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Special to the Illinois Business Journal

p19 topAt the SWIC Presidential Gala from left: state Rep. Dan Beiser, U.S. Congressman Mike Bost, SWIC President Georgia Costello, Ph.D., her husband, retired U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello, Karen Shimkus and her husband, Congressman John Shimkus.    Southwestern Illinois College hosted a Presidential Gala to kick off the institution’s 70th year of service and a corresponding capital campaign. Attracting more than 500 guests, it was the largest fund-raising special event in college history.  
    SWIC alumni, donors, faculty, staff and community partners gathered Aug. 6 for the after-hours event in the Belleville Campus Liberal Arts Complex, the college’s first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design gold-certified building. College President Dr. Georgia Costello used the opportunity to honor members of the college’s first graduating class and recognized two former presidents – Dr. Elmer H. Kirchoff and Dr. Joseph J. Cipfl.
    The college – then known as Belleville Junior College – opened its doors in fall 1946 with 183 students. Today, it serves more than 20,000 students annually at three campuses, Scott Air Force Base and the East St. Louis Community College Center, and through online and hybrid courses.   
    With more than 150 associate degree and occupational certificate program options ranging from accounting to chemistry, literature to marketing, and nursing to welding, SWIC prepares students to transfer to universities or to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. SWIC ranks among the top 100 community colleges in America for producing degrees and certificates and is the fourth-highest certificate producer in Illinois.
p19 bottomAt the SWIC Presidential Gala from left: former SWIC President Elmer H. Kirchoff, Ph.D., Board of Trustees Vice Chair Richard E. Roehrkasse, Trustee Eugene Verdu, former President Joseph J. Cipfl, Ph.D., Trustee Robert G. Morton and President Georgia Costello, Ph.D.    SWIC serves the largest veteran and active-duty-military student population among Illinois public institutions. The college also meets the needs of the community through programs like Adult Education, Community Education, and Programs and Services for Older Persons.
    Funds raised during the capital campaign will support student scholarships and a planned 15,000-square-foot, free-standing Early Childhood Education Center that can accommodate up to 100 children from infants to 12-year-olds. Campus-based child care plays an immeasurable role in helping students with children complete college, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.
    The college says its mission is helping students learn. Providing child care for student-parents as they pursue their education, and providing scholarship assistance to all who need it, are just two ways SWIC achieves that goal.
    The college says that every dollar invested in SWIC yields a three-fold regional return. Many SWIC graduates stay in the region to live, work and contribute.
    Additional celebration and fund-raising events will be held in 2015 and 2016. Details will be found at swic.edu/foundation.
    In addition to the college’s gala, SWIC joins the Illinois Community College Trustee Association in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Illinois Public Community College Act, which established the state’s unified community college system. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared 2015-2016 “The Year of the Community College” in honor of the Illinois system’s 50 years of student success.
    For more information about the SWIC capital campaign, contact (618) 235-2700, ext. 5616.