Habitat houses, formerly incarcerated women welcomed back, student discards re-used, food distributed, children sheltered, and a Kenyan clinic sustained – contributions Hank and Mary Campbell have made and continue to support. These two retired Illinois State University (ISU) professors have never understood the retirement concept – they continue to launch new projects to enrich not just Bloomington-Normal, but the world.
Luckily for McLean County, the couple did not follow Mary’s 1976 inclination when they arrived in Bloomington -- “two years and then we are out of here.” Through Mulberry School and the St. Robert Bellarmine Newman Center they found a supportive community where their talents could flourish, and their souls could be sustained. Hank taught Industrial Technology and Mary taught in the Social Work Department. Their open and generous hearts soon plunged them into multiple activities.
Mary’s class initiated “Pass It On,” gathering discarded furniture, food, and clothing when students left campus which still exists today. She took her students, and Hank, on work trips to rural Kentucky and flood reconstruction after Katrina. She has served on multiple community boards, including ABC Counseling Services, the YWCA and was elected as a Trustee to Heartland Community College. In her retirement she joined with Feli Sebastian to launch Labyrinth Outreach Services to Women to serve formerly incarcerated women and Dreams Are Possible, uplifting women through enhanced job skills. She is a Master Naturalist, volunteers with Center for Hope food pantry, Youth Global Citizens, and the Multi-Cultural Leadership Program.
Hank helped initiate the local ISU-IWU Habitat for Humanity house building effort, resulting in 25 homes. His construction skills helped open Claire House and Neville House. He also directed students on spring break trips to Sumter, South Carolina. He is very active with the Normal Rotary, having traveled to other countries to support Rotary projects. He and Mary are both involved in multiple ISU and HCC scholarships, including an endowed Technology Department scholarship. Hank’s board and committee service includes the ISU Credit Union, Oakdale School Promise Council, Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, the M.J. Rymer Family Nature Preserve, Heartland Community College foundation, and the Lamu, Kenya effort, which funds a clinic. Besides ISU, he was on faculty exchanges with Australia, Russia and China, and served as a Dean at the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, an Historically Black University.
This is only a cursory list touching on their community generosity which also encompasses their home and their two children, adopting 2 children from Korea and serving as foster parents.
Catholic tradition influenced their development. Hank grew up in rural Ohio on his grandmother’s farm, attending parochial schools. His father ran a television and radio repair shop in Greenville, Ohio and his mom was a nurse. North Pittsburgh was Mary’s home, where her father was a Greyhound bus mechanic and a union activist. Mary’s dinner table always included
lively discussions on current events. In high school a couple of Catholic nuns, who lived among the poor, guided Mary toward social work by exposing her to work in inner-city neighborhoods.
Their personalities complement each other. Hank is very systematic, and his engineering mind takes a problem, looking for solution. Mary claims she “goes with the flow” and was committed to the field of social work and when a teaching opportunity opened at ISU, she tried it, and “within twenty minutes I knew I wanted to teach social work.”
They embrace any challenge with vision and build effective community partnerships. Their community and state recognitions would fill another page, not to mention other involvements and donations not mentioned here.
ISU alumna and Chicago activist Chris Inserra wrote in her nomination: “As someone who believes that faith in action in the community and the world is rooted in a call to a lifetime of activism, I am constantly challenged and inspired by Mary and Hank’s lifetime of walking and working in the trenches for justice, encouraging others to join the village of compassion so desperately needed in our world. They not only make a difference, but they also continuously open avenues and opportunities for others to be part of making a difference as well. They have remained important role models regarding societal issues of racism, inequity, injustice and war making. They see a need, they act!”