CARTERVILLE — When Harry L. Crisp of Marion looks at the progress John A. Logan College has made since its founding 50 years ago, he has to smile.
“The college is everything we hoped and prayed it would be,” Crisp told a crowd of current and former faculty, staff, administrators and guests gathered Friday evening to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary.
He said the success of JALC is due to the work of many great individuals, including Ray Hancock, who served as president from 1980 to 2000; Robert Mees, president from 2000 to 2012; and Robert Tarvin, president from 1974 to 1982.
“What has been accomplished by these individuals is to give the opportunity for others to improve their lives,” Crisp said. “John A. Logan has done what we hoped the college would do for our friends and neighbors.”
John A. Logan College was created by public mandate in 1967 under the authority of the Illinois Community College Act of 1965.
Crisp is the only surviving member of the college’s first board of trustees. Other members included: Clifford “Doc” Batteau of Elkville, Melvin Brush of Jacob, Roy Glenn of Carterville, Rannie L. Odum of West Frankfort, C.R. Walker of Marion and James C. Walker of Herrin.
Being on the original board was a great opportunity for a young man like me,” Crisp said. (He was 33 years old when he joined the JALC board.)
Crisp said the board made the right decisions for the right reasons, citing hiring Nathan Ivey as the first president and first employee of the college and William Anderson as academic dean as two examples of their decisions.
Ivey, who just celebrated his 90th birthday in September, addressed the crowd in a video prepared for the anniversary.
“It was for me a work of love,” Ivey said. “We were successful because the citizens of the college district wanted the college and supported it.”
The college first building was a storefront on Cherry Street in Herrin. The building’s interior was separated into office space for Ivey, Anderson and others. Anderson said the walls in the building were only six feet tall, so it felt like everyone could hear what you were doing. He joked that he was concerned because his boss (Ivey) was in the next office.
Anderson said Ivey was responsible for bringing him to John A. Logan College. Ivey was a finalist at five community colleges and was sure one of them would hire him. He asked Anderson to go with him as academic dean. Ivey was hired to lead JALC.
“They trusted Nate Ivey and a young guy from Michigan as academic dean,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s first desk was a card table. His first chair was borrowed from a funeral home.
The college opened to its charter class in fall 1968 with 238 students and eight full-time faculty members. Bill Gayer, who was in the audience at the dinner, was one of those eight faculty members. Anderson said the early classes met at Herrin High School, storefronts and churches.
“We all knew we were part of something special here,” Anderson said.
JALC acquired its permanent grounds in 1969. The campus is located in the geographic center of the college district. Offices and classrooms were housed in barracks-type buildings and inflatable buildings.
In those days, the community college was known as “Egyptian College.” Anderson, a historian and history professor, suggested the new college be named John A. Logan College after the Civil War general who was from Southern Illinois. He also recommended the nickname “Volunteers” for the athletic teams. The board agreed.
“There is a volunteer spirit in forming a new college,” Anderson said.
When Robert Tarvin was selected as president of JALC in 1974, he was only 28. Tarvin and his wife, Kentucky residents, stopped in West Frankfort during their first trip to Southern Illinois. He said they noticed that people here had the same accent as they did “down home.”
Tarvin said the tuition was $2.25 per credit hour. By 1982, the year Tarvin left, tuition was $10 per credit hour.
The college lost Ivey and Anderson and several charter board members, but the faculty was solid.
JALC had been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1972. In 1976, under Tarvin’s leadership, the college was accredited by North Central for 10 years.
They added programs and solidified others. They survived the energy crisis of 1978-1979. Conducted continuing education at 47 locations and created a new master plan in 1980. Of 87 referendums in in the state, Logan’s tax raise was one of only two that passed.
“We passed ours two to one. I was so proud of it because it said the people in the college district affirmed what we were doing,” Tarvin said.
Stacy Shafer of JALC Foundation reported that the foundation has $8.8 million in assets and awards more than $900,000 in scholarships last year. The foundation also sponsored the anniversary dinner.
Ron House, current president of John A. Logan College, said the college is one of the top 10 community colleges in Illinois and the nation. The campus includes 169 acres with 669,000 square feet of space in its buildings. Graduates of the college number 35,000.
William Kilquist, chairman of the board of trustees, said the evening was celebrating 50 years of friendships and opportunities, and called it a good night.
“Not only are we celebrating the past of John A. Logan College, but also the future,” Kilquist said. “The past gives us an idea of where we are and where we might go.”
John A. Logan College is located at 700 Logan College Road in Carterville. For more information, contact the college at 618-985-3741.