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Heartland Community College

Heartland honors seven with President's Medallion

June 1, 2024

Heartland Community College (HCC) has recognized seven individuals for their integral role in expanding the College, serving its students, and paving educational pathways for the larger community. 

The President’s Medallion award exemplifies the College’s aim to enrich the community, by recognizing those who share this mission and live it out through exemplary service, philanthropy, and dedication to advancing opportunities in education. 

The following seven individuals were honored at the Elevate Heartland 2024 event on May 31 with a President’s Medallion: 

Jerome and Frances Maddox 

Jerome and Frances Maddox are esteemed members of the Bloomington-Normal community, embodying resilience and service despite profound loss. Their son, Sgt. Anthony Maddox, made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan in 2013. Frances and Jerome have contributed to the Hero House initiative by Habitat for Humanity and were pivotal in dedicating a Fallen Hero Wall honoring nine Central Illinois soldiers who lost their lives in combat. Through Jerome's leadership as president of the 100 Black Men of Central Illinois, he has been instrumental in establishing a robust mentoring program across the region. Their commitment to our community extends further as they both serve as board members of the Illinois Community Prairie Foundation. 

Steve and Patty McManus 

Patty and Steve McManus are dedicated community leaders whose philanthropic efforts and active involvement have left a lasting impact on various charitable organizations and initiatives. Steve's impact on the Heartland Community College Foundation is profound, having served as its past chair and initiated the inaugural Major Gifts Campaign, which raised over $7 million for scholarships at the College. He has also taken on significant community roles, co-chairing the Civil Justice Reform Group and Milestones Early Learning Center. Meanwhile, Patty McManus demonstrates her dedication as the chair of the Bloomington Normal Junior Women’s Club, actively contributing to various local charities and initiatives, showcasing her commitment to community welfare. 

Ed Rust 

Ed Rust's extensive contributions to education and leadership are evident through his service on the Boards of America’s Promise Alliance and the James B. Hunt, Jr., Institute for Educational Leadership. He earned the prestigious Owen B. Butler Education Excellence Award, presented by the Committee for Economic Development. Additionally, Rust's remarkable dedication to education and workforce development was recognized through his receipt of the Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois and the Order of Lincoln, the state's highest honor for a living individual in business. Under his stewardship as CEO, State Farm emerged as one of the largest private contributors to education, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to supporting educational initiatives since 1990.  

Faye Freeman Smith 

Faye Freeman-Smith stands as a beacon of community service and mental health advocacy. In 2021, she was honored with the Multicultural Leadership Program Servant Leadership Award, a testament to her unwavering dedication to uplifting others. Recognized in 2017 with the YWCA Women of Distinction award, Freeman-Smith's contributions to her community are profound and far-reaching. As a founding member of the Black Business Alliance, she champions economic empowerment and entrepreneurship within her community. Her commitment to mental health is tangible through her establishment of the HCC Counseling Center in 2011, when she served as the College’s Director of Student Mental Health Counseling Services, and her active role on the Mental Health Advisory Board for the McLean County Health Department. Freeman-Smith's membership on the Distance Counseling Advisory Board has been instrumental in crafting guidelines for tele-mental health, a critical endeavor both before and during the pandemic, especially in supporting the mental well-being of young adults. Her pioneering spirit in this practice is widely recognized and deeply appreciated. 


Rob Widmer 

Rob Widmer has built a remarkable and motivating career in higher education spanning four decades, with a significant portion—22 years—dedicated to Heartland Community College. Notably, he served as president for five years, during which he navigated the institution through financial hardships stemming from the Illinois budget impasse. His leadership was pivotal in steering Heartland through these challenges while also spearheading a new strategic planning process, fortifying the College's reputation as a vital community asset. Widmer's tenure saw significant advancements, including the development of Heartland's current campus in Normal, a testament to his enduring commitment to the institution's growth and development. Beyond his professional endeavors, Widmer chairs the Normal Children's Discovery Museum Foundation Board, showcasing his ongoing dedication to educational and community enrichment. 

“We are proud to recognize these individuals who helped elevate Heartland to what it is today,” said HCC President Keith Cornille. “Each recipient of these inaugural awards exemplifies the College’s mission to enrich our community. Though their service, support and actions, this group have made a huge impact on our community and – directly or indirectly – the lives of all our students since the College’s foundation.” 

The Presidential Medallion award exemplifies the College’s aim to enrich the community, by recognizing those who share this mission and live it out through exemplary service, philanthropy, and dedication to advancing opportunities in education. The inaugural recipients of the HCC President’s Medallion Award were honored in 2021.

Written by: Steve Fast