The McKendrean: Official Magazine of McKendree University - Winter 2022

Clear Path

Campus Quad

Quotation Graphic"Choosing to become a Bearcat means more than earning your degree. You’re signing up for a unique experience that will build a solid pathway to your future. We believe this initiative will allow us to make an even greater impact on the Southern Illinois region."

- President Daniel C. Dobbins ’81

Giving Back to Southern Illinois through New Tuition Initiative

Feature by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’10

McKendree’s mission has always been about more than simply satisfying the academic requirements of a college education. With a bolder vision of success, the Bearcat family dares to dream big when it comes to what its students and alums can accomplish. McKendree’s tradition of providing an experience that educates the whole person has shaped graduates who go on to make a difference in the world, inspire others to succeed and bring important change to their communities.

Southern Illinois MapIn the same way, the University also recognizes the importance of giving back to its own community and the people who call Southern Illinois home. Starting in the fall of 2022, McKendree will launch its Clear Path Tuition Initiative, making a promise to its neighbors in 34 Southern Illinois counties to keep tuition costs low even as high inflation rates continue to plague the country.

The pledge ensures that residents in the following Illinois counties will pay no more than $15,000 in tuition and fees to attend McKendree: Alexander, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, St. Clair, Saline, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White and Williamson Counties.




Ptosha “Rocki” Rockingham ’89

Ptosha “Rocki” Rockingham ’89

Trailblazer has always been a fitting description for East St. Louis native and McKendree alum Rocki Rockingham ’89. Currently the chief human resource officer for GE Appliances, she has held major leadership positions in such Fortune 500 corporations as Chrysler, General Motors, Sunbeam, Jarden Consumer Relations and Newell Brands. It’s the ways she gives back and inspires others to dream bigger, however, that truly reflect her definition of a life well lived.

Choosing to attend McKendree was something of a family affair for Rocki. Her mother and aunts are alumni, and she was looking for a college close to home whose strong academic and athletic programs would allow her to grow. A member of Student Government and the women’s basketball team, Rocki found a place that enabled her to tap into that trailblazing spirit and cultivate the skills she would use throughout her career. She was one of the first students of color to serve as editor of the McKendree Review student newspaper and to be elected as Homecoming Queen.

“I loved helping the University move itself to become more diverse,” she said. “I’ve always had the instinct to challenge the status quo. When people are brave enough to take positions and be great influencers, change can happen.”

Majoring in public relations and journalism, Rocki sought a career path that fit her skills in writing and negotiating. After graduation, she worked in various positions in corporate communications, public affairs, government affairs and community relations. She spent 12 years in the auto industry and the next 22 years in consumer products. “My first job after McKendree took me to Flint, Mich.,” she said. “I’ve lived all over the world and almost every state in the U.S. My career gave me the opportunity to spread my wings, but I always followed my passion.”

Now the head of Human Resources in a global company, Rocki enjoys inspiring creativity and innovation among thousands of employees. That urge to benefit others spills into her volunteerism as well. She mentors youth, organizes charitable events and serves on countless boards to address issues from hunger and literacy to foster care. “I do it because someone did it for me,” she said. “It’s important for me to pour into the lives of younger people and help them live their destiny daily.” Although she’s lived all over the world, Rocki says Southern Illinois will always be home. She continues to give back locally, taking an active role in organizations to improve education and heal racial divides in the area.




Ryan Anderson ’01's Family

Ryan Anderson ’01

As lead prosecutor for the City of Bellingham, Wash., Ryan Anderson ’01 may be far from his hometown of Belleville, Ill., but Midwestern values are at the core of who he is today. McKendree enabled Ryan to stay close to family and friends while he earned a history degree. He eagerly took advantage of every opportunity the University offered to get involved in campus life and soon found himself leading the Model UN program, competing on the debate team, writing for the McKendree Review and even traveling to Japan for the Technos trip.

After graduation, he moved to Syracuse, N.Y., to become a college professor, but quickly realized it wasn’t the path for him. Upon taking the LSAT exam, he discovered his high score and extensive list of McKendree extracurriculars gave him several options for law school. “I’ve often said that I got into law school based on my grades and LSAT score, but I received scholarships to attend law school because my resume was so packed full of student activities,” he said.

Ryan met his wife Angela in law school, and the two moved to Washington, where he began his career as prosecutor for the city of Bellingham. Now the lead prosecutor managing the city’s law office, Ryan enjoys working with the police, mentoring attorneys and taking coffee breaks with his wife, who is now a Whatcom County District Court Judge. The most fulfilling part of his job, however, is being able to enact meaningful change in his community.

He initiated the city’s Mental Health Court program and brought the use of Electronic Home Detention as an alternative to jail to every court system in the county.

“Putting people in jail simply to put people in jail is such a tired approach,” said Ryan. “There are certainly times when it is necessary. However, instead of running that same approach every time, we try to address the causes of criminal behavior in different ways. Getting people plugged into services to get into housing or treatment and then seeing them stabilize and gain employment is the greatest accomplishment for me personally.”

While he feels most at home in Washington now, Ryan remembers the values of hard work, dedication and respect for others that he learned in Southern Illinois and passes onto his children today. “To live in a place with snowcapped mountains on one side and the Puget Sound on the other is an incredible experience,” he said. “That said, I will always appreciate my upbringing in Illinois and the opportunities that my education from McKendree gave me.”




Dr. Karyle Penelton ’03

Dr. Karyle Penelton ’03

More than two decades later, Dr. Karyle Penelton can still recall the name of the boy who touched her heart and awakened that deep level of compassion for people that she would take into her career in healthcare. She was volunteering at Second Chance Homeless Shelter with her fellow McKendree students when she met him.

“I will never forget a young kid named Carl,” she said. “He was so impressed by the fact that we lived at school. He wanted to grow up and live at school like us. I think those early interactions helped shape my desire to learn more about people and understand what we have in common.”

A native of Edwardsville, Ill., Karyle came to McKendree to run track, play basketball and take advantage of the quality academic programs that would prepare her for graduate school. She majored in psychology with minors in physical education and management, then went on to earn her master’s in sport psychology and doctorate in physical therapy. “I’ve always had a passion for helping others, which is the universal reason to go into healthcare,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in the mind-body connection, enhancing physical performance and injury prevention. Physical therapy provides an opportunity to do that and so much more on a daily basis.”

Today, Karyle is a licensed physical therapist, certified orthopedic specialist, certified spinal manual therapist and manager of the SSM Health Physical Therapy Center in Swansea, Ill. She enjoys working with patients of all ages to treat issues such as concussions, dizziness, plantar fasciitis, as well as some neurological cases involving multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. Her favorite part of the job is helping people reach their goals, whether it’s progressing from a walker to a cane or returning to collegiate or professional sports.

“I like getting people to achieve things that they thought were in the past, things that they forgot they enjoyed doing, little things that make a world of difference for them,” she said. “For example, a recent patient was able to stand for the entire song selections at church on a Sunday. Normally she would have to sit. And she even felt like going out to lunch after church. That’s my why: getting people back to what they enjoy!” The 2019 Academy of Excellence awardee is grateful to be able to do what she loves in the same region that she grew up. Thanks to the unique experiences she gained at McKendree, she found a nurturing environment to grow into the person she is today and make a difference in the lives of so many patients in Southern Illinois.




The Karnes Family: Bob ’66, Jason ’98, M.A.Ed. ’21 and Jarrod ’99

The Karnes Family: Bob ’66, Jason ’98, M.A.Ed. ’21 and Jarrod ’99

They’ve made sport history as athletes and coaches. They’ve brought widespread attention to their small hometowns with their winning records. But it’s the joy in mentoring young people and watching them succeed that’s the real reward for this family of educators and coaches.

A native of Harrisburg, Ill., Bob Karnes ’66 first came to McKendree as a transfer student and fell in love with the family atmosphere that reminded him of home. He played basketball and baseball for the Bearcats and still recalls good memories traveling with teammates and playing in the old gym known fondly as “The Tunnel.”

As a physical education major, Bob set his sights on continuing his passion for athletics through coaching. He graduated in 1966, but was able to remain at McKendree as a graduate assistant coach for a time. When the head basketball coach had to leave the season early due to illness, Bob took an active role in leading the Bearcats during their last few games. “It’s little-known trivia, but I actually coached the last winning game before Harry Statham ’60 took charge the next season,” he said.

After McKendree, Bob went on to an impressive career as a teacher and football coach for Du Quoin High School from 1968-1987. During his first year, he made school history leading the team to a record of 10-0, their first undefeated season ever. In his 20 seasons as head coach, he ended with a winning record 17 times, won five conference championships and qualified for state playoffs four times. His proudest moment was being able to coach his three sons, Jeff, Jason and Jarrod, in State Championship games. Bob made history again when he was inducted into the Southern Illinois High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988.

While Bob’s impact on high school football was truly remarkable, his ability to inspire his sons was just as great. Jason Karnes ’98, M.A.Ed. ’21 and Jarrod Karnes ’99 both attended McKendree to make school history on the first Bearcat football team. Jason served as quarterback and was most proud of making the playoffs during the team’s second year. Jarrod remembers getting dressed for practices out of their cars because they didn’t have a field or locker room yet. “We had the opportunity to be pioneers and build a foundation for the program,” Jarrod said. “We were ranked fourth in the nation by my senior year in 1999.”

Like their father, Jason and Jarrod both chose to major in physical education and make a difference for the next generation of players and students. Jason currently teaches physical education and driver’s education at Herrin High School, but he previously coached strength and conditioning, football, basketball and track, as well as served as assistant athletic director. Jarrod went on to coach baseball, football, wrestling and track, bringing home a State Championship in wrestling. He now serves as a physical education teacher at General John A. Logan Elementary School in Murphysboro, Ill. “I spend more time tying shoes now, but it’s a lot of fun,” he joked. “I’m the guy in charge of the scooters and parachute.”

Both sons knew they wanted to stay in Southern Illinois to give back to the region like their father. “My dad has always been my hero,” said Jason. “But in 1986 when he took his team to the State Championship game, that’s when I really knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a teacher and coach.” Jarrod agrees that it’s that drive to help others achieve greatness that motivates the Karnes family. “Coaching takes up a lot of time,” he said. “You do it because you have a passion for kids, watching them succeed and knowing you had an impact on them.”