In October 1959, the citizens of Canton Union School District No. 66 passed a referendum to establish a community junior college. Canton Community College (CCC), the first public junior college organized in West-Central Illinois, was born.
And, after a conversation with members of district administration and members of the School Board, a young man named F. Lynn McPheeters became the first student to enroll.
It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship between a community college later renamed as Spoon River College (SRC) and its very first (1962) graduate, who ultimately rose through the ranks to become Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Caterpillar, Inc.
Now, that relationship continues with a pledge of $500,000 to the SRC Foundation to establish The McPheeters Family Scholarship, which will support SRC students entering career and technical education (CTE) programs which are ineligible for federal financial aid.
“Without SRC and SIU, I would have never been in a position to have the success I’ve had or to be able to make a gift like this,” said McPheeters. “Businesses need a skilled workforce more than ever, and there are great opportunities available to graduates of CTE programs. SRC is a great value for students seeking education, but many students still face financial barriers that keep them from attending. It is my hope that The McPheeters Family Scholarship endowment will allow those who need extra assistance to attend SRC and succeed in the workforce in their chosen field.”
The pledge represents the largest gift by an individual in the history of the SRC Foundation. When the endowment is fully funded, McPheeters’ generosity is expected to result in approximately $20,000 annually in scholarship assistance to the aforementioned group of students.
McPheeters had established the Francis G. and Dorothea B. McPheeters Scholarship in 2002 to honor his parents. At his request, the funds from this scholarship will be rolled into The McPheeters Family Scholarship to ensure that a limited number of scholarships can be offered each year until the pledge is fulfilled.
“Lynn has supported SRC from the beginning in countless ways, including through his generous financial gifts to the SRC Foundation,” said Colin Davis, Director of the SRC Foundation. “His journey from community college student to Chief Financial Officer of one of the most prestigious companies in the world is inspiring, and his generosity will mean the realization of hundreds of dreams. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with him on this project, and I’m excited about the impact it will have on our future students and communities.”
Programs covered by The McPheeters Family Scholarship include, but are not necessarily limited to: Ag Production, Commercial Driver Training, Computer & Network Technician, Emergency Medical Technician, Industrial Maintenance, Locomotive Mechanical, Machine Tool Operations, Nursing Assistant, Phlebotomy Technician, Pharmacy Technician, Preventive Maintenance, and Welding. SRC is constantly evaluating additional programs, and additional programs may be included in the future, based on aid eligibility and changes to program offerings.
“Goal #1 at SRC is student success. Short-term, hands-on learning programs are part of the workforce solution. These programs give students the opportunity to launch a career, receive a promotion, or earn more money. Oftentimes, finances prevent students from enrolling.” said Dr. Curt Oldfield, President of SRC. “Lynn McPheeters’ gift to support students in these programs will be transformational for them and we cannot thank Lynn and his family enough for this generous gift.”
A first-generation college student, upon graduating from CCC, McPheeters completed his baccalaureate studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale before starting his career with Caterpillar in 1964. The culmination of over 40 years of service to Caterpillar, Inc., McPheeters was promoted to Treasurer in 1996 and Vice President and CFO in 1998. He served in that role until his retirement in 2005. He was the 1989 recipient of the SRC Distinguished Alumni Award.
McPheeters has served on many non-profit and corporate boards and has been active in supporting organizations specializing in children’s health, education, and abuse-prevention, in addition to his alma maters of SIU and SRC.
“The best part about Lynn’s story is that of a homegrown, first-generation college student success story,” said Oldfield. “Well before he became the VP and CFO of Caterpillar, he took a leap of faith toward a brand-new community college. Lynn has always been part of the CCC/SRC legacy, and now we are honored to endow a part of Lynn’s legacy.”
The SRC Foundation anticipates that The McPheeters Family Scholarship will begin to be offered on a limited basis in the 2024-25 academic year. Additional information about the gift and scholarship availabilities will follow from src.edu.