SPRINGFIELD – Recently retired Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern received the Illinois Mining Institute’s inaugural Special Leadership Award during the organization’s 116th Annual Meeting in Springfield.
The award was created for leadership in a specific area that has a major impact on mineral industries. The impact Kern is being recognized by the IMI for is the 20,000 square-feet Coal Mining Training Center currently in the early stages of construction on the college’s main campus in Ina.
He served as President of RLC for 17 years before retiring in July. As of July, he was the longest-serving employee in the history of the Illinois community college system with 40 years, only one of which was spent at another college.
The RLC Mining Technology program boomed in the 1970s and into the early ‘80s. A quarter of the college’s faculty was dedicated to miner training and the program marshalled a 97 percent job-placement rate for its graduates. During this time, he was promoted from Agriculture, Auto and Architecture Department Chairman to Dean of Instruction. On Sept. 3, 1991, he became RLC’s fifth, full-time President.
He is largely responsible for the revitalization of the college’s miner training program – an intended by-product of the reported resurgence in the Illinois coal mining industry. Close to the conclusion of his presidency at RLC, Kern and colleagues aligned a competitive grant proposal with emerging industry needs and the college’s ability to train highly-skilled workers. That proposal went before the U.S. Department of Labor and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
In late March, the college learned it’s proposal was one of only 69 chosen from among 341 competitive grant applications for funding from the President’s Community-Based Jobs Training grant initiative administered by the USDL. He accepted the $1,622,155 for equipping a facility, staffing, raising awareness and the training of hundreds of production coal miners, welders and electricians.
Less than two weeks later, he accepted a check to the college for $1.07 million from the Illinois DCEO to construct a new coal mining training center just north of the Mark S. Kern Applied Science Center on campus. He had already retired when RLC officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in August.
The IMI is a 116-year-old, industry-run organization which promotes mineral industries in Illinois. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has been its home for the last 10 years.
IMI Secretary Y. Paul Chugh told the Saluki Times the institute’s purpose is threefold: advance the mining industry by encouraging and promoting investigations of mining problems; encourage education in practical and scientific mining; and disseminate mining-related information and utilize resources that benefit its members.
Sudden illness kept Kern from attending the IMI’s meeting to accept his award. He said he is honored to have been chosen for the award. He has since fully recovered and said he earnestly regrets not being able to make it and wishes he could have, but he was just too sick to go.