CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The adage "Once a Saluki, Always a Saluki" definitely applies to Courtney Kabat.
Some would say this young woman from Scheller, Illinois was born into the Saluki lifestyle.
On Saturday, May 13 at 9 a.m. Kabat will become the 14th person in her immediate family to earn a degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She said it's a family tradition that began when her great-grandmother Clara Wagner earned a teaching certificate at the university.
Her grandmother Louise Kabat followed, as did her father.
The family's Saluki lineage also includes John Kabat (uncle, bachelor's and master's degrees in agriculture education); Lois (Kabat) Herzing (aunt, bachelor's in elementary education, master's in curriculum and instruction); Helen (Kabat) Young (aunt, bachelor's in elementary education); Jordan Kabat (brother, bachelor's in mechanical engineering); Chloe (Henson) Kabat (sister-in-law, bachelor's in international business); Judith Chatto (Brock's fiancé, completing medical degree with specialization in internal medicine this month); Erika (Kabat) Kitowski (cousin, bachelor's in health care management, working on master's in health administration); Janice (Kryger) Osman (aunt, bachelor's in commercial recreation); and Bobby Herzing (uncle by marriage, bachelor's in social work.)
The Kabat family's SIU tradition extends to of excellence and service as well. Courtney is a Dean's Scholarship recipient. Her brothers were both Presidential (now Chancellor) Scholars and Lincoln Laureates, and Jordan won the 2011 "Ultimate Saluki" title.
Her uncle, John Kabat, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2015 and has won other accolades and national awards for his work in agricultural education.
Courtney Kabat said she was confident she could forge her own path to success at SIU. She has already landed a job and said she has had incredible collegiate experiences.
Kabat said despite the legacy, she did look at other universities but after really checking things out, she was drawn to SIU.
"While there was a sense of familiarity here and I had observed the academic achievements and successes of my family members, I really liked the diversity of SIU and the fact that while it's close to home, it is big enough and has so many opportunities that it was really a place I could grow," she said. "I've got an ag background but at SIU there is ag, art, theater, business and so many other things. I could dabble in anything I wanted to, expand my creativity and my horizons and get practical experience in so many different ways."
Kabat originally planned to major in public relations, so she quickly got involved in SIU's Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, becoming an officer.
Through a friend she learned of the university's St. Jude Up 'til Dawn registered student organization and became passionate about the cause after discovering that St. Jude Children's Research Hospital doesn't charge for the care it provides to children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. She used her public relations and communications talents with the group and said the college students were able to raise more than $30,000 each year for the worthy cause.
"For college kids to be able to raise that much money to help children is incredible," she said. "Cancer was foreign to me until my mother battled breast cancer. Now, I really see what something like this means to children and families."
Kabat said she continues to stay in touch with SIU friends from Saudi Arabia and other countries and through these connections, she's really enjoyed discovering the commonalities and differences people share.
She studied abroad in Italy during the fall 2016 semester furthering her interest in cultures abroad. She took university classes and served an internship at Rome's Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of the world's oldest musical institutions.
She said it was a remarkable learning experience and cultural immersion that allowed her to translate her classroom knowledge into real-life experience. She researched corporate sponsorships and international partnerships in order to create mutually beneficial relationships between the symphony and organizations or corporations.
"It was an incredible experience and Rome is so close to my heart now," she said.
She's completed her studies now with a bachelor's degree in communication studies with a minor in marketing. She obtained a position with Maritz Travel in St. Louis, planning and scheduling corporate meetings and travel.
She said her studies and Rome experience segued perfectly to the job she loves, a position that allows her to combine her interest in helping people with her marketing and communication skills and passion for travel to orchestrate smooth travel arrangements for companies.
"My family is very proud that they have another Saluki graduating," Kabat said. "SIU has done nothing but set us up for success and give us so many great opportunities. The Kabat family is very grateful to SIU for all it's done for us."