January 26, 2017

CARTERVILLE — Harry L. Crisp II marvels at the campus of John A. Logan College.

“It has turned out exactly as we had hoped and prayed for,” said Crisp, one of the College’s founding fathers.

Crisp, 81, CEO of Pepsi-MidAmerica based in Marion, recently toured the campus, taking time to discuss its current state and look back on 50 years of progress.

“Community colleges are the best thing we have going in government in Illinois,” Crisp said, “simply because they provide opportunity. There’s nothing you can give someone more than opportunity.”

As a businessman who understood the importance of an educated workforce, Crisp was on the ground floor of helping to push legislation that would create a community college system in Illinois. That legislation passed in 1965 and soon boundaries for community colleges began to be drawn.

In 1967, the first board of trustees was elected by the voters of what would soon be known as the John A. Logan College District. Crisp was one of the elected members.

“I can’t compliment that first board enough,” Crisp said. “All of its members had the best intentions of doing what was right. It worked together toward the same idea of founding a college district that would be strong and remain strong.”

The College first began offering classes in storefronts and other buildings throughout the district.

But one of the board’s first major steps toward a permanent campus, Crisp said, was to select a location and buy land. Based on both being a geographic and population center, land where the College now sits in Carterville was chosen.

“There was a lot of pressure in those days to locate the campus in Marion,” Crisp said. “My father had been mayor of Marion and I think a lot of people expected that I would push for a Marion campus. But locating the campus where we did was the right decision and, like I said, we were a board that made decisions based on the right intentions.”

Purchasing the 169 acres that make up the Carterville campus would not be simple because much of it was owned by the federal government, but College officials worked through the hoops, Crisp said, and a the purchase was made.

“We wanted enough land so that the College could grow,” Crisp said. “As I look at the campus today, I’m thankful we had that foresight.”

Crisp said putting together a quality staff was also paramount to the College’s success.  “The greatest hire we made was unquestionably the hire of Dr. Nathan Ivey, the College’s first president,” Crisp said.

Crisp said Ivey already understood the community college system and what community colleges could do for the future of Southern Illinois.

Crisp said the board also wanted a “good name” for the College. “There was some conversation about naming it Crab Orchard College since Crab Orchard Lake is so close by,” Crisp said. “But we resisted that idea and really wanted to name it after someone we all could look up to. We wanted to build a local heritage, herald a greatness for Southern Illinois.”

Crisp said Bill Anderson, who had been hired as College dean, was also a great historian. “Bill Anderson taught us who General John A. Logan was. He told us about the statues that existed of the great Civil War general in both Chicago and Washington, D.C., and that he was born near Murphysboro.”

Said Crisp, “We had to study it a few days, but we were completely convinced that naming the College after John A. Logan was absolutely the right idea.”

Today, a bronze statue of Crisp is located near the bronze statue of Logan. A plaque also commemorates the life of Crisp’s wife, Rosemary. During his tour of the campus recently, Crisp shook the hand of his statue, “I know this guy,” he smiled. And he gave thought to his wife’s support of Logan’s campus.

“She was always supportive of this campus and made her own significant contributions to its success,” Crisp said.