PINCKNEYVILLE, Ill. – For the first time, students in the Pinckneyville area can earn an entire degree from Rend Lake College right in their own backyard.
Leaders from the college and the Rend Lake College Foundation joined residents and students from the Pinckneyville area on Thursday to officially open the new $560,000 Robert J. Crawford Science Lab and RLCF Computer Study Center at the RLC Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus.
“It’s really an addition you should be proud of,” RLCF CEO Pat Kern said at the opening ceremony. Kern was the fund raising force behind the project, which was completely funded through donations and Foundation assets. “It’s designed very well and it may be one of the most attractive classrooms at Rend Lake College.”
While Kern spoke of interior design features like the exposed industrial elements, bright and neutral colors and dark counter tops; RLC President Charley D. Holstein complemented the way the exterior design fits seamlessly with the existing building, which opened in August of 2002. Since then, 3,996 students have enrolled in 17,356 credit hours at the MWPC, according to Holstein.
“Rend Lake College, in general, and this institution provides opportunity,” said Holstein. “... The students are definitely continuing to take advantage of those opportunities here at Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus. Right now we have 165 students that are enrolled in 1,118 credit hours and 36 of those ... are enrolled in our new science opportunities here.”
One of those students is 2011 Pinckneyville Community High School graduate Paige Brocaille. The 18-year-old valedictorian and Illinois State Scholar completed half of an associate degree while in still in high school, thanks to the dual credit program at RLC. She is now attending the MWPC on a RLC High Achievers Scholarship.
“As a small town community we are very lucky to have a facility to take college classes so close to home and during high school,” Brocaille said at the ceremony. “There are many high schools that don’t have the opportunities that my fellow classmates and I have had. I would like to personally thank the Rend Lake College Foundation and the community of Pinckneyville for making this process easier and possible for me and other students in our community. If it was not for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The 1,786 square-feet addition built by Unterbrink Construction Company was completed in time for the start of the fall semester at RLC, despite weather conditions causing some difficulty. It features the science classroom and study lab, as well as an outdoor study area, storage room and space for a future greenhouse, according to blueprints.
The project started in February of 2010 when retired Pinckneyville physician Dr. Gene Stotlar challenged his fellow members on the Foundation Board of Directors at his final meeting with them. He challenged them to do more with the satellite campus by making it possible for students to complete all the required classes toward a baccalaureate-transferring associate degree from RLC.
But with the uncertain status of state funding for higher education, the college was not in a position financially to make funds available for a brick and mortar campaign.
“The members of this community saw the need, stood up, organized, and went out and made it happen,” Holstein said.
On March 30, a ceremony was held to break ground and recognize the generosity of those who contributed to the project. Lead gifts came from Peabody Coal (Platinum Level of $100,000-$249,999), Dr. Stotlar and wife Ramona (Gold Level of $50,000-$99,999), and Bill Crawford, the Engelhardt Family Foundation and Murphy-Wall State Bank (Silver Level of $25,000-$49,999).
Bronze-Level contributors ($10,000-$24,999) include David and Nancy Bigham, David and Deborah Crawford, Phyllis E. Crawford, Virginia Mason, Dr. Bill and Mary Roe, and Janet Schwartz. Emerald-Level contributors ($5,000-$9,999) are Thomas A. Denton Jr., Rick and Cindy Luke, Mary Pericolosi, Perry County Market Place, Kevin Pyatt, Chad and Cheri Rushing, Seibert and Bigham, Roger Seibert, T.D.S. Services Inc. - Tina Short, Stotlar Drug Company Inc., and Bonnie Tolbert. Sapphire-Level givers ($1,000-$2,499) are Heather Bauersachs, Jack Davis, Roger and Linda Denton, Peg Doughty, Salle Hasse, Paul and Christina Kuberski, Robert Marlow, McDaniel Metals Inc., Perry Pointe Development LLC, Pinckneyville Hardware Inc., Gayl Pyatt, Virginia Richart, Eunice Ritter, Dean Smith, Walgreens Distribution, and James A. Wittenauer. Additional contributors include Marty and Susan Davis, Clayton Emling, Wilma Guy, Dr. Wayne Hawkins, Tom Hudgins, Larry J. Pfau, Shamrock Real Estate, the State Farm Foundation, and Joann Templeton.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Bill Crawford received special recognition for his contributions and dedication to the MWPC. He and his family procured naming of the science lab in memoriam of his late brother, Robert “Joe” Crawford.
Stotlar introduced his longtime friend at the ceremony.
“[Bill Crawford] and his family have supported our community, helping to make Pinckneyville a place to call home,” Stotlar said. “There’s no doubt the Crawford family has been a pillar of strength in the support of Pinckneyville.”
“I don’t know what to say,” said Crawford. “I didn’t do as much, really, as what the rest of them did. I’m very proud of Rend Lake letting us participate with them on this project. We’ve got a real nice school for the students to enjoy. ... I just want to say thank you to all you people that helped and all the people of Pinckneyville. You did a very good job.”