50 Influencers: Pat Kern, setting the foundation

INA, Ill. (March 18, 2017) - From nontraditional student to CEO of the Rend Lake College Foundation, Pat Kern is right at home on the list of RLC’s 50 Influencers. 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.

In the role she is best known for, Kern led the Foundation as CEO for nearly 15 years, hitting milestone after milestone during her time at the helm. Prior to leading, she was the second full-time Director of Resource Development for the foundation after years of cutting her teeth as an unofficial assistant.

At the time of her retirement in 2011, she had served the RLCF for almost 20 years total. But, her service didn’t stop there. Following retirement, she continues to participate in the RLCF today, acting as a Foundation board member, serving on subcommittees and volunteering time and resources to assist with events.

Current Foundation CEO Kay Zibby-Damron said that Kern’s assistance was instrumental in the recent transition of the Foundation team. Kern’s guidance and willingness to help has proved to be a valuable resource to the new CEO.

When she retired, her many friends with the RLCF made sure she would not be forgotten, naming the Student Center’s Pat Kern Private Dining Room in her honor and donating $20,000 to establish an endowed Patricia Kern Scholarship in December of 2011.

“The sign of a true leader is someone who brings people together from all walks of life, different ambitions, different goals and gets them all working the same way all together in one direction to make something good, and Pat has done that for 14 years,” said RLCF Board Member Ed Cunningham at the dedication ceremony. “Look at what the college has done and look at what the Foundation has done for the college … How many kids do you think this has touched? And how many do you think it will continue to touch for the future?”

PatKernPDRplaquewRLCF Board Member Ed Cunningham presents Pat Kern with the commemorative plaque that hangs outside the Pat Kern Private Dining Room in the Rend Lake College Student Center. Click on the image for a larger view.

A number of important projects the college completed were made possible through the Foundation, under Kern’s guidance. Those projects included: the campus Children’s Center, Aquatics Center, clock tower, Walls of Fame and Walls of Honor, countless equipment donations, and the satellite campus in Pinckneyville and its subsequent expansion.

Kern also has a legacy of getting the college district to buy into the RLCF’s vision of providing scholarships to worthy candidates. At the time of her retirement in 2011, scholarship giving had gone from $45,000 two decades before to more than $500,000 that year, for a total of more than $4 million throughout her years at the helm. Under her leadership, the Foundation’s net assets more than doubled in a decade and total donations since establishment reached $11.5 million in 2011.

The RLCF chief started her journey at RLC as a nontraditional student, earning her Associate in Science Degree in 1991. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and went on to receive the Fund-Raising Management Degree certification in 1999 through Indiana University’s Center of Philanthropy.

Two years later, she was recipient of a $500 scholarship from the Illinois Community College System Foundation to attend a summer course offering through I.U., “Planned Giving: Getting the Proper Start.” In the years that followed, she was a frequent attendee at sessions to upgrade her skills. She didn’t stop there. She served as a presenter (along with Vice President Lori Ragland) at the National Council for Resource Development Conference in Washington, D.C. (2002); Illinois Resource and Development State Conference (2002); Illinois Community College System State Conference in Springfield (2007), and leading a group discussion for peers at the Illinois Community College State Foundation Conference in Bloomington (2003).

The former student worker was originally hired full-time by Rend Lake College in January 1992 as a Data Entry Clerk as part of a federal Title III “Strengthening Institutions” Grant. She was promoted within the Student Services area to Registrar four years later, and was promoted again nine months later, to Director of Admissions, in October 1996.

“I want to thank the many people from the Foundation and college who entrusted me with the RLCF CEO position that proved to be more rewarding than I could ever imagine,” Kern said in her retirement letter.

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