Kaskaskia College Logo/>
Alumni and Friends at Kaskaskia College Logo

Alumni Stories

“Activist, philanthropist, friend” These were just a few of the words used to describe Mary Albert O’Neil of Vandalia as the executors of her estate announced one of the largest individual gifts ever received by the Kaskaskia College Foundation. While Attorney Patrick Schaufelberger and CPA Dale Timmermann did not announce the actual amount of the bequest O’Neil left to the College, they did say it will exceed one million dollars. The announcement was made during the annual meeting of the College Foundation held on April 27 in the College’s Lifelong Learning Center. This gift will make Ms. O’Neil’s contribution to Kaskaskia College more than $1,150,000.

Ms. O’Neil also contributed to the construction of KC’s first ever branch campus in Vandalia.

Dr. Jim Underwood said the announcement is exciting news for Kaskaskia College and will help the College continue with its outreach programs, taking education to the people through the arts, Performing Arts and Science.

Kaskaskia College is proud to announce that Amber Edwards of Mulkeytown has been named the 2009 ICCTA Pacesetter Alumnus Award winner.

Edwards, is a faculty member in the KC Radiologic Technology Program. She began school at Kaskaskia College as a young mother and has excelled in every aspect of her education and career since. She was an excellent student and exhibited great passion for her chosen career field of Radiologic Technology. This was evidenced by her commitment and dedication to furthering her training and to making significant contributions to the educational program, despite the logistical difficulties she faced. After earning her Associate Degree, and obtaining employment in the medical field, she chose to return as an instructor at KC in order to train other students in the Radiologic Field. While she began as a part-time instructor, she has since earned a full-time position as an Assistant Professor of Radiologic Technology.

She has also gone on to pursue additional program certifications, her Bachelor’s Degree, and intends to pursue her Master’s Degree, in order to enhance her professional abilities. She has accomplished all this while raising a young family and while serving as the sponsor for the Student Radiology Club. Ms. Edwards has most definitely set the pace for others and is a shining example of a community college success story.

Amber has been an inspiration for other young people to follow their dreams and accomplish their goals, despite obstacles that may be present in their lives. Her success as a Professor is demonstrated by her continual efforts to enhance her qualifications and her unending desire to improve her teaching methods and curriculum. Amber has also been selected as the Statewide Award Recipient.

Whitney Kampwerth of Carlyle did something two years ago that no other student at Kaskaskia College has ever accomplished. She graduated from Carlyle High School and Kaskaskia College at the same time! Because of her dedication to her education, she has now become a Law Student at the University of Illinois Champaign at the age of 20.

While a student at Carlyle High School, Kampwerth took full advantage of as many dual credit classes and online courses that she could which allowed her to apply and eventually receive a Transfer Student Scholarship at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Because of the offerings that Kaskaskia was able to provide, I was able to get a jump start on my goal of attending law school and pursuing my career as an attorney. Kaskaskia allowed me to take my general education classes before I attended UIS so I could jump right into the classes pertaining to my Legal Studies major and Communication minor.”

Kampwerth is now a graduate of the University of Illinois as Springfield and has now been admitted to The University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign-Urbana for Fall 2009. She plans to graduate in May of 2012.

Already in the Kaskaskia College and Centralia Sports Hall of Fame, Larry Smith is now being remembered for his work on the baseball diamond at the national level.

Having retired in 2002 after spending 36 years as the only baseball coach Kaskaskia College had ever known, Smith was inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in May, when the NJCAA held the Division World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Born in Decatur, Smith left the tiny Central Illinois town of Cerro Gordo in 1966 to assume the head coaching duties at Kaskaskia. He piloted the Blue Devils through the 2002 season before announcing his retirement, and along the way, Smith became as much as a molder of young men as he was a baseball coach.

“I always looked at it like I had two years to prepare them for life and not for a career in professional baseball,” said Smith, who had 15 players drafted and three who made the major leagues during his tenure at Kaskaskia. In his three dozen years at Kaskaskia, Smith’s Blue Devils captured six conference titles, including their one and only Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship in 1988. From his first day at KC, Smith tried to get the job done with local talent.

“In my 36 years, we had six players not from Illinois,” said Smith, who had Kaskaskia’s home field dedicated in his name in 1999. “We had some very good kids and we had some teams that were made up of all in-district kids. I always wanted to see our kids have the chance to succeed.”

Smith, who amassed 847 wins in his time at Kaskaskia, won his only Region XXIV title in 1991, doing so with a team that was seeded dead last in the eight-team field that began the postseason in sectional tournaments. The Blue Devils, after upsetting top-seeded Rend Lake to win one of the six sectional titles earned by teams coached by Smith, advanced to the Region Tournament, which was played at Springfield.

“We hadn’t won a game against any of the teams that made it to the Region Tournament,” Smith said. “Things just kind of went our way.”

In the championship game of the Region, Kaskaskia fell behind Southeastern Illinois College 9-7 headed to the bottom of the ninth inning but won 10-9 on a three-run homer by Jon Behrens. It was the second homer and fourth hit of the day by Behrens, a Carlyle native. “For the life of me, I still don’t understand why they pitched to him,” Smith said with a smile.

Most collegiate coaches often don’t let grass grow under feet, and like many, Smith had opportunities to leave Kaskaskia.

“Joe Uhls, the head coach at Southeast Missouri State, had passed away,” Smith said. “I didn’t apply, but the chairman of the interview committee contacted me and told me they would be very interested in me applying. “I could have had that job, but it was going to be a pay cut of $20,000 per year, and with three kids, there was no way I could do it.”

While Smith’s involvement with the program ended officially in 2002, any time spent with his family will serve as a reminder of his tenure. Smith’s son Darin, who currently is the athletic director at Carlyle High School, played for his father, while daughters Angie and April each married players coached by their dad. April Smith, who now lives in suburban Chicago and is involved in education administration, married Jeff Mahy, while Angie Smith is married to Dr. Doug Kruse of Breese.

“I’d like to think I recruited good kids,” Smith said. “My daughters are married to two of them. Doug always jokes that he wished he knew he was going to marry Angie because maybe he would have gotten more playing time.” In all, a total of 642 players donned KC’s blue and white under Smith.

“There aren’t too many of them that I don’t have some idea of where they are and what they’re doing,” Smith said. “Out of all of them, not too many ever had trouble with the law, and most of them went on to become very successful in whatever they chose to get into.”

For Jeff Jones, age 23, Kaskaskia College was a big step up the ladder to a good start in the business world.

Jeff, born and raised in Centralia, attended Kaskaskia College from 2004 to 2006. He now works for American General Finance in Maryville, Illinois as a financial representative. He credits his two years at Kaskaskia College as a major factor in his success. Jeff was born March 20, 1986, at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia. He attended the Centralia City Schools and Centralia High School, where he graduated with high honors. He was vice president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was on the tennis team which went to state in 2004 as a doubles player and was a May Fete escort in 2004.

At Kaskaskia College, he graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 4.0 average, and was on the Dean’s List and President’s List. He was a member of the College Rotarac Association, Core Values, Phi Theta Kappa and Students in Free Enterprise.

He transferred his credits to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where he also graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.905 grade point average. He was active there in club volleyball.

Jeff has many memories about Kaskaskia College and the major contribution it made to his development and subsequent start to his career.

“KC was an enjoyable time where I learned a great deal in my classes, valuable lessons in my extracurricular groups and made some good memories and friendships,” he said. “KC gave me the opportunity to challenge myself and discover what I wanted to pursue in life.”

While a student at Centralia High School, Jeff took full advantage of the dual credit course offered and was able to transfer in 36 credits from CHS to Kaskaskia. “I would encourage anyone to take dual credit classes if possible. They are a great 'head-start' to college as they give you the opportunity to earn college credit without doing any extra work. They gave me the opportunity to earn college credits before ever officially enrolling at KC, and they gave me a great start in my college career.”

Jones feels that KC is a great place to begin your education because it is a very accommodating, yet challenging place of learning. “The staff and faculty are not only committed to helping students discover a path of learning but also focused on providing quality courses in a positive environment. KC is a great place to take some general requirements at an affordable price that still gives you the knowledge needed to move onto a university, etc. “

“I appreciate the faculty and staff who always gave me the support and encouragement. I thank you for giving me a great start to my college career and for guiding me in the right direction.”

Jeff has many people at Kaskaskia College who made a special contribution to his education and career development. He listed some of those people, including Jill Tomasczewski, Sharon Conners, Dr. James Underwood, Travis Henson, David Quinn, Louis Fogleman and Tom Courtney and Cathy Karrick. Jeff is the son of Michael and Sheree Jones of Centralia, and Michael is a 1968 graduate of Kaskaskia College.

New Scholorships NEW SCHOLARSHIP
Kaskaskia College has received several new scholarships in recent months. Leo and Ruth Barczewski from Nashville provided $5,000 scholarship which will benefit a graduate of a Washington County High School each year. Gene and Bonnie Huels created the Gene and Bonnie Huels Scholarship and The Maschoff’s, Inc. created a scholarship that will benefit families of their employees. The KC Massage Therapy Program also established an annual scholarship for students accepted into the program.

Dale Ford Dale Ford
Kaskaskia College recently honored alumnus Dale Ford as its 2010 Distinguished Alumnus. Ford graduated from Kaskaskia College in 1977, and during his time here, he was an outstanding student and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. After graduating from KC, he went on to receive both his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University. He has received several professional certifications in the areas of school psychology and counseling, and is currently employed as the Counselor and Department Chair at the Singapore American School. Established in 1956, the Singapore American School (SAS) is an independent, non-profit, co-educational day school offering an American based curriculum for preschool through grade 12 expatriate students.

During his career in Singapore, Ford has made many contributions to the International community and has unselfishly provided assistance to others in some of the world’s greatest catastrophes. In addition, he works with young people in pursuit of service learning opportunities in various Asian countries. Kaskaskia College is honored to recognize Dale Ford as its 2010 Distinguished Alumnus.

Dr. Bennie Upchurch Dr. Bennie Upchurch
Dr. Bennie Upchurch is now the chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. As an Associate Professor in the Creighton University School of Medicine, Dr. Upchurch comes to Creighton from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Last year Dr. Upchurch was honored by the city of Centralia for his accomplishments. He told students at that time to keep their eye on the goal and they can do anything they want.

Upchurch admitted he was not a good high school student and woke up when he realized where he was academically in his graduating class. He says once at Kaskaskia College he began applying himself, learned study habits, and took advantages of resources in the community to become a straight A student and eventually make his way through medical school.

After graduating from KC, Dr. Upchurch received his gastroenterology fellowship training at Ohio State University Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio, where he was the chief clinical fellow. He completed his internal medicine residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and earned his medical degree at the University of Iowa College Of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa.

© 2018 Kaskaskia College - 27210 College Road - Centralia, Illinois 62801 - (618)545-3000 (800)642-0859