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Illinois hunting and fishing

Marvin Mahan died this fall at the age of 91.

Benefactor who promoted forestry as an investment in college’s future dies

January 01, 2012 at 09:10 PM

The State Journal-Register

Marvin Mahan, whose vision was to plant thousands of walnut trees to provide future income for Blackburn College in Carlinville, died this fall at the age of 91.

Mahan was a nearly penniless teenager when a Blackburn president took a chance on him and gave him a job and a chance at an education. Mahan became a successful chemical engineer who contributed to many innovations during his career, including the development of synthetic rubber during World War II. He donated $1 million for a new science building.

He also was a firm believer in proper money management and how things grow in value over time.

Mahan convinced Blackburn to plant walnut trees on timbered acres of land it owns outside of Carlinville. Walnut trees are valued for their hard wood, particularly for veneer in furniture making. About a dozen students helped plant 3,000 trees.

“From this point on, I consider this a memorial to Marvin’s ideals,” said Jim Bray, chair of Blackburn’s biology department. “The Ingrid Mahan Foundation (named for Mahan’s wife of 65 years) is honoring the pledge to keep the program going.

“Initially, we are in the second year of a five to six year pledge of $250,000 to carry out this project — depending upon how we would draw it down,” Bray said. “We want to make this part of Blackburn. Not just a way to make money or a gifting of money but by gifting all these years of experience all these students can have as well.”

Bray said the opportunity to get to know Mahan also was a gift.

“What’s priceless to me is the roughly 10 years I had to know the man, hash through these ideas and hear the stories,” he said.

Related stories

Walnut trees are Blackburn College’s investment in the future

A former student has convinced Blackburn College that sustainable forestry can provide investment income far into the future.

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