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Rich Myers Agriculture Scholarship
Western Illinois lost a trusted friend, tireless advocate, and respected legislator with the passing of Representative Rich Myers on December 1, 2010. Myers was an activist for all the residents of the 94th legislative district, for Western Illinois University, and for farmers across the state and nation.
A scholarship to honor Myers has been established by his family and friends at Western Illinois University. The first scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2011 to a McDonough County agriculture major involved in community service or university activities.
“We feel blessed to have this scholarship,” said Myers wife, Chris. “Life seems to move on so quickly when someone we love leaves this world. The generous contributions that have made possible this gift to Western will allow Rich to be remembered in an ongoing way, and lend a sense of permanency to his memory. Our daughter, Alison, along with myself and the entire Myers family are honored by this legacy for Rich.”
According to Chris, Rich loved WIU and had a great admiration for the School of Agriculture. Myers completed his bachelor of science degree in agronomy in 1973, and met Chris at Western shortly thereafter (Chris earned a B.A. degree in music education in 1975). Their daughter, Alison, completed a master of science degree in college student personnel at WIU in 2010. “Rich often remarked that the early development of his leadership skills happened with his high school experiences on the FFA parliamentary procedures team, and he continued building those skills while he was in school at Western, as a founding father of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity,” said Chris. “He felt blessed to have had those opportunities.”
Those early leadership tendencies progressed over a number of years, culminating in Myers’ election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1995, where he remained until his passing. Prior to his tenure in the legislature, he farmed the family farm and was involved with the Farm Bureau in various capacities at the local, state, and national levels. “Working with Farm Bureau developed Rich’s interest in public policy,” said Chris. “His move into politics was not so much an aspiration as it was an evolution.”
Myers also taught the general honors course “Inside State Government” (GH299) at WIU for 10 years. The course provided students with the opportunity to not only learn inside the classroom from Rep. Myers, but also inside the halls of the state capitol. “GH299 was one of my favorite classes,” said former student Brad Fenton of Quincy (IL). “Representative Myers constantly encouraged us to take part in the legislative system by contacting our representatives about what matters to us. He encouraged us to be curious and ask questions and was one of the best instructors I have ever had.”
“Rich was deeply committed to the class field trip to the state capitol each semester,” said centennial honors college director William Knox. “In Springfield, he arranged for a panel of distinguished presenters, including lobbyists, high-ranking legislative staff members, state senators, and others who shared their perspectives on being ‘inside state government’ for the students.”
“When it came to students, Rich would always go out of his way in Springfield,” said Chris. “He enjoyed teaching, and he loved to introduce students to the capitol building. His enthusiasm for mentoring youth in the area of government was evident by the fact that regardless of how busy the day was, when student groups came to the Capitol you would find Rich standing outside the House Chamber, waiting to greet them at the rail.”
In the statehouse, Myers served on the Higher Education Appropriations, Agriculture and Conservation, Higher Education, State Government Administration, Elections and Campaign Reform, and Renewable Energy Committees. He was a strong supporter for farm issues as well as higher education, and continually sought funding and support for Western Illinois University, his “flagship institution.”
Myer’s colleagues in the General Assembly gathered on January 11, 2011 to pay tribute to a “well respected, thoughtful, and quiet gentleman.” Representative after representative referred to the “calm man with fierce commitment to his family, his constituents, agriculture and higher education funding,” and his “conflict inevitable, combat optional” style of communication.
Current Representative of the 94th district, Norine Hammond claimed, “It was my privilege to work for Rich for 14 years. To have a boss with such integrity, I knew I could hold my head high because of him. He did enormous things for the district and for the state. Rich was not a proud man, but we can be proud of all he accomplished during his years in the general assembly.”
“There is a reason why so many of us feel such a sense of loss and sense of respect for Rep. Rich Myers,” said Rep. David Leitch. “I believe that is because Rich Myers not only spoke to principle, but in everything Rich Myers said and did, word and deed, Rich Myers was a person of conviction who reflected that principle. I rejoice in Rich Myers the example, and the legacy of that example.”
All residents of the 94th legislative district and members of the WIU community are, indeed, proud and respectful of the many fine things that Rich Myers accomplished in his lifetime. “Rich Myers was a loyal WIU alumnus and was a tireless advocate for higher education in the state of Illinois,” said WIU president Al Goldfarb. “He was a man of great integrity, and Western is honored to administer his legacy scholarship.”