A former Eastern Illinois University student senator with a long history in state government is the newest member of the EIU Board of Trustees.
William O’Rourke of Springfield, a 1974 EIU graduate who still vividly recalls the kindness of then-housing-official Lou Hencken, was appointed to the seat June 16 by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“I think it’s a wonderful honor,” O’Rourke said. “Eastern was a tremendous place to go to college, and I owe much of what I am today to the education I got there. It’s a place dear to my heart.”
The temporary position on the board, replacing the vacancy left by the resignation of Nathaniel Anderson, will become permanent upon confirmation by the state Senate. The term is set to end Jan. 17, 2011.
O’Rourke’s appointment was announced by EIU President Lou Hencken during the EIU BOT meeting Monday at the university.
“He’s a great addition to the board,” Hencken said. “I’ve known Bill since he was a student. He was active here at the university, he’s been active with the Alumni Association in Springfield, and he’s going to be an excellent board member for Eastern Illinois University.”
O’Rourke, a native of Heyworth, has spent his entire professional career in Springfield, working in various managerial positions for the city of Springfield, Sangamon County, the state comptroller’s office, the secretary of state’s office and the State Board of Elections.
As executive assistant to the general manager of City Water Light and Power in Springfield, O’Rourke’s current duties include directing and planning functions of lake security, property, maintenance, construction, automotive fleet, risk management, and personnel and training.
“His background will bring a wealth of information to the board,” Hencken said. “His knowledge of utilities comes at an important time as we make repairs to our infrastructure.”
O’Rourke has been active in the Springfield chapter of the EIU Alumni Association. He has also lent his talents to the EIU athletic department, helping to organize an annual golf outing and serving on the Panther Club board.
As a student, O’Rourke was a member of the Student Senate and the Student Apportionment Board. He was also active in intramural sports and a member of the political science honorary society.
O’Rourke clearly recalls a trying period during his sophomore year at EIU, when, faced with a serious injury, he was forced to leave campus for an extended period of time.
He worried that the situation would cause him to lose his room in Taylor Hall, a prospect made more frightening because his parents were away from home due to his father’s health concerns. So he made a plea for help to Hencken, who was the associate director of housing.
“I called him (Hencken) and said, ‘Lou, please don’t kick me out of the dorm,’” O’Rourke said. “He said, ‘Of course we won’t.’ He was a great person to work with, a kind person. He saved the day.”
The incident became one of O’Rourke’s “fondest memories” of his time at EIU, he said. Another was meeting the fellow EIU student who would later become his wife.
O’Rourke and his wife, Linda, a native of Camargo, live in Springfield with their son, Patrick.
“I thank Gov. Blagojevich for appointing me,” O’Rourke said. “I look forward with great anticipation to becoming an active member of the board.”