50 Influencers: Rubenacker Family, cultivating a legacy

INA, Ill. (July 8, 2017) - Over the course of the 50 Influencer series, patterns have emerged. Several of those recognized in the first half of the project display a multi-generation legacy, an impactful return or an enterprising spirit. This week’s entry demonstrates all three.

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.

Richard Rubenacker, the family patriarch, graduated from Wayne City High School in 1952 and went directly to work on the family farm in November 1956, he married Margarette (Jody) Biggerstaff and the couple had three sons – Randy, Rodney and Terry.

From the onset, Richard was described as being proud of Rend Lake College. So much so, that he entrusted all three of his sons to the college’s care with each of them graduating from the Agricultural Department to prepare them for working in the family’s farming operation.

In 1987, Rubenacker and his children formed 4R Corporation and bought a Case-IH farm equipment dealership in McLeansboro. The family also owns Prairie Tile Systems and owns and operates Rubenacker Farms Inc., a trucking business that hauls grain from its farms and custom hauls for Pioneer Seed Co. in McLeansboro.

richard rubenackerWRichard Rubenacker

The Rubenacker family and the college quickly formed a symbiotic partnership. Not only did the family support the college by sending their children to Ina, but they were also quick to give back by assisting in numerous Rend Lake College Foundation projects.

For the college’s part, the Rubenackers also provided a fertile training ground for countless Ag Department students to gain valuable work experience over the years in the form of internships, providing not only the Rubenackers but farms and agricultural businesses around the country with highly qualified workers.

“We are fortunate to have a college of this caliber this close,” Richard was quoted as saying in 2005.

He backed up those words by having the vast majority of his employee base being RLC graduates. Even a young Terry Wilkerson, current president of RLC, spent time as an employee on the farm.

“We are a fairly large employer and I think it’s nice to have RLC graduates working here. A lot of the credit for any type of award needs to go back to the people who work for you. My family has been successful because of the people we have surrounded ourselves with.

“The college has always been a good resource for us whenever we have needed to hire new employees for the farm or the dealership,” Rubenacker said.

It was high praise considering where it came from.

Rubenacker’s farming abilities were recognized in trade publications. In 1983 he was selected as a Master Farmer by Prairie Farmer Magazine, and he accepted a lifetime membership in the National Registry of Who’s Who and was featured in the 1998 edition.

He was also no stranger to community involvement. Richard held seats on the Hamilton County Unit 10 School Board, Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, Southeastern Illinois Planning Commission, Wayne/White Counties Electric Co-op Board, Federal Land Bank Board of Directors, Farmers Home Administration Board, Rend Lake Agricultural Advisory Board and Market Street Bancshares Board. He also served on various church committees, including the Knights of Columbus.

So, when a seat came open on the Rend Lake College Foundation Board in 2003, Rubenacker was a natural fit.

He served in that capacity until his death on Feb. 25, 2005. Yet, the mantle was quickly picked up by his son Randy who succeeded his father in April of that year.

Such was Richard’s impact that the 2005-06 RLC Trustees approved a resolution to recognize the man and his accomplishments.

The resolution concludes with:

Whereas, Richard R. Rubenacker exemplified the qualities deemed important to be highly regarded as a representative of the RLC Foundation Board – very respected and influential within the community; a caring individual; a great believer in education, in general, and the benefits of a comprehensive community college, in particular, and a successful individual leader with a vision for the future and a willingness to share it with others, now

Therefore, be it resolved, Richard R. Rubenacker leaves a legacy that will impact Rend Lake College and the RLC Foundation, students and staff for many, many years to come, and

Be it finally resolved, Richard R. Rubenacker and the kind influence he exuded will be missed by Rend Lake College and the Rend Lake College Foundation.”

With the college, Richard had been a valued member of the Rend Lake College Ag Advisory Board almost since its inception before relinquishing his seat to son Randy. Businesses owned by the family contributed money in order to sponsor student scholarships since 1987.

Another company owned by Richard R. Rubenacker, Prairie Tile Systems, donated gifts-in-kind worth $10,000 in drainage tiles and installation for the Rend Lake College Prairie Tile Research Project in conjunction with the Ag program and Applied Science Division.

In recognition of everything, Richard and Jody were presented the RLC Foundation Gold Seal Major Gift Award at the Annual Dinner Dec. 2, 2004. The family was highlighted for their $25,000 lead gift to the Rend Lake College Foundation Challenge Grant II Campaign for the establishment of an endowed “Rubenacker Family Scholarship,” as well as for past contributions to the scholarship fund. Jody was cited for her work with the Theater renovation project. A music practice room carries the family’s name as a testament to their contributions.

The Legacy

It wasn’t just Richard and Jody who have left a lasting impact at the college.

As earlier mentioned, all three of their sons graduated from the Agricultural Department.

In addition to assuming his father’s spots on the RLCF Board and the RLC Agriculture Advisory Council. He also holds the distinction of being just one of seven to hold a degree from RLC and a seat on the Baord of Trustees.

Randy was named the 2008 RLCF “Alumnus of the Year” for his tireless efforts on behalf of the college and its students.

While he was a student, he was presented the “Outstanding Agricultural Student of the Year” Award by the Rend Lake College AAA Department faculty and staff in 1978.

Randy Rubenacker WebRandy Rubenacker

“While Randy brings a lot of the same qualities and assets to our organization his father did, he is his own person and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and business experience. We are looking forward to benefiting from that expertise he adds to our outstanding group of community leaders,” said former RLCF CEO Pat Kern when Randy was selected to fill his father’s spot on the Foundation Board.

Randy’s wife Debbie is also a graduate of RLC. She is the daughter of Vic and Betty Rapp who were ardent supporters of RLC in their own right.

Rodney, the middle brother, tragically passed away in 2010 at the age of 49.

He was a member of the Hamilton Co. Unit 10 Board of Education and a member of the Knights of Columbus. He and his wife Carmin are Rend Lake College Foundation Bronze Seal Award Winners for their contributions. He was immortalized with the Rodney R. Rubenacker Memorial Scholarship.

Terry followed in his eldest brother’s footsteps, earning his own “Outstanding Ag Student of the Year” honors in 1985. He is a partner in the family’s businesses with his brother Randy.

It didn’t stop there, both Randy and Rodney’s children followed in their fathers’ footsteps, attending and graduating from RLC before going on to find success in their own rights.

Farmers, businessmen, community stalwarts, students, award winners, board members and patrons; the Rubenacker family has gone above and beyond to make the community and RLC a better place for everyone involved.

“The Rubenackers have been good neighbors to the college in every sense of the word,” said Wilkerson. “They have given back so much, but the time they have invested in students has been the most important.”

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