INA, Ill. (May 3, 2016) – Rend Lake College Board members, faculty, staff, and retired employees gathered in the Theatre yesterday to celebrate and distinguish several individuals for an exceptional academic year.
At the annual Recognition Banquet, three retirees and a handful of current employees were honored for their service, as well as the awarding of the Full-Time Faculty Excellence Award, the Part-Time Faculty Excellence Award, three Outstanding Staff Awards, and the Assessment Award.
Retiree Lloyd Owens, Custodian
Owens, a resident of Ina, retired in December of 2015 after 13 years with RLC. He was hired full-time in August of 2002 and finished his career at RLC as an evening custodian at the MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon.
After seven years working on the Ina campus, Owens decided he wanted a change in scenery, and for the last five years of his career, he worked out of the MarketPlace, surrounded by individuals he misses six months later.
“I just miss the people. I liked it up at the MarketPlace, the people and everything. As far as the work goes, I’ve found plenty to do here [at home],” said Owens.
Randall Shively, Director of the Physical Plant, said of Owens, “He was always a good worker and very particular about his work. He was a very dependable employee who always had his work done at the end of the day. I wish everyone was as dependable as Lloyd.”
Retiree Randall Shively, Director of the Physical Plant
Shively, a resident of Wayne City, will retire at the end of June 2016, only a week shy of his 21st anniversary at Rend Lake College. Shively was hired on July 5, 1995 as the Director of the Physical Plant and is the longest-standing employee to hold the position, but his time at RLC started a decade and a half before.
The 1979 RLC graduate spent two years playing for the Warriors Baseball team and fondly recalls his time pitching, attending classes, and working as a student worker in the Physical Plant. The highlight would definitely be meeting his wife Randa in his freshman Art Appreciation course.
After marrying and transferring to Murray State University, Shively started a family and worked in a number of local industry jobs and was self-employed before his time at RLC. Among his biggest accomplishments in the Physical Plant was working on the Rec, then known as the Hitting Zone.
“We’ve done many additions and updates, and work on new buildings, but I remember being most excited about phase one and phase two of the Rec Center,” said Shively. Phase one of the Rec, the south side of the building, was completed in 2002, which was followed by phase two, the north end, in 2004. “I was a student who played baseball and there hadn’t been many important upgrades for athletics. It touched a special nerve to make those improvements to help all the players in the future.”
Though Shively has had his hands in a number of projects on campus – between 350 and 400 by his best recollection – he said the support from the rest of the college community and the Physical Plant department has always been an important aspect of his job.
“Every project we’ve done involves other staff members on campus. We’ve become more successful because of the support we have in the administration, faculty, staff, and the board. We have the help and guidance to get it done as quickly as possible. Very seldom is there only one person involved,” Shively said.
He continued, “We’ve got a lot of good people in this department, from the office staff to custodians and maintenance crew to all the full-time and part-timers in the Physical Plant. We have the support of everyone at the college and it’s always been that way. We’ve focused on building positive momentum to plan ahead and be ready to go when the start date comes along.”
Annually, the Physical Plant takes on and completes between 10 and 25 projects, depending on a number of factors. Shively says he can recall years of completing 30 projects, but says the average has been around 20 for the past few years.
“The goal is always to do things that help the student in one way or another. If it benefits the student, it will benefit us,” said Shively. “Not everyone gets to go back to the place where they graduated and make a difference. Not every job do you feel like you can give back and make things better. I’ve been fortunate to have both of those things. Rend Lake has been very good to me and my family.”
In his retirement, Shively said he plans to slow things down, and spend more time with his family and working at home. The Shivelys, married 37 years in April, have three children and two grandchildren with whom they hope to spend time. He said there will likely be trips to western Kentucky to visit with other friends and family in the area.
Shively was also honored with an Appreciation Award during the banquet from President Terry Wilkerson for his service to the college.
Retiree Andrea Witthoft, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness
Witthoft, a resident of Anna, will retire at the end of December 2016 just before her 18th anniversary at Rend Lake College. Witthoft recently celebrated 25 years in the Illinois Community College System, logging 16 years at RLC and nine at Shawnee Community College.
The vice president has had her hands in almost every aspect of community colleges, from student and graduate, to administrative assistant, instructor, distance learning and media technician, and administrator. Overall, she says, her biggest accomplishment over the years has been being able to adapt to the variety of roles she has filled and embraced and support the unique concerns and outlooks of the different departments.
“Being flexible enough to work with a wide variety of departments and projects,” said Witthoft when asked about her career accomplishments. “To me, it’s being flexible enough to have those responsibilities and digging in and learning about the different divisions. Helping the staff in those departments and divisions move forward and achieve their improvement goals and be more effective for the institution has been very important.
“Having started as a secretary and working my way up through the ranks, I appreciate the fact that communication and collaboration bring in ideas from those who aren’t always in the leadership positions,” she continued. “The reason I was able to do so was because someone gave me the opportunity to share and participate.”
Mostly, Witthoft said she will miss many of her coworkers and the daily interaction on campus.
“I will miss being able to provide input and get involved in projects. I get really excited about new grants and receiving funding to work on a unique project, so I will miss the development side of that,” said Witthoft.
In her retirement, Witthoft says she and her husband – and their great danes – have big plans to travel across the country.
“We enjoy taking long motorcycle trips, especially to Yellowstone and other national parks out west, but the long hours of riding in every kind of weather are getting harder to endure. “We hope to buy a toy hauler to haul the motorcycle and make it easier to take the longer trips.”
Witthoft received an Associate of Arts degree with honors from Shawnee Community College in 1994, a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1998, and a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois in 2003. She became the Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness at RLC in September of 2011.
Since the early 1990s, Witthoft has helped write, co-author, and manage numerous grants and contracts, both at SCC and eventually at RLC. After her transition to RLC as the Distance Learning and Media Technician in January of 1999, Witthoft continued her work to successfully aid the college in securing grants and contracts that have continued to help students to this day.
She worked on additional grants with the Higher Education Consortium Act and served as the coordinator for the Title III Strengthening Institutions grants at RLC. She also added other projects to her plate in the form of the Illinois State Library grants, Illinois Department of Corrections contracts, and Adult Education and Family Literacy grants. She was instrumental in the development of the Southern Illinois Telecommunications network and was a major contributor to RLC’s 2008 Higher Learning Commission self-study and accreditation process.
Witthoft was also honored with an Appreciation Award during the banquet from President Wilkerson for her service to the college.
Two Outstanding Faculty Award winners: Carpenter and Edwards
Two of Rend Lake College’s finest – Shari Carpenter and Chris Edwards – were honored for their outstanding work this academic year. Carpenter, the full-time Outstanding Faculty member, and Edwards, the part-time Outstanding Faculty member, were nominated by their peers for the end-of-the-year honors.
Carpenter, a resident of Sesser, splits her time as RLC’s Title III Instructional Designer and Computer Science Professor. She marked her 21st year with the college on March 6, though she’s served many different positions in those two decades. After being hired as an administrative assistant for the Non-Traditional Student Support Services Grant, a position that no longer exists, she moved to Title III as an administrative assistant.
One day, she said, there was a shortage of instructors to teach one-day computer workshops in Mt. Vernon. Ever the volunteer, Carpenter embarked on a teaching career that has spanned the better part of two decades. She was hired the next year to teach part-time and was hired full-time in 2000.
“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing that lightbulb in my students’ faces. I like to see students learn, that’s what my job is, and I want to help them with their goals in life,” she said. “If they’re learning, then I’ve done the job right.”
Currently, Carpenter teaches a number of computer classes, such as Intro to Computers and the Microsoft Office classes covering Excel, Access, and many others. She also splits her time teaching Instructional Methods and Strategies, and providing training for RLC faculty.
“My student is whoever is in my class, traditional student or faculty member. I love helping people learn, no matter the topic or level,” said Carpenter. “When I found out I won, I was so surprised and totally set back. I had no idea. It’s quite an honor to be nominated by your peers and it means a lot to me.”
Ricky Robinson, Computer Networking Professor, nominated Carpenter for the award in an effort to applaud her for everything she’s done for both students and faculty.
“The students are always in her office needing help, and she helps them anytime they come,” said Robinson. “Anytime we (the faculty) have problems with Blackboard, she’s the person we go to. If the reporting system is acting up, we visit Shari. She’s taken on multiple jobs and she’s doing great at each of them.”
This isn’t Carpenter’s first experience being honored by her coworkers. She won the Outstanding Office Support Staff Award in 2000 and the Assessment Award in 2011.
Edwards, a resident of Bonnie, has worked part-time at RLC since 2013, but he’s been involved in a number of programs and certificates in his short time. Initially involved in helping develop RLC’s curriculum for Illinois Concealed Carry courses, Edwards also sits on the Advisory Committee for the Information Technology and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) programs.
Most recently, he was involved in designing and developing the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program at the college, for which he also sits on the Advisory Committee. The program began with classes last Fall.
Edwards was informed of his nomination last month and joked he first thought he was in trouble, but much to his surprise, he was being honored with the Outstanding Part-Time Award.
“I was told to report to Mrs. Lori Ragland’s [Vice President of Career Technical Instruction] office immediately, and I thought I had done something wrong, but it turns out it was the opposite,” said Edwards. “My initial thought was ‘Wow,’ and then ‘Do they have the right person?’ It’s a huge honor and I am very grateful to be part of Rend Lake College.”
Edwards spends most of his time at RLC teaching the UAS program, and courses in Computer Forensics, Computer Hardware and Operating Systems, and Wireless Technologies. As a graduate of RLC with a degree in Information Technology, Edwards said it’s the change from sitting in front of a desk to behind it that is the most rewarding.
“The best part of the job to me is seeing a student have that moment where it all comes together,” said Edwards. “It is a great feeling to teach someone a skill set they can use, not only in the classroom, but sometimes apply to daily life. It is a huge honor to be part of the RLC family and I look forward to many more years of service.”
Chris Nielsen, Dean of Applied Science and Technology, said, if he could only use one word to describe Edwards, that word would be motivated.
“Since I’ve known him, Chris has been busy. He not only teaches part-time at Rend Lake, but runs his own business, goes to school full-time at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and finds time for his family,” said Nielsen. “Chris is one of the most personable people I know. Sometimes people in IT get labeled as geeks, but not Chris. Although he has very good technical knowledge and skills, he can carry on a conversation with anybody.”
Nielsen continued, “Chris was the one who came up with the idea for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. He presented the idea to the President’s Cabinet and, after being given approval to proceed, wrote the classes and the bulk of the documentation to get the program approved. He then developed the classroom materials and recruited the first class of students. If that’s not motivated, I don’t know what motivated is.”
Both Carpenter and Edwards have also been invited to attend the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) annual banquet in June for special recognition. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 2 through Saturday, June 4 at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre in Springfield. The 50th Anniversary Awards Banquet honoring the Outstanding Faculty winners will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, June 3.
Three Staff Excellence Awards honor Fitts, McKown, Murray
Three RLC staff members received the Staff Excellence Awards for their exceptional work ethic this year. They are Joy Fitts, Administrative Assistant for the Applied Science and Technology Division; Kent McKown, Network Specialist; and Ron Murray, Information Systems Specialist.
Fitts, an RLC staff member since October 2013 and resident of Mt. Vernon, was nominated by 19 faculty and staff members from the Applied Science and Technology Division.
In the nomination letter, these 19 individuals testified that Fitts works well with all faculty, staff, and students, and is always eager to assist with top-notch motivation, dedication, and trustworthiness.
“As administrative assistant to the largest instructional department on campus, Mrs. Fitts serves many roles and takes on each role with utmost professionalism. Not only does she fulfill the daily clerical and academic responsibilities for the division; one will also find her planning and organizing department and campus events, advising and providing support for students, assisting wherever needed, and basically being a problem-solver for the department. Not sure of something? Ask Joy,” the letter reads.
Award-winner McKown, an RLC veteran who was hired in February 2005, was nominated by two dozen faculty, staff, and administrators in the Information Technology (IT) department. The Herrin native is described as patient, helpful, and professional in his nomination letter.
“Kent is always willing to help other members of the IT staff complete a project or offer advice when needed, regardless of how many other projects he is working on. Kent maintains a professional attitude, even under the most stressful of conditions, and is able to think through the issues and determine a course of action that is the most expedient for the college. Kent works diligently to prevent hacks from outside sources and still manages to be patient with internal sources,” the letter reads.
Last, but certainly not least, is another excellent staff member from the IT department. Buckner’s Murray, an RLC staff member since December of 2008, was nominated by four faculty and staff in the IT department for his behind-the-scenes work keeping the college up and running, among many other notable accomplishments.
“Ron has earned the respect of his peers by his work ethic and his technical knowledge. Much of the work and service Ron provides will never be noticed. That’s because when there is a hard drive in the server that fails, he will receive an automated alert and initiate the vendor protocol. He is always monitoring the backup system to ensure that all RLC data is being properly saved and retained in the event that something should happen and data has to be restored. If something goes awry, he is quick to log in and find a remedy, or else he’s in his truck on the way to campus to fix the issue,” the letter reads.
Assessment Award praises Rob Little
A special, and not often awarded, honor was presented to RLC English Professor Rob Little at the banquet. The Assessment Award credits an individual who works tirelessly on any number of assessment policies and procedures for the college.
Little, of Centralia, was hired at RLC in August of 1993 and was nominated by Peggy Davis, English Literature Professor; and Rebecca Biggs, English Professor – alongside 16 other faculty, staff, and administration.
In the nomination letter, Little is applauded for his dedication to the college and his continued work on the Higher Learning Commission Committee for accreditation. Little served on the committee in 2008-09 and is already spearheading efforts for the 2018-19 HLC visit.
“Rob Little has proven that he plays an integral role in the ongoing process of assessment. He has always offered ideas to improve the college’s mission,” the letter reads. “Professor Little served as writer and proofreader of the final report (in 2008-09), as well as collected and analyzed data for the report. He is currently the HLC Coordinator… while still teaching classes. He is attending multiple meetings, assisting faculty, and is a team leader to others on the HLC Committee and in the Liberal Arts Division.”
The Academic Council was also honored with certificates of service to the following individuals: Elizabeth Bailey-Smith, Academic Council Chair and Speech Associate Professor; Rebecca Biggs, English Professor; Erica Blumenstock, Nursing Associate Professor; Nathan Brouwer, History Associate Professor; Cindy Caldwell, Mathematics Professor; Kathy Craig, Agriculture Associate Professor; Barb Hampton, Developmental Reading and English Associate Professor; Nicole Haney, Nursing Associate Professor; Melissa McClement-Engler, Art Associate Professor; Diane Metzger, Mathematics Professor; Jeannie Mitchell, Psychology Professor; Kay Shaw, Developmental Math Professor; Jennifer Tarantino-Linsin, Graphic Design Professor; and Kim Wilkerson, Dean of Allied Health.
A number of individuals celebrated milestone years at RLC with Service Awards, and they are pictured below.
Tina Grounds, Early Childhood Education Professor, was the recipient of the 25 Year Service Award during the banquet.