Rice Receives Advocacy Award for Illinois Community Colleges
The Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) has chosen Dr. Jonah Rice, Southeastern Illinois College President, to receive ICCTA’s 2019 Advocacy Award. Rice was recognized at the ICCTA Awards Banquet on June 7, at the Westin Chicago Northwest Hotel in Itasca.
The ICCTA Executive Committee created this special award in 2006 to honor its recipient’s dedicated leadership in advocating for the needs of students and the Illinois community college system.
Rice has served in dual leadership roles this year: as president of SIC and as chair of the statewide Illinois Council of Community College Presidents.
“During one of the most frenzied yet fulfilling legislative sessions in Illinois history, Jonah guided the Presidents Council with a steady hand and tremendous patience,” said ICCTA President Fritz Larsen. “He helped set the agenda for systemwide discussions on dual credit, career pathways, and the leadership pipeline. He also reached out to his counterparts in the public university sector to explore common interests and areas of concern — especially state funding.”
Rice has proven to be a strong advocate for community colleges, pursuing difficult technical issues while also maintaining the peace in the various sectors of Illinois higher education. His communication skills and collaborative management style – which facilitated many meetings with public university presidents – have laid the groundwork for future collaborative efforts between community colleges and four-year institutions.
“Jonah has kept us informed, networked with allies and adversaries, and constantly reminded us of why we are part of the community college movement,” said Larsen. “We look forward to continuing our work together in the future.”
Karen Weiss, SIC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs said, “Dr. Rice’s leadership style is one of fairness and of service to others. These traits along with his professionalism and commitment to the College and those communities served by the College make him well deserving of this honor. He has earned the respect of his colleagues at SIC and in the community by leading the College with distinction and for being an advocate for higher education in the state of Illinois.”
Dr. Rice was named the sixth president of Southeastern Illinois College in 2010, after serving as an interim president for a year
Before becoming the interim president, Rice taught at SIC and served as the college’s Humanities Division Chairman. Rice graduated from SIC in the 1980s and returned to his alma mater as an employee in 1990, beginning as a communications instructor teaching public speaking, interpersonal communication, and rhetoric. His undergraduate major was communication studies and his graduate degrees are in interpersonal and public communication and rhetoric. Rice also served as a longtime coach for the nationally renowned SIC Forensic Falcons speech program winning national championships in 1997 and 2005. He was the coordinator of SIC’s most recent Higher Learning Commission self-study process, which concluded in 2008 with the school receiving a full reaccreditation. He is currently a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission, helping to evaluate other colleges going through reaccreditation.
During Rice’s tenure at SIC the college was named an Aspen winner in 2011 (top 10% of community colleges in the nation—top 120 out of 1,200) and again in 2019. SIC was recently ranked sixth out of 48 Illinois community colleges in terms of completion and retention rates. Rice has served on the state’s performance-based funding committee among other appointments
Rice is married to the former Megin Ewing, a Harrisburg High School graduate. She taught at Benton High School, then for many years at Harrisburg High School – where she served as science division chairperson – and most recently at Marion High School. She completed her B.S. in biology and chemistry from Murray State University and her M.S. in biology from University of Nebraska-Kearney. She has had continuing graduate coursework in chemistry at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana.
The Rices have three children: Jacob, who is a freshman at SIC, pursuing a pre-med track, and twins Haley and Connor who both plan to attend SIC.