Family, community, and education—these were driving motivators for the Engelking family including Harold Engelking AA’39, his wife Evelyn, and their daughters Connie and Elana.
Following the death of Harold, Connie Jorgensen decided that a memorial honoring Harold’s life and his accomplishments was important to her and Elana. She wanted that recognition to be at a place he considered to be an instrumental part of his preparation for life—Blackburn College.
“Dad was a storyteller,” remembers Jorgensen. “Among other activities, listening to dad’s stories about school, work, his travels and activities drew us together as a family.”
Jorgensen recalls Harold as easy-going, very intelligent, always interested in what was going on (“we got three daily newspapers”), and a talker. “He loved to visit with us and with others; meals were never quiet affairs—we all related the events of the day, sharing our stories with each other.”
Everyone loved to play games together, and Jorgensen recalls Bridge as being one of the most popular. A Christmas present when the girls were young was a ping pong table which led to many competitive games for years. Their parents taught the girls golf, and it was not uncommon to find the foursome on the golf course together when the girls were adults.
“He always considered Blackburn to be his “home base”—the place where he got his start on his career path.”
Jorgensen contacted the Institutional Advancement Office at Blackburn College to talk with a development officer about ways in which she could memorialize her dad’s life. Harold graduated from Blackburn with an Associates of Arts degree in agriculture in 1939 when it was a two-year school. Although he went on to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Illinois, he always considered Blackburn to be his “home base”—the place where he got his start on his career path. Harold strongly felt that Blackburn gave him the foundation he needed to go on to earn his other degrees and to move into a profession.
“Dad used to tell us stories about his days at Blackburn—and particularly about his participation in the College’s Work Program, called the “Work Plan” in his day,” recalls Jorgensen. “The Work Program seemed to be what he remembered the most since his stories focused on his campus jobs. I don’t recall how he learned about Blackburn—he lived in a small town about four hours north of Carlinville. He came to Blackburn during the Depression when most people could not afford college.
“Dad liked to talk about the day he was late for a class—maybe a minute or two—and consequently had to march around the track for an hour. He was never late for class again, and he took that sense of timeliness with him into his advanced studies and career; Jorgensen does not recall a time when he was ever late.
“Poker was highly popular at Blackburn among his friends, but none of them had money for betting. They wound up using ties and socks as “chips” during their games.”
Jorgensen loves to travel nationally and internationally, a love that reflects her parents. She particularly likes bicycling in other countries and has done so throughout Europe, Asia, and multiple trips around the US. Italy has been a favorite destination, with several bicycle trips in the past and one scheduled soon. While her parents were still living, the entire family enjoyed taking annual cruises together.
Jorgensen recalls Harold talking about time he spent in Brazil with a team of consultants who worked with farmers there to help improve their crops and yields. He was on the faculty at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale at the time, and that trip was a highlight of his career in agriculture education.
Following retirement, Harold volunteered to participate in a program at Carbondale that provided support services for startup businesses and entrepreneurs. The program included mentoring services, and Harold loved his involvement with young men and women who were trying to get their businesses (and ideas) off the ground.
During her conversations with Blackburn Development Officer Stephen Yearson, Jorgensen learned that Blackburn was seeking funds to help with renovation of the Lumpkin Learning Center’s main reading room. She was looking for something visible and that would have lasting impact. The Learning Center’s reading room seemed the ideal opportunity for remembering and honoring Harold—especially considering his own enthusiasm for education, working collaboratively with teams of people, and his interest in life-long learning.
Her gift of $425,000 to Blackburn to support renovations of the reading room did just that—providing improved space for students to study independently, to gather in small groups to work on projects together, and to have a place for team meetings. Thanks to Connie Jorgensen’s generosity, the room was dedicated as the Harold Engelking Reading Room in October 2021.