The 10th Rend Lake College Foundation Annual Dinner in 1989 was notable for any number of reasons:
• Dr. Carl Lincoln Schweinfurth, who had been an original member of the board since its revitalization, was one of three retiring directors recognized.
• One of five newly elected members introduced that evening was Mildred Fitzgerrell, who would prove to be one of the RLC Foundation’s most active participants and ardent supporters until her death earlier this year.
• The president of the not-for-profit Foundation was Jim Hinman. Jon Astroth was in his first of two years as president of the college, and Bob Carlock was RLCF executive director.
• Donors Robert and Rose Rice were honored for their $8,000 endowment contribution to guarantee a perpetual annual scholarship to assist Rend Lake College students. It was the only endowed scholarship announced to a crowd of nearly 225 at the Rend Lake Golf Course facility.
Sixteen years later, the former owners of Rice Produce Company continue to demonstrate their generosity and the Rend Lake College Foundation once again took advantage of an Annual Dinner to show its appreciation.
The Benton couple earlier this year added $2,000 to its endowment to guarantee their scholarship funding would be sufficient to keep up with the rising cost of a college education, inflation and recent declines in interest rates.
In between, another donation from the Rices helped Benton resident Russell Jay, the elected student representative to the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees, fund a study-abroad opportunity in England with the RLC International Travel Club.
Robert and Rose Rice were rewarded Thursday evening before an audience of approximately 325 at the Mt. Vernon Holiday Inn with a Bronze Major Gift Award presented by RLC Foundation Chief Executive Officer Pat Mitchell.
The usually inseparable duo was not together to receive the bronze seal, however. An ailing Rose Rice was not able to join her quiet, unassuming husband for the award ceremony. Robert Rice instead was joined by a quality substitute, their daughter, Eleanor Glenn, and son-in-law Nealy Glenn of Mt. Vernon.
Bronze Major Gift Awards are given for donations between $10,000 and $25,000.
Their initial contribution, Mitchell noted, “came at a time when tuition was $23 per credit hour (compared to $62 today) and an $8,000 donation toward a student scholarship endowment could mean a return that would provide a full tuition scholarship.
“Robert and Rose Rice were successful business owners who chose to give back to the community through the establishment of an annual Rend Lake College student scholarship . . . This year they added another $2,000 to their scholarship endowment so it would provide a larger scholarship amount for the recipient.”
Added the Foundation CEO, emphasizing the theme of the annual dinner, “Robert and Rose Rice definitely are leaving a legacy” that will help Rend Lake College students for years to come.
Current freshman Joshua Potts is the 11th student from the Benton area to benefit from the Robert and Rose Rice Scholarship Award. Four of those students were two-year recipients.
Other recipients have been David Lingle, the first in 1991, April Minor, Angela Meyer, Chris Roberts, Russell Jay, Shannon Dawson, Andy Tate, Jina Han, William Galloway and Aaron Lewis.
One final look at the changing times, circa 1989 to 2005 . . .
Then, 38 students were attending classes thanks to $38,000 in scholarship contributions from individuals and area businesses through the RLC Foundation. The RLCF added a total of $25,000 to its endowment account; there were first-year pledges of $10,000 from faculty and staff through the payroll deduction option, and 150 participants helped net $7,300 for the RLC Foundation Golf Tournament.
Now, 350 students are attending classes thanks to approximately $350,000 in scholarship contributions from individuals and area businesses/organizations through the RLC Foundation.