INA, Ill. (Jan. 29, 2017) - It took substantially more than a village to get the idea of Rend Lake College from concept to construction. In reality, the first major step was taken when several local communities banded together (Dahlgren, McLeansboro, Mt. Vernon, Sesser, Waltonville, Wayne City, Webber and Woodlawn) and prominent figures were selected to take part in a task force to check on the feasibility of a new junior college.
In a meeting on July 26, 1965, at Whittington, the task force moved that they proceed with establishing a junior college district consisting of six or more counties. At the same meeting, a new steering committee was formed. Each county involved was asked to name two members to serve on the steering committee and to furnish educators to serve on a professional advisory committee.
That steering committee consisted of 55 individuals from Perry, Wayne, White, Franklin, Hamilton and Jefferson Counties. While each and every one of those individuals gave of themselves to help see the creation of Rend Lake College, a handful of participants are extra noteworthy to the college’s history, as they went on to become part of the founding RLC Board of Trustees.
Five of the seven founding board members served on the original steering committee. Carleton Apple (Enfield), Dr. Allen Y. Baker (Pinckneyville), Harry N. Irwin (Wayne City), Dr. Curtis A. Parker (Mt. Vernon) and Holland Simmons (Benton) all have the distinction of sitting on that beginning board. Melvin Farlow (McLeansboro) and Forest Stewart (Texico) rounded out the last two seats, and thus the trustees were formed.
Stewart holds the distinction of being not only one of the founding Board of Trustees members but also the first person named secretary to that board. His appointment was made official on December 21, 1966, as the newly formed board met at Mt. Vernon Township High School. However, Stewart moved out of district in 1969, relocating to nearby Salem.
Farlow was elected as the first ever vice-president of the board. In the spring of 1970, he was elevated to the office of president. However, that same year, Farlow suffered a heart attack. He was determined to complete his full term, but worried his health would inhibit his ability to act as president. To that end, he declined the presidency for the 1971-72 school year. Dr. Baker was named president in his place. He did not seek re-election in the 1972 race.
Farlow is one of three trustees that are known to have suffered heart attacks during their time in office. Joe H. Scrivner (Mt. Vernon) suffered one in November of 1990, and Dr. B. Kirby Browning experienced a mild heart attack shortly after his election for the second time in January 1994.
Due to a state budget impasse, the school was forced to establish a $2.50 per credit hour tuition. Despite not being in favor of charging tuition, Farlow felt it had become an unfortunate necessity. During the January 18, 1972, Board of Trustees meeting, he made the motion to adopt a tuition, an essential step in keeping RLC open.
Apple filled Farlow’s shoes as vice-president in 1962. In total, he served on the board for 12 years, choosing not to seek re-election following the end of his term in 1978. Apple, along with Dr. Baker, Mel Farlow, Harry Irwin, Dr. Parker, Holland Simmons and Forrest Stewart stood in the middle of a cornfield on March 27, 1969, and broke ground on what would later become the college campus.
A “well-known White County farmer,” Apple chaired the board from 1975 to 1977, taking over for Dr. Baker.
During a July board meeting in 1967, Apple made the motion, seconded by Holland Simmons, to officially name the institution Rend Lake College. Other names considered were Blair Lakeside College, College of Little Egypt, Renaissance College on the Lake, King’s Point College and Pyramid College. In 1973, during a board meeting, he moved to adopt red as one of the school’s colors, giving us the official color scheme we know today.
Irwin was a science teacher beginning with the 1942-43 academic year and was promoted to the position of Wayne County High School Principal in 1953-54. Within six years, he was moving on up to become Wayne County Superintendent of Schools, a post he held through 1963. He also owned Irwin Insurance Agency in Wayne City.
He chose not to seek election again when his second term expired in 1972.
Baker, Parker and Simmons impact on Rend Lake College will be discussed in coming weeks.
Dr. Howard D. Rawlinson's book, The First Fifteen Years,is available to the public via Rend Lake College's website. His book, along with many other pieces of our printed history, may be found at https://www.rlc.edu/student-services/111-learning-resource-center/12078-rlc-archives.