For Millikin alum Dr. Randall Rentfro, it was 'Time to Pay it Forward'

Long before Dr. Randall Rentfro became a dedicated alumnus and major capital project and scholarship donor, he was deeply inspired by both the arts and community experiences in Decatur.

Randy Rentfro

Long before Dr. Randall Rentfro became a dedicated alumnus and major capital project and scholarship donor, he was deeply inspired by both the arts and community experiences available in his hometown of Decatur, Ill. Visits to Millikin’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center with his friends from MacArthur High School exposed him to the campus and helped the University shape Rentfro’s life. 

  • “I was awed by Kirkland,” Dr. Rentfro said. “Even then, I could appreciate how lucky we were to have a facility like that in our hometown.”

    In 1978, Dr. Rentfro graduated from Millikin University with a degree in Accounting. Along with serving on Millikin’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Rentfro received Millikin’s Alumni Loyalty Award in 2021. While he earned a Master’s in Accounting from the University of Illinois and a Doctorate in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University, the arts were always a central passion, both in his life and the life of his husband, Dr. Ron Lennon. 

    “The arts make us better people. We can experience the world through other lenses and see life from other perspectives,” Rentfro said. 

    Rentfro’s husband, Ron, earned a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Administration from Long Island University, an MBA from the University of Baltimore and a Doctorate in Marketing from the University of Maryland. Together, they have put their efforts toward improving the arts and community around them. 

    Among their decorated history of giving and charitability, their contribution to Millikin’s Center for Theatre & Dance stands out both for its generosity and its aim to improve Millikin for generations to come. Dr. Rentfro and Dr. Lennon’s involvement in the Center for Theatre & Dance project started in the planning stages, when the project was more vision than reality. 

    “I supported the project in every way I could from its inception, and Ron and I became donors to it,” Dr. Rentfro said. 

    Randy Rentfro


    After witnessing the completion of the Manatee Performing Arts Center in their local community of Bradenton, Fla., they were inspired to see a similar community commitment fulfilled at Millikin University. “I was very excited about the prospect of a new facility for an area of the University that meant so much to me as a student.”

    Dr. Rentfro and Dr. Lennon’s gifts allowed them the opportunity to name a faculty office and the office of the Director of the School of Theatre & Dance. Though they looked forward to the contribution to the arts that the Center for Theatre & Dance would bring to Millikin, Dr. Rentfro’s conviction about the value of community and each individual’s unique talents shaped his purpose for helping fund the facility. 

    “Millikin helped shape me, and in some small ways, I have helped shape Millikin. My varied experiences as a Millikin student, faculty member and trustee have taught me to value the differences I see in the people I encounter daily,” he said. “We shouldn’t be threatened by differences. We should celebrate them. We need to do the hard work of rebuilding a sense of community, which allows each person to feel included and able to contribute in a meaningful way.”

    Dr. Rentfro’s meaningful contributions to the arts and community extend beyond financial support, as recently he has returned to his love of performing and acting. Nearly 40 years after performing in “The Lion in Winter” at Millikin, Dr. Rentfro performed in “Chaplin: The Musical,” “Gypsy” and “Sunset Boulevard” at his local community theater. Resuming his passion for acting and receiving enthusiastic support from his husband have reignited Dr. Rentfro’s love and commitment to community arts. He hopes his commitment will carry over to Millikin University, which will benefit future students who not only study arts and performance, but who love these entities as well. 

    • It’s time for all of us who have benefitted from Millikin to pay it forward,” he said. “Together, we need to guarantee that a financially stable Millikin will continue to shape the lives of students for generations to come."
    — Randy Rentfro, '78, Board Member Emeritus