INA, Ill. – Conant resident Vida Headrick was recently honored as the 2009 Rend Lake College Lifelong Learner of the Year.
Headrick has been a RLC student since 2001, earning college credit in classes like computer basics for seniors and participating in more than 31 non-credit courses through the Community Education department at RLC and its Institute of Lifelong Learning. As a recipient of the RLC Lifelong Learner of the Year Award, Headrick joins past recipients Ann Santoro, Buck Morris and Margot McAfoos, who went on to win the award at the state level.
RLC Board of Trustees Member, and past Chairman, Bill Simpson wrote a letter on behalf of the Board, recommending Headrick for the statewide award. In it, he stated, “Vida is a true ambassador of Rend Lake College. Her enthusiasm for lifelong learning encourages students of all ages.”
Headrick, 83, has shown support for the college in a number of ways throughout the years. She helps support the RLC Foundation, drives classmates to Community Education functions and volunteered to give a class tour of Cairo, Ill., since she is from that area.
In return, she has acquired some skills and memories through RLC courses. Some of those include computer know-how and writing skills she learned in a year-long journal writing class. She has also increased her knowledge of financial and estate planning, and explored the world through history courses and armchair tours.
Headrick’s world travels haven’t been by armchair alone. She and her husband, Bill, have been to England, London, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Venice, Rome, Paris, Canada and most of the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. Their Fall travel plans include a trip to New England.
Born Jan. 25, 1926, the granddaughter of German immigrants grew up on a farm in Olive Branch, Ill., near where her parents owned a little store. Her mother taught her household skills like sewing, cooking, preserving, baking bread and making apple butter. After a brief move to Patton, Mo., in 1944, Headrick returned with her family to Southern Illinois where they settled in Conant, a small town in Perry County. Their cottage on Conant Road was three miles from where her grandparents lived. She still lives in the cottage, as fate would have it.
“I had no intention of ever living here, but fate intervened with a big tornado in 1982,” she wrote. “We needed a place to go immediately – thus the move to the little cottage in Conant where we intended to stay temporarily. But life goes on and we never found another place we wanted to be ...”
After graduating from high school, Headrick moved to Granite City where she worked, married and raised a family. She took classes through Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and studied handwriting analysis with a school in Chicago. She has worked a variety of jobs, including office manager for a contractor during the early stages of construction at SIUE. She partnered with her son in establishing an automotive parts store in Nashville, Ill., where she handled all the accounting functions, cash management and employee administration. Her last job was managing a loan office she established for a bank. She installed systems, created office manuals and retired from the position not once, but twice.
Longtime friend James Davis writes, “She is highly intelligent, possesses a pleasant personality and her integrity is above reproach. Vida treats all individuals with kindness and respect. ... I have been especially impressed with her desire to always learn about new issues and topics. Many individuals who have reached Vida’s age lack the desire to continue their quest for knowledge. This is definitely not the case with Vida!”
“Lifelong Learning came along at a time when there were fewer opportunities for learning and keeping myself active and in contact with people,” Headrick stated. “To say that I appreciate Rend Lake College and Lifelong Learning is an understatement to what I feel. I wish all good things for the College and to those who make it possible.”
Headrick’s volunteer efforts have grown throughout the years. They include volunteering with her local Historical and Genealogical societies, the International Graphoanalysis Society, Literacy Volunteers of America, St. Elizabeth Hospital Volunteers Auxiliary, DuBois Center Auxiliary, Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, Hillsboro WV Volunteers, a Christian school for Navajo children, Pierre Menard Historical Site and the United Church of Christ.
She and Bill grow a big vegetable garden in Conant from which they share their produce with their community. It’s another example of something in Headrick’s life that was created through her unwavering curiosity and need to learn more, see more, and do more.
“Since the first time I saw the herb garden at the Henry Shaw House at the Missouri Botanical Garden, I began growing culinary herbs myself,” she wrote. “It is a pleasure to give a visitor a small herbal bouquet as they are leaving. The fragrance of the herbs are a pleasant reminder of the visit they have enjoyed.”