LLCC hopes major donation will help ag program 'transform'

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – A late couple’s trust money will benefit a community college in central Illinois.

Lincoln Land Community College announced a gift of $18 million on Thursday morning. The money is coming from Irene and Charles Kreher after their deaths, and through the Kreher Farm Perpetual Charitable Trust.

"This Kreher's gift is beyond 'once in a lifetime'," said LLCC Foundation Executive Director Karen Sanders. "It's in the realm of "I can't believe this is really happening.'" 

The Kreher family expressed an interest over the years in giving donations to programs benefitting children and agriculture. LLCC plans to use the money to build its agriculture program, which offers up to associate’s degrees and other two-year programs in agriculture-related fields.

Charles Kreher died in 2009, followed by Irene in February of 2017. Irene spent years after her husband’s death working to find a place where she could “memorialize his legacy”, according to Quorum Consulting’s Don Wienhoff, who is a trustee for the charitable trust.

“After visits to campus and extensive talks with Bill Harmon, Karen Sanders and President Charlotte Warren, she decided LLCC was where she wanted the Kreher legacy to reside,” Wienhoff said. “I know (she) would be extremely happy and proud to know this gift will have such a positive and long-lasting impact on generations of ag students and the ag community as a whole.”

Harmon, an LLCC agronomy professor who will run day-to-day management and head strategic planning for agriculture programs after the donation, says the program is already transforming. LLCC plans to hire a full-time program specialist to recruit students and find partnerships with ag-related businesses in Illinois.

Students will also take part in research projects under the direction of Professor Rich Teeter. The college may also consider adding agriculture classes involving students in Illinois high schools.

“We will be expanding the student experience by incorporating the latest technologies, such as a combine simulator, so students can practice before operating actual machinery to improve skills, safety and self-confidence, and the latest drones so that we are using the same type used in industry for precision agriculture,” Harmon said.

The Kreher trust asks LLCC programs to teach classes on the land the family owned.

LLCC says it has several main goals for the use of the donation money, including finding job opportunities for people who graduate from the LLCC agriculture program. It also wants to grow its student population, as Harmon says the school wants to double its agriculture enrollment by 2020.

He says he wants LLCC to be “the first choice” for potential students and a “center of excellence” for the future of agriculture education.