MT. VERNON, Ill. (Dec. 9, 2014) – Each stage of education at Rend Lake College was highlighted last week at the RLC Foundation’s Annual Dinner, held at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon on Dec. 4. Both starting and ending with the RLCF Children’s Center (RLCFCC), the dinner emphasized the “pathway to success” and the full circle education makes at RLC.
Jim Muir, the night’s master of ceremonies, said it best in one sentence, “No matter where you’re at in life, Rend Lake College can be your pathway to success.” Muir, the 2009 Alumnus of the Year, began the night’s events by introducing Marjorie Farrar, the catalyst and driving force who made the lead donation of $100,000 to the RLCFCC in 1995 and then encouraged her friends to do the same.
Farrar’s donation was matched by local businessman Coyn Mateer and the ball started rolling to build the center, which opened in 1998. Farrar, though unable to attend the Annual Dinner, was thanked by several of the center’s former students.
“I learned many things at the Rend Lake College Foundation Children’s Center,” said Austin Crouse, son of RLC Pre-School Head Teacher Rene Crouse, and a fifth grader living in Salem. “Some of the things I learned were how to talk, walk, say my ABCs, and do addition. It gave me a great start.”
Brothers Chase and Nathan Ragland of Sesser said that, though they are too old for the Children’s Center now, they both anticipate coming back to campus in the future. As the children of Lori Ragland, RLC Dean of Community and Corporate Education, Chase and Nathan both spoke about the friendships they’ve made on campus.
“I made many of my lifetime friends there and I look forward to coming back every year for the Kids Summer Camps,” said Nathan Ragland.
“I remember that, every day, I couldn’t wait to get back to school,” added Chase Ragland, now 16 years old and one of the first Children’s Center students. “My favorite part was taking walks through the beautiful campus and sometimes running into my mom. I hope to see you all in a few years when I come back to Rend Lake as a college student.”
Next at the podium were two RLC students who received scholarships through the RLC Foundation. RLCF CEO Shawna Bullard introduced Austin Endicott (Macedonia) and Gwendolyn Upton (Texico), and added she was thankful for all the donors who continue to give so that these students can keep reaching for their dreams.
“Scholarships are a huge part of what the Foundation does. They’re a big deal,” said Bullard. “It’s so hard to read stories, like those from Austin and Gwen, and have to make the decision of who should receive a scholarship or how much. Thankfully, I have a wonderful scholarship committee and donors, and together, I think we make the best decisions.”
Endicott said the Foundation scholarship he received this year from the State Bank of Whittington has made a huge impact on the journey he’s making through his education. His personal pathway to success started when he was a senior in high school, living on a friend’s couch and with no mentors to help him reach his goals.
“Life will throw you curveballs, and most of mine have been when I was young. Through it all, I knew I wanted my education and I wanted to be someone I thought was a good person,” said Endicott. “I found both of those things at Rend Lake and the Foundation. Rend Lake College is a place I’m proud to be a part of and I’ve learned that I love learning. The Foundation didn’t just give me a scholarship, they believed in me. I want to say thank you all very much for that.”
As a non-traditional student, Upton shared her different experiences in life before coming to RLC, mainly the drastic changes her life made after the passing of her father-in-law and the recession in 2008. She said it was the Dr. Gary Sweeten Isaiah 61 Scholarship that helped push her toward becoming a full-time student in the Nursing program.
“Never in my life did I think I’d be in the place I’m at today,” said Upton. “Everything fell apart after my father-in-law passed away. We lost everything. I decided I wanted to go back to school to become an RN, but I had never been to college before, so imagine my surprise when I received a letter telling me I’d received a scholarship from Rend Lake College. I am so blessed. I now know it’s never too late to achieve a dream God put in your heart. I’ve learned the most important things in life aren’t things at all. As I often tell my daughter, ‘it’s okay to be afraid, just do it afraid,’ and that’s what’s kept me going.”
The next step on the pathway of success leads to Alumnus of the Year Jim Mounier. The 1972 graduate is now the Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch in Rockford, where he is a 26-year veteran. He was unable to attend the Annual Dinner due to a longstanding commitment elsewhere, but he accepted the award and offered his own words of advice to current and future students through a video.
“First, I want to thank Rend Lake College and the Foundation for this honor. I had a great time, and received a quality education at RLC,” said Mounier. “I think Rend Lake is an excellent way to get involved in higher education. I know it saved me a lot of money and gave me time to mature before going to Illinois State University. I also know that scholarships are extremely important. The Foundation and its donors do a wonderful job giving back. To the students who may be struggling, I applaud you for not allowing anything or anyone to spoil your dreams.”
The evening’s focus then shifted to the fourth step, the Pathway to Success campaign. The summer project upgraded the front façade of the Allen Y. Baker Administration Building by renovating it to be more inviting and identifiable for students. The Foundation also matched each dollar raised to establish the largest endowment scholarship ever for future RLC students. Early into the project, Continental Tire the Americas (CTA) of Mt. Vernon became the lead contributor with a $25,000 pledge.
Terry Wilkerson, RLC President, said, “We looked at what the college’s needs are and decided to tackle the front entrance of the administration building with the ‘Pathway to Success’ campaign. Every one of our students comes through those doors at some point, whether it’s for financial aid or to sign up for classes. I commend the Foundation Board for stepping up to the opportunity and making the campus really stand out. The campaign has also become our largest Foundation scholarship endowment ever. It goes to show we have a lot of great supporters and partners, and Continental Tire continues to be at the top of that list.”
Wilkerson also awarded Benny Harmse, Vice President of Manufacturing at CTA, the President’s Award for his efforts in helping with the lead donation for the Pathway to Success campaign, and for going “above and beyond.” Harmse is a current member of the RLC Foundation Board.
“We have an excellent team of directors who are my biggest allies and greatest supporters, and Benny is a perfect example of that. When I showed Benny there was a need, he stepped up right away. Our community has a great ally in Benny Harmse and Continental Tire the Americas,” added Bullard.
The final stop on the journey through education came back to Marjorie Farrar and the RLCFCC. Farrar’s son Fletcher spoke on her behalf and made a big announcement.
“My mother wanted to thank you all for this honor and recognition tonight. She’s always had a special love for the RLC Foundation Children’s Center and it always brings a smile to her face when she talks about it,” said Farrar. “I’m pleased to announce she will be giving a $100,000 donation to the Children’s Center to continue helping the center as it expands and grows to meet the needs of the college and the community.”
“Marjorie is with us in heart and in spirit every day on campus,” said Bullard. “She makes this whole pathway to success possible through her financial support of our littlest RLC Warriors.”
The Annual Dinner was sponsored by Hamilton County Telephone and Peoples National Bank. The invocation was done by Eric Black, RLC Board of Trustees Chairman. There were also performance by the RLC Concert Choir and a vocal performance by RLC students Sierra Harrell (Opdyke), accompanied by Dennis Southerd (Mt. Vernon).
For more information about the RLC Foundation, call 618-437-5321, Ext. 1214 or visit online at www.rlc.edu/foundation.