RLC alum Rodney Cabaness, far right, has remained committed to the community through business ventures and scholarship opportunities. This file photo includes a group of Black Diamond scholarship winners with co-owner Shad Zimbro.
Black Diamond Harley Davidson co-owner Rodney Cabaness was Rend Lake College’s nominee for the Illinois Community College Trustees Association’s 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The award recognizes outstanding success in a chosen field, extraordinary humanitarian service that has proven greatly beneficial to society and continued interest in and support of education and community colleges.
“We are proud of the regional contributions to the future of our students in southern Illinois from an alum of Rend Lake College," RLC President Terry Wilkerson said. "Rodney has used the success of his education to promote and provide opportunities for future students throughout our region.”
When he was a student, Cabaness worked to support himself and pay for college. He graduated from RLC with an Associate of Science in 1990. In 2007, he took a leap of faith with his friend, Shad Zimbro, to purchase a Harley-Davidson dealership in Marion. Black Diamond HD started with just 14 employees
Black Diamond has become a world leader in total bike sales. Their large sales volume regularly ranks them near the top of all of the dealerships in the nation.
Cabaness’ business expansion and new endeavors have grown to well over 200 employees throughout southern Illinois. Other acquisitions include additional Harley-Davidson dealerships in Illinois and Texas, a Krispy Kreme franchise and the renovation of the Kokopelli Golf Club. One of the largest, and possibly most ambitious, expansion project underway is the revitalization of the Illinois Star Centre Mall into a new shopping and entertainment area.
Cabaness has remained committed to giving back to his community. Black Diamond HD is well known for significant charitable contributions. In 2009, Cabaness formed a partnership with four community colleges – RLC, John A Logan, Shawnee and Southeastern Illinois) to provide a $1,000 scholarship to graduating seniors from each of the 45 local high schools in southern Illinois. To date, more than $250,000 in scholarship funds have been given to over 500 Illinois community college students in some of the most impoverished areas of the state.
Cabaness was also named the RLC Foundation’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year.
“I am proud to say that I am a product of a community college,” Cabaness said. “I made the decision to attend Rend Lake College because it met my educational needs at the time and also allowed me to save enough money to be able to afford the necessities of life. It was a perfect transition for a 17-year-old leaving high school for college and the natural next step in my education. The community college experience offered me the freedom of living close to home and the ability to keep up with my work schedule which was very necessary for me at the time. It allowed me to step into adulthood on my own and built my confidence knowing that I was able to use this time shaping my direction in life.”
Cabaness said his experience at RLC helped him figure out who he was, and he considers those years some of the best times of his life.
“I never felt like a number at Rend Lake College,” he said. “I knew my instructors and they knew me. It was the one on one learning experience that helped me become more skilled at developing relationships and showed me the importance it. I look back now, almost 30 years ago, and think of those two years spent at Rend Lake College as some of the best years of my life. The friends made and the education I received helped shape who I am today, and for that I am grateful.”