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John Wright Corker of Carbondale

updated: 1/1/2018 10:59 PM

John Wright Corker, 85, passed peacefully away Dec. 25, 2017, at home in Carbondale.

He loved life. He lived fully, usually at the center of everything. He and his wife, Susan, traveled the world , seeing many friends and exciting places together.

He always reached out to others, making everyone feel welcome and sharing his wisdom and humor.

He was born Oct. 29, 1932, in n Portland, Ore., to William Brigham Corker and Miriam Celeste Wright. He married Susan Eddy Chase Aug. 28, 1955, in Helena, Mt.

He was a devoted and loving husband. He is survived by his wife, Susan; daughters Deborah Corker of Alaska and Elizabeth Corker of New York; sons John S. Corker of New York and Chase Corker of Texas; and grandchildren Sinclair and Olivia.

John attended Walla Walla High School and Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., where he graduated with a business administration and economics degree May 1955. He was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. He showed his creativity with his talking animal floats, winning homecoming parade awards three years in a row. He entered the U.S. Artillery Dec. 7, 1955, and served as a counter mortar radar instructor at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla.

His 42-year professional career started at the University of New Mexico in September 1958, where he helped open a new student union in fall 1959 and served two years as director of housing. From 1962 to 1965, John served as student center/housing director at Oakland University in Michigan. He then became the associate director of the Illini Union at the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana from 1965 to 1973. From 1973 to 1976 at the University of Massachusetts, he was director of the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center. In 1976, he was hired as Student Center director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He served until 1995.

During his 19 years at the SIUC Student Center, he helped develop many new programs that remain part of Carbondale and SIU, including the Sunset Concerts, purchasing MFA student artwork for the Student Center, the Saluki Transport Bus system, the Craft Shop, a space for International Student offices, Saluki radio, and multiple annual student programs and activities. His concept of a Student Center without walls made it possible to develop many programs on the campus as well as in the community.

John received a MBA in hotel, restaurant, institutional management in 1964 from Oakland University. He served as guest lecturer and adjunct professor at UMass and SIUC. He was a student center consultant to 10 different universities. From May 1995 until his retirement in 1999, John was a visiting professor in hotel, restaurant management at SIUC. An active member of the International Association of College Unions (ACUI), he attended every national conference from 1958 to 1995 along with hosting four different regional conferences and giving more than 20 presentations, a highlight being as keynote speaker in Melbourne, Australia, in 1991. He was awarded ACUI lifetime member, National College Bowl chairman from 1990 to 1994, and helped develop the Honda All-Star Challenge for Historical Black Institutions. He was honored by the SIU Student Center with a space designated as the John Corker Lounge.

In his community, John was an elder at First Presbyterian Church, a member of Rotary since 1976, a member of the Carbondale Human Relations Committee, and part of many community programs coming out of the Student Center at SIUC. When he developed Parkinson's, he help start a local Parkinson's support group. He played a mean game of pool, a tricky game of HORSE, and filled his life and home with interesting people and activities. He remains to his wife a loving and devoted husband.

Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale. That will be followed by a celebration of John's life at the John Corker Lounge at the SIU Student Center.

In lieu of flowers, send memorial donations to First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, St. Francis CARE or the charity of your choice. Envelopes will be available at the service.

Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted the family with arrangements.