Foundation gives $100K to McKendree

News-DemocratDecember 18, 2013 

A $100,000 gift to McKendree University from the Allison Cassens Community Foundation has established a new scholarship that school leaders say will have an immediate and significant impact on education majors.

This gift represents the first of several installments to support the Allison Cassens Scholarship Fund, which will benefit students who want to pursue a teaching career at the K-12 level or in special education. It honors the life and legacy of the late Allison Cassens, daughter of Allen and Linda Cassens of Edwardsville. Allison was a teacher, an internationally competitive swimmer, a pilot and a flight instructor who lost her battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 33.

"This scholarship fund will carry forward Allison Cassens' passion for teaching -- and notably teaching special education children -- for years to come, through a new generation of teachers," James Dennis, president of McKendree University, said. "It will make a great difference in the lives of McKendree students who want to pursue a college education or teaching career but are unable to do so for financial reasons. The university is deeply grateful to the Cassens family for their generosity, benevolence and support."

A member of the university board of trustees for 18 years, Allen R. Cassens has provided volunteer and philanthropic leadership, receiving the 2013 Friend of the University Award for his consistent exemplary service. He is the owner of Cassens Corporation holding company, which includes a Chrysler-Dodge dealership in Glen Carbon, and a transport company and insurance agency in Edwardsville. He and his wife, Dr. Linda Cassens, a retired professional counselor and the founder of InterAction Limited, have provided financial support for many university projects, including the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts, a natatorium and the annual fund.

The couple has played key roles in other philanthropic endeavors, including Allison's Friends of Hope, established by their daughter to raise resources for cancer research.

"Allen Cassens' leadership at McKendree and his family's support for cancer research are indications of their commitment to the region and beyond. Their compassion and concern for the well-being of others is unwavering," Dennis said.


Lindenwood University will start the construction of a second dorm at its Belleville campus in late January or early February, Lindenwood Belleville campus President Jerry Bladdick said.

The dorm was originally expected to mirror an L-shaped dorm building that opened earlier this month on South 23rd Street near the Illinois State Police crime lab currently under construction. But Bladdick said architects convinced school leaders to alter the plans to better fit its site directly across West Main Street from the campus.

Instead, a three-story rectangular-shaped building will be built on the former site of the Westview Baptist Church which later was sold to the New Freedom Baptist Church.

"The new dorm is going to be designed to reflect the historic buildings at the core of this campus," Bladdick said. "It's going to have all the modern amenities of a modern building but look like it could have been built 85-90 years ago."

The building, which will house a little more than 200 male students, will be made of red brick with terra cotta accents like the former Belleville Township High School main building that anchors the Lindenwood campus. It was built by Bauer Brothers Contractors in 1915.


Faculty, staff and administrators at Southwestern Illinois College partnered with Eckert's Country Store in Belleville to help bring a touch of home and holiday cheer to troops at Scott Air Force Base this month. More than 350 dozen cookies and $200 in local business gift cards were collected to help make the holidays brighter for the 400 service men and women living in the base dormitories who won't make it home for the holidays.

The project, which partners SWIC, Eckert's, the city of Belleville and Scott Air Force Base spouses and volunteers, gives the airmen a taste of home since this is often their first duty station and first time away from home for the holidays. This is the fifth year the college has provided cookies, and the second year the SWIC family has also provided gift card donations.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at or call 618-239-2626.

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