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Former professor leaves $1M to Chicago State

Julian Scheinbuks

Julian Scheinbuks

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Updated: August 31, 2011 12:38AM

A humble professor of biology who captivated both students and fellow faculty — whether waxing reverently or issuing fearless criticism on issues he was passionate about — was celebrated Tuesday for making the largest donation by a faculty to a public Illinois university.

The late Dr. Julian Scheinbuks, an educator, researcher and administrator at Chicago State University for over 20 years, who died of esophageal cancer at age 67 on July 26, 2010, willed $1 million to the South Side institution.

“Frankly, when I got the initial call a gift by a faculty member was going to be made, I thought, o.k., maybe $10,000, which would have been a great gift for us,” said Katey Assem, director of the CSU Foundation. “Later, I got a call saying it was going to be a big gift, so I thought ok, maybe $50,000, we can do a lot with that.

“When I got the call it was $1 million, I ... fell out of my chair. But for $1 million, I’m happy to fall down.”

The endowment will be used to fund scholarships for biology students and expand CSU’s distance learning programs. Scheinbuks, who joined the Biological Sciences Department in 1989 and taught biology classes for 13 years, helped develop the school’s online education program, as director of the Office of Distance Learning since 2003.

“Julian loved to teach. He was the consummate teacher,” said Floyd Banks, chair of the Dept. of Biological Sciences, at the part celebration, part memorial service, attended by colleagues and lifelong friends.

“Last year as he became sicker, I said, ‘Julian, you need to not teach. You need to take care of yourself.’ He said, ‘No, I can do this.’ He insisted on teaching right up to the end,” Banks said. “One thing about Julian is he believed in these students. He believed these students could learn. Not every teacher is like that. Some just go through the motions. And now he’s made it possible for more minority students to get through this university.”

The largess by the educator, who was Jewish, never married nor had children, is a rare large bequeathment for one of the state’s public universities, serving a primarily black student population at its campus at 95th and King Drive. Scheinbuks grew up not far from Chicago State and attended South Shore High School.

He got his bachelor’s from the University of Illiinois Urbana-Champaign, and master’s and doctorate degrees in microbiology from Loyola University. He spent time in Southern California, then returned to Chicago in the ‘80s to work at Northwestern University for several years, before joining CSU. He served for many years on the University Budget Committee and was active in SLATE, a nationwide community of educational technology leaders.

“Let’s be clear. This is a biologist, a humble man, a gentle man, not someone from the business department who developed some software he sold for millions. This is huge!” said sociology professor and faculty senate representative Yan Searcy. “Someone once said when you find something that you love, you never work again. Clearly, Julian found something and someplace that he loved. He found a home, and made a family here.”

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