinating how they established and articulated their own identities while maintaining a collective identity as a scene. After finishing his dissertation, he felt as if it could be tightened and expanded into a book.

The book has been very well received. Dr. Gary Hartman, director of the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University, says it's "the most engaging and informative examination of progressive country music to date ... This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the rich, complex, and colorful history of American music."

However, Stimeling's focus on country music didn't end there. While writing his book, he realized that there weren't many resources on country music, so he has committed himself to writing an anthology of source readings in country music history from 1922 to the present. While on a sabbatical leave in 2010, Stimeling transcribed articles into chapters and wrote critical introductions and annotations. He hopes to finish the project within the next year and publish it soon thereafter. To reach this goal, he says he writes each day.

"Just like you'd practice an instrument, you need to practice writing," he says. "I try to write at least 200 words a day."

Aside from his book, Stimeling recently received praise for an international "Critical Voices Project" that he brought to Millikin. The overall project started in spring 2011, and the students in Millikin's "Music and the Environment" course were invited to participate in the fall of the same year. In this program, students are engaged in serious musicological reading, covering challenging subject matter ranging from acoustics to birdsongs. After each student writes a critique of a book of their choice, it is peer reviewed by students in the course. From eight student submissions, the top five student works were sent to the University of Guelph for further review and feedback from students there. All five of the works sent to Guelph were published in early January.

Stimeling and Critical Voices Project founder Kimberly Francis are working on a research project on the pedagogy of peer review that will be presented at a June conference.

In addition to teaching and writing books, Stimeling is still an active musician. He continues to sing and play guitar with grad school buddy Matt Meacham in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area. Along with Meacham, Stimeling occasionally performs locally with Dave Burdick [associate professor of music] and Andy Heise [Tabor School of Business program coordinator] in the band, "Los Gringos Del Corn."

Through his accomplishments as a writer, teacher and musician, he shows the rewards of being a lifelong learner. As he continually explores the world of music through his external projects, he inspires his students to learn outside of school and never to be afraid of jumping into knowledge headfirst.

by Ty Warden '13

PPG donates $10,000 to girls program

The PPG Industries Foundation has donated $10,000 to Millikin on behalf of PPG Industries' Mt. Zion glass manufacturing facility to support the iSmartgirls Discovery Day Camp.

Thanks to PPG's support, the technology-based camp, operated by Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, held two full-day sessions earlier this year. Ninety girls, double last year's number, attended iSmartgirls Reflective Day at Rock Springs Environmental Center as a wrap-up of the earlier sessions.

The iSmartgirls program offers Decatur-area girls in sixth through eighth grade the opportunity to learn about innovations in science, math, art and real-world technology through intensive hands-on learning experiences, with Millikin students acting as mentors. The day included three labs - iDesigner, where girls work with geometric patterning and tessellation for artistic design; iChemist, where students create their own skin care products; and iEngineer, where students explore solutions for bettering their world - and a creative "upcycling" project, transforming recyclables into objects of value.

"We also introduced a sustainability-focused project for girls who attended our 2012 sessions to reinforce the science and technology that underlie recycling and related real-world issues," says Sharon T. Alpi, Coleman Foundation professor in MU's Center for Entrepreneurship.

"PPG is strongly committed to supporting the communities where its employees work and live, especially through educational programs focusing on science, technology and math," says John Gauthier, plant manager for the Mt. Zion glass manufacturing facility. "We are proud to continue our decades-long relationship with Millikin University by helping to enrich this unique program for girls. Some of our female employees are hoping to serve as mentors or speakers for future camp sessions, which will offer an exciting opportunity to grow this relationship further."

Hubbard joins alumni and development office

Stacey Hubbard, formerly the university's dean of admission and financial aid, is Millikin's new associate director for major gifts. She has worked in higher education since 1991 and at Millikin since 2004. Hubbard launched Millikin's first comprehensive Student Service Center and has also held various positions within the student financial aid industry.

In her new role, Hubbard is responsible for stewardship of Millikin's donor-funded scholarships and also works with the university's planned giving program. She looks forward to drawing from her admission and financial aid experience to share with scholarship donors how their support directly impacts students.

She and her husband, Steve Hubbard '94, live in Forsyth, Ill., with their two daughters.

Caterpillar Foundation makes $1 million payment

Caterpillar Decatur's General Manager Walt Hupe (center), presents a $1 million check from the Caterpillar Foundation to Millikin University in support of creating a new Center for International Education on campus. Accepting the check is Millikin's President Harold Jeffcoat, and Vice President for Alumni and Development Peg Smith Luy '75.

As a part of the Caterpillar Foundation's previously announced investment in Millikin University, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, marked another momentous occasion as the Caterpillar Foundation made its second payment of $1 million to Millikin University. This investment is part of the Caterpillar Foundation's $7 million grant made in 2011. Presented by Caterpillar Decatur's General Manager Walt Hupe, this investment will help to create a new Center for International Education on the university's campus.

One year ago, Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO, Doug Oberhelman, a 1975 Millikin graduate, announced an investment of up to $11.5 million toward the capital campaign. This investment is the largest show of support in Millikin's history.

The investment, made both by the Caterpillar Foundation and personally by Doug Oberhelman and his wife, Diane, will support creation of a new university center that will house the Oberhelman Leadership Development Center, help renovate Millikin's oldest residence hall to create a Center for International Education and double the number of students supported by the university's Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program for minority students.

The $1 million donation recently received by Millikin will give Aston Hall, the university's oldest residence hall, new life as a Center for International Education. The Caterpillar Foundation has committed a total of $3 million to help renovate and develop the new center, which will provide housing for international students and serve as a home for multicultural affairs staff, international programs, study abroad and global awareness.

"We are extremely grateful for ongoing support of Caterpillar and the Oberhelmans," said Millikin President, Harold Jeffcoat. "This new center will serve a vital role in enhancing a critical area of our university mission - to prepare our students to be confident, inspired global citizens by providing expanded opportunities for leadership development and international education. The Center for International Education will serve as a hub for all things related to the international experience - both for students coming here from other countries and for Millikin students who seek to study abroad."

Millikin's partnership with Caterpillar extends back nearly six decades to 1955 when the company made its first investment in the university.

There's no fool like an April fool
The 1950 April Fool Decaturian.
Browse older Decs online.

The April Fool edition of the student newspaper is part of a long-standing tradition at Millikin. The first known example of a Decaturian April Fool's headline was published on March 29, 1928, with "John Doe Murdered: Meets Tragic Death At Hand Of Richard Roe." Since then, over 30 Decaturians have included at least some April Fool content.

"University Files Damage Suit; Asks $500,000 from Wabash R.R.," blazed the Decaturian's main headline in 1950. This article, dated March 31, reported on a lawsuit brought by Millikin against the Wabash Railroad for damages from "uncontrolled whistle blowing by the Wabash trains near the university."

Not only was the noise causing Mrs. Maxwell's English students to earn "unusually low grades…[due to] nervous tension and emotional instability," home economics students were experiencing "fallen cakes, curdled milk, and a long list of burns and scalds occasioned by the unexpected sound(s)."

Registrar and psychology professor Mr. Kerns, whose office was near the epicenter of the "noisy bedlam," was apparently driven to the edge of sanity and jammed a small waste basket over his head to block the noise. He then became stuck and tripped out an open window. Thankfully, he was eventually freed with a can opener.

Further examination showed that the Millikin campus was rife with curious incidents that week including "FBI Men Stop Commie Rioting In Taylor Hall" and "Williams Leads Seance Behind Closed Doors." Finally, the readers' eyes were drawn to a small notice on the lower part of the page, which clues them in on the cause of this strange nexus of events. April Fool!

Sometimes the content was marked with a special visual cue. Red ink was used to print several issues, but in 1970, it was printed in green and the masthead read Soy Bean Corn. At times, the masthead was upside down, articles were printed in all directions, or headlines for the April Fool content were upside down. Some special names for the edition have included the Pago-Pagan Old P.U., the Millikin Tribune, the Millikin Spectator & Voyeur, the Sukaturian, the Dorkaturian, the Depravaturian and the deprav.

Fodder for April Fool fun has remained fairly constant through the years. Perhaps the most common butt of these jokes has been the University faculty, including stories that had Professor Bonnie Blackburn arrested behind a local pool hall for running a cock fighting ring, Professor A. T. Mills being taken away to prison, Dr. Leslie Munneke leading a coup to seize the University presidency and a 1931 headline reading "Whoopee Party Staged by Faculty: Socially Elite, Intellectually Boresome Gathering Becomes Riot."

Other common themes have included the cafeteria food, with the headline "Slater Serves Raw Fish; K-Rations To Students" in 1966, University programming with "Chippendales rock Krapland" in 1998, and other aspects of campus life such as a "Three Acre Beer Hall Donated by Ed Lindsay" or the "New Dorm to be Constructed During Summer: 500 Rooms with Private Baths To Feature New Building; Suggest Personal Maids," in 1936. Sports also took part when a headline read, "Swimmers sucked down drain," in 1998.

So each April 1, beware being made an April Fool … and don't worry about the zombie invasions and 110-pound cockroaches, the nuclear shield will protect us!

by Amanda Pippitt, University Archivist
Amanda Pippitt is Millikin's access services coordinator, and archivist and research instruction librarian. She has worked at the university since 2004. She earned her master's degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also holds bachelor's and master's degrees in anthropology.

Track team smashes several school records, sends two to championships

Juniors Ariel Robinson of Decatur and LeAnn Spesard of Paris, Ill., competed at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships held in early March.

Spesard earned All-American status with an eighth-place finish in the shot put with a throw of 13.62 meters. Robinson finished in ninth place in the 60 meters with a time of 7.796, narrowly missing qualifying for the finals by .002 second.

Their season marks had placed them in the top 15 in the nation in their events and put them solidly in the DIII Championships field. Robinson's qualifying time of 7.76 seconds was the 10th fastest in the nation in DIII. Spesard's best mark of the year, 13.90 meters, was the fifth best DIII toss during the season.

Previously, both women's and men's track teams turned in strong performances at the CCIW Indoor Track and Field Championships held in February in Naperville, Ill. The Big Blue earned four individual championships, set seven new Millikin records and saw several athletes earn All-Conference honors by finishing in the top eight in their events.

Robinson earned the CCIW championship in the 60 meters, breaking her own school record. She also broke her own record in the 200 meters, finishing second with a time of 25.69 seconds. Robinson also earned All-Conference honors in the long jump with an eighth-place finish jump of 4.94 meters. On Feb. 4, she won the 400 meters with a new Big Blue school record time of 59.20.

Senior Brittany Sherron of Rockville, Ind., was the CCIW champion in the women's weight throw, with the Big Blue sweeping the top three medalist spots and taking four of the top-five finishes. Spesard won the CCIW championship in the shot put, breaking her own Big Blue record with a throw of 13.61 meters.

In the men's competition, senior Carleston Acres of Springfield, Ill., was the CCIW champion in the 60 meters. Freshman Sendin Bajric of Arnold, Mo., was third in the 1000 meters in a school record time of 2:39.49.

Freshman Kindra Emberton of Decatur earned All-CCIW honors in the following four events and each time bettered her own Big Blue record in that event: the 5000 meters (18:15.71); 3000 meters (10:36.47); 800 meters (2:20.19); and the mile run (5:13.22). Emberton had also previously set a Big Blue school record in the 1000 meters with a time of 3:08.34.

In a February meet featuring several NCAA Division I schools, senior Kirsten Daykin of Taylorville, Ill., was third in the 600 meters in a school record time of 1:39.10.

At the Last Chance Meet in early March, the Big Blue distance medley team of Robinson, Daykin, Emberton and freshman Liz Wrobel of Tinley Park, Ill., set a Big Blue record time of 12:37.20.

Student entrepreneurship recognized
"Mask," an oil painting by Alexa Snyder, is part of the body of work named best in show at the SEA Conference.

Several Millikin students were recognized for their work and received awards at the 12th annual Self Employment in the Arts (SEA) Conference held in Lisle, Ill., in February.

Junior studio art major Alexa Snyder of Springfield, Ill., received the best in show award and a $300 prize in the juried art competition. Senior Jess Black of Springfield, Ill., a studio art major, also received a juror's award and a $100 prize, and Anna Niebrugge of Effingham, Ill., also a senior and studio art major, was selected to present her work at the SEA Conference.

In addition, junior Peter Bushnell of Elmhurst, Ill., an entrepreneurship major, junior Amanda Sagan of Geneva, Ill., a graphic design major, and senior Favian Lobo of Decatur, an art major, were awarded second place and a $500 prize in the SEA business plan competition for their T-shirt and design business. The students began their business, Stencil-Vania Shirt Co., in fall 2011 as part of Millikin's "The Art of Entrepreneurship" course.

According to its website, the SEA conference provides educational resources to help aspiring artists gain the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills needed to establish and maintain careers as independent artists. More than 500 students from dozens of colleges attended to learn about the business skills, market knowledge, networking and resources needed to succeed as a professional artist.

Visit for more information.

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL