The donation might not seem that unusual for an institution that has made a name for itself in the field of agriculture, but it might seem a bit out of character for those who admired the benefactor.
As a climax to Thursday evening’s Rend Lake College Foundation Annual Dinner, it was announced that Rend Lake College had inherited the 246-acre farm of Dr. Barbara Luchsinger, who educated students and made friends for Mt. Vernon Community College and Rend Lake College for almost 50 years. Dr. Luchsinger died November 17, 2005 at age 75.
The grain farm near Dix has been managed by Dr. Luchsinger for many years since the death of her parents. All five of her siblings died in various stages of infancy.
The farm was an escape for a respected English professor who played a major role in shaping reading and writing courses for two colleges. She no doubt taught every literature course Rend Lake College ever offered, from British Literature – Beowulf to 1799 to American Literature and from Mythology to Modern Literature and The Short Story.
Dr. Luchsinger joined the faculty of Mt. Vernon Community College in 1956, its second year of existence, and remained a charter member of the Rend Lake College instructional staff. She retired as a full-time English professor in June 1999 but continued to teach part-time through 2004-05.
In addition to playing a major role in the establishment of the college’s writing and reading programs, Dr. Luchsinger served as sponsor of the student newspaper and advisor for the Rho Xi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national community college scholastic honor fraternity.
She was a patron for many years of a literary magazine published by the Arts and Communications Dept. and was active in later years with the RLC Foundation, working with and presenting special classes for the Institute for Learning in Retirement.
Dr. Luchsinger was the sixth recipient of the “Faculty Excellence Award“ as presented by the RLC Foundation in 1985 and was recognized on numerous occasions by other groups on campus.
The RLC Human Services Club selected Dr. Luchsinger as 1996 “Humanitarian of the Year.”
According to club sponsor Sue Tomlin, “The students felt she was deserving of this honor because she goes beyond the normal expectations of the teacher role and cares about students as ‘whole’ people. Students appreciate the fact she is eager to help any student who comes to her seeking advice – academic or otherwise.
“She even took time (recently) to call an ailing student at home to wish her well . . . an act the student found quite touching.”
Dr. Tomlin told the RLC Times student newspaper, “There are not many instructors who take such a personal interest in their students. This is why the students felt she deserved the award . . . for her overall caring attitude toward her students.”
Dr. Luchsinger carried the plaque with her for awhile following its presentation to her, she told student writer Darla Eubanks.
The article noted: “She is proud of the award . . . because she is glad the students appreciate her efforts to make them feel comfortable and know she genuinely cares about their well-being.
“‘The tribute said I was receiving the award because I took the time for
my students,’ said Luchsinger. ‘Not only time to help them with assignments, but personal concerns as well.
”‘I believe this is the most important thing we (teachers) can do. It’s part of our job. If you don’t care about people, you shouldn’t be here.’”
In 1992, Dr. Luchsinger was one of five original faculty members saluted during 25th Anniversary celebrations at Rend Lake College, along with English colleague Georgine Hawley, Secretarial Science Instructor Gela Goin, Allied Health Instructor/Department Chair Shirley McHaney and Health Education Instructor/Coach/Athletic Director Jim Waugh.
A Rend Lake College news release at the time acknowledged, “Twenty-five years represents only a portion of the time Dr. Luchsinger has spent helping
educate residents of Southern Illinois residents.
“In reality, she comes close to having helped start two different colleges. She arrived at Mt. Vernon Community College the second year of its existence and, except for time off for good behavior (to pursue a doctorate degree from the University of Iowa), has been a mainstay ever since.”
Dr. Luchsinger continued to give of herself even after death, choosing to donate parts of her body to science.
A memorial service in her honor was held November 21 at Osborn Funeral Home in her hometown of Dix, IL.
Contributions in memory of Dr. Luchsinger may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Rend Lake College Foundation for a scholarship to be established in her discipline.