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Olivet receives gift from estate of Kankakee River advocate

April 20, 2018

Benner Library and Resource Center at Olivet Nazarene University is the new home for Kankakee River basin materials from the estate of the late J.R. Black, a longtime leading advocate for the Kankakee River, who died Feb. 2.

“Through a generous donation made by Black’s widow, Deanna, the results of J.R.’s many years of advocacy for and dedication to the preservation of Illinois’ Kankakee River Basin will now benefit others,” ONU announced. “As the only four-year university on the Kankakee River, Olivet is the ideal repository for Black’s collection.”

Benner Library and University Archives staff members will catalog the collection and create an online presence for the materials.

“This sizable and remarkably important collection of documents concerning the Kankakee River watershed will now be preserved for this and future generations,” said Dr. Randal Johnson, professor in Olivet’s Department of Biological Sciences.

Johnson has been instrumental in connecting Olivet with the local environmental community, particularly through his involvement on the Kankakee River Basin Commission and in organizing the bi-state Kankakee River Watershed Conference last year.

Black, an educator and coach at high schools in Kankakee and Herscher, was one of the founders of the Northern Illinois Anglers Association in 1979 to advocate for the protection and improvement of the Kankakee River watershed.

He served as board member, chairman and executive director of the NIAA. He was among the first dozen people in the Illinois Outdoors Hall of Fame, being inducted in 2004, the third year it existed.

Black and Johnson were river advocates together, their association leading to the creation of the large Kankakee River aquarium at ONU and to activism by ONU staff and students in the annual river cleanup and fishing derby.

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