As Rend Lake College nears its 50th anniversary, we take a moment to look back at 50 influencers who helped shape the face of campus. The list is comprised of pioneers, visionaries, leaders and innovators who dedicated their time and energy to make RLC the nationally-ranked, life-changing institution it is today. Our 50 are just a small sampling of thousands who have left a mark on Rend Lake College.
Our first influencer was never an employee of the college. He didn’t serve on the board or teach classes. He simply expressed his progressive vision for a junior college in Mt. Vernon.
Rend Lake College history wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the man who first ran the ship. Dr. Howard D. Rawlinson — a Crossville native — was the very first leader of a post-secondary institution in the area.
On May 16 of 1967, Rend Lake College’s newly founded Board tapped Dr. James M. Snyder of Maricopa County Junior College District in Phoenix, Ariz., as the first-ever President of RLC.
In 1966, the members of RLC's initial Board drew lots to determine length of term. Allen Baker came up with a short straw and had to seek re-election the next year.
This Mt. Vernon optometrist co-chaired the steering committee to create RLC and served as chairman of our first Board of Trustees. He is also credited for setting up the RLC Foundation as a non-profit in Illinois.
It took a village to raise a community college. Our Founding Board: Chairman Dr. Curtis A. Parker (Mt. Vernon), Vice Chairman Melvin Farlow (McLeansboro), Secretary Forest Stewart (Texico), Carleton Apple (Enfield), Dr. Allen Y. Baker (Pinckneyville), Harry N. Irwin (Wayne City), and Holland Simmons (Benton).
The story of Rend Lake College's only husband and wife pair to sit on the Board of Trustees should be a happier tale. Unfortunately, this chapter of our story shows one of the greatest hardships encountered by those who founded RLC.
Dr. Barbara Luchsinger began teaching at Mt. Vernon Community College in 1956. She served as chair of the Communications Department from 1965-1975. Luchsinger was one of the first educators to be granted tenure by the college. When she died in 2005, the Foundation was given her family farm in Dix. She was involved with our institution for nearly 50 years.
RLC's storied athletic heritage has been built by the work of many positive leaders who helmed teams on campus. But no one embodies the Warrior legacy like James E. “Hummer” Waugh. For almost 50 seasons — and forever — Hummer is "Coach."
There is no better example of the adage “putting your money where your mouth is” than when Sam Mateer was tasked with the most ambitious capital campaign in the history of Rend Lake College and the RLC Foundation — Generations of Excellence.
As CEO of the Rend Lake College Foundation, Pat Kern led the fundraising charge with passion and flare. Her numerous successes and continued dedication to the college, the Foundation and the students have made her a key fixture both on the Ina campus and the district-at-large.
Dr. Harry J. Braun was only 37 when he became president of RLC in 1978. Stabilized for nearly half a year by interim HJ Haberaecker, RLC needed restoration. The St. Louis native Braun was tasked with rebuilding while being the youngest president in RLC’s history. He is also the second-longest serving president with 11 years. And — we gather — he played a pretty mean guitar.
There aren’t many who can give you a first-hand account of the Rend Lake College groundbreaking or when classes were transferred from Mt. Vernon to the new campus. But come to a home basketball game, and Wayne Arnold will be happy to oblige.
William K. “Bill” Crawford Jr. is a name that could easily fly under the radar when combing the Rend Lake College history books for potential influencers. Crawford wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Throughout the history of Rend Lake College, no one has been referred to as “the right-hand man” more than Bob Carlock. But, to distill the long-time vice president’s legacy down to that of a side kick to three RLC presidents does him some injustice. His 20 years as Vice President of Finance and Administration saw a number of major milestones in the college’s history.
Two Olympians. Five NJCAA Coach of the Year Awards. Seven NJCAA National Championships and more regional championships that you can shake a baton at — former Cross-Country and Track and Field Coach Brent McLain put RLC on the map.
The longest serving president in Rend Lake College history also happened to be the first local product in the head office.
He holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Board of Trustees member — 35 years of service. Scott was devoted to educational opportunity for everyone in our district.
With teaching careers at both Benton Consolidated High School and Rend Lake College, Mary Ellen Aiken has spent much of her life dedicated to cultivation of young minds.
Between joining the welding program in the 80s to starting our men's golf program —Dave Smith's impact on RLC Warriors spans the nation.
Doug Leeck is still a name that brings a wellspring of emotion to people around Rend Lake College to this day, 20 years after his untimely passing. His memory invokes looks of pride, wry smiles and profound sadness for a man who loved his students but left us all too soon.
There are many names that dot the history of Rend Lake College. Some of those names have lent themselves to buildings on campus, others to classrooms. But, only one name literally leads every visitor right to the doors of RLC, Kenneth J. Gray.
Every year thousands of students make the commitment to come to Rend Lake College. Out of all those students, a few get the opportunity to represent the college on Warrior athletic teams. From that pool of former athletes, a select few have returned to Ina to coach or teach. But, only one man can claim the titles of student, athlete, coach, professor and athletic director.
“Homegrown” is an idea that permeates the history of Rend Lake College. The college has seen former students transition into professors, coaches, staff members and even a president. More than a few such examples have appeared in this series, each helping shape RLC in their own way.
A man who spent more time creating the print than he ever spent being the subject of it — Bob Kelley was Rend Lake College’s self-described “writer-compiler-collector-pseudo historian.”
Three decades of service. Three decades of unselfish giving. Verna Mildred “Millie” Caldwell has enthusiastically supported Rend Lake College and its students for a length and breadth that is nearly unparalleled in an already distinguished lineup of supporters.
The Rubenacker family of Dahlgren is one of the deepest names in the annals of RLC’s history. The width and breadth of their support and significance to the college and its students cannot be questioned.
Rend Lake College has benefited from many homegrown products who have returned to the better the institution and its students. But only one has transitioned from sitting behind the desk as a student to sitting behind the desk in the head office — current RLC president Terry Wilkerson.
One of the most recognized bankers in Illinois has had a big hand in shaping Rend Lake College into the institution it is today. Hunt Bonan is one of our longest-serving members on both the Board of Trustees and the RLCF Board of Directors. He's the only person to chair both.
In 1988, the North Central Association issued a report, naming a childcare facility as RLC’s “number one need.” It was a cause picked up by the Rend Lake College Foundation, and then, in turn, championed by Marjorie Farrar.
Dr. Evelyn Claxton was a catalyst. Her passion for learning and teaching generated a spark in the minds of her students. But more than anything, her consistent ability to encourage and cultivate those around her helped define RLC during her tenure.
The color green is in Carroll Turner’s blood. He was one of the founding fathers of Rend Lake College’s Agriculture Department and one of the driving forces behind the 280-acre farm lab that acts as RLC’s front yard.
Two households accounted for 16 RLC graduates. Honorary degrees went to both for the unprecedented accomplishment.
Dr. Walt Montgomery has helped hundreds of local students graduate high school and go on to college.
Benton's six-foot-nine Rich Yunkus holds the all-time scoring record at Georgia Tech. But it’s his “assists” through the RLCF that get our gratitude.
The Godmother of the “Sesser Mafia” pulls us all in with her commitment to community and RLC students.
What do you call a collegiate basketball standout, a United States Army veteran, a doctor with over four decades of serving his community (not to mention delivering around 1,500 babies), a community leader with a boundless passion for improving the area around him and was born on New Year’s Eve no less?
Jim Hinman made a difference. It’s just what he did. The former Tri-County Electric Cooperative General Manager went out of his way to improve the life of those in his community, and while his involvement with Rend Lake College was brief in comparison to his peers on the 50 Influencer list, his impact and the lasting difference it continues to make is not only influential but down right inspirational.
She was known on campus for much more than just her prowess as a coach. Her competitive nature, persistence and deep compassion ensured that she continuously made a positive impact on those around her, especially the students she served as an instructor and coach.
Betty Ann Ward never rose to any leadership positions that helped steer the institution. She never helped build a building or win a championship. But she did something as well as anyone else in the college’s history — she cared. Students were her life’s passion.
There are few names on Rend Lake College’s campus that transcend the person and represent an entire part of the RLC culture. When people hear the name Dave Ellingsworth, it’s impossible to not instantly think of the college’s softball program.
Mary M. Roe and Dr. Charles W. “Bill” Roe are a powerful pair. Both together as a couple and individually, they have helped shape the course of RLC and, by doing so, provided countless opportunities to students.
Sometimes, being an influencer means being an example. In all of the 50 years of Rend Lake College history, it would be hard to find a more fitting cross section of the RLC student body than the diversity and excellence of Dr. Richard Doherty’s College Bowl teams.
Influencers don’t always need to be front and center. Sometimes those with the biggest impact show up every day without fanfare and do something incredibly vital to the operation of the college. Doug Carlson was one of those people.
The world is Dr. Susan Santoro Tomlin’s classroom, and luckily for 26 years (1984-2010) she brought a number of Rend Lake College students along for the ride.
Educator, world-traveler, author, advocate and benefactor; Dr. Carl Lincoln Schweinfurth was a lot of things to a lot of different people. But his unbridled generosity to Rend Lake College, the RLC Foundation and the students of the institution shows a remarkable legacy of altruism.
Starting with a single person in 1967, the RLC Physical Plant Department has grown right alongside the institution. Today, the Physical Plant boasts talented professionals that cover a wide variety of tasks. In no uncertain terms, if it looks good or runs well, Physical Plant likely had a hand in it.
Little is not only an award-winning instructor, he’s also been an instrumental part in the last 30 years of RLC by helping steer the institution through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation review process.
While not everyone who begins a journey at RLC is a student, every journey that begins at RLC is student-focused. There can be no better example of that fact than the three current vice presidents of the college. Each of these talented and tenacious leaders began their adventure at RLC during different points, and each of them took different turns in the path that led them to where they are today.
The 50 Influencer series launched with the pioneers that molded the vision of a local community college into the reality that became Rend Lake College. So, it feels only fitting that the series concludes with a look at those who are currently maintaining the legacy that was established by their forefathers five decades ago.