December 14 2023

Illinois College President, Dr. Barbara Farley, to Receive Credo’s 2024 Courageous Leadership Award 

Credo is thrilled to announce that Illinois College President Dr. Barbara Farley has been named the 11th recipient of the Courageous Leadership Award. This award is given annually to a higher education president whose remarkable vision and dedication have made an indelible impact on their institution, their community, and the students they serve. 

Farley joined Illinois College as its 14th president—and first woman chief executive—in 2013. Prior to her appointment, Farley’s career spanned teaching, research, and administrative positions, including more than a decade spent as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College at Augsburg College in Minnesota. These experiences demonstrated to her the unique power and value of small, independent colleges and formed the foundation of her advocacy for both IC and the sector today.   

"Anyone who knows Barbara knows her as a grace-filled, thoughtful, deeply engaged leader and colleague. In her many years of involvement in Credo’s Women in Leadership Initiative, for example, other college presidents regularly look to Barbara for her wisdom and discernment. Barbara leads with integrity and care, and we’re grateful to be able to celebrate her in this way."

Emma Jones, Credo Executive Vice President/Owner

Propelling Illinois College to new heights 

Under Farley’s leadership, IC has marked a host of milestones. This academic year, IC achieved a 10-year high in the enrollment of first-time, full-time students, growing from 287 to 318 between Fall 2022 and Fall 2023. Moreover, that growth has been inclusive; approximately a third of students enrolled at IC come from low-income backgrounds or are first-generation college students.  

That’s due in large part to Farley’s focus on making IC more accessible and affordable for students. In 2022, IC announced the Illinois College Advantage Plus initiative, which guarantees a minimum of $20,000 in scholarships to all first-year students—scholarships they can keep for all four years. The benefits are even greater for Illinois residents with a minimum GPA of 3.0; these students have 100% of their financial need met.   

On the advancement side, in 2022 IC surpassed the historic $50 million goal of “Inspiring Achievement: The Campaign for Illinois College.” Funds raised in the campaign—the largest in IC history—grew experiential learning opportunities for students, expanded scholarships, and upgraded the historic campus to enhance academic and athletic experiences.   

“Reaching the conclusion of this historic campaign is about more than the financial support for Illinois College as an institution,” Farley said. “It is about inspiring and empowering the work the College does each day—work the world needs now, more than ever.” 


Farley congratulates IC's soccer team on their 2023 Midwest Conference Championship.

Building Partnerships To Strengthen Students—And The State 

Farley’s commitment to strengthening IC is matched only by her passion for supporting the college’s surrounding community and home state. Through her connection to local organizations—including serving on the boards of two of the area’s largest health organizations— Farley has facilitated partnerships that leverage IC’s resources to deliver mutual benefits.  

IC and Memorial Health—one of Illinois’ leading health care organizations—recently announced a new partnership aimed at graduating more nurses to serve throughout Illinois. The arrangement provides the college with $4.2 million over three years to grow enrollment in its traditional-track nursing program. The funding will support scholarships, new student success positions, simulation lab expansion, clinical placements, faculty exchanges, recruitment funds, and employment pipelines for Memorial Health.    

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Farley with Memorial Health President and CEO Edgar J. Curtis, key leaders of both organizations, and IC nursing students while announcing the IC+MH Academic Partnership in June 2023.

“This initiative aligns perfectly with our vision to empower students and address the critical need for skilled nurses in our region,” Farley said.  

Because IC is located in a heavily agricultural region, Farley has helped develop agribusiness articulation agreements with several local community colleges. (Articulation agreements, also known as “2+2 agreements,” document a pathway between community college academic programs to four-year bachelor’s degree programs.) In 2023, IC began accepting the associate of applied science degree to satisfy IC’s general education requirement, making it easier for students at community colleges to transfer. 

“The first of its kind for Illinois College’s agribusiness management program, this new partnership will provide a seamless pathway for Kaskaskia College students who wish to finish their educational journey with a bachelor’s degree,” Farley said in the August 2023 announcement of the partnership. In addition to Kaskaskia, IC has formalized agreements with two other local community colleges and has eight more in progress.  

In response to the desperate need for teachers across Illinois—it’s estimated that 88% of school districts have shortages—IC partnered with the Golden Apple Accelerators Program to launch a fully online education licensure program in 2023. The program enables participants to achieve secondary licensure in as little as 12 months and elementary licensure in slightly more than one year. The partnership announcement was just the latest in several IC initiatives aimed at strengthening the preparation of educators. In 2022, IC opened its new Becker Center for Teacher Preparation and created a fully online English as a Second Language certificate program designed for licensed teachers or IC students already earning an education degree.  

"President Farley enfuses her work with joy that inspires and empowers those around her. Her thoughtful, dynamic, and courageous leadership has transformed Illinois College into the college, partner, and employer of choice in this region."

Stephanie Chipman, Illinois College Vice President of External Relations

President Barbara Farley greets alumni at Homecoming. 

An Evangelist For the Value of Independent Colleges 

Even before joining IC, Farley was a visible and vocal advocate for independent higher education institutions across the country. She has served in a variety of leadership roles for industry organizations, including as president of the Associated Colleges of Illinois, serving on the tax policy committee for the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities’ Board of Directors, and serving on the executive committee of the Federation of Illinois Independent Colleges and Universities. She is the current chair of the Midwest Conference Presidents’ Council and in 2022 was named chair of the board of directors of the Council of Independent Colleges.  

“[Farley’s] dedication to independent colleges and universities, and to the community of leaders who serve this essential sector, is inspiring,” said CIC President Marjorie Hass when announcing Farley’s selection. “Under her leadership, CIC will continue to develop current, relevant, and useful programs and services for its members.” 

In 2021, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier—IC’s hometown newspaper—published a profile of Farley as she entered her eighth year leading the college. She reflected on the path she took to IC’s presidency, crediting a graduate school mentor’s guidance and her tenure as a faculty leader at the College of St. Scholastica (Minn.) for nudging her toward a decorated career in academia and administration. IC, she said, is the perfect culmination of all these experiences.   

“I feel really lucky,” Farley said in the article. “I have a deep understanding of what institutions like Illinois College bring to the world, and I think the world needs more places like Illinois College.”  


Alumni and friends gather at Homecoming.

Previous Recipients of the Courageous Leadership Award:  

  • 2023 | Burton Webb, University of Pikeville 
  • 2022 | Tiffany Franks, Averett University 
  • 2021 | Mary Hinton, Hollins University 
  • 2020 | Tom Flynn, Alvernia University 
  • 2019 | Amy Novak, Dakota Wesleyan University 
  • 2018 | Daniel Elsener, Marian University 
  • 2017 | Kim Phipps, Messiah College 
  • 2016 | Mary Meehan, Alverno College 
  • 2015 | Mark Lombardi, Maryville University 
  • 2014 | Joanne Soliday, Credo 
  • *To be considered for the Credo Courageous Leadership Award, a leader need not be a current or past Credo client. 

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