Brewer Retirement

Don Brewer, shown Tuesday at John A. Logan College in Carterville, is retiring after more than 40 years at JALC.

Richard Sitler, The Southern

Two John A. Logan members of the Board of Trustees stepped down Tuesday. Don Brewer and Jaclyn Hancock were honored in a brief ceremony at the start of Tuesday’s Board Meeting.

Each were given a plaque commemorating their years of service. Brewer's was decorated with a photo of Brewer shaking hands with President Gerald Ford during his visit to the campus in March 6, 1976. Brewer retired after 44 years.

Becky Borgsmiller and Mandy Little, who were elected in the consolidated election on April 4, joined the board Tuesday. William J. Killquist was elected to follow Brewer as the new chairman of the board.

In a farewell speech, Brewer spoke about the tumultuous circumstances surrounding the last several years at the college in what amounted to a farewell state-of-the-college address.

Brewer shared with those present that while most people did not know it, he had his start as the chief negotiator for the Illinois Education Association.

“Yes. I am a Union Member, a fact which always surprises people,” he said. "As a matter of fact, I am a life member of the National Education Association. However, when you win the election, which is a wonderful feeling, and you want to get in there and help people, you soon realize that there is a lot of responsibility to a lot of different people or organizations.”

Brewer said that in addition to the IEA, John A. Logan has several unions on campus that need as much support, and encouraged the new board members to take this into consideration.

Brewer also addressed the dire predictions that were made during the recent faculty cuts.

“We went from being called the jewel of Southern Illinois to a campus where the board and the administration didn’t know if they would be able to keep the doors open,” he said.

At the time, he said, it was said that JALC would be unable to find part-time teachers to fill the open positions, that the cuts would hurt enrollment, and that trustees had handpicked some of the faculty to be cut based on the fact that they had been critics of the board.

“I think it important,” Brewer said, “to point out that it’s been said that we had a bad guy list — that some of the faculty were earmarked (for termination). The Board of Trustees was never involved in the selection of those who were going to lose their jobs. We were advised as to the process that was being used, which was based on longevity, seniority and the ability to teach certain classes. The riff list was compiled by the administration based on need, experience and the legality of the process as determined by council.”

Brewer also stressed that the board was given the opportunity to review the list of projected dismissals, but that five of the seven trustees did not want to see the list.

“We did not want to be influenced in case people we knew were on it,” he said.

Brewer said things are better lately. He said of the 55 people left unemployed by the recent cuts, unofficially between 12 and 15 remain unemployed.

“Hopefully when the representatives in Springfield get their act together every one of them will be re-employed,” he said.

He also said the enrollment at JALC remained consistent “quite to the contrary of the predictions.” According to Brewer, every community college in the state had a decrease in enrollment, but JALC had the second lowest decrease in the state. Additionally, unlike the predictions, JALC has filled all its part-time teaching vacancies this year, he said.

The percentage of hours generated by part-time teachers in the past semesters is on par with what it had been for the past several years, Brewer said.

“At present about 43 percent of our credit hours are being generated by part-time instructors — that puts us somewhere in the middle of other colleges who rely on between 25 and 75 percent of part time staff to generate their credit hours.” Brewer said.

Brewer also said that good news could be expected later in the summer as he suspects the college to receive a favorable review from the Higher Education Commission, which recently completed a campus-wide review.

Brewer cited how much the college has meant to him and his family, sharing that his wife, son, and daughter all completed their associate degrees at the college, and that his granddaughter is currently enrolled there. He said he would be remiss if he did not express the great love and regard that he has for the institution, and offered in closing that “before long we will once again be known as the crown jewel of Southern Illinois.”

618-351-5074

barb.eidlin@thesouthern.com

On Twitter: @barbeidlin

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