INA, Ill. (Oct. 28, 2017) - Sometimes, being an influencer means being an example. In all of the 50 years of Rend Lake College history, it would be hard to find a more fitting cross section of the RLC student body than the diversity and excellence of Dr. Richard Doherty’s College Bowl teams.
Doherty took the reins of the team in 1989-90 and guided the squad to the pre-season league victory. He followed that up with a post-season conference tournament title, as the first team to go undefeated in SICCM Tourney competition.
He and his team went on to establish a SICCM dynasty, going a perfect 6-for-6 during his tenure as head coach. In total, Doherty coached the team for seven years, but during his final season (95-96), he enrolled in enough classes to participate on the team as a player coach. While the Warriors failed to claim the SICCM title that season, they did go on to compete in the post-season, finishing their run with a third-place finish.
And while six-time SICCM Champion is a pretty impressive title, the team’s hallmark keystone moment came in 92-93 during the first ever Academic Olympics state championship.
Established by the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, the Academic Olympics brought the best two-year college bowl teams to complete for the honor be being crowned the best in the state. Doherty’s team didn’t flinch at those brighter lights, bringing home the championship over six other regional qualifiers and cementing their academic all-star status.
That team was typical of RLC College Bowl teams, a blend of nontraditional students who contributed mightily thanks to the wisdom of their experiences and fresh-faced traditional students just months removed from in-district high schools.
The obvious leaders were Academic Olympic All-Stars Glenda Wells (Dahlgren), the part-time housewife and librarian, and the well-read 62-year-old Sunshine Center discovery, Neil Linebaugh (Mt. Vernon), both of whom were college graduates taking more classes on a part-time basis.
Not far behind in terms of contributing points but a considerable distance behind in years were Tim Cripps (Benton) and Robert Schnicker, also from that thriving Academic Olympic State Championship scholar-producing community of Dahlgren.
“I couldn’t quite believe it. We really could not have done any better than what we did,” said a proud Doherty after the win.
“To me,” he added, “this (state title) is important because this is what college is supposed to be all about ... academics. We couldn’t be any prouder.”
The team was even recognized during a Cubs-Reds game at Wrigley Field the following week.
It’s not surprising considering Doherty often sought to pit his team against the toughest competition he could find.
Just one year before the inaugural state championship, the Wise Warriors were doing battle in tournaments that were comprised of only four-year institutions, and RLC was giving them the business, “trouncing” the likes of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Western Illinois University and Bradley University.
“I knew we were a very, very good team, but I would not have believed a two-year school could have done this well. We were the best-kept secret around, but a lot of people at the larger schools know where Rend Lake College is now,” Doherty remarked when his team fell one win shy of competing against the University of Illinois team for the Region IX University College Bowl Tournament in 1992.
It would be unfortunately easy to limit Doherty’s legacy to College Bowl success, but he had a long and storied career at RLC as an educator. He served as a Social Science professor for a number of years, even earning Phi Theta Kappa Distinguished Educator honors in 1976. He spent a stint as the Chair of the Social Science Department. There was even a stint as women’s basketball coach from 79-80.
In addition to teaching and influencing hundreds of students over his 24-year career (1970-94), Doherty also holds the distinction of being one of 20 charter members of the Rend Lake College Federation of Teachers. In fact, he was nominated by his peers to act as chair during the creation of the union in 1977.
“The faculty of Rend Lake College is a very professional group of persons with more expertise in many areas of education than any other campus group,” Doherty said at the time. “The Rend Lake Federation of Teachers represents a majority of the full-time teaching faculty. It is part of the democratic process to have some say in the conditions that affect you. As a majority of the faculty, we want to be part of that democratic process.”
He also traveled all over the state as a featured speaker on the subjects of History, Psychology and Political Science.
Outside of the classroom, Doherty was also a champion, earning Senior Olympics gold medals in Free Throws (he was a multi-time champion in this event), Rope Skipping and Air Rifle during the XIII games in the 55-59 age bracket. He also was runner-up in Air Pistol and Race Walking.