The origins of Midstate College date back to 1857, when a commercial school was founded in Peoria. A similar school opened eight years later, and the two combined operations in 1868. George W. Brown bought the merged school in 1888, rebranding it as Brown’s Business College of Commerce, and for decades Brown’s trained and educated thousands of local students for employment in business.
Born in 1907, Arline H. Bunch was always an educator. Both she and her sister, Zelma, traveled on horseback nine miles each way when they taught grade school in Missouri at a young age. She owned and operated the Crescent Hall Secretarial School in Peoria from 1940 to 1947, then joined the faculty at Brown’s Business College and became its dean of women.
Shortly after it was renamed Midstate College of Commerce in 1958, Arline became part-owner of the college. Eight years later, she and her husband Al purchased Midstate College; he became president and chairman of the board of directors, while she served as vice president and dean. Soon their son Dale would be thrust into many aspects of operating the family business.
The Bunch family worked tirelessly to see that Midstate College survived and maintained its high standards. They attended educational seminars across the country, searching for new and better ideas in school management. Active in the Accrediting Commission for Business Schools, Arline became a member of its board of directors and received the organization’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, at its national convention in 1970. Later she also received a Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, acknowledging her lifelong dedication to higher education.
In 1971, the State of Illinois enacted legislation that allowed schools like Midstate to award associate degrees to qualified graduates, offering credentials that were better recognized by employers. That same year, Dale Bunch was elevated to president of Midstate College. At 32 years of age, he had been involved in many facets of the operation: teaching classes, serving as placement director, running Midstate’s branch in Rockford for two years, and handling marketing, admissions and more. The family always worked together; titles and positions were secondary to doing what needed to be done on a daily basis.
Midstate College was granted accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1982. It now had the same accreditation and met the same standards as other colleges around the country.
Passing the Baton
When Al and Arline passed away in the 1980s, a void was left at the college. Dale continued on as president and board chairman, serving in this role for 40 years. In 1996, his daughter Meredith graduated from Bradley University with a degree in secondary education and joined Midstate College as a faculty member.
Discovering the same passion for education as her grandmother and father, she soon became a driving force at the college.
Active in every aspect of the business, Meredith has led operations, marketing, admissions, online education and academic improvement initiatives. She has served as president and chief executive officer since 2010, leading Midstate through the complex accreditation process and ensuring it meets the standards of regional and programmatic accreditation. She has also been active in the Peoria community, serving on boards and committees and accumulating a range of awards for her service.
Meredith’s brother Mike joined Midstate College as business manager in 2002—another important addition to the college. He manages the bookstore, handles computer technical support, and takes on many other tasks as needed to keep things running smoothly.
Through the Bunch family’s legacy, Midstate College has proudly served central Illinois for 64 years and counting. With hard work, pride in achievement and a deep understanding of the needs of students, the family continues to serve the Peoria community with quality education and graduates prepared to meet the needs of the workforce. PM