INA, Ill. (July 1, 2017) - 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.
Caldwell and her husband Clifton were already community staples outside of their involvement with RLC. For years, the couple operated one of the area’s most successful newspapers, The Christopher Progress. In fact, the Caldwells purchased the two Southern Illinois papers in 1974 (the Progress and the Herrin Spokesman) and ran them for over a decade, eventually selling them in 1987 to the American Publishing Company newspaper chain.
Clif passed away on Feb. 29, 2004. He was a well-known journalist for 46 years and a member of the Southern Illinois University Editors Hall of Fame. Together, Clif and Millie instituted zoned editions of their weeklies that provided published local news for the communities of Sesser, Zeigler, Royalton, Johnston City and Carterville, as well as the communities included in their names. They had been married for 61 years.
To commemorate Clif’s legacy, the family banded together to create the Clifton Caldwell Endowment Scholarship for Rend Lake students. The scholarship looks to help a Journalism or Math major in need.
The Foundation was the natural fit; Millie had spent the better part of three decades doing everything she could to aid the RLCF and the students of RLC.
Caldwell has represented the Christopher locality on the RLCF Board since 1982 when she elected at 4th Annual Meeting to bring the board to nine members. She had been an integral part of three capital campaigns. She was a major part of the RLCF Children’s Center campaign and the RLC Music Program Addition and Theatre Renovation. All of that on top of the fact that she has donated toward RLCF scholarships for years.
But, it was never just money either. Both Millie and Clif gave of their time. The Caldwells actively attended RLCF events throughout the years. He was a frequent player at annual RLCF Golf Tournaments and they regularly attended the RLCF Annual Dinner together. Millie was also frequently at the RLCF Women’s Luncheon and RLCF Scholarship Dinner.
In 2012, Millie was recognized by the Rend Lake College Foundation Board of Directors when the group enthusiastically and unanimously approved her for Emeritus status.
She earned it. Her support of the college through Foundation efforts is, without a doubt, significant. And her length of service to the organization is nearly unmatched. Only three other members hold Emeritus status on the board – Charter Director Howard L. Payne and former Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern and long-time foundation board member and Sesser businessman George Slankard.
“This honor is reserved for members because of longevity and lasting contributions made to the RLC Foundation,” explained Pat Kern, RLCF consultant and former CEO.
“This status welcomes these selected Board members to the RLCF meetings at any time they wish to attend.”
It’s not the first honor Millie has received for her service.
She also earned the coveted RLCF Presidential Award in 2006. It’s an achievement set aside specifically for RLCF Board members who have displayed exceptional service.
For her numerous scholarship contributions, she has also been presented the RLCF Bronze Seal Award, an achievement also shared by her daughter Cindy.
In fact, the Math component of the Clifton Caldwell Endowment Scholarship stems from Cindy’s willingness to pick up her family’s legacy and continue the giving tradition. She is a Mathematics Professor who joined the Rend Lake College faculty in 2000. She also is a graduate of Rend Lake College (Class of 1980) who worked on the RLC Times student newspaper. The Caldwells also had three sons – Denis, Dave and Douglas.
“Like many of our influencers, Millie and the Caldwell family display a selflessness that has helped the institution become what it is today. We are able to do the things we do thanks to the generosity of people like Millie, people who care about the district’s students and want to see them succeed,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson.