Monday, October 6, 2014

Kenneth Epperson

Kenneth Epperson

MACOMB – Dr. Kenneth Epperson, 90, of 807 E. Franklin St., Macomb, passed away at Wesley Village Healthcare Center on Thursday (Oct. 2, 2014). One of the most well-known figures in Macomb, he made outstanding contributions at Western Illinois University and in the Macomb business community, and he had a wide circle of friends and admirers.

Ken was born in Hume on Oct. 1, 1924, so he had very recently celebrated his 90th birthday. He was the son of Homer Lee Epperson and Sylvia Elliott Epperson, and he graduated from Newman High School in Newman in 1942.

Ken received his bachelor of science in education and master's of science in education degrees from Western Illinois University in 1946 and 1952. During his undergraduate years, Ken earned varsity letters in football, basketball and track; and he was the state pole vault and high jump champion, and took second place in the long jump.

He also served as president of Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity and the Interfraternity Council. Very popular, he was also chosen as Campus Personality and as Homecoming King. Between completing his two WIU degrees, Ken served in the U.S. Air Force, 1946-1947, and he married Lorraine Barnhart, also a Western student, on April 15, 1949, at the First Christian Church in Blandinsville.

Ken was an industrial arts teacher and coach at Greenfield High School, 1947-1948; an industrial arts teacher and basketball coach at Macomb High School, 1948-1952; the principal at Blandinsville High School, 1952-1954; and then the superintendent of the Northwestern School District (now West Prairie) for five years. From 1959 to 1961, he was with the Office of the Illinois Superintendent of Public Instruction as assistant director in the Division of Special Education.

Ken started his 22-year career with Western Illinois University in 1961, first as an admissions counselor in charge of High School Relations. During the 1960s, WIU grew at a rate of 1,000 students per years. Soon widely known in throughout the state, Ken was selected to head the Illinois Association of College Admissions Counselors in 1966.

During this busy period, Ken also completed his doctorate in higher education administration at Indiana University. That was awarded in 1969. Later, in the 1970s and early 1980s, Ken served as Western's director of University/Community College Relations. He retired from WIU in 1983.

After his retirement, Ken joined his wife in real estate. They launched Century 21 Purdum-Epperson Inc. in 1990, and it became a leading agency in western Illinois. During his business career, Ken received several production awards and was named Macomb Realtor of the Year.

During his many years in Macomb, Ken was a great follower of WIU Athletics, and he served as president of the WIU Leatherneck Club. He was also named to the WIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995. He also served on the WIU Performing Arts Board. Ken received the WIU Alumni Achievement Award in 1987.

His community leadership was also evident in many ways. He was, for example, president of SURS at WIU, and he served as a Spoon River College trustee for 12 years. He was also the chairman of the McDonough County United Way for several years. He was on the Wesley Village Retirement Center Executive Board, and he served as well on the Macomb Planning Commission.

Ken was also a 50-year member of both the local Masonic Lodge and Macomb Kiwanis Club. He also held memberships in the Macomb Country Club, the American Legion, the First Presbyterian Church (where he was a trustee) and the McDonough District Hospital Golden Apple Society. Earlier, Ken had also served as chair of the board for the Blandinsville Christian Church and chair of the board for the First Christian Church in Macomb.
Ken was also a talented woodcarver and sculptor. He carved the first Western Illinois University seal in 1974, in celebration of WIU's 75th anniversary. That official seal is now housed in the Registrar's Office. In other years, he carved a number of smaller WIU seals as presentation gifts for retiring administrators and faculty members. Ken also designed and carved the Western Illinois University mace, which is carried and used at every commencement and at special academic events.

Ken was active with his wife Lorraine in many Macomb community, and WIU, efforts. Their recent large gift to the WIU Foundation, to close Western's $60 million fundraising campaign, is one notable example. Ken and Lorraine received the Isaac and Ethel Leighty Community Award, given by the McDonough County United Way.

On a personal note, Ken was a great socializer, and he especially enjoyed golfing, dancing and playing bridge. He was also devoted to the Eppersons' Sheltie dogs, Skipper I, II and III.

Survivors include his wife, Lorraine; nephew, Paul and Christine Epperson; sister-in-law, Roberta Epperson; and cousins, Sue Goetz, Steve Williams and Bob Williams.

Visitation will be at the Clugston-Tibbitts Funeral Home in Macomb from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The funeral service will be at3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, at the First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Mark Merrill officiating. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery in Macomb. A celebration of life gathering will be held, immediately following the funeral, at the Macomb Country Club.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ken and Lorraine Epperson Scholarship Fund at WIU (through the WIU Foundation) or the First Presbyterian Church.

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