Jan and Francie Staggs | How UIS/SSU Changed Their Futures

Jan and Francie Staggs
Alumni Jan and Francie Staggs photographed at the 2019 Alumni Gala in the UIS Student Union

Academic Excellence…because learning empowers the future

Jan and Francie Staggs are both UIS alums—Jan: MA ’78 in Public Administration; and Francie: ’81, MA ’91 in History. For both, the academic excellence they received at UIS (then SSU) truly empowered their future, and in response, they have provided financial contributions to UIS every year since 1996—23 continuous years of giving. Academic Excellence is a Reaching Stellar Campaign priority.

Jan’s Future Took a Pivot…

Jan started his career in Decatur, working for the Illinois Department of Employment Security. After some time in the military, in Moline and Chicago, Jan and Francie moved their two daughters to Springfield, where Jan worked for the Bureau of Budget and the Governor’s Office of Manpower.

As he worked, course by course, Jan completed a master’s degree in public administration at UIS. His future took a pivot because of that degree.

In the later 70s, the federal government wanted each state to establish an Occupational Information Coordinating Committee. “I was working for the Governor’s Office of Manpower at the time,” said Jan, “and was given the task of writing up the job description for the Committee’s executive director. Having recently completed my master’s in public administration, I included a preferred MPA in the description. My master’s and my experience in budgeting, contracts, personnel and other administrative requirements made me the perfect candidate, and I became the Executive Director.”

Jan held the job for 20 years before retiring in 1999.

“He went to work at a job he loved every day because of the degree he earned from UIS,” Francie said.

An Example for Her Daughters…

Francie’s future also grew out of her education at UIS. When their younger daughter entered preschool, Francie had been working outside the home for 7 years. “I remember dropping Sherry off at preschool and driving straight over to Sangamon State to enroll in classes,” Francie said. “I wanted to set an example for my daughters.”

She chose history as her major and enjoyed learning from SSU titans like Cullom Davis and Charles Strozier. Her master’s project focused on Samuel H. Shapiro, an Illinois mental health advocate, and she also did extensive research on Mary Todd Lincoln.

These degrees inspired Francie to volunteer at historical sites in Springfield: the Lincoln Tomb, the Old State Capital, the Elijah Iles House, and the Governor’s Mansion. She has also volunteered at the Springfield Overflow Shelter, a seasonal homeless shelter.

In 2003, Francie attended an open house at the soon-to-open Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “I was in the first class of volunteers,” she said. “I had this master’s degree in history. What better place to volunteer? Since then I have logged 4,300 hours at the ALPLM. That’s where my history degrees took me.”

As for inspiring her daughters, one has a bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois-Urbana and the other a master’s degree from Governor’s State University.

One other way she inspired her daughters: Francie’s leadership and service on behalf of others earned her the recognition of the University of Illinois Alumni Association in 2010 when she received the Alumni Humanitarian Award.

The Staggs’ Areas of Support

Jan and Francie give to Brookens Library, NPR Illinois, the Alumni Association, the UIS Fund, the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence, and the new Student Union.

Francie has been inspired by the UIS connection over the years to historical sites in Springfield, and she’s eager to see how the UIS Center for Lincoln Studies develops. Jan especially appreciates the UIS internship programs like the Graduate Public Service Internship Program (45 years) and the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program (50+ years).