CARTERVILLE — His first desk was a card table and his first office chair was borrowed from a funeral home.
But Dr. Bill Anderson — one of John A. Logan College’s first administrators — quickly brought life to the college by hiring faculty and staff who laid a strong foundation, a foundation that has held the college now for 50 years.
Bill Gayer, who had been a counselor at Zeigler-Royalton High School, was one of several hires made by Anderson. Gayer, now retired from the college, was in attendance at the school’s 50th anniversary celebration Friday, Nov. 3, hearing speeches from Anderson, Dr. Bob Tarvin, Logan’s third president, and Harry L. Crisp II, the only surviving member of the college’s charter board of trustees.
Anderson spoke of JALC’s “humble beginnings,” noting that business offices were originally set up in an abandoned hardware store in Herrin where his office desk was a card table and he borrowed an office chair from a funeral home.
Before that, Dr. Nathan Ivey, the college’s first president, set up an office in Motel Marion where Anderson was interviewed before being hired.
“Think about it,” Anderson said, “this college started from nothing.”
Today, Logan — with its state-of-the-art facilities — includes 667,000 square feet of buildings located on 169 acres along Illinois 13 in Carterville between Marion and Carbondale. The institution also has extension centers in West Frankfort and Du Quoin.
What the college had in its infancy is strong leadership, just as it does today, Anderson noted. The college’s charter board included Crisp, a 31-year-old Marion businessman who had served in the Marine Corps. Crisp and other board members focused on their first and most important hire, the hiring of a president.
During a national search, Ivey, a 40-year-old educator, offered his resume. He was then working in Michigan.
“Dr. Ivey was the most important hire ever made at this college,” said Crisp. “His abilities and work ethic cannot be overstated. He was exactly what this college needed to get its start.”
Ivey’s first hire was a secretary, Ruth Scott. His second hire was Anderson.
While Anderson spoke in person during the 50th celebration, Ivey, who now lives in Texas, emailed a video that was played for the crowd’s enjoyment. More than 325 persons attended the dinner.
“Nathan Ivey could get things done,” Anderson said. Ivey, now 90, and his wife, Dorothy, who is 95, made incredible commitments by leaving Michigan and coming to Southern Illinois, he explained.
“The Iveys are incredible people,” Anderson said. “They came to Southern Illinois to build a college from nothing and what an amazing job they did.”
But the job was done with mostly local people who applied to be instructors and support personnel and worked “as closely as a family” to build Logan from the ground up.
“Bill Gayer was a great teacher as were so many others we hired then,” Anderson said. “Because of this, the college grew quickly.”
At age 28, Tarvin would become JALC’s third president. Anderson was in charge of the interviews for president then and believed in Tarvin’s vision.
Tarvin, who served from 1974 to 1982, was hired just as the United States was ending the war in Vietnam, Watergate had rocked the nation, and inflation was booming.
“A lot of difficult things were happening in the nation at that time,” Tarvin said. “It was a difficult economic time for the state and nation and that also affected the college.”
Working at Logan at the time of Tarvin was Dr. Ray Hancock, who would later become the college’s fifth president. Tarvin and Hancock attended a conference on college planning and both leaders believed the college district needed to pass a funding referendum.
In fact, most college districts in Illinois tried to pass funding referendums at that time. Only two passed, John A. Logan College’s was one of them.
“The passage of the referendum reaffirmed to me that the voters believed in us; they believed in the mission of John A. Logan College and what it meant to the district,” Tarvin said. “It was a major accomplishment that I am still proud of today.”
Dr. Ron House, Logan’s current president, had the honor of putting together the 50th celebration. He invited Anderson, Tarvin, and Crisp to speak. House opened the celebration with a welcome and introduction of Bill Kilquist, the college’s current board chairman.
“Part of what we are doing here tonight is celebrating 50 years of friends and acquaintances,” Kilquist said.
Nathan Arnett, associate dean for academic affairs at John A. Logan College, sang the National Anthem, which was followed with rousing applause from the crowd.
Carl Cottingham, a former dean for learning resources, offered the invocation before dinner.
In his prayer, Cottingham noted that John A. Logan College is a “very good thing.”
During the dinner, the crowd watched a video about the college titled, “Celebrating 50 Years of Opportunity.”
Following the video, House introduced special guests, which included Bob Butler, longtime mayor of Marion; Mike Monaghan, who represents the Illinois Community College Trustees Association in Springfield; legislators Terri Bryant and Dave Severin, along with Carlo Montemagno and Brad Colwell from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
In the video sent by Ivey, Ivey praised the JALC’s current leadership for the work they are doing and said they should celebrate.
“It was my honor to work as the college’s charter president,” Ivey said. “It was for me, a work of love. It was successful because the citizens of the district really wanted the college and supported it. This college will always be close to my heart and my prayers.”
In his speech, Crisp said the charter board “made the right decisions for the right reasons.” One of those decisions was to hire Ivey.
It was noted that there was no job that Ivey wouldn’t tackle. Even when the first desks arrived for students, Ivey put on his overalls and went to work assembling the desks and delivering them to classes.
Most of all, however, Crisp said, Logan’s success was generated by “the support of the taxpayers of the college district.” That support, he said, has been overwhelming since the beginning.
Following the speeches, Staci Shafer, executive director of the JALC Foundation, which funded the dinner, praised Foundation directors, including Terance Henry, the Foundation’s president, for their leadership, noting that the organization has grown considerably from $3 million to more than $8 million over the past 10 years.
In turn, the Foundation is able to provide more than 600 scholarships annually.
Shafer then played a video titled, “Giving Opportunity,” which highlighted the lives of a few people who have benefited from scholarships at John A. Logan College and found success because of it.
Earlier in the evening, House introduced Emalene Wilcox, a 92-year-old Herrin resident, who wrote a two-page hand-written letter to the college, explaining how John A. Logan College played a central role in her life.
In his closing remarks, House pointed out that Logan has celebrated its 35,000th graduate and thousands of stories of incredible success due to the laying of an unshakable foundation constructed by its early leaders and cared for so deeply by other leaders and employees throughout the past 50 years.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring John A. Logan College for 50 years of success. In the resolution, the 100th General Assembly said state leaders hold the college in high esteem for its mission and work to educate and give direction to so many over the past five decades.
Elaine Melby, a respected Carterville businesswoman and member of the Foundation board, offered the benediction.
“Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to celebrate what is good and what is positive for the people in our region.”