Esteemed for its diverse educational opportunities and recognized for promoting individual self-worth and values, Midstate College is also admired for its family-driven culture.
Since its humble origins in 1857 when a commercial school was founded in Peoria, Midstate College has turned heads as an educational institution—and as a family-run business. A similar school opened nearly a decade later, and the two schools combined in 1868 and were purchased by G.W. Brown two years later to become Brown’s Business College of Commerce.
In 1960, the school again changed hands when it was bought by A.R. Beard, Don Beard and Arline H. Bunch, mother of the current president and chairman of the board, Dale Bunch. When the Beards retired, Arline and her husband purchased the college, commemorating the beginning of a family-owned educational institution that would culminate with the establishment of Midstate College in downtown Peoria in 1966.
All in the Family
Midstate’s historical journey to its present location on Northmoor Road is just a preface to the much-improved facility that today leads students through the process of self-discovery in preparation to enter the workforce. In 1999, the college began offering four-year degrees, serving students from central Illinois and nationwide. But while the school’s curriculum provides future leaders with the academic necessities to succeed on the job, the college’s ownership is a familial cornerstone for learners, anchoring them to the fundamental values of integrity, innovation and diversity that enable individuals to succeed in their private lives as well.
Since the early days of ownership, members of the Bunch family have contributed in varying ways to the school’s success story, each member thriving in his or her own capacity. “I worked with my parents a long time, since 1965,” says Dale. “My mother, Arline, was a dean of the college at the time. My father took retirement from Caterpillar and helped run the college. We had about 500 students back then-before the community college came into existence.”
Dale’s daughter, Meredith Bunch, has worked for the college for about 15 years and serves as vice president, chief operating officer and a member of the board of directors. His son, Mike, is also involved in the college as the business manager. Dale’s brother, Bryan, serves on the board as well, along with Dale’s other son, Mark, who lives in Cincinnati. Dale, Meredith and Bryan currently own the college.
Dale admits that working with family can be a complex issue. “I think sometimes we all have the sense that we need to build our own castles,” he says. “That’s why, when working as a family, if you have a special niche or something you’re good at, that helps you feel satisfied.”
“We’re fortunate that we’re very close, and we have the same values, so it’s easy for us to work together,” adds Meredith.
Meredith claims there are advantages to running a college as a family. “I think that the difference [between working with family and working with outsiders] is we take such personal responsibility in the quality of care we provide,” she says. “We’ve been cited as having a family-like culture, and it permeates to our students. There’s a sense of family pride that comes with family ownership.”
“I have a lot of pride in working with Meredith,” Dale adds. “The hard work family members put in carries beyond what most employees would normally do. When we have hard decisions to make, we always go back to what would be best for the students.”
Family ownership has helped students gain ground at Midstate with the creation of the Arline H. Bunch Business Center, which opened January 14, 2002.
“Our business administration classes are located in that building,” says Dale. “My mother won many business awards, and we felt it was appropriate to name the building after her. She had a tremendous drive and a tremendous love for the educational process.”
In addition to business administration, the college offers four other bachelor degree programs in accounting, management of information systems, health services management, and real time reporting. Midstate also offers nine associate degree programs. The Bunches would like to offer a master’s degree program in the future.
“Our mission is to help learners graduate and provide students the tools they need to be successful,” says Meredith. iBi