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Hutchison, Porter, Ropp, Schneider To Be Honored As 'History Makers'

A Catholic priest, a legal services advocate, an agriculture specialist and a women's basketball hall of fame member are the recipients of this year's History Makers Awards from the McLean County Museum of History.

The awards will be presented at a gala on June 16.

This year's honorees are Jill Hutchison, John R. "Jack" Porter, Gordon Ropp and Father Ric Schneider.

Hutchison was inducted into the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 after coaching the Illinois State Women's basketball and softball teams for many years. She holds the record for winning the most titles of any Redbirds basketball coach. She is currently an advocate for women's rights and gender equality.

Porter was the longtime director for Prairie State Legal Services. Porter originally came to McLean County as a Presbyterian minister, and became an advocate for social justice at Community of Social Action. Mid-career, Porter decided to attend law school. He studied at the University of Illinois on a scholarship, and used his degree to help provide a legal voice for the poor in the area.

Ropp has worked for many years on improving agriculture and rural life in McLean County. In 1960, At the age of 27, he was selected as a delegate to the Illinois Agricultural Association Convention by the McLean County Farm Bureau. He served as director of the American Dairy Association of Illinois and president of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association of McLean County. In 1970, Ropp became the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He served as State Representative from 1973 to 1993. Ropp retired in 2002, but remains active in community affairs.

Schneider, a member of the Catholic Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, came to Bloomington 23 years ago to take over as pastor of St. Mary's Parish. When Schneider retires this summer, he will head to a Franciscan community in Cincinnati, ending an era of Franciscan service to Bloomington Catholics. St. Mary's parish has served the poor and had an active outreach to the Hispanic community. Schneider also worked with OSF-St. Joseph Hospital to help uninsured pregnant women obtain healthcare.

Beth Whisman, incoming executive director of the McLean County Museum of History, said the 2016 winners have "made a significant impact on our quality of life. We have the community we have today based on the time and talents they have contributed over the years."

The winners were among about a dozen residents nominated for the history maker's awards. Nominees must be over 70 years old and have spent the majority of their life in McLean County.

"Every year we accept nominations from the community, and then we have a committee of volunteers that come together and look at those nominations. They look at the impact someone's had. We try to have a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, different impacts in the community," Whisman said.

Proceeds from the gala will go toward funding the museum's free educational programs. Tickets for the gala are $50 for museum members and $60 for the general public. Tickets go on sale May 2.