Rend Lake College mourns loss of original board member, Dr. Allen Y. Baker

INA, Ill. — His name is adorned on the Administration Building at Rend Lake College, but his legacy lives throughout institutions across Illinois as “the man who has done more for community colleges of the state than any other.”

Those were the words of Shawnee Community College President Dr. Loren Klaus in 1979 in a letter recognizing the efforts of RLC board member Dr. Allen Y. Baker. At that ceremony in 1979, Dr. Baker was the first person in RLC history to have a building named after him. His contributions to Rend Lake College and community colleges across the state were immeasurable in the 1960s and 70s. Baker passed away March 13 in Florida. He was 98 years old.

Baker is a part of RLC’s story from the very beginning. He was elected to the first ever RLC Board in 1966. In March 1969, Baker and six fellow board members stood in a cornfield and broke ground on what would become RLC’s Ina campus. He would serve on the Board of Trustees until he decided not to run for re-election in 1979 and he was Board Chairman from 1970-1974.

“Dr. Baker created a great legacy at Rend Lake College that is evident on our campus today and will be well into the future. We respect and appreciate the impact Dr. Baker had on Rend Lake College and the Illinois community college system,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson.

Baker’s fingerprints are all over the formation and development of Rend Lake College. He served on the Steering and Executive Committees for Perry County and played a significant role in making Pinckneyville part of the RLC district. He was involved in site selection and hiring of RLC’s first President. He helped select an architect and passed a bond issuance for $1.3 million to construct the original campus. And he helped develop RLC’s Master Plan, guiding RLC to be the first community college in the state to complete a Master Plan.

But his contributions to community college infrastructure did not end in Southern Illinois. In 1965, Illinois passed the Public Community College Act and leaders around the state stepped up to guide and enact this new comprehensive plan. Allen served as RLC’s representative to the Illinois Community College Trustees Association since its founding and served two terms as the ICCTA Chairman. It was with the ICCTA where Baker fought successfully to establish equalization funding, which allows areas with lower assessed values to receive fair funding and keep community college costs low for students around the state. While Baker was president of the ICCTA, all 39 community colleges in Illinois joined the organization. The ICCTA named Baker a lifetime Honorary Member.

Baker also served on the Illinois Community College Advisory Committee on Community College Finance, the Governor’s Advisory Committee to State Community College in East St. Louis, the Illinois State Scholarship Commission and as the ICCTA’s liaison to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

It was at RLC’s May 2008 graduation ceremony where Baker made one more great contribution to the college. On the commencement stage, he announced he and his wife Stella were going to establish the Dr. Allen Y. Baker and Stella Baker Scholarship Fund. The Bakers donated a $100,000 endowment to start the scholarship, which was one of the largest in the history of the college. The scholarship was set up to help Pinckneyville High School students looking to attend RLC. Baker practiced as an optometrist in Pinckneyville for nearly half a century.

“The people of Pinckneyville were so good to me over the 48 years I practiced there. I wanted to repay those who trusted me with their vision care and enabled us to enjoy the wonderful life we have today,” he said in 2008.

The Bakers retired to Clearwater, Fla. after spending more than 40 years in Pinckneyville. Dr. Baker and Stella met in Fort Lewis, Wash. and were married in 1948 in Pinckneyville. Stella passed away May 13, 2012. The Bakers donated considerable property and artwork to the Rend Lake College Foundation. To establish other scholarships, they donated an antique automobile and real estate.

Currently, there are no services scheduled for Baker. The family has chosen Rend Lake College as one of the organizations to receive donations in memory of Dr. Allen Baker. Gifts can be made online at

US Corps of Engineers Preventative COVID-19 Closures

Benton, IL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) St. Louis District will close all visitor centers, museums, beaches and project offices to the public beginning tomorrow while day use areas and boat ramps will remain open and available.

USACE campgrounds that are currently open will honor active reservations through Thursday March 19th. Any individuals with reservations on or before Thursday, March 19th will be able to camp for the entirety of their reservation. First-come, first-serve campsites will not be available after Thursday, March 19th.

Further, reservations scheduled between 20 March and 3 April are cancelled. Refunds will be provided through Recreation One-Stop (1-877-444-6777 or Unopened USACE campgrounds will have an indefinite delay in their previously advertised seasonal openings. All other events, including USACE-sponsored events, interpretive programs, fishing tournaments, lock-and-dam tours and site visits scheduled from 17 March through 3 April are now cancelled.

The USACE regrets any inconvenience caused by these closures. The USACE must keep the safety and health of all visitors as well as its employees as our priority. These preventative moves allow the USACE to continue to best deliver its other critical services uninterrupted at this time.

Additional information on modifications, closures or other restrictions related to USACE Project Areas will be announced as soon as possible.

RLC’s Paolina Marlo and Raquel Minor receive Phi Theta Kappa All-USA Nominations

INA, Ill. — Due to their high academic achievement, a pair of Rend Lake College students have been selected as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) All-USA nominees.

Sophomores Paolina Marlo of Sesser and Raquel Minor of Mt. Vernon will represent RLC’s Rho Xi chapter at the Illinois PTK banquet April 14 in Springfield. Nominees from around the state will be recognized at the banquet and finalists will receive a scholarship and spot on the All-USA Community College Academic Team.

Marlo, a biological science major, said she joined Phi Theta Kappa for the chance to take on new experiences and for the scholarship opportunities. The nomination came as a surprise, she said.

“I was shocked that I was in the All-Illinois selection and very honored to be able to represent Rend Lake College,” Marlo said. “I am looking forward to being able to represent RLC the best I can along with meeting other members of PTK that are on the same journey as I am. I am excited to gain insight into the world of PTK society.”

Marlo, a graduate of Sesser-Valier High School, said she plans on transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago to continue studies in biological science with a concentration on evolution, ecology and environmental biology. She is pursuing a career in wildlife research and conservation. The daughter of David and Cathy Marlo, she is also a member of the National Society of Leadership Success and has made the President’s list of academic honors at RLC.

Minor, a pre-veterinary medicine major, said she joined Phi Theta Kappa for the added experience the honor society offers. She said the nomination helps bolster that decision.

“I was very excited to be chosen to represent Rend Lake because it has been a great starting place in my education career with lots of support from the professors,” Minor said. “I am looking forward to meeting other PTK members from around the state because it will be my first PTK event.”

Minor, a graduate of Mt. Vernon Township High School, plans on continuing her education in animal science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale before transferring to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She plans for a career as a large animal veterinarian. The daughter of Stacie Chambliss and Mike Minor, she is also a member of RLC’s AmeriCorps chapter and has made the President’s list of academic honors.

To learn more about Phi Theta Kappa at RLC, contact Director of Academic Advisement and PTK Advisor Jena Jensik at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1293 or

Illinois sheriffs say new policy ‘aids and abets’ undocumented immigrants released after felony convictions

SPRINGFIELD — Sheriffs and Republican state lawmakers are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to scrap a new policy that they say prohibits communication between state, federal and local law enforcement agencies when an undocumented immigrant is released from a state prison after serving a felony sentence.

Here’s a link to the story at the Southern Illinoisan.

Pritzker backs Cairo port project championed by Sen. Fowler, earmarks $40 million in capital budget

SPRINGFIELD — Governor JB Pritzker said Wednesday that he is backing the development of a multimillion-dollar river port in Cairo, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Here’s a link to the story at the Southern Illinoisan.

Advocates rally to end cash bail in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Criminal justice reform advocates rallied Tuesday at the Statehouse in hopes of making Illinois one of only a handful of states to eliminate cash bail in all or most criminal cases.

Here’s a link to the story at the Southern Illinoisan.

Bipartisan push would repeal Illinois car trade-in tax

A bipartisan group of Illinois lawmakers has gotten behind a proposal to repeal the state’s new car trade-in tax and replace it with a different fee structure.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Report: Illinois has second-highest property taxes in nation

It may not come as a surprise to residents that a new report again found Illinois’ property taxes were the second-highest in the nation, but the debate about how to address the problem continues, including among members of the Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force.

Here’s the link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Pritzker says wiretapped calls with Blagojevich in 2008 have ‘nothing to do with where we are today’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday the secretly-recorded conversations he had with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008 have no bearing on his efforts to fight corruption in Illinois.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Woman is dead, gunman wounded after shooting at Maryland Heights Community Center

MARYLAND HEIGHTS — A gunman walked into the Maryland Heights Community Center Monday night and began shooting, a witness said.

Here’s a link to the story at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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