50 Influencers: Doug Carlson, Helping Fund Futures
Influencers don’t always need to be front and center. Sometimes those with the biggest impact show up every day without fanfare and do something incredibly vital to the operation of the college. Doug Carlson was one of those people.
For 32 years, Carlson manned the helm of Rend Lake College’s Financial Aid Department. He and his team kept track of thousands of students and millions of dollars every semester, ensuring that those who needed help had access to the assistance to succeed.
He was born Tuesday, March 10, 1953, in St. Joseph, Mich., the son of Clyde and Eva Carlson. He married Beverley Slavens on Sept. 22, 1979, in Frankfort, Ind.
The next year, he made the journey to Ina, to become Director of Financial Aid. The family relocated to Mt. Vernon, leaving his position as the Assistant Director of Housing at South Georgia State College in Douglas, Ga.
During his tenure with RLC, Carlson sat on the Academic/Faculty Council, and represented the college for a number of years at the River-to-River Relay with various other members of the RLC faculty, staff and student body, including his son, Scott Carlson, during the 2000 race.
The annual 80-mile road run through the Shawnee National Forest had each runner compete three different sections, ranging in distance from 2.5 to 3.8 miles. The course started at Pine Hills Bluff, overlooking the Mississippi River, and finished along the Ohio River in Golconda.
He twice served as Vice President for the Illinois Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and was awarded the ILASFA Sustained Service Award in 2007. He was also a longtime member of the Illinois MAP Formula Committee. He has served on countless on-campus committees over the years, including the interview committee for his successor.
In 1990, he was already noticing the vast, upward tick of students needing financial aid. According to the records he kept, the number of financial aid recipients had more than tripled from the decade before. That year, the office dealt with 2,431 students receiving a total of $3,147,318 in financial aid.
He was known for getting the job done, and getting it done correctly.
Senior Partner Bill Crompton of Clifton, Gunderson and Associates praised audit findings to the RLC Board of Trustees in 2001. He reported Rend Lake College “is the only college he works with where there are no federal violations.” He commended the Financial Aid Office (Director Doug Carlson and Advisor Cheri Rushing) for their tremendous work.
Carlson retired in July of 2012. Tragically, he died shortly after, April 27, 2014, at his home in Mt. Vernon due to brain cancer.
Rushing was hired as Director of Financial Aid following Carlson’s retirement.
“I am at Rend Lake College today because of Doug. He took a chance and gave a country girl from central Missouri an opportunity. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that he so graciously offered, the patience and understanding he showed, the leadership qualities he possessed, the integrity that he had professionally and personally and his love of family, faith and friends. He was a good boss, a good mentor and above all a good friend,” Rushing expressed.
Carlson was an award winning wine-maker who enjoyed growing fruit and providing friends and family with his Miller Lake Wines.
He was also an avid fisherman. In fact, Carlson had a well-established tradition of hitting the lake the morning of graduation. He would spend a few hours on the water before returning to campus to take part in the ceremony.
To honor his memory and dedication to the college, there is an Endowed Douglas S. Carlson Memorial Scholarship established by the Carlson family. Even after his passing, Carlson is still using financial aid to help RLC students attend college.