April 13, 2017

DUQUOIN — Jerome “Mimi” Alongi — a former member of the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees — had only one request before he passed away nearly 15 years ago.

“He wanted to be buried in a John A. Logan College warmup suit,” said his son, Guy Alongi. “That’s how much he loved the College.”

Mimi died on Sept. 23, 2002, at the age of 76.

Mimi, a lifelong resident of DuQuoin and one of the owners of Alongi’s Restaurant, was known for many things, including being a scout for a number of Major League Baseball teams and having one of the most accomplished collections of baseball memorabilia in the Midwest. But in conversations with Mimi, it didn’t take long for him to bring up John A. Logan College, his son said.

“The College meant so much to him,” Guy said. “It was like it had become a part of him.”

Mimi took a big interest in John A. Logan College 50 years ago when it was first created, choosing to run for a seat on the original board in 1967. Mimi, however, would not be successful. In fact, only two persons from Perry County have ever won a seat on Logan’s board of trustees, Mimi and the late Harold Rice.

Mimi, however, was not discouraged by the defeat, he would continue to keep a close eye on the institution and gain a deep affection for its mission in Southern Illinois.

“Dad knew what education meant to Southern Illinois,” Guy said. “He knew what John A. Logan College could become to the economy of Southern Illinois and to the many, many people who would seek higher education there.”

In 1971, Mimi ran again and won. He served a six-year term. During that time, he served as chairman of the board as the College’s first buildings were constructed.

“He didn’t make the first board, but he was right there on the ground floor of the College’s first major steps of growth,” Guy said. “He helped oversee the first permanent buildings go up.”

Current board member Jacob “Jake” Rendleman said Mimi and members of the board from 1971-1977 played a major role in “pointing the College in the right direction.

“That was an extremely important time in the College’s history,” Rendleman said. “A lot of the decisions they made then still reflect positively on the College today.”

In 1977, Mimi would not be re-elected, but, as his son pointed out, his service to the College continued for many years to come.

“My dad continued to find ways to support and serve the College until his last breath,” Guy said. “And he only had one dying wish and that was to be buried in a John A. Logan College warm-up suit.”

Jerry Halstead, the now retired Logan athletic director, made sure that happened.

“Jerry heard about my dad’s last wish and I heard a knock at the door at home and there stood Jerry with a warm-up suit for my dad,” Guy remembered.

Halstead said it was the least that he could do after the 21 years of support Mimi gave to Logan’s athletic department. Mimi created an annual baseball card show that always featured a Major League Baseball player, an event that raised funds for the athletic department. The College would also be the first and only place Mimi’s sports collection would go on display, another way he helped the athletic department raise money.

“Mimi was a true ambassador for Logan,” Halstead said. “Everywhere he went, he talked about the College. But he didn’t just talk about Logan, he’d roll up his sleeves and go to work to get things done. He raised a lot of money for the athletic department and he worked hard to make that happen. He was tremendous.”

Don Brewer, who is retiring this month after 40 years on the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees, said it was Mimi who first talked him into running for the board. “I didn’t know Mimi very well at the time, but he would become a close friend. It’s true, there are few people who have cared as deeply for Logan as Mimi did. He was a true friend of the College, a very great friend to the institution.” Brewer gave the eulogy at Mimi’s funeral.

Before Mimi’s death, College officials would name the extension center in DuQuoin the “Jerome Mimi Alongi Extension Center.”

“He deserved that honor and I hope as young people enter that building from year to year they will take time to know who he was and what he meant to the College, its creation, and its progress through the past 50 years,” Brewer said.

Mimi’s son has never run for the College’s board, but he does serve on the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), a position that is appointed by the Governor of Illinois. Guy has served on the ICCB since 2003. He attended John A. Logan College while his father served on its board of trustees.

“I remember at the time that dad was chair, the College was going through a pretty contentious faculty contract negotiation,” Guy said. “It didn’t make it easy going to class,” he laughed, “but these things happen in institutions like this as I learned then and have gained an even greater understanding of such things since serving on the ICCB.”

Guy said while his father had no influence in his decision to accept an appointment from the Governor to serve on the ICCB 14 years ago, he does feel that his service is a way of honoring his father’s memory.

“When the state passed the act to create community colleges, my dad was immediately interested and could see what community colleges could do for our region and our state,” Guy said. “That interest and love never ceased in him. And I guess you could say, he was buried with it.”