RLC President Mark Kern was one of 28 members to recently receive the Illinois Future Farmers of America’s highest honor for members of the organization. He was the only member from Southern Illinois to be honored.

Kern was awarded the Honorary State FFA Degree at the 78th Annual Illinois FFA Convention held June 13-15 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield. The three-day convention catered to more than 3,000 Illinois FFA members and guests. The award is the highest degree of honorary membership to be given by the state FFA Association and is presented annually to the parents of the state officer, agricultural education instructors and other individuals for distinguished service to the FFA and agricultural education.

In his opinion, the most outstanding thing taught by the FFA program is not the agriculture aspect, but the invaluable leadership training and tremendous public speaking opportunities, according to Kern.

“Leaders are something that are getting to be very scarce,” he said.

The list of 2006 recipients includes state lawmakers, business representatives, educational administrators and key players in agricultural organizations throughout the state. Each candidate for honorary state membership was nominated by either a local FFA chapter, an FFA officer or a staff member of the organization who felt that the nominee helped to advance agriculture education and the FFA.

Kern joined RLC as an Agriculture Instructor in 1968 after working as a teacher of agriculture at Wabash Community College. He was one of three individuals to start the agriculture program through RLC. Being offered at Bonnie Grade School, the beginning stages of agriculture education at RLC was a far cry from the state-of-the-art facilities now available through the Applied Science Center at the college.

He served as Chairman of the RLC Department of Agriculture, Auto and Architecture in 1970 - and for a year in 1990 - before being named President of the college in 1991.

The operator of a 698-acre farm near Ewing, Kern earned a Master’s Degree in 1968 from the University of Illinois Agriculture Economics graduate program. He has served with a variety of organizations, such as the Illinois Community College Agriculture Teachers, and has received numerous accommodations for his credit to agriculture education. Among those are the 2001 Statewide Commercial Producers Award, the Franklin County Soil Conservation Farmer of the Year and the Illinois Beef Association’s Commercial Cattle Producer of the Year.

“President Kern has been instrumental in establishing the agriculture program at Rend Lake College,” said Dr. Sarah Bond, Division Chair of Applied Science and Technology. “It has grown to be one of the largest in the region. It is because of dedicated individuals like him that agricultural education continues to grow and flourish.”

“I have always been a strong supporter of the ag program here at Rend Lake College,” Kern said.

Rend Lake College’s catchphrase - “Lifelong Learning”- goes well with the FFA’s motto - “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” RLC offers a number of courses related to agriculture. These include Agriculture, Ag Business, Ag Mechanics, Ag Production, Heavy Equipment Technology, Diesel Technology and Plant and Soil Science. The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

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