June 8, 2017

CARTERVILLE — Dr. Nathan Ivey was 40 years old when he was hired as president of a yet unnamed community college in Southern Illinois.

That was 50 years ago. The College would be called John A. Logan College.

He had a make shift office set up in Motel Marion where he was staying and where most of the College’s first administrative hires were made.

Included in those hires were the first deans — later called vice-presidents — of the College. They included Bill Anderson, dean of instruction; Harold O’Neil, dean of students; and Earl Milton, dean of business services.

Offering advice to the new president was Dr. Jack Hill, a well-known Williamson County educator, helping Ivey as a volunteer, but who would later become a College vice-president and continue to play a major role in the College’s development.

Ivey had arrived in Williamson County after serving as the first president of Southwestern Michigan College, located near the border of Indiana.

There was initially no connection between Ivey and the charter members elected to the board of a community college district being formed within the counties of Williamson, Franklin, Jackson, and Perry counties. Community colleges were new to Illinois and, locally, the board of trustees had major decisions to make just to lay a simple foundation.

The board’s first decision was hiring a president. It set out on a national search using a newspaper advertisement that had been created.

That ad caught the eye of Ivey.

“It was perfectly written,” said Ivey, who still has the ad. “What it basically said was the board and president must mutually respect each other and honor the responsibilities of one another. I had never seen an ad like that and it is what attracted me to this position.”

Members of the College’s charter board included: Clifford Batteau, Melvin Brush, Harry L. Crisp, Roy Glenn, Rannie Odum, C.R. Walker, and James Walker.

“The greatest hire we made was unquestionably the hire of Dr. Nathan Ivey as president,” Crisp has said. 

Ivey worked hand-in-hand with a board of trustees that, the charter president said, was already working in sync to establish a strong foundation for the College.

“I was so impressed with the charter board of trustees,” Ivey said. “Everything they did was for the good of the College. There was never any personal agendas or axes to grind for themselves. They were a delight to work for.”

At age 90, Ivey named every member of the charter board from memory.

Once he had created an administrative team, Ivey, under the board’s direction, set out to establish a number of other important aspects of the College, including purchasing land on which to build and coming up with a name.

All sorts of names were being bounced around at the time, including Little Egypt Community College and Crab Orchard Community College. Anderson, a historian, offered the idea of naming the College after a Civil War general from Southern Illinois, John A. Logan.

That suggestion gained resounding support from the board, except for one board member, Ivey said. “I won’t mention that board member’s name, but he soon got on board and naming the College John A. Logan College was a unanimous choice,” he said. “That name stuck and it has proven to be a good, strong name for the College.”

Another big step was choosing where to locate the College’s permanent campus. Before a permanent location was chosen, classes were being held mostly in Herrin in storefronts and church facilities. The board set out to find property in what would be considered the College district’s center both geographically and by population. “The location in Carterville was as close as we could make it to both of those. Geographically, I think we were two miles south and a little bit to the east.”

Next, there was hiring full-time faculty, building permanent buildings, and acquiring accreditation.

“Every decision was crucial,” Ivey said. “Every decision was going to have a long-lasting effect on the future of the College.”

Ivey said he also developed a strong relationship with the president of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Dr. Delyte Morris, which was beneficial to the founding of the College.

“There were some people in Southern Illinois who just didn’t understand why another college was being created,” Ivey said. “The community college was not designed to compete with the university, but to benefit and compliment the university as it has done now for so long.”

Ivey worked at John A. Logan College for the next five years, but his career continued until he was 86 years old. At 90, he is now retired in Texas.

Looking back, Ivey says, “John A. Logan College had some excellent leadership, a strong board, and some of the best faculty and staff I’ve ever known. It’s an institution that we can all be proud of and I am very, very proud to tell people that I once had a contribution to make there.”

Said Ivey, “Of all the places that I have worked, there’s no college district that had any more people who were any more proud of their college than the folks there in the John A. Logan College district. My time there truly was the best years of my career.”

In all, Ivey served as president at four community colleges. His last job was serving as the community college liaison for the University of Texas at Dallas.

He currently resides in Dallas with his wife, Dorothy. The couple has three children, Judith, Sara, and James.

Ivey attended an event when the College celebrated its 40th anniversary and, he said, he fully intends to attend a celebration for its 50th.