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Spoon River College Honors Alumni Award Recipients

The Canton Community College/Spoon River College Alumni Association hosted their annual Alumni Association Awards Reception and Athletic Hall of Fame Induction November 5 at the Canton Campus.

Dr. Erik Dalmasso, program director and assistant professor of the Ed.D program at Bradley University, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Those being honored were Janice (Dare) Bruster and Henry Dare, Outstanding Service Award; Ellen Dodd, Distinguished SRC Retiree; and Rick Klinedinst, Distinguished Alumni Award.

Alumni Achievement Awards were presented to Barbi Brewer-Watson, John Davis, David Gregory, Randy and Susie McMillen, Jeff Standard, and Carla Teslicka.

Presenting the awards were Janice (Dare) Bruster), Bruce Beal, Glenda Bryan, Carol Davis, Colin Davis, Dr. Bruce DeRuntz, Julie Hampton, Patrick O’Brien, and Dr. Curt Oldfield.

More pictures and a video of the event can be viewed on the Spoon River College Foundation Facebook page. The complete bios of all award recipients are listed below.

Pictured l-r front row are Dr. Erik Dalmasso, Janice (Dare) Bruster, Carla Teslicka, Ellen Dodd, John Davis, back row Dr. Curt Oldfield, Rick Klinedinst, Henry Dare, David Gregory, Jeff Standard, Randy McMillen, and Colin Davis.

SRC alumnus Dr. Bruce DeRuntz presented Ellen Dodd with her Distinguished SRC Retiree award. Their friendship began when DeRuntz was a young student buying his text books from Dodd in the SRC Bookstore and she noted that he was a long way from home. She invited him to her family’s home for Sunday dinner—the first of many—and her family became his.



Natives of Canton and of the farm life, both attended SRC. While Henry sought an associate degree, Janice took classes at SRC while attending Graham Hospital School of Nursing. After college, Janice went on to a 42-year career as a registered nurse, where she held specialties in trauma nursing, emergency nursing, advanced cardiac life support, and pediatric advanced life support. True to her commitment to education, she was the field nurse trainer for the first paramedic class at WIU.

Henry worked for five years in sales and marketing for Ralston Purina (where he had completed an internship while a student at the University of Illinois) and later became the Sales Manager for Schuyler-Brown FS. In 1979, he returned to the family farm in Canton, where he remains a sixth-generation farmer.

Janice’s community involvement includes the Spoon River Garden Club, Spoon River Pregnancy Center, Fulton-Mason Crisis Service, St. Jude, Ronald McDonald House, and Patient Access Network Foundation, and the boards at Lambs of God and Wesley United Methodist Church (where she is a member and sings in the choir).

Henry, meanwhile, has served on the boards of Spoon River FS, Fulton County Farm Bureau, Fulton County Extension, and Fulton County Pork Producers and in numerous roles at Wesley UMC and the First Christian Church in Canton, where he is a member.

He also served nearly two decades on the SRC Board of Trustees and on the college’s Ag Advisory Committee. Janice is a graduate of SRC’s Community Leadership Academy, participates annually in the Lifelong Learning Conference, sings in the SRC Community Chorus. Both have generously supported SRC financially, as the family has endowed four scholarships to support students in the Diesel, Education, Agriculture, and Paramedicine programs.

Janice has one son, Mark. Henry’s wife of 45 years, Cheryl, passed away in 2019. Together, they had two sons, Gregory (wife, Samantha) and Philip (wife, Kris). They have two grandchildren, Madison and Isaac. He married Ann in 2021.


ELLEN DODD (ret. 2013)

Also an SRC alumna herself, Ellen Dodd, a 2013 retiree and this year’s Distinguished SRC Retiree recipient, just may be the most devoted advocate of Spoon River College in general, and of the SRC community in general.

Ellen started her career in the SRC print shop, when they were still downtown Canton and not everyone had a computer at home. After SRC moved into the present buildings, Ellen worked as the switchboard operator. Soon, Ellen was also helping out in the bookstore, and eventually worked there full-time as the Bookstore Assistant. Her responsibilities included supervising student workers, and she counts her interactions with students among her favorite memories.

Ellen has served as the President of the Cuba Lioness Club and as a radio operator for the Fiatt Station of the Cuba Fire Department. She’s also served as a Superintendent for the Fulton County Fair and remains involved with the Fulton County Fair Board.

Since retiring after 40 years of service to SRC, Ellen earned her bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry at Mid-America Christian University. She serves as pastor at Smithfield Brock United Methodist Church and Locust Lane UMC. Until more recent years, she served as pastor at St. David UMC until its closing.

She also remains extremely involved with SRC, having served as a previous President of the CCC/SRC Alumni Association and, for many years, as emcee of this event. She also continues to assist with other SRC Foundation programs and attends many college events. Life circumstances forced her to take a year off from her duties in planning and hosting this event this year, which gave the Committee its one and perhaps only opportunity to honor her with this award, which she truly de-serves.

For 42 years, she was married to Loyd, who she met at SRC, until his passing in April 2021. Her family includes daughters, Robin and Lori; son, Jacob; former daughter-in-law, Jessica; and grandchildren Andrew, Hilary, Dustin, Brody, and Kole. Ellen is also a devoted cat mom and can often be found catering to every whim of Lillie, her Labrador retriever.



Rick Klinedinst originally wanted to be an architect. Then, he wanted to be a mechanical draftsman and follow in the footsteps of his father. But after a discussion with a mentor at his part-time job at what is now MidAmerica National Bank, he realized that banking could be his career.

The rest is history, as Rick has improved his rank from part-time “coin boy” in 1978 (when he was just 15 years old), to roles in Operations in Lending (where he’d become Assistant Vice President in 1991 and Vice President in 1994), to Senior Vice President of Retail Division in 1997, to President of Fulton County operations in 2004.

Since 2010, he’s served as CEO/President of MidAmerica National Bank, an institution with $575 million in assets and which is one of the largest banks in west central Illinois.

Rick attended SRC from 1981-1985 but left two credit hours short of his associate degree to transfer to Western Illinois University, where he earned his bachelor’s in finance in 1986. He’s since earned additional academic credentials from the Illinois Bankers Association, the University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Banking, and the Bank Administration Institute.

With a list of community involvement too lengthy to list, Rick’s connection with SRC remains unbreakable, having served both on the Foundation Board and Board of Trustees. His roles at SRC have included student, instructor, volunteer, investor, donor, bond investor, presenter, and many other roles because of how important he believes SRC is to the community. He even returned to SRC in 2006 to take one class and finish his associate degree 20 years after obtaining his bachelor’s degree, just to say that he graduated from Spoon River College.

Rick and his wife, Janet, have three children: Drew (wife, Mary Beth), Andrea, and Clay. He counts his family as his greatest personal achievement and time with his grandkids as his favorite life memories. A history buff with emphases on Lincoln and local history, he published a book with Mary Haney in 2017, entitled Camp Ellis: Once a City, Not Forgotten. He hopes to write more, start his own business eventually, and keep teaching, volunteering, speaking, and spending more time with his grandkids.



Carla Teslicka first joined the YMCA of McDonough County in 1976 as an Administrative Secretary. She briefly moved out of the area and returned to serve as Membership Director for seven years, earning the YMCA’s Membership Coordinator of the Year distinction in 1996. In 1998, she earned a promotion to become the Director of the Gymnastics Center.

She graduated from SRC in 2000, concentrating in communication in her Associate of Arts degree. A strong student at both institutions, she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa at SRC and graduated with High Honors from WIU in 2002, despite being a single mother and working 30 hours per week while taking classes full-time at WIU.

As she completed her education at SRC and WIU, she was selected to serve as Associate Executive Director of the YMCA of McDonough County. In September 2011, she accepted the position of CEO, a role that she held until her retirement at the end of 2021.

In the 133-year history of the YMCA of McDonough County, she was the first female to hold the position of CEO, and she credits her experiences at SRC with giving her the confidence she could be successful as a student and with changing the way she thought about herself.

In the community, Carla has been involved with Rotary International in both Macomb and Bushnell, the Macomb Heritage Days, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Rock Steady Boxing, the McDonough County Housing Authority, Western Illinois Regional Council, Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDCO), and served as the YMCA liaison for the McDonough County Health Department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In retirement, Carla, who is determined to make this phase of her life worthwhile after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, is focusing on her family, which includes her husband, Steve (a retired firefighter of 23 years): daughters Chelsea and Michele, sons Tim and Dustin; and seven grandchildren. They are expecting another grandchild in March 2023.



Few people—let alone SRC alumni—have occupations as stressful as Jeff Standard’s. A Canton native, he graduated from Canton High School before continuing his education at Western Illinois University, where he graduated with a degree in Law Enforcement Administration. Jeff took classes at SRC from 1987-1988.

After a 12-year hiatus from law enforcement while working for Owens Farms, joining his father-in-law in the family business, Jeff embarked on a 30-plus year career in law enforcement, largely with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. In 2006, after the retirement of Sheriff Dan Daly, Jeff ran for the open office and was elected. He was re-elected in 2010, 2014, and 2018.

As Sheriff, Jeff oversees the Fulton County Jail, security and maintenance at the Fulton County Courthouse, 911 dispatch, Animal Control, and the patrolling of all of Fulton County’s unincorporated towns and rural areas in one of the geographically-largest counties in the state.

In addition to his service in law enforcement, he’s also coached youth football, basketball, baseball, and softball, served on the Friendship Festival Board and St. Mary’s Parish Council, is a member of the Elks’ Lodge and Fulton County Farm Bureau, and has served the Copperas Creek Fire Protection District as a firefighter and EMT. He’s also ben one of the most popular speakers at SRC’s Lifelong Learning Institute (formerly the Retirees’ Learning Institute) over most of the past 15-plus years.

Additionally, he has continued to add professional education to his resume and has participated in numerous professional organizations over the years to ensure that Fulton County benefits from the best practices of law enforcement organizations from across the country.

He and his wife, Kim, are the proud parents of Emily (husband, Cody) Crumb and Dr. Jacob Standard, both alumni of SRC. He plans to retire from the Sheriff’s office later this month and looks forward to spending more time with his family and enjoying a quieter life, including spending more time with his grandchildren, Brayden and Brooklyn.



While Susie was a Canton native, Randy came to SRC in 1971 after being recruited by Ed Georgieff following a strong basketball career at Augusta-Southeastern High School and ultimately stayed after school. He went to work for International Harvester after SRC.

Each of them going through divorces at the time, Randy and Susie met in 1978 and bonded over their shared experiences. Susie desperately wanted to go to work and entered a Caterpillar metallurgy co-op pro-gram at SRC. After graduating in 1981, she went to work for Caterpillar.

The closing of IH and layoffs at Caterpillar changed their career paths. Randy managed Fulton County Trucking, and Susie went into real estate, later convincing Randy to join in. They launched McMillen and Wife Real Estate and Auction Service in 1989.

1994, Randy took an opportunity to work for Caterpillar as a machine operator and later moved into management. When Susie wanted to focus on directly helping her clients, they sold McMillen and Wife. In 2001, they began listing and selling real estate for RE/MAX Unlimited, with Susie earned the company’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing her as one of the best realtors in the industry.

Susie served over 20 years doing ministry at the prison and was a lay speaker for several small churches in Fulton and McDonough Counties. She was known for her random acts of kindness, whether dropping off food at someone’s house, taking cold drinks to construction workers on hot days, or paying for those behind her in the drive thru at McDonald’s. She served two terms on the SRC Foundation Board and was instrumental in the SRC Alumni Association in the organization’s early days. She held the unofficial role of “Chief Recruiter” for the SRC Community Chorus, a group she performed with and loved dearly.

Unfortunately, Susie passed away in August 2022 following complications after surgery. In “retirement,” Randy is as busy as ever, doing his best to keep Susie’s legacy in real estate alive. He also plans to do more random acts of kindness to help keep Susie’s memory alive. Despite a distinguished career with Caterpillar and in real estate, Randy still considers meeting Susie as his life’s greatest achievement.



The oldest of 14 children growing up in Canton, David Gregory originally hoped to study aeronautical and astronomical sciences, train to become an astronaut, and live on a space station. At the University of Illinois, he discovered a love of art and switched his major to architecture before dropping out to explore a different lifestyle for a few years.

In 1974, he returned to Canton and took a night class at SRC from instructor Tom Snowman. That class inspired him to return to the U of I and study art. He then moved to California and worked out of galleries in the San Francisco region. His work was included in an art book published in Singapore., and when he accompanied the author on a tour to support the book in Singapore, he sold many paintings. This led to a career as a professional artist.

David managed the Ruth Carlson Gallery in California, a gallery which handled the works of 50 artists, including his own, and co-owned (with his first wife, Georgia) Gallery One in Mendocino. After a stint in Hawaii, his works were on display at the Inma Gallery of Fine Art in Sau-di Arabia, where he taught watercolor technique.

Specializing in watercolor, David and his work have received numerous awards and invitations to exhibit in many prestigious art galleries. Between 2005 and 2021, his work was displayed in 44 different group exhibitions in 12 states, and since 1984, he’s had 17 solo exhibitions of his work. He teamed with author John Bear to publish a fine art coffee table book called Mendocino, with over 70 of his paintings included.

In the fall of 2021, David’s paintings were on display at the University of Illinois’ Student Union Gallery. His work continues to be exhibited at galleries and museums across the country in 2022, and in an effort to “pay it forward” earlier this year, designed, created, and painted the scenery for the SRC Community Chorus’ production of Into the Woods.

David returned to Canton in 2006 to care for his father until his dad died in 2009. While in Canton, he met his second wife Renee at Parlin Library and today both live in Peoria. Since his return to Central Illinois, David has served three years on the board of the Fine Arts Society of Peoria and volunteered as a docent for several years leading tours at The Peoria Riverfront Museum. His portfolio can be viewed at



Struggling with her own confidence as a real estate agent during the housing crisis of 2008 and having been away from the academic life-style for some time, Barbi Brewer-Watson left her bartending job in the Kankakee area, on a path to complete a music business degree from WIU.

Her first stop was SRC, a place she originally thought of as a stepping stone but has since come to call her second home — where she earned her associate degree in 2011.

Focused on getting a job in Chicago at the Lyric Opera, she completed an internship which took her back to Kankakee to organize a three-day music festival in 2014. Knowing she was looking for work, local business leaders plugged her into community organizations in an attempt to keep her in Kankakee. She became the Executive Director of the local orchestra.

Those same local business leaders convinced her she could utilize her skills as the Executive Director of the local Chamber of Commerce. Four years later, the Mayor asked her to come oversee the city’s eco-nomic and community development activities.

As Executive Director of the Economic and Community Development Agency, she has the opportunity to work with many different businesses and organizations across the city. Among other initiatives, she oversees projects relating to the Downtown and Riverview Historic Districts, a 20-year plan for the Kankakee Riverfront, and efforts to improve housing and the local business and workforce climate. She readily admits her hands are in many pots, but she credits her time at SRC to helping her hone the skills necessary to take on so many projects.

Barbi lives in Kankakee with her husband, Mike, and their dog, Snickers. She holds two master’s degrees from Olivet Nazarene University and in 2018 was named a United Way Neighborhood Champion and to the 40 Under Forty list for Kankakee County. She received the Phenomenal Woman Award from the City of Kankakee in 2019, and she’s also involved with Drug Free Kankakee, Inc., the Kankakee Regional Landbank Authority, the Kankakee Riverfront Society, and the United Way. Barbi remains active with the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce and the local performing arts scene, including, from time to time, the SRC Community Chorus and the Canton Church of the Brethren—organizations that she said made SRC and Fulton County her home.



A non-traditional student who had been in the workforce before returning to SRC, John Davis credits SRC for helping to expand his knowledge base and find career choices and leadership roles that he otherwise might not have had.

Also a graduate of California Southern University, Chadwick University (where he earned his MBA), John obtained a certificate in Health Administration from the Graduate Program in Health Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For the past 21 years, John has owned Davis Buick-GMC and Davis Ford in Canton, after acquiring Coleman Ford and Coleman Buick-Pontiac-GMC in 2001. He recently (with his daughter, Kiley) launched LINE-X of Canton—a full service body shop that offers bedliners and truck/vehicle accessories—earlier this year, one of the few LINE-X dealers in the part of Illinois.

Prior to his current role, John was a General Foreman at Consolidation Coal Company in Sparta, Il, owner of D&K Food Park in Canton, and served for 11 years as Vice President of Administrative Services at Graham Hospital.

John has given a significant amount of time to his community over the years, having served on the Boards of the Canton Park District, Canton Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Canton Salvation Army—and as President/Chair of the Kiwanis Club of Canton, the Canton Police and Fire Commission, the Peoria Metro New Car Dealers Association, and the Canton School Board. He’s currently a member of the Canton Elks’ Lodge, Wesley United Methodist Church, the Bank of Farmington Board of Directors, and the SRC Foundation Board. He was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1986 and the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year in 2005.

He and his wife, Gloria, have three daughters: Amy, Ashley, and Kiley, and enjoy being Grandpa and Grandma to Vivi, Lula, and Kannon.

Spoon River College Celebrates National First-Generation Day

Spoon River College celebrated National First-Generation Day on November 8, the date when the Higher Education Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson, providing federal funding with a goal of strengthening resources and making college more accessible to all students.

It is estimated that 55% of college students identify as first-generation, meaning that their parents did not complete a four-year college or university degree.

Jill Olson, director of the TRIO Student Support Services program at the college, said that can have a significant impact on a student’s chance of success. “First-generation students are less likely to be familiar with college processes, like the FAFSA and how to get financial aid in place. It can be overwhelming.”

The grant-funded TRIO program, which the college has had in place since 2010, was designed to help students overcome social, academic, class, and cultural barriers in higher education. Being a first-generation student is one of the eligibility requirements of being in the program.

“TRIO helps students navigate these systems and processes. Helping them overcome as many of these barriers as possible increases their chances of successfully completing a college degree or a certificate program and transferring onto the four-year college or university,” said Olson.

TRIO participants at Spoon River College are provided with personalized advising for career, transfer, and degree planning. Workshops covering topics ranging from personal financial literacy to time management and study tips are offered, and professional math and science tutors as well as peer tutors are available for both one-on-one and group study opportunities.

TRIO advisors place an emphasis on preparing students to transfer, aiding in selection of the correct transfer classes to take and traveling with students to visit four-year universities. Eligible transfer students who are TRIO members can have their application fees to their four-year schools waived.  Cultural outings, including to museums and art exhibits (at no expense to students), are part of the program, and members regularly participate in community service projects.

“Our off-campus trips enable the TRIO students to connect socially with other students, while exposing them to experiences they may have never taken part in on their own,” said Olson.

TRIO participants are also eligible for an exclusive scholarship program and have access to a private computer lab and study space, free printing, and are able to borrow textbooks, graphing calculators and voice recorders. In 2020, the program introduced a laptop lending program that has been highly utilized by students.

“TRIO works with each student where they are at,” Olson said. “If the student wishes to use all our services, we are happy to cater to that. If they only need transfer assistance, we can provide that for the student. Each student’s academic journey and needs are different, and we work to meet each student’s individual needs while they are at SRC.”

“Our goal is to improve the academic success of our students so they can successfully graduate and transfer to a four-year university.”

To mark the occasion, first-generation students and employees were recognized, and cake was served to all at the Canton and Macomb campuses.


Spoon River College Announces New Positions

Two Spoon River College employees, Sarah Gray and Holly Norton, have been named to new positions at the college. Gray will now serve as the chief financial officer, and Norton as the vice-president of educational and student services.

The changes were made following the resignation of the former vice president. “We took this opportunity to analyze our present needs and plan for the changes in the future in higher education in general and specifically at Spoon River College,” said Dr. Curt Oldfield, president of Spoon River College.

Gray, who has been with the college since 2006 as the director of business and auxiliary services said, “I look forward to joining the administrative team and providing support and guidance with regard to financial matters as we position Spoon River College for the future.”

Norton began teaching part-time at the college in 2006, served as the director of TRIO Student Support Services from 2011 to 2012, then as the dean of transfer education. In her new position, Norton will provide supervision to the deans in academics and in student services, as well as adult services through the college’s Adult Education office. “I am excited for this opportunity to continue working with all of our faculty and staff in providing quality educational opportunities for our district communities. We have the team at Spoon River College, and they make it all possible.”

Oldfield noted that Norton’s position reflects a slight change in title from the one held previously by Dr. Randy Greenwell. Following his retirement in 2015, the position was put on hold due to the disruption of state funding during that time.

In addition, a new position for a chief operations and safety officer has been created and is currently open. “We basically broke down the former vice president position into three categories; the new chief fiscal officer and the chief operations and safety officer positions, with the third one being the chief information and security officer.”

Raj Siddaraju, who has served as the chief information officer since 2008, will continue in that role with additional security responsibilities. Siddaraju began employment at the college in 2000 as the director of technology services.

“These three chief positions will play a vital role in the operations of the college and will report directly to me,” Oldfield said. “They will be making recommendations for future planning so the college continues to be strong, vibrant and competitive as we move forward.”


Sarah Gray


Holly Norton

Pancakes for Bette Fundraiser November 30

The Phi Mu Tau Fraternity at Spoon River College will host the 12th Annual Pancakes for Bette fundraiser on Wednesday, November 30, from 7-10 a.m. in the SRC Sandbar Café located in Lower Centers of the Canton Campus. The public is invited, and the cost is $5.00 for all the pancakes you can eat plus a side order of sausage. Water and coffee will be provided.

The fundraiser is in memory of former SRC employee Bette Dye, who lost her battle with cancer in September of 2010. “We started this fundraiser to help a friend and fellow employee, and we continue it in Bette’s honor,” said Todd Thompson, Phi Mu Tau faculty advisor. “She served my students a lot of pancakes over the years and always with a big smile and a ‘Hey! How are you this morning?’ She was our beloved pancake maker.”

The event was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic.

A pancake eating contest for students will be held, with the winner taking home a $50 gas card donated by Student Services.

For those who would like to donate, please make checks payable to Phi Mu Tau-SRC with “Pancakes for Bette” in the memo line.  Proceeds from the event will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The Phi Mu Tau Fraternity is comprised of students in the Diesel and Power Systems Technology program. For more information, contact Todd Thompson at 649-6244, Joseph Clemens at 649-6245, or Aaron Mayall at 649-6382, diesel instructors and advisors for Phi Mu Tau.

English Faculty Laura Bandy’s Book of Poetry Scheduled for Release in December

Laura Bandy, English faculty at Spoon River College, is eagerly awaiting the publication of her second book of poetry. Monster Movie is scheduled for release by Gold Wake Press this December. Her chapbook, Hack, was published by Dancing Girl Press in August 2021.

A favorite in the classroom, Bandy has taught at Spoon River College since 2018, and was the recipient of the 2020 H. Truman Standard Award for teaching excellence in 2021.

Bandy attended the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers PhD program from 2009 to 2013, where she received the Joan Johnson Poetry Award. In 2018, she won first prize in the ‘Trio of Triolets’ contest judged by Allison Joseph, and received third place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award/ Illinois Emerging Writers Competition that same year. She has had work published in Soft Skull’s Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, Ninth Letter, Sin Fronteras, River Styx, Typo, Moist Poetry Journal and The Laurel Review among others, and currently has poems in Midwest Review, The Florida Review, and Hobart.

Bandy is from Jacksonville and loves the cornfields, but wishes Illinois had mountains (or even hills!) for snowboarding purposes. She loves spending time with her husband, Tarl, stepchildren Titus and Ashton, and seven cats (four inside, three outside). She is a twin, and librarians are her heroes.

Students Team Up to Restore Arboretum at Spoon River College

Alpha Gamma Tau members, comprised of students in the agriculture program, and members of SEA (Students for Environmental Action) at Spoon River College met in early fall to discuss how the two groups could work together on projects that would benefit the land, students and the community. They chose the Spoon River College Arboretum, a 10-acre tract of native trees and trails on the northern edge of the SRC Canton Campus.

“My vision for the SRC Arboretum is to bring it back to its original glory. The arboretum construction and past use is a piece of our college’s history that I think many faculty, students, and those within our community forget about,” said Allyson Smith, agriculture faculty and advisor for AGT.

The idea of an arboretum was born and sponsored by the SRC Foundation in 1979 for use as an outdoor learning laboratory, as well as for community groups such as art, photography, bird watching, and wildlife study. Development began in 1980, funded by private donations, fund-raising efforts, and a $55,853 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.

One significant contribution was the Ezra J. Clark Memorial Woodland Theatre, given by Clark’s widow as a memorial to her late husband. Constructed with rustic telephone poles, railroad ties, and panels of Coretan steel which would rust to a specified depth, then SRC board trustee Dr. Lowell B. Fisher said “We wanted it to look not as if it were placed there, but as if it grew there.”

It was used at one time for performances of the Spoon River Anthology and even weddings but over the years, time, nature, and lack of upkeep have taken its toll. While the theatre structure itself is in good shape, rest areas and bridges have rotted and collapsed, and trails and the native tree groves have become overgrown.

“I would love to see the theater rehabbed, an interactive tree ID scavenger hunt, rest stops rebuilt, and the trails remapped,” Smith said. “My students and I have already started working on creating a new map of the trails to be posted at the entrance along with other historical information about the arboretum. We have also began removing rotted and un-safe look outs and benches.”

The rotted wood and debris from trees that is being removed will be part of a bonfire that the two student groups decided on for a student event.

“The arboretum provides forestry and conservation educational opportunities to not only the agriculture department, but also many other departments throughout the college,” said Smith. “Biology faculty Amy Rutledge takes her students to the arboretum to perform water quality testing and to discuss the different natural habitats within the arboretum. The annual Section 12 FFA forestry competition is also held there.”

“In general, I would like to see the arboretum used more by our students and our community for hikes, walking the dogs, education, graduation or family pictures, but mainly just a spot to get out into nature and clear your mind.”

Jim Sheff, math faculty and club advisor for SEA, agrees. “We’re not trying to save the world, but rather have our community appreciate the world around them enough to make better choices; small changes can have significant results.  Every person we introduce to the arboretum has a chance of becoming a better human, and even if only one person is reached, that creates the possibility to change in environmental awareness for generations. Also, trees are cool.”


Biology Students Get Up Close and Inside View of Wind Energy at Cardinal Point Wind

Spoon River College students in the BIO 140 class taught by Tom Vogel recently traveled to Cardinal Point Wind in Sciota to investigate the truth about wind energy. Joe Glaze of Capital Power answered students’ questions and gave then an inside view of the innerworkings of the generator. Students who wanted to climb to the top of the windmills were disappointed to learn that one must have weeks of rescue training before going up the ladder to the top.

One of the questions asked was whether any eagles had been killed by the windmills. Glaze answered no, not to their knowledge, but said bats can be a problem. “We shut down an hour before dusk and don’t turn back on until an hour after dawn so as not to interfere with bat migration.” It is estimated that these windmills will last 25 years.

Pictured l-r is Briley Roper, Tom Vogel, Bria Mitchell, Joe Glaze, Trustin Kimbrough, Teagen Perry, James Doyle, and Lily Powell. Present but pictured was Cassandra Whitford.

Spoon River College Literacy Program and District Libraries Celebrating Family Reading Night November 17

​The ​The Spoon River College Literacy Program is pleased to announce that the 31st Annual Family Reading Night will be celebrated on Thursday, November 17. is pleased to announce that the 31st Annual Family Reading Night will be celebrated on Thursday, November 17. Held in partnership with libraries and schools throughout the SRC district, the goal is to encourage families to take time to read together as a family. With help from a grant from Dollar General, Spoon River College will provide 25 free books to each library to hand out to attendees.

“Family reading promotes healthy brain development in children, and can improve their language and listening skills. It can also help create a strong parent-child bond and instill a lifelong love of reading,” said Cyndi Johnston, adult education coordinator at Spoon River College.

“Our libraries do a wonderful job of finding fun and supportive ways to support Family Reading Night, and we hope families will take advantage of these free events. Taking time to read together is a great habit to cultivate.”

The activities, locations and times of each library’s event are listed below.

Astoria: The Astoria Public Library will celebrate throughout the day on November 17. Families can stop in and pick up a Family Reading Kit filled with snacks, a book and bookmarks, family activities, and other surprises.

Canton: Parlin-Ingersoll Library will host Family Reading Night November 17 from 6-7 p.m. They will be reading the story “Lentil” and making DIY instruments.

Cuba: The Spoon River Library will offer games, prizes, treats, and story time on November 17 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. All ages are welcome.

Farmington: The Farmington Area Public Library is offering a week of family reading fun. From Monday, November 14 until Saturday, November 19, each child that participates will receive a packet with a bookmark to log reading progress, a small bag of “bookworms” (gummy worms), and a free book. Participants will then get their name entered into a drawing for a prize at the end of the week.

Havana: The Havana Public Library District will hold a Family Reading Night event on November 17 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Spoon River College Havana Center located at 324 E. Randolph Street. The theme is The Letter ‘P’ – Pajamas and Pancakes, and each child will receive a free book. There will also be guest readers, information booths, snacks, door prizes, and entertainment by the Mason Dixies.

Lewistown: The Lewistown Carnegie Library will hand out free books and craft kits on November 19 while supplies last.

Macomb: The Macomb Public Library will celebrate Family Reading Day on November 17 with free books and cookies.

Rushville: The Rushville Public Library will celebrate Family Read Night on Wednesday, November 16 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. with a fun craft, snacks, and a free book for each child.

For more information about the Literacy Project at Spoon River College, visit or call Cyndi Johnston at (309) 833-6038.

Iyanuoluwa “Abigail” Olalere Receives the September Student Shout-Out Award

Spoon River College student Iyanuoluwa “Abigail” Olalere was the recipient of the Student Shout-Out for September at Spoon River College and will receive a $100 Visa gift card. She was nominated by Laura Bandy (English faculty).

“Iyanuoluwa is a student in my ENG150/Intro to Poetry course and she is bright, engaged, ever curious and a talented writer—a dream student.  She embodies all five of the core values of SRC in how she interacts with her fellow students and the world, and in the area of caring, she really shines. Iyanuoluwa is deeply kind, wise, and empathetic, and makes the world a brighter place just by being in it.  I shout her out with admiration and gratitude—she is a wonderful human,” said Bandy.

Olalere, who is from Springfield, is a member of the Spoon River College women’s basketball team. She is passionate about sports, helping people, and is considering a healthcare career.

The Student Shout-Out is an initiative that encourages any faculty or employee to nominate a student who deserves a special shout-out, “The reason can be big or small, but the important thing is that we hear about the positive and helpful things our students are doing,” said Brandy Chasteen, TRIO advisor on the Canton Campus of Spoon River College.

One-Time Federal Student Loan Debt Relief Application Now Available

The application for the one-time federal student loan debt relief program being rolled out by President Biden is now available at, along with more information about the program. It takes approximately five minutes to complete and does not require a login.

“I encourage students who think they may be eligible to apply,” said Jo Branson, director of financial aid at Spoon River College. “The application is simple and quick to complete.”

Under the plan, eligible borrowers can receive $10,000 or $20,000 in debt relief depending on their income and whether they received a Pell Grant in college. According to the Education Department, borrowers who apply in October could see a portion of their debt forgiven as soon as November. Borrowers are being encouraged to file their forms by November 15 in order to see their balances reduced before the end of a freeze on payments that began during the pandemic and ends in January. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2023. For more information about the program, visit