Bill Harmon, Agriculture Program Coordinator, Lincoln Land Community College
LLCC celebrated the $18 million gift from the trust established by Irene and Charles Kreher for the benefit of the agriculture program this past week. The Krehers spent years raising corn, soybeans and Angus cattle together on their farm. It is fitting that the college, founded by a group of primarily farmers, should recognize a gift from a farm family that will impact the lives of so many people for generations to come.
We are especially proud that Mrs. Kreher was familiar and comfortable with LLCC’s agriculture program. The Kreher’s gift is beyond “once in a lifetime,” it’s in the realm of “I can’t believe this is really happening.” Their desire was that agriculture be promoted in various ways, to the benefit of students, along with farmers and the community as a whole. The goal is to make LLCC a “center of excellence” in agriculture education.
How will LLCC make use of this gift? The terms of the Kreher Trust will provide the ag program with annual earnings from its investment portfolio. These funds will not replace current support by the college, but rather “grow” the agriculture program, increasing the number of students served, increasing local jobs filled with qualified LLCC grads, and improve agricultural literacy in our communities.
Our mission is to have LLCC be the first choice for potential agriculture students, with a goal to double our enrollment by 2020. Additionally, we want to be the leader for agriculture businesses seeking new employees. A Purdue University report predicts that the U.S. will need 57,900 new workers in agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences, but U.S. colleges and universities will only produce 35,400 qualified graduates to fill them. This national trend holds true here in central Illinois as well. We will also seek to expand our partnerships with local ag related community businesses to identify opportunities for employment.
We will continue to explore the viability for new program offerings in ag, as well as growing our nationally recognized livestock judging team headed by Professor Craig Beckmier. Students will be conducting research projects under the guidance of Professor Rich Teeter as part of our overall plans.
We have initiated discussions on offering LLCC agriculture classes to nearby high schools that don’t have agriculture programs but who have students interested in the field. Dual credit agreements, dual enrollment and expanded in-service activities for our high school agriculture teachers are in the works. To help promote the program, vehicles emblazoned with LLCC Agriculture wraps will transport students and staff to events, as well as serving as rolling billboards.
Students will benefit directly from the Kreher gift through increased scholarship offerings. The LLCC Agriculture Club, the largest student group on campus with 63 members this year, will be able to expand the opportunities for leadership, competitions and service, both locally and nationally.
It is truly an exciting time to be a part of agriculture education at LLCC. Opportunities for growth from a gift such as this are limitless. We aspire to be the premier leader in agricultural education and practical agricultural research in Illinois. None of the things I have mentioned would be possible without one couple and their love for agriculture.
The namesake of this institution, Abraham Lincoln, said, “Upon the subject of education … I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” The Krehers believed in education, and placed their trust in LLCC and its agriculture program. Education does not change only the life of the learner, but all those who interact and depend on that person. Their gift will resonate through generations of men and women who pass through this program, like ripples from a stone cast into a smooth pond.
As a member of a multi-generational LLCC family, I have seen the benefits of an LLCC education first-hand. The college helped my family reach our personal and career goals. On behalf of those future students who will have a brighter tomorrow due to the generosity of the Krehers, I say “thank you” for this incredible gift.