.Staff & Board.
The individuals on our staff and board are dedicated to both the philanthropic mission of the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and to serving our community at large. We are extremely grateful for their time, contributions, financial support and advocacy.
FOUNDER & BOARD MEMBER
Established on October 15, 2015, Starved Rock Country Community Foundation was founded by Pamela Beckett - and her husband Chuck Beckett - as one of 850 community foundations in the United States. Pamela’s career in Philanthropy spans the past 26 years, following an 18-year career with Metropolitan Life as the Supervisor of Consumer Affairs in the Naperville-Aurora office. In 1994, she joined the Easter Seals organization in Peoria and accepted the position of President/CEO of Easter Seals of LaSalle and Bureau Counties in Ottawa in 2003. Under her guidance, the organization returned to a profitable position, expanded services to Seneca, Peru, and Princeton, and created the first regional Autism Resource Center and mobile Autism Resource Center. In 2009, Pamela accepted the position of Regional Foundation Director with Lutheran Life Communities, the parent organization to Pleasant View Retirement Community in Ottawa and Luther Oaks in Bloomington, to create a Foundation presence at each campus. She retired in June 2015, and in October of the same year, opened the doors of the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation.
Robert “Bob” M. Eschbach is the former long standing Mayor of Ottawa, Illinois. Mayor Eschbach has been elected Mayor of Ottawa for 5 consecutive terms, beginning in 1999, but that isn’t the beginning of Bob’s story in Starved Rock Country. Bob was born and raised in Ottawa and graduated from Illinois Valley Community College, Illinois State University and the University of Illinois College of Law. Mayor Eschbach began practicing law in Ottawa in 1978. Prior to being Mayor, Bob Eschbach served for many years on the Ottawa Plan Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and various other City committees. Always a purveyor of green initiatives in the town, Bob has been adamant about the beautification of Ottawa, but has also been extremely effective in his attempts to bring jobs and industry to the area. Eschbach was a founding member of Residents Against a Polluted Environment in the early 1980’s and fought the establishment of a hazardous waste landfill near Ottawa. He also served as Special Assistant LaSalle County State’s Attorney for land use and environmental matters for many years. He has served as a Commissioner of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission, and in 2013 received the prestigious Boat Captain’s Award of the Canal Corridor Association. He has been instrumental in shaping a shared vision for the future of Ottawa – placing special emphasis on economic development and the creation of new jobs.
John McCormick is a lifelong resident of Starved Rock Country having grown up in Spring Valley and now living in Peru with his wife and 5 children. He has spent more than 20 years as a banker providing support to businesses and individuals in Starved Rock Country. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of Eureka Savings Bank with offices in LaSalle, Peru, Mendota, and Oglesby. He has held numerous community positions throughout Starved Rock Country including time with Horizon House (Past Campaign Chair), IVAC (Past President), Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, and United Way. He currently serves on the finance committee and board of directors for St. Margaret’s Hospital, President of the Upper Illinois River Valley CDC, finance chair of Grace Untied Methodist Church in LaSalle, and as treasurer for the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. “The SRCCF is a great organization that focuses on making our entire region stronger through it’s mission and I am honored to be a small part of this great group as we grow into an amazing resource for Starved Rock Country.”
Tara is a resident of Streator, Illinois, where she has been heavily involved in a multitude of community service programs and activities. Tara holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago with two minors, Math and Physics, completed at Eastern Illinois University, Pre-Engineering Program. Tara is employed by Caterpillar, Inc., in Aurora. She is a 6 Sigma Black Belt, Manufacturing Engineer, and Systems Subject Matter Expert in Assembly, and serves as a member of the Women’s Initiative Network. Tara currently holds the position of Councilwoman, serving on the Streator City Council since 2013. She is a team member of START (Streator Action and Revitalization Team), served as the President of Streator Leading Ladies from 2014-2016, and holds leadership and committee member positions with Streator Tourism, the 4th of July Celebration Committee, the Streator Garden Club, the Streator Walldogs Committee, and the Streator Farmers Market. Tara is a recipient of the 40 under 40 Award, Class of 2014. She is married to Curt Bedei, the Executive Director of the Ottawa Visitor Center.
"The bedrock of philanthropy is in the origin of the word: Love of humankin. I am honered to represent Seneca and the entire Starved Rock Country Community Foundation in the spirit of giving back to others. As a social activist in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, West Africa and Illinois, I am delighted to bring my experience in serving to SRCCF."
"I am honored to have been asked to serve on the SRCCF board. Community is very important to me. It allows us to support one another, share experiences, network and help make life better for those experiencing modern life struggles. I am proud to be an ambassador of such a fine organization who helps to make a positive financial impact to those residing in Starved Rock Country."
I am very thankful for the opportunity to serve on this board. My goal is to help grow the Foundation and the Starved Rock Country area communities that it serves.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Our best “first-impression”, Cathy is the glue that holds us together! Born and raised in Utica, Cathy
credits her passion for helping those who are less fortunate to the strong family values she learned from
her parents and grandparents in this small, close-knit community. She graduated cum laude from Barat
College in Lake Forest, Illinois, a Catholic women’s college which taught her the importance of fighting
for social justice and community activism. Cathy brings over 30+ years’ experience in both the private
and public sector. Demonstrating her commitment to community service, she was a Court-appointed
Special Advocate (CASA) in St. Clair County; a Children’s Home and Aid Society (CHASI) Board member; and served on the Board of the O’Fallon Library for fourteen years. After relocating to Chicago, Cathy worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago where she supervised a pilot-program to promote financial
transparency for schools at risk of closing due to financial instability. Deciding to take a “sabbatical”,
Cathy became a “granny-nanny” for her two grandchildren, Sidney and Molly, from birth until they
were both in school full-time. After her mother’s death, Cathy and her husband Rick, a semi-retired
attorney, moved back to Utica. Cathy joined the SRCCF in 2019 as the Executive Administrative Assistant
and now serves as the Director of Operations. We are delighted to have Cathy on our team as she
continues to follow her passion to make a positive impact on the lives of all those living in Starved Rock
As a resident of Putnam County, Reed Wilson graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor's Degree in Agriculture Economics. From 2009 to 2019, Reed was the Economic Development Director for the city of Ottawa and served on the Putnam County Board of Education for Community Unit District #535 from 1979 to 1996 - which included six years as Board President. Not only did he serve on the Board of Education, but also he is the Co-Founder of the Putnam County Educational Foundation. Last by certainly not least, Reed is a U.S. military veteran and served in many capacities for the offices of U.S. Congressmen, most recently Adam Kinzinger.
Currently, Reed is a member of the Putnam County Rotary Club, where he served as Club President many times since 1977. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the McNabb United Methodist Church and is a distinguished member of the SRCCF Board of Directors.
Inga has worked in the environmental chemistry industry for more than 30 years; she received her BA in Chemistry, and MBA in Finance and Marketing, both from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining Carus Corporation in 1992, Inga worked for Air Products and Chemicals (APCI) from 1987 until 1992, primarily serving in ex-patriot positions in Europe, where she had commercial responsibility for APCI’s specialty chemicals for the German speaking regions. Inga joined Carus in 1992 as European Sales Manager, and returned to the US in 1993 to become Director of Marketing. She was Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing from 2001 until August of 2005, when she became President and CEO. In 2013, she was made Chairman of Carus Group, and in 2015, the year Carus celebrated its centennial, she handed the CEO title to Dave Kuzy and continues in her role as Chairman. Inga is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Chemistry Council, the Society of the Chemical Industry, is Chair of the OmniArts Trust, and also serves on the boards of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, Canal Corridor Association, and Landmarks Illinois.
Susan Thornton, a life long Starved Rock Country resident, moved to Ottawa 32 years ago from the LaSalle area. Passionate about giving back to her community, she serves on many volunteer and non-profit boards. She has spent 32 years on the LaSalle County 708 Mental Health Board, advocating for those with special needs and is currently serving as President. Susan’s interest in the past afforded her a seat on the board for the Center for American Archeology. She is active in Rotary and is a member of the LaSalle Noon Club, and sits on the Executive Board, and is currently the Foundation Chairman. Her love of baseball, brought her and her husband to help fund the LaSalle Rotary Park which has an ADA certified playground, a soccer field, and soon a Senior League baseball field. She also serves a President of the Parks non-profit Foundation. In her free time Susan enjoys, gardening, spending time with her family which includes her husband, Edmund, four children, 5 grandchildren, and her beloved Pug, Rolex, her “watch” dog. She also loves old movies, theater, music, and tries to keep humor in her daily life.
"Participating, contributing and helping to improve our communities through SRCCF Board of Directors is an opportunity that I have welcomed openly. In this world of constant change, I am glad to help continue to build this foundation's stability now and also for the future."
Born and raised in Streator, Illinois, Susan Schmitt has been a Companion Animal Veterinarian for 39 years. In 1985 Susan opened Countryside Animal Clinic, and today it is a 5-doctor practice. Through the years, Susan has attempted to be involved in the community and gives back when possible.
It is a part of my core beliefs that one does best by serving others and my being on the board of the SRCCF is an opportune way to provide the extended Starved Rock Country communities with means to help, build and encourage the lives of others.
Former Board Members.
Thank you so much for your service to the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation. We could not have grown so much without you!
Tom L. Justice, Jr.