HARRISBURG -- The Ella Elizabeth Hise Museum of Regional Art, the result of the largest donation to Southeastern Illinois College, opened Friday, delighting the more than 500 visitors on hand to take part in the grand opening.
The museum is the shared vision of retired Air Force Col. William C. Hise and his brother, the late Air Force Brig. Gen. James C. Hise, who wished to honor their late sister Ella Elizabeth Hise, who was a pioneer in art education in Illinois and began her career in Harrisburg Public School.
Ella Elizabeth Hise was born on a farm near Omaha on April 14, 1908. The family moved to Harrisburg in 1918, and she graduated from Harrisburg Township High School in 1926. The same year, she entered Southern Illinois Normal University, and in 1928 she earned a two-year teaching certificate. She began teaching fourth grade in Harrisburg, which continued until she became art supervisor for the school system. She continued as art supervisor until 1947.
She later became art supervisor at the Effingham and Bond County Schools and a member of the extension and workshop faculty of Eastern Illinois State College. She worked closely with the Illinois Department of Education, where she served on virtually every committee devoted to art progression in elementary and secondary schools.
In 1948, Gov. Dwight H. Green appointed her to be the Superintendent of the Art and Textile Dvision of the first post-World War II Illinois State Fair. On opening day of that fair, she received nationwide recognition by showing the innovation of American women in designing and using feed sacks for dress material when materials for civilian clothing were in short supply due to the war effort.
In 1945, she became an active member of the national honorary educational society Delta Kappa Gamma. She helped to organize Psi chapter in Harrisburg and Alpha Pi in Effingham. She served as president of both chapters and as the State Corresponding Secretary from 1953-1955. She served as president of the Women's Association of the Illinois Education Association in 1953. She received her undergraduate degree from SIU and a Master's Degree in Education from University of Illinois. She died on Aug. 27, 1962 after a long illness.
On Friday, former longtime Harrisburg High School art teacher Barb Allen recounted Ellas's story as told by Col. Hise.
"It is unsung heroes like Ella who have made the world a better place," Allen said in her remarks to the crowd of about 350 gathered in the George T. Dennis Visual and Performing Arts Centre.
Allen, along with board of trustees chairman Dr. Pat York and SIC President Dr. Jonah Rice thanked Col. Hise for sharing the vision of the Hise brothers with SIC.
"We're here to celebrate a gift that will continue to give back to the region for decades to come," Rice said.
Col. Hise, along SIC officials and other representatives, then walked to the front of the museum for a ribbon cutting before opening the museum's doors.
Visitors marveled over the many works on display from a four-state region including southern Illinois, southern Indiana, western Kentucky and southeastern Missouri. Several paintings by the artist known as Penny Cent are part of the museum's permanent collection, and other Penny Cent works are on loan for the opening show. Penny Cent, who got the nickname from his name Penrod Centurion, was a visiting professor and artist for College in the Hills, a Great-Depression-era college located near the junction of Illinois 34 and Karbers Ridge Road. Penny Cent had a fellowship through the Guggenheim Museum.