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.
Making A Mark
The official Rend Lake College seal was designed in 1967-68 by Architectural Technology student Ross John Wakefield, a sophomore from Shelbyville, for a contest among students of Art Instructor Jim McGhee. The seal was favored in a vote by both students and faculty. Wakefield’s rendering features a lamp of learning and compass - representing vocational programs - imposed over an outline of Rend Lake. Used as the college's main mark for years, Wakefield's seal is now RLC's ceremonious symbol.
In 1980, a new college logo -- depicting a sun, waves and the initials RLC in block lettering -- was developed to replace the traditional college seal when a more modern, less official approach was appropriate. Whenever possible, the RLC lettering would remain solid gold, with a second color coordinated but varied — blue, orange, green, etc.
In 2009, the college comissioned Arthur Agency to design a new logo. An RLC Branding Committee, made up of a cross section of the college, worked with Arthur on the project. The iconic RLC Clocktower was ultimately chosen as the central image in the new logo. The logo was unveiled in February of 2010. Read more.
RLC's 50th Anniversary logo was created in 2017 by the college's marketing department. The logo combines the Ina campus skyline with elements of Rend Lake. The 13 stars represent the 13 in-district high schools that feed into the college. The 7 lines depicting water represent the 7 presidents who have led RLC from 1967 to 2017.
Howard Rawlinson’s “The First Fifteen Years” spans 1956 - 1971. It chronicles the establishment of Mt. Vernon Community College and how it grew into Rend Lake College on the Ina campus.
Bob Kelley’s compilation, "The History of Rend Lake College," picks up where Rawlinson left off. This unabridged collection of our college's history goes into great detail about leadership, accomplishments, concerns, athletics, students and much more.