By Steve Robinson | June 21, 2021 - 1:59 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – Two of Illinois State University’s better-known alumni returned to their alma mater Saturday each to receive another honor Saturday: To become laureates to the Lincoln Academy of Lincoln. The pair were honored at the ceremony held at Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium were former NBA player and Chicago Bulls head Coach Doug Collins and former U. S. United Nations Ambassador Dr. Donald McHenry. Also being honored was Dr. Robert T. Fraley, a Fellow of the American Association For The Advancement of Science.

This was the 56th convocation and investiture of laureates to the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, and took place in Braden Auditorium of ISU’s Bone Student Center Saturday with a few hundred invited guests attending the ceremony and dinner which followed. Award for professional achievement and public service. The honor is presented to people with ties to Illinois for outstanding contributions in science, education, religion, social services, medicine, government, business, labor, the arts, agriculture and athletics

Collins Spoke Of Faith, Passion, Resiliency: Collins was introduced to the audience by ISU President Larry H. Dietz, who reminded Collins played on the U. S. Olympics team in Munich, Germany in 1972 before suiting up to play professionally in the NBA after being drafted in 1973 for the Philadelphia 76ers. He also coached for NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and 76ers. Dietz reminded Collins has also been part of broadcast teams for five Summer Olympics games.

Collins began his speech by joking that he would feel more comfortable if he were at Horton Field House, the arena where he played for the Redbirds in the early 1970s, wearing his number 20 jersey, then added, “I’m just honored and humbled to be here tonight to accept this prestigious award. I always tell people to dream big. Well, I outdid my dream.”

He said he wanted to choose words that he thought would describe him to those gathered for this event. “Number one is proud,” he said. “Proud to be born and raised in Illinois, son of a sheriff,” he explained. “I was named after Sen. Paul Douglas.” Douglas, in fact is his middle name.

He told the story of joking with actor Ron Howard about Collins telling the actor he lived above the Franklin County Jail where his father was sheriff, his uncle was a sheriff’s officer, and his grandmother was the cook, all while his family lived one floor above the jail. He said he joked with Howard that the actor “was playing out his life story” when young Howard starred as Opie in the 1960s comedy, “The Andy Griffith Show.”

He went on to say, “I was so blessed to be coached by Benton head coach Rich Herrin, who helped make me the man I am today. He said when he got to ISU and connected with the late Redbirds head coach Will Robinson, the coach “was like a father figure to me.” He joked that nowadays, younger people recognize him as “that guy who coached Michael Jordan.”

Collins said he told Dr. Dietz every time he comes to campus, the word joy comes to mind “because all I have is positive experiences about my time here.” Those days, he said, included living in Wilkins Hall, practices at Horton Field House, the teammates and coaches. “My life was joyful – more joyful than I felt I could ever feel.

Passion was the next word Collins said came to mind, explaining, “It’s the driving force in all the accomplishments in my life.” Faith was another word central to his life, Collins said, explaining his Christian faith has helped him “navigate the highs and the lows” in his life.

Grit and Resiliency were two more words that have shaped his life, Collins said, adding those helped him as he went through his professional sports career. Love, Collins said, was the last of the words he said shaped him explaining he met the love of his life, wife Kathy 49 years ago in front of Watterson Towers to go play volleyball together. He said they married a year later “and she’s been stuck with me ever since.” It was a line that produced laughter from those gathered.

To Dr. Donald McHenry, ISU Became Like His Territory: An East St. Louis native, Dr. Donald McHenry earned his Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University before earning a Master’s degree at Southern Illinois University, but he also studied at Georgetown University. Dr. McHenry told the gathering the ceremony reminded him of the French word Terroir, a word describing climate, soil, temperature, and topography. “Illinois and this University are my terroir,” Dr. McHenry said. “They are the elements which formed me and my journey through life to this point. Those elements have contributed a great deal to what I was able to accomplish.”

“From here, from this University and this Land of Lincoln, I set out to see what I could do with the contributions that the University and the land had contributed to me,” Dr. McHenry explained. “Illinois, and indeed, the United States, are a part of a much larger machine. What we do here is greatly influenced by what happens around the world.”

Speaking of the current pandemic, Dr. McHenry said, “We won’t solve it for ourselves until we solve it for all the world. We won’t solve the devastation of climate change until we solve it for all citizens of the world.”

Dr. Robert T. Fraley Also Honored As Lincoln Laureate: A man with no connection to ISU was also named a Lincoln Laureate at this ceremony. Dr. Robert T. Fraley, currently a Fellow of the American Advancement of Science and a St. Louis resident also had this honor bestowed upon him.

Previous Lincoln Laureates: Collins, Dr. McHenry, and Dr. Fraley join a select group of Laureates which has included Senators Adlai E. Stevenson II, Everett Dirksen, and Alan Dixon; Chicago Bears head coach George Halas, and former Bears linebacker Dick Butkus; Columnist and Broadcaster Irv “Kup” Kupcinet; Comedian Jack Benny; Former Governors Richard Ogilvie, Otto Kerner, and Jim Edgar; Actors Charlton Heston and Burl Ives; and broadcasters Bill Kurtis, John Chancellor, and Paul Harvey.

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