2010 Honorary Alumni Award
Gil Belles and Marion Blackinton
Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration Professor Emeritus Gil Belles and Retired Director of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics Marion Blackinton were presented the 2010 Western Illinois University Honorary Alumni Award Sept. 23 during the annual WIU Founder's Day celebration.
The Honorary Alumni Award is presented to an individual who is not a WIU graduate but who has provided exceptional service to the WIU community.
Belles arrived at Western in 1968 to teach history. While he was in that department he helped create a Black Studies Area and then chaired the department of African American studies. In 1985, Belles "retrained," earning another degree, and began teaching in the department of recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA). He taught in RPTA, creating courses for the tourism component of the curriculum, until his retirement in 1996. Along the way, he chaired the Council on Admission, Graduation, and Academic Standards (CAGAS) for three separate terms. He is the recipient of the College of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Outstanding Teaching Award, five WIU Faculty Excellence Awards and a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wittenberg University, to name a few.
He has been actively involved in such campus activities as Open Door and the President's Task Force to End Homophobia, and he has been involved in numerous community and civic organizations including the Performing Arts Society, YMCA of McDonough County, Tri-States Public Radio and Tri-States Audio Information Services, the Western Illinois Museum and the Macomb Public Library.
In April 2007, Belles established the A. Gilbert Belles Donor Advised Fund, pledging $400,000 for WIUM, Performing Arts Society (PAS) and the RPTA department. In 2009, the College of Fine Arts and Communication recognized Belles with the "Distinguished Friend of the College Award." Belles is a past board member for the Performing Arts Society and was instrumental in leading the effort to renovate the COFAC Recital Hall Green Room. The PAS named the Green Room in Belles' honor. In addition, he supports many Alumni Programs functions and is instrumental in coordinating the annual Homecoming run/walk.
Blackinton served as an instructor, a coach and an administrator in the women's physical education department and in women's intercollegiate athletics for nearly two decades, beginning in 1967 when she came to Western as an associate professor of physical education. She earned full professor status in 1971. She also was director of the women's extramural program, which was a predecessor of structured intercollegiate competition. Blackinton, who coached the volleyball team that won the state title in 1970, is among the pioneering women of the Title IX generation for sports (1970s-1980s). In 1974, women's athletics was granted departmental status at Western, and Blackinton was appointed the first women's intercollegiate athletics director, a position she held until her retirement in February 1986.
She was instrumental in securing WIU's charter membership (1971-1972) in the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); in finding money for recruiting athletes; and in becoming a charter member in the 10-university all-women's Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference (July 1982), which also marked the women's first year of competition at the NCAA Division I level. Blackinton helped increase recognition for WIU women's athletics with a Summer 1977 nickname contest, which lead to the name "Westerwinds," and a 32-year identity of their own. In Summer 2009 the University unified men's and women's athletics team names to the Leathernecks.
In March 2000, as part of the University's Centennial Celebration, Blackinton was among 45 women featured in the "Women of Western Centennial Photographic Exhibit," taken by regionally renowned black and white photographer Patti Sullivan–Howd of Macomb. Blackinton has received the Western Organization for Women (WOW) Achievement Award, and she was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACD) Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Western Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.
Blackinton also contributed to numerous departments and initiatives at Western, including WIUM, the Centennial Honors College, the President's Scholarship Fund and other scholarships. In addition, her support includes contributions to athletics by providing an electronic scoreboard for the Mary Ellen McKee Softball Stadium and a financial donation to renovate the Brophy Hall weight room for use by student-athletes and kinesiology students. The weight room was named in her honor.
"Dr. Belles' and Dr. Blackinton's commitment and dedication to the Western community is phenomenal," said Amy Spelman, director of Alumni Programs. "It is with great pleasure that we award these outstanding individuals with the 2010 Honorary Alumni Award."
This is the 14th year for the WIU Honorary Alumni Award presentation. Previous recipients were Bob Anstine (2009); Jack Stites (2008); Bill Brattain (2007), Marilyn Johnson (2005); Donald Dexter (2004); Mark Martin (2003); Mel and Judy Kerr (2002); Charlene Callison (2001); Ed Holzwarth (2000); Donald S. Spencer (1999); Laura Kent Donahue (1998); Cathy Early (1997); Dick Miller (1995) and Dennis Iversen (1994).