INA – Rend Lake College has named Randy Rubenacker its 27th Alumnus of the Year.
Rubenacker is the co-owner and manager of Rubenacker Farms Partnership in Dahlgren and 4R Equipment, a McLeansboro farm equipment dealership which dates back to 1987. He will be joined by family, friends and colleagues when he accepts the award during the RLC Foundation’s Annual Dinner, Dec. 4, at the Mt. Vernon Holiday Inn.
He said RLC Foundation CEO Pat Kern called him with the news.
“She told me and I said, ‘I don’t really know how I would qualify for that, but if you are asking me if I would accept it, the answer is yes.’
“It is quite an honor,” he added. “I’ve been to several of the annual dinners and you see who usually gets it ... it is a pretty impressive crowd. It is an honor and a humbling experience. I really appreciate the consideration.”
It’s not the first award he has received for his success at RLC. As a sophomore in 1978, the 20-year-old, soon-to-be graduate was the second student in RLC history to receive the college’s Outstanding Agriculture Student of the Year Award. His training in the field began long before his education at RLC. Around 8 years old, the son of Jody and the late Richard Rubenacker was working side-by-side with his father, who later became Prairie Farmer Magazine’s 1983 Master Farmer of the Year.
“I give a lot of credit to my father and mother,” Randy Rubenacker said. “They were very proud of Rend Lake College and all that it does for the area, and they made sure that we all used it. They had a lot of influence on what success my brothers and I have had.”
Following the sudden death of Richard Rubenacker in 2005, Randy Rubenacker joined the RLCF Board of Directors as his father’s successor and the Foundation Board has benefitted from his business expertise and community leadership ever since.
“The Rubenackers are an example of the full circle of giving,” said Kern. “The circle began with the family business, 4R Equipment, offering scholarships and his father, Richard Rubenacker, serving on the RLCF board. Randy attended and graduated from RLC and joined the Agriculture Advisory Board. He followed in his father’s footsteps serving on the RLCF board and continuing to give to the student scholarships and helping with Agriculture research at RLC.”
Randy said one of the proudest things his parents ever did was to receive a RLCF Major Gift Award after presenting a grant to the Foundation.
“We all went to school there and he saw what I see, that many of our employees are graduates from there. Rend Lake College is a really great resource for the area.”
Rubenacker Farms is a row crop farm operation of 11,000 production acres that has been operating since 1987. He serves as President of Prairie Tile Systems, Inc., a farm drainage installation corporation in existence since 2001, and Rubenacker Farms, Inc., an over-the-road and grain trucking corporation formed in 2000.
“We are a true family business that gives a lot of credit to Rend Lake graduates,” Randy said. “We have some of the best people come from Rend Lake College.”
Rubenacker and his wife, Debbie, live in Dahlgren. She is a RLC graduate and each of their three children either have or will have taken classes there. The youngest, Robert, plans to study agricultural production at RLC after he graduates high school in 2010. Their daughter, Rachel, took some classes at RLC before moving on to her current studies at the University of Southern Indiana where she is in her junior year. The oldest, Rick, took classes at RLC before enrolling at the University of Illinois where he graduated with honors from the agricultural engineering program. He moved back home after graduating and has since made the transition into a management position for 4R Equipment.
“I look up to him a lot, just like he looked up to his dad,” Rick said of Randy. “Seeing what they have done, I model a lot of what I do after them. I guess I must be watching one of the right people.”
Randy’s mother- and father-in-law, Victor and Betty Rapp, were conferred honorary degrees by the college after all eight of their children graduated from Rend Lake.
In 2005, Randy Rubenacker became President of 4R Equipment and filled his father’s vacant seat on the Board of Directors for Peoples National Bank. He is a former member of the RLC Agriculture Advisory Council; current member of the Hamilton County Board since 1997, serving as its Vice Chair from 2000-2006; and has been the Haw Creek Drainage District Commissioner since 1996. He was Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District Director for 14 years, from 1983-1997; Southeastern Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commissioner from 1997-2006; served on the State Fair Advisory Board in 2003; and was Hamilton County Economic Development Commissioner from 1984-87.
As if all of the above weren’t enough, he also flies airplanes. Rubenacker has been a pilot for 12 years and became a Licensed Instrument Airplane Pilot in 2003.
He said he feels like he is accepting the Alumnus of the Year Award on behalf of his business partners and brothers, Rodney and Terry. Randy is three years older than Rodney and seven years older than Terry, who followed in big brother’s footsteps when he was named RLC “Outstanding Ag Student of the Year” in 1985.
“We all went to Rend Lake College, got our degrees in Ag Production and started farming,” Randy said. “I think we are a good team.”
For years, Rubenacker Farms has relied on RLC to provide the family business with qualified employees. Many of the approximately 40 employees there are Rend Lake College graduates and some were ag students of the year like Terry and Randy Rubenacker. One of those past employees is Terry Wilkerson, current Interim Chair of the Applied Science and Technology Division at RLC. Now a professor of agriculture, Wilkerson completed his internship at Rubenacker Farms and went on to become ag student of the year in 1992.
“I am proud of that,” Randy said. “We are a fairly large employer and I think that it’s nice to have RLC graduates working here. A lot of the credit for any type of award needs to go back to the people who work for you. My family has been successful because of the people we have surrounded ourselves with.
“The college has always been a good resource for us whenever we have needed to hire new employees for the farm or the dealership,” Rubenacker said.
Thinking back on his days in Ina, Rubenacker talked about “impressive” instructors who taught him practical lessons he still uses to this day. He mentioned Lavelle Swink, Carrol Turner, Terry Clark, Doug Leeck, Dave Scott, Barbara Luchsinger and retired RLC President Mark Kern.
He explained how his father was ahead of his time as a student at Wayne City High School.
“My father graduated high school in 1952, so he would have started in 1948. He told a story a number of times how, at that time, he was farming and was kind of ridiculed by his peers. They said to him, ‘Why would you want to go to high school if you are going to farm?’ But he went to high school and participated in FFA. He was adamant about education. He wanted us to understand our trade.
“As a senior in high school in 1976 – at that time, Rend Lake was fairly new and the ag program was new – I remember thinking, ‘Man that is pretty cool. You can go to college and learn how to farm.’ That was all I ever really wanted to do.”