December 20, 2017

CARTERVILLE — If 2017 proved anything, it’s that John A. Logan College continues to produce graduates who have an impact on lives throughout the nation — and the world.

For instance, look at the potential impact Europe Doan, a 2015 graduate of John A. Logan College, can have not only on the nation, but the world. Doan is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she is using her education to seek a cure for cancer.

“My wonderful math and chemistry instructors at John A. Logan College gave me the confidence to major in biochemistry, a field I had previously considered to be very tough and very scary,” Doan said.

Doan pointed to Logan instructors such as James Elliott, instructor of chemistry; Jennifer Jeter, associate professor of mathematics; Donna Ford, associate professor of life science/biology; Kathirave Giritharan, (now retired) associate professor of mathematics; Richard LaSalle, instructor of biology; and Robert McKenzie, instructor of chemistry, for giving her the most inspiration.

“These passionate and kind teachers really motivated me to pursue science as a career,” Doan said. “There is a vast belief that one shouldn’t major in science because it is ‘too hard,’” Doan explained. “I am fortunate that my teachers at JALC convinced me that, while science may be challenging at times, excellence is achievable if you’re motivated and passionate about it, and I’m thankful that these teachers instilled scientific curiosity and passion in me.”

What Doan is achieving in the scientific research world, David Lee Murphy, a 1981 graduate of John A. Logan College, continues to do in the area of music and song. Murphy — a famous name in Nashville where he has written songs for a number of country music stars — teamed this year with country music sensation Kenny Chesney to release new song titled “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” which is taking the country music world by storm.

Murphy does not shy away from saying that John A. Logan College helped build a strong foundation for his longtime success.

Another John A. Logan College graduate who made headlines in 2017 was Jarrod Echols. Echols, a 2008 graduate of John A. Logan College, is one of the nation’s foremost experts on cybersecurity working for the Executive Office of the President in Washington, D.C.

Echols is a member of the White House Information Technology Team, identifying and combating threats to the Executive Office of the President network.

Echols discussed how his life’s journey took him from rural Southern Illinois to one of the biggest stages in the world, Washington, D.C.

“I had amazing instructors who came from the career field with real world experiences,” Echols said. “This made their lectures much more intriguing.”

Echols especially pointed to the instruction of Professor Mark Rogers.

“Mark Rogers stood out the most, especially since his focus was network security,” Echols said. “He always went into amazing detail on how to secure the network based on his own experiences outside the classroom. The classes included a lab, which allowed me to practice hands-on with the equipment and software.”

Later in the year, Echols left his White House post to go to work for one of the nation’s foremost private cybersecurity corporations.

“I feel that Jarrod should be an example to all the students here at John A. Logan, not just the students in the cybersecurity program,” Rogers said. “With hard work, you can end up anywhere you want. What Jarrod is doing for national security is amazing. He is working everyday to keep everyone safe from cyber attacks from around the world. He should be very proud of where he is in life.”

The success of students demonstrated for the past 50 years through John A. Logan College is one of the major reasons for the success the Foundation has seen, including, in 2017, obtaining the largest single donation in school history: $1.5 million from James and Rosemary “Dee” Childress.

The Carterville couple — who wed during World War II, saw tremendous success in business, and lived to see their 71st anniversary.

The couple left the money behind to benefit students through scholarship opportunities. Their attorney, Robert Howerton, delivered the money in the form of a check to the College.

“What a difference this couple is making,” said Staci Shafer, executive director of the John A. Logan College Foundation. “Their enormous generosity will impact so many lives for a very, very long time. I’m overwhelmed by their generosity and the difference they will make in the lives of others with this contribution.”

Howerton said he was proud to be able to deliver the check. He also said the money couldn’t have come from two finer people.

“This is a couple who knew what it was like to start out with nothing, high school sweethearts who married during the war, they worked hard and were very successful,” Howerton said. “I am simply fulfilling their instructions by making this contribution, and I am very pleased to do so. These are people young people could look up to and model their lives after.”

Here’s is a look back on some other newsworthy highlights at John A. Logan College:

A great deal of positive news came out of the January meeting of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees.

— “It’s going great.” Jean Ellen Boyd, retired dean of Instruction at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, was introduced to the board by Melanie Pecord, acting vice-president for Instructional Services, as a consultant for the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC) current accreditation process. The HLC is currently considering the College’s reaffirmation of its accreditation. Pecord was asked how the effort was going. “It’s going great because we have Jean Ellen,” Pecord smiled, noting that Boyd’s past experience with the HLC process provides a great deal of knowledge in making progress with the effort.

— Foundation increases in value. The John A. Logan College Foundation saw an increase in value over the past year of a little over $300,000, according to Foundation officials. This allows the College to help more students with financial needs.

Dr. Glenn Poshard, a member of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees, spoke out against the state’s budget stalemate Tuesday night during the trustees’ February meeting.

“I’m sick of it,” said Poshard, who has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as an Illinois State Senator, and as president of Southern Illinois University. “Everyone I speak to is sick of this. It’s not just an educational issue any longer, it’s an economic issue and threatens the economy of our entire region.”

Said Poshard, “What’s going on in Springfield (failure to pass a budget) is absolutely undermining not only education, but the economy.”

Poshard spoke out as the state’s failure to pass a budget continues to cause John A. Logan College and other educational institutions in the area to make drastic cutbacks. Those cutbacks, as Poshard explained, not only hurt those institutions, but every facet of the economy.

“Springfield needs to sit down and iron this out,” Poshard said. “The economy of Southern Illinois is threatened by two or three people in Springfield and that’s just wrong.”

John A. Logan College’s recruitment efforts are resulting in major increases in the enrollment of in-district high school students, currently eight percent greater than even 10 years ago when the College put together its largest recruitment effort in its 40-year history.

During the College’s 40th anniversary, a recruitment push called “40 at 40” was initiated. The hopes of the campaign was to attract 40 percent of the College’s in-district high school graduates to enroll at the College during the College’s 40th year of operation.

“That was a major, all-out push,” noted JALC Board Chairman Don Brewer. “It was a very successful effort at the time, but the numbers today are even greater.”

Melanie Pecord, JALC’s acting vice-president for Instruction, announced last night that 48 percent of in-district high school graduates enrolled at John A. Logan College last year.

“We are very proud of our recruitment efforts,” Pecord said, “but we are not about to let up. We strongly believe that we can increase those numbers even more by continuing to tell graduates and their parents about the College’s successes and how we are able to deliver a very high quality education at an affordable cost.”

In April, the College will open its doors and roll out the red carpet, so to speak, to in-district high school graduates who will be visiting the campus. The students will get a complete look at the campus and have “every question they have answered,” Pecord said.

John A. Logan College head basketball coach Kyle Smithpeters was honored for achieving his 100th victory as coach.

William “Bill” Kilquist is the new chair of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees.

Kilquist, a resident of Murphysboro, is well-known in Jackson County for serving six terms as sheriff (1982-2003). He was first elected to the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees in 2005 and served until 2010 before resigning. He then ran again and was re-elected in 2013.

Kilquist was placed at the board’s helm Tuesday night by his peers after the board reorganized following the district-wide board election earlier this month. Those elected April 4 were Becky Borgsmiller, Mandy Little, and Glenn Poshard.

Along with Kilquist being chosen as chair, Cheryl Graff was selected as vice chair, and Jacob “Jake” Rendleman, secretary.

Kilquist replaces Don Brewer, who retired from the board Tuesday night after more than 40 years of service. Brewer had been the board’s chair for the past two years. Brewer gave an emotional speech looking back on the past four decades saying that he has a “great regard and love” for John A. Logan College.

Brewer also noted that the past year serving on the board has been the most difficult due to the state’s inability to pass a budget and the financial strain that has caused Logan and other colleges throughout the state.

He explained that the layoffs that resulted because of the state’s financial crisis caused he and other board members “sleepless nights.

“I hope the College never has to go through this again,” Brewer said.

Along with Brewer, board member Jackie Hancock also exited the board after she also chose not to run for re-election.

The state’s budget mess may have John A. Logan College in a position with one hand tied behind its back, but, despite that handicap, College personnel have accomplished incredible tasks in keeping it moving forward, Dr. Ron House pointed out Tuesday night.

House, president of John A. Logan College, spoke during the College’s May Board of Trustees meeting. He took time to express that while there are plenty of negatives associated with the state’s failure to pass a budget — something that has plagued the state since July 1, 2015 — there are also plenty of positives due to the efforts of faculty and staff.

“The commitment and dedication we have from so many great faculty and staff here at John A. Logan College is something I believe we must highlight,” House said. “The budget situation puts us — and every other community college — in a very bad position, but somehow our folks have stepped up and accomplished many, many good things.”

Some of those accomplishments include:

— Regaining full recognition by the Illinois Community College Board.

— Receiving designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education (only one other college in the state of Illinois has received this.)

— The College’s heating and air conditioning program, under the direction of Jason Stutes, was selected as one of the top 20 programs in the nation.

— The College’s online nursing program — under the direction of Marilyn Falaster — was selected as one of the top 20 online programs in the nation (John A. Logan College was the only community college in the state to be selected in this category.)

— The College’s Dual Credit Program received accreditation from the National Alliance on Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. (only one other community college in the state has received this accreditation.)

— The College’s athletic department — led by Greg Starrick — received a grant for $437,000 from the Harrison-Bruce Foundation for the upgrading of athletic fields. This is the largest grant ever received by the College’s athletic department.

The College’s Phi Theta Kappa Chapter — led by Adrienne Barkley — was selected as one of the top 100 chapters in the nation. (There are 1,300 chapters in the nation.)

— The College anticipates a favorable report from the Higher Learning Commission, culminating hundreds and hundreds of hours from all departments at the College.

— Tom Ferris — who has coached golf at John A. Logan College for the past 20 years — was recently inducted into the NJCAA Coaches Hall of Fame.

— The women’s softball team — led by head coach Taylor Orsburn — made College history with the most wins in a season, 46. This was Orsburn’s first season as head coach and her team was made up primarily of players from Southern Illinois.

— The men’s baseball team — led by head coach Kyle Surprenant — ended the season 40-13, including defeating the number one team in the nation.

— The women’s volleyball team — led by head coach Bill Burnside — announced that one of his players has signed to play Division 1 volleyball at Southeast Missouri State University. The player, Annie Wehrheim came to Logan from tiny Woodlawn High School. It’s the first time a player from Woodlawn has made it to Division 1.

— The John A. Logan College men’s and women’s basketball team both had winning seasons with head coach Kyle Smithpeters racking up his 113th win in only five seasons.

— Led by accounting instructor Lora Hines, the John A. Logan College accounting team won first-place at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s 19th Annual Accounting Challenge. Logan’s team was made up of five students, Emily Kerrens of Murphysboro, Niven Trefftzs of Nashville, Katie Sandusky of Benton, McKenzie Mohring of West Frankfort, and Judith George of West Frankfort.

— The College’s Cyber Defense Team — led by Mark Rogers — defeated teams including the University of Illinois when it was the only community college in the nation to be invited to a major cyber defense competition in Chicago.

“All of these are a result of hard work,” House said. “Even during hard times, the College is moving forward.”

Sometimes there are more questions than answers.

Such is the case with the future of Illinois as the state approaches entering its third year without a budget.

It’s something that no other state has gone through so there is no history lesson to look back on to learn what to prepare for. “It’s a giant question mark, about as big of a question mark as anyone could make right now,” says retired JALC associate professor of finance David England, the College’s only two-time Faculty of the Year recipient. “We are in a surreal situation that no one has ever experienced before.”

Because of the question mark factor, it’s no wonder that the state’s budget and financial stress caused to Logan — and other institutions that rely on state funding — continues to be topic of concern each month when the College’s board of trustees meet.

A glowing 93-page report by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) indicates that John A. Logan College has met all the criteria needed for reaffirmation of accreditation, College officials noted during Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

“Everything in the HLC report speaks of academic excellence at the College,” said Glenn Poshard, a member of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees. “I read the report completely and this was an exceptional report. Everyone should be congratulated. That is a fine, fine report.”

Melanie Pecord, acting vice-president for instructional and student services, led a team of college personnel who contributed to the HLC’s months-long process leading to its final report.

“I’m very happy to bring this report to you,” Pecord said.

The College must go through the process every 10 years.

John A. Logan College is mourning the loss of two former Faculty of the Year Award recipients.

Gary Kent, the 1985 Faculty of the Year Award recipient, and Helen Nall, the 1988 award recipient, both passed away this month. Members of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees recognized their contributions to the College at Tuesday’s meeting.

Kent was a speech instructor and Nall taught history.

Nall was an original faculty member of John A. Logan College. She retired in 1994.

Kent retired from John A. Logan College in 2001 after 33 years as an instructor.

“Helen Nall was competent in teaching many different fields,” said Dr. Ray Hancock, a member of the board of trustees. “She was one of the first employees at the College. Gary Kent was pretty much responsible for speech and theatre and he built one of the best programs in the country. He was a gentle giant who knew how to speak and get things done.”

Barbara James, a retired English instructor who was also a Faculty of the Year Award recipient in 1996, brought the sad news to the board’s attention just after the board meeting began.

A story that went viral on the John A. Logan College Facebook page received more attention last night during the College’s board of trustees meeting.

The story was about three-year-old Blakleigh Camden of Murphysboro who is battling cancer. She made a wish early this month hoping that she could be the bat girl for the John A. Logan College softball team.

Head softball coach Taylor Orsburn was moved by the request and immediately made room on the team for Blakleigh. Last Friday, Blakleigh — who had just completed a chemo treatment — served as bat girl for the Lady Vols.

There were tears and cheers throughout the game.

A story about Blakleigh’s wish, posted on the John A. Logan College Facebook page, was read by nearly 50,000 persons and shared by readers hundreds of times.

While the state’s financial outlook continues to be gray, John A. Logan College — thanks to strong money management — passed a recent audit with flying colors.

“The audit, conducted by one of the most respected auditing firms in the nation, found no material deficiencies whatsoever,” announced Dr. Glenn Poshard, a member of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees who serves on the College’s budget and finance committee.

Poshard read from several pages of the audit conducted by RSM US LLP. “I’ve taken some time here tonight to read through this audit because I think it is very important for everyone to understand how great of a job our business office is doing,” Poshard said. “These are difficult times statewide, but we have a (financial) team here at John A. Logan College who I would like to commend. This is an impressive audit, to say the least.”

It’s an annual decision that directly affects every household and business in the College district.

The decision? How much to levy in taxes.

Behind strong financial management and leadership over the past year, the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees Tuesday night voted for no tax levy rate increase at all.

A decision that might surprise some, especially after the College weathered an unprecedented two-year state budget impasse that left many publicly-funded institutions reeling financially.

Putting the state’s financial shortcoming completely on the backs of local taxpayers didn’t seem to be an option to Glenn Poshard and Cheryl Graff — members of the College’s board of trustees who serve on the College’s budget and finance committee — so they joined with Brad McCormick, the College’s chief financial officer, to find ways to keep taxpayers from carrying the burden.

“Striking the balance between keeping taxes low and still providing enough resources to produce a quality education is not an easy balance to find,” McCormick explained, “especially on the heels of a two-year budget impasse which ended not more than five months ago.”

But intense meetings led to “smart (financial) planning,” McCormick said. Plans the board of trustees acted on which led a decision not to burden home and business owners with more taxes.