Cynthia Whitfield of Mt. Vernon was the second recipient of the Dr. Evelyn Claxton Award at the 1988 Rend Lake College Student Art Show. She is pictured above with Claxton (LEFT) and former RLC Foundation Director Ken Miller. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
Dr. Evelyn Claxton received the 2005 Outstanding Instructor Award from the statewide Lifelong Learning and Service Coalition. She is pictured above at the ceremony with RLC Community and Corporate Education Director Lori Ragland (LEFT) and RLC Foundation Chief Executive Officer Pat Kern (RIGHT). CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – The memory of one of Rend Lake College’s finest friends and former educators, Dr. Evelyn Claxton, weighs on the minds of staff, faculty and administrators as the campus learned Wednesday of her passing.
Claxton died peacefully, reports state, with her family by her side Wednesday morning in Clayton, Mo. She was 87. Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at Parker-Reedy Funeral Home in West Frankfort. The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Monday, June 20, at the funeral home. Her family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Dr. Evelyn Claxton Memorial Fund through the Rend Lake College Foundation.
Claxton graduated from Michigan’s Hazel Park High School in 1942 and continued to pursue education. She graduated with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Michigan in 1945 and 1946. She then taught at various institutions, including a women’s college in Missouri, a Methodist-affiliated college in Kansas City and at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich. In 1970, she graduated from Kansas University with her doctorate in English.
That was the same year she started her career at Rend Lake as an instructor of English and journalism. It was the first year classes were held at the college’s current site in Ina, Ill. Nine years later she became the Arts and Communications Department Chair and retired from that position in 1983. She continued to teach into retirement, as one of the college’s instructors in the Institute for Learning in Retirement, now known as the Institute of Lifelong Learning. She helped create the ILR. One of her favorite classes to teach was a comparative religions course that studied the Bible.
An eager adult learner herself, Claxton had the knack of not just giving the tools to her students, but instilling in them a desire to use them. In 2005 she received the Illinois “Outstanding Instructor Award” by the statewide Lifelong Learning and Service Coalition. Her students Evertt Atkinson, Vida Headrick and Wilma Guy were inspired by Claxton’s journal writing class to write their life story. In 2008, Atkinson presented her with the first copy of “Early Memories of Evertt D. Atkinson: A Collection of Life Experiences.”
In addition to volunteer teaching with the ILR, Claxton continued to support RLC through financial contributions for the Liberal Arts Division, such as a RLCF Major Gift to renovate the theater in 2007, equipment purchases over the years, and most notably, an endowed scholarship for the RLC Art Show. The first Claxton Award winner was at the 1987 student art show. Alma Lohrum of Mt. Vernon won for her watercolor titled “Workshop.”
RLC Foundation CEO Pat Kern said Claxton’s was the first endowment gift to arts and communications at RLC.
“To be able to inspire and teach like she did was one thing that made her a truly amazing person,” Kern said. “And not only did she give the gift of teaching, but she gave financially and was a big supporter of the arts at Rend Lake College.”
2010 RLC Alumnus of the Year Judge Mike D. McHaney mentioned Claxton in his acceptance speech. “She just had a way of motivating you to reach your potential. She was instrumental,” he said.
Wayne Arnold, a longtime employee of the college, was an instructor in the health and physical education department while Claxton was at RLC.
“She was one of those teachers and individuals who people never forget,” Arnold said. “She was so caring and interested in not only what they did in her class, but what they did after Rend Lake College.”
In recent years, the college became Claxton’s social calendar, Kern said. She was a mainstay at concerts, plays, the Foundation’s Distinguished Women’s Luncheons, and the RLCF Scholarship Dinner.
“Later in life, we were able to give her some joy.”
More about the life of Dr. Evelyn Claxton can be found by going online to www.bentoneveningnews.com and searching her name.