His commitment to agriculture earns him his state’s highest honor

Becky Doyle of the Macoupin County community in Gillespie never imagined she would join the ranks of those receiving Illinois’ highest honor, but that’s exactly where she found herself on Saturday during of the annual convocation of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois at Elmhurst.

“I’m a big fan of Lincoln Academy. I always read about the winners and their backgrounds,” Doyle said. “So I always admired the Lincoln Laureates, but I never dreamed I would be one.”

This dream came true when Doyle was one of six people inducted as Lincoln Academy honorees for his life in the service of agriculture.

Doyle was the first woman to serve as director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, a position she held for eight years under Governor Jim Edgar. She was also an officer in the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and spent a decade working with the United Nations World Food Program.

“For nearly 69 years now, I’ve been a cheerleader for Illinois farmers,” Doyle said. “My brothers are great farmers in Hancock County, my husband is an excellent farmer in Macoupin County, I have a son who is an excellent farmer. I’m a shameless cheerleader for Illinois farmers.

The Order of Lincoln, the award Doyle received, is the state’s highest honor for professional achievement and public service. Established in 1964, the Order of Lincoln honors Illinois residents whose work uplifts communities across the state.

This year’s Lincoln Honorees were honored at the organization’s 58th Annual Convocation at Elmhurst University.

Other winners included William Brodsky, a world leader in futures and options market development; Debra Cafaro, president and CEO of Ventas, the most successful publicly traded financial company of the first decade of this century; John McCarter, president and CEO of the Field Museum of Chicago from 1996 to 2012; Martha C. Nussbaum, world renowned expert in philosophy, law and ethics; and Robert R. Thomas, who went from a football career with the Chicago Bears to serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

“For more than 50 years, the Order of Lincoln has recognized residents who go above and beyond in service to the public, providing innovation, generosity and commitment to their fellow Illinois citizens through a range of achievements,” said Governor JB Pritzker, who presented the awards. “The class of 2022 Lincoln Honorees can be especially proud to receive this award at a time that has demanded so much of all of our communities. Illinois is a state defined by its kindness, and it is an honor for me to recognize these six people for embodying this characteristic in all their years of service.”

This year’s recipients join more than 350 distinguished Illinois residents who have received the Order of Lincoln over the past five decades.

Doyle was touched by the award and, during her acceptance speech and afterwards, said she was just doing her job.

“Looking back, it feels like I was lucky to have been able to do those things, but at the time it didn’t feel like a dream so much, it was just great work,” Doyle said. “It was an opportunity to improve people’s lives through better agriculture or better food delivery systems.”

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