INA, Ill. – There were gag awards like “Wildcatter of the Year” and “Mr. Landslide,” “Golden Wrench” and “20 Words or Less.” There was even a John Deere hat and cloak. And while the 2010 Rend Lake College Agriculture Banquet was light-hearted for the most part, it was very clear that the future of these students weighed heavy on the minds of those handing out the honors.
This was the 34th Annual banquet for the agriculture department at RLC. Applied Science and Technology Division Chair Terry Wilkerson – the recipient of the John Deere gifted attire – spoke to the students, family members and college officials in attendance about how the banquet started with Bob Brown back in 1976. Wilkerson, in his keynote speech, said Brown – a worker with the local chemical company BASF, which was a longtime partner of the college back then – wanted to give back to RLC by sponsoring a banquet for the agriculture program. Some key individuals from the college who laid a foundation for future banquets and supported its vitality throughout the years include Carrol Turner, Lavelle Swink, Doug Leeck, retired RLC President Mark Kern, Terry Clark, Dave Scott, Kent Sickmeyer, Maurice Kirsch and Wilkerson. Thirty-four years later, the sponsorship has been picked up by Syngenta, a world-leading agribusiness committed to sustainable agriculture for the future through innovative research and new technology.
At each banquet, the Outstanding Agricultural Student of the Year is the crescendo of many awards presented throughout the evening. The first recipient was Vince Mitchell in 1977. Wilkerson was co-recipient with Jason Newell in 1992 and Sickmeyer won it in 1980. RLC’s 2008 Alumnus of the Year, Randy Rubenacker of Hamilton County, received the award in 1978. This year it is John McKinney, a 20-year-old agriculture production major from Enfield.
“It’s an honor,” McKinney said. “Without all the people I’ve met and the fun I’ve had ... without my friends, my college experience would not have been what it has been.”
“We hope all our graduates know they can come back and count on us to help them,” Wilkerson said. “We are very proud and very blessed to have spent time with them. We’ve got a good group and we are proud of them.”
Other Outstanding Students of the Year for 2010 include Ryan Murray of Eldorado for horticulture, Todd Kellerman of Pinckneyville for agricultural business, Justin Williams of McLeansboro for agricultural production, Aaron Scheibe of Valmeyer for agricultural mechanics, Mitchell Colyer of Fairfield and Chris Gallo of Dix for heavy equipment technology, and Clint Robinson of Tamaroa for diesel technology. Syngenta representatives Barry Beaupre and Scott Cully were honored with the Doug Leeck Memorial Service Award and Agri-Achiever awards were given to McKinney, Scheibe, Williams, Josh Bell of Swansea, Todd Carpenter of Sesser, Nicole Rhein of Belleville, Jason Waier of McLeansboro, Danielle and Delilah White of Springerton, and Samantha York of McLeansboro.
Their instructors are Kathy Craig, Mark Mueller and Maurice Kirsch in agriculture; Mike Burris in agriculture and diesel technology; Jeff Collins, James Lovelady and Zack Vahlkamp in heavy equipment technology; and Sarah Lee in horticulture.
For more about the agriculture program at RLC, visit the college online atwww.rlc.edu/aca/as or call 618-437-5321, Ext. 1261.