The Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation honored four individuals for their professional achievements and contributions to the Rock Island-Milan School District during a dinner Sept. 19 at Jumer’s Casino and Hotel, Rock Island.   

The foundation sponsors the Rock Island Legends, an honor group for distinguished alumni of Rock Island High School who have excelled professionally.

This year’s Rock Island Legends award winners are:

Dr. Paula Youngberg Arnell, Class of ’56. She is a  graduate of Augustana College and the University of Iowa College of Medicine, co-founder of both the Metropolitan Laboratory and the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, founder of The Women’s Connection and a founding member of the Quad-City Breast Center.

Don Nelson, Class of ’58. He is a two-time all-American at the University of Iowa, played in the National Basketball Association, or NBA, and won five national championships with the Boston Celtics, coached 30-plus seasons, has the most wins all time for any coach in the NBA, and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gary Payton, Class of ’66. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Purdue University; spent 23 years in the Air Force as a pilot, instructor pilot, spacecraft operations director and space technology manager; flew on the 1985 Space Shuttle Discovery; and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor in Engineering Sciences at the Air Force Academy.

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The Founders Circle Award is bestowed on Quad-Citians who have distinguished themselves professionally, through community service and gone above and beyond to support the Rock Island-Milan School District.

This year’s Founders Circle Award winner is Vic Boblett. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, coached football for 36 years, served the past 21 years as director of development and head football coach for Rock Island High School, was a driving force behind the creation of the Rock Island Youth Football program in 1993 and was inducted into the Illinois Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

For more information about the Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation or to nominate a deserving candidate, visit / or contact Cosette Thoms at 309-793-5900, Ext. 230.