50 Influencers: Sam Mateer, Generations of Excellence

INA, Ill. (March 12, 2017) - There is no better example of the adage “putting your money where your mouth is” than when Sam Mateer was tasked with the most ambitious capital campaign in the history of Rend Lake College and the RLC Foundation.

The “Generations of Excellence” was a tall task, but the former President and Chairman of the Board for Bank of Illinois in Mt. Vernon and former Chairman of the Mt. Vernon Economic Development Commission was up to the task, kicking off his part of the campaign by having Bank of Illinois put up $100,000. It wasn’t long before others started following suit.

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“To have someone of Sam’s stature to head our efforts is exciting, to say the least,” former RLC President Mark S. Kern said when he announced Mateer’s appointment. “I can’t think of anyone better at getting things done than Sam Mateer. His willingness to step forward and lend his support means a great deal to the ultimate success of our efforts.”

Kern was right. Success quickly followed in Mateers wake. He was one of the driving forces behind fundraising which brought the college from $120,000 in endowed funds and $70,000 in cash assets to an announced total of $1,788,000 in donations and pledges in just two years.

By stepping forward with one of the first major contributions, coupled with his ability to inspire others to do likewise, Mateer is credited as being one of the major reasons why Rend Lake College officials:

• Received $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Education in a matching, 2-for-1 “Endowment Challenge Grant” after the college had raised $250,000 cash-in-hand, thanks largely to major contributions from Continental A.G., General Tire, Inc. and GTY Tire Company; Jimmy Fulks and Mariah Boats, Inc., of Benton; Bank of Illinois; Farrar Oil Company, and Peoples National Bank of Mt. Vernon and McLeansboro.

• Within a couple of months of his acceptance, announced at the Annual Dinner, contributions totaling $1.25 million in gifts and pledges already had been received toward a five-year, $3-$4 million fundraising effort.

• Pledged $400,000 toward the RLC Aquatics Center.

Kern called Mateer a “shrewd, hard-nosed business man” who long ago discovered a secret. “What benefits Mt. Vernon benefits him. What benefits Rend Lake College benefits Mt. Vernon. Rend Lake College cannot say enough about the leadership Sam Mateer.”

Mateer, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, served in combat as a platoon leader from 1966-67. He received two Bronze Star medals, a Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Silver Star.

A business graduate from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he has been with the Bank of Illinois since 1976. RLC’s capital campaign volunteer leader is a past member of the Governor‘s Small Business Advisory Council and one of the founders of the Mt. Vernon Downtown Development Corporation.

He also has served as a member of the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Vernon Convention and Visitors Bureau, having served previously as President of the former and on the Board of the latter. He was named Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce “Man of the Year” in 1989.

Mateer also continued a family legacy of impacting both RLC and the Foundation. His father, Coyn Mateer, along with Marjorie Farrar, was a driving force behind the development of the Rend Lake College Foundation Children’s Center, a staple facility on the Ina campus.

Coyn put $100,000 towards the construction of the facility to ensure students and workers had a top-of-the-line facility to educate the youngest members of the community.

The elder Mateer was recognized by the RLCF with an honorary memorial scholarship endowment. At his passing, a local newspaper editor described Coyn as “a man who succeeded in the face of the Great Depression to become a patriarch of the community.” In addition to his $100,000 donation to the children’s center, it came to light that Coyn made several other large, anonymous gifts to the Foundation to further the educational goals of RLC students.

Sam carried on the legacy well. Kern honored the younger Mateer for his particular contributions by presenting him with a “Presidential Award” at the RLC Foundation Annual Dinner in 1997. At the time, he was only the sixth person to receive the honor.

“I believe very much in Rend Lake College,” Mateer said at the time he accepted the plea to become campaign chair. “It is an opportunity for many of our students to be able to go to college.” He emphasized the college’s value to the region in its efforts to attract industry to Southern Illinois.

Mateer was asked to join the RLCF Board of Directors in 1999 and was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Dennis McEnaney on the RLC Board of Trustees, but opted not to run when an election was held to fill the remainder of the unexpired term in 2001.

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