A BRIEF HISTORY OF

THE ILLINOIS BUSINESS HALL OF FAME

The idea of an Illinois Business Hall of Fame originated with four Western Illinois University college professors in 1970. The four — Richard Hattwick, Paul Holmes, Norman Meonske and Dennis DePorter — were deeply concerned about the negative atti- tudes which the American press and general public held toward business at that time. Their concern led to the question, “What can we do about the problem?” One of many suggestions offered was that of establishing a business hall of fame. Over a period of months many other Western Illinois University faculty were drawn into the discussions; and on November 12, 1971 the new Illinois Business Hall of Fame received a charter as a not -for-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Illinois.

At its first official meeting, the board of directors of the new Illinois Business Hall of Fame made three major governance decisions. First, it voted to entrust the daily administration of the Hall of Fame programs to the Center for Business and Economic Research at Western Illinois University. Second, it voted to involve other faculty members from selected colleges to serve on the Hall of Fame’s board of directors. Third, it voted to use the Western Illinois University Foundation as the entity to receive and protect any pri- vate contributions that might be made to the Hall of Fame.

In 1972 the board of directors formulated its selection policy and made the first selection of laureates. The initial policy was that a laureate had to (1) have been the chief executive officer of a “big business” headquartered in Illinois, (2) have been responsible for leading that company through a major period of growth and/or that methods had to be found to identify outstanding small business success stories. In 1975 the board decided to experiment with a con- cept called “The Local Business Heritage.” This program involved asking the local chamber of commerce in a particular Illinois town to identify several local businesses that had been successful economi- cally and were strongly involved in the community. The Hall of Fame would then put together the stories of the leaders of those companies, and those stories would be included in Hall of Fame edu- cational programs, with the leaders becoming Hall of Fame laureates in the “Local Business Heritage” program. This approach was sub- sequently tried in Macomb, Aurora, Galesburg and Quincy. By 1979 the Hall of Fame had begun to receive nominations of small business- persons from all over the state. The board decided to create a third membership category, the role model, so that these nominees could be considered.

One of the original objectives of the Illinois Business Hall of Fame was to gather archival materials dealing with laureates’ careers. Such materials were gathered in the process of assembling each candi- date’s credentials. In addition, audio and videotape interviews were made in selected cases.

In 1972 the board began discussing the concept of a Hall of Fame museum. Ultimately it was hoped that a free standing structure could be erected. But board members also felt that some sort of temporary museum should be created. The discussions led to a deci- sion to find temporary space in Stipes Hall on the Western Illinois University Campus. In 1975 a room in Stipes was set aside for this purpose. Two years later hallway exhibits were added to the so- othed museum. At that time the American National Business Hall of Fame requested and was given hallway exhibit space that was to be shared with the IBHF. In 1982 a decision was made to significantly remodel the two museums.

By 1977 the Illinois Business Hall of Fame’s board of directors felt that it had sufficient experience to address the issue of the governance structure for the program in the 1980’s. Discussions over the next two years led to the adoption of the basic policies that will be found elsewhere in this manual. Included in the policies was the explicit allocation of board membership positions for repre- sentatives from various universities and other organizations and the creation of an executive committee. Much of the hard thinking on this subject was done by R.B. Hulsen. One of the issues that arose during these discussions was the place of active business leaders. It was finally decided to have a majority of the board represent academic insitutions and to create an advisory group of business- persons to be known as the Illinois State Board of Consultants, The organizational meeting of the consultants was held on June 25, 1982.

The founders of the Illinois Business Hall of Fame created the American National Business Hall of Fame in 1972. The original concept was to have the ANBHF serve as an umbrella organization for 50 state business halls of fame, one of which would be the Illinois Business Hall of Fame. This approach failed to work out as hoped and in 1980 the ANBHF program was expanded using an alternative strategy. The Illinois Business Hall of Fame’s materials became the major element in the ANBHF’s programming. In 1981/82, through the ANBHF, Illinois Business Hall of Fame laureate stories were presented to students in college classrooms in Arkansas, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Michigan, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Washing- ton and Wisconsin.

There was no effort to systematically raise funds from private sources during the period of 1971-1981. However, some private donations were received for the establishment of endowments and several mail solicitations were tried on an experimental basis. In 1981 the endowments totalled $80,000 with the income from the endowments being used to carry educational programs to the high school and college student audience.