Jeff Rankin  |   Published July 06, 2022

In Memoriam: Nancy Speer Engquist ’74

Longtime educator was member of Monmouth’s Board of Trustees for 20 years

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Nancy Speer Engquist ’74, a 20-year member of the Monmouth College Board of Trustees who was known as “Ms. Monmouth,” died June 29, 2022, after a brave battle with cancer. She was 69.

NANCY SPEER ENGQUIST '74: Her lifetime in education included 20 years on the Board of Trustee... NANCY SPEER ENGQUIST '74: Her lifetime in education included 20 years on the Board of Trustees at her alma mater.A lifelong learner and supporter of education, Engquist was an education major with a focus on learning disabilities at Monmouth and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. After she graduated from Monmouth in 1974, she went on to earn her master’s degree in special education from Northern Illinois University and her doctorate in education from Loyola University Chicago.

“Nancy was a dear, funny, strong soul,” said Monmouth President Clarence Wyatt. “Her work on the Enrollment Management Committee was especially strong and valuable. Her bright spirit and devotion to our students will be sorely missed.”

Growing up in the rural town of Bushnell, Illinois, Engquist was influenced in her decision to pursue teaching by her high school principal, John Lawson ’47, and his wife, Ilene Schleich Lawson ’46, a local teacher.

After graduating from Monmouth, Engquist began her career as a special education teacher in Batavia, Illinois, before moving to neighboring St. Charles, where she resided with her family for over 40 years. A lifelong learner and educator, she continued her career as a teacher of middle school in both regular and advanced classes, and finally as a professor and consultant at Illinois State University.

“Nancy was a dear, funny, strong soul. Her work on the Enrollment Management Committee was especially strong and valuable. Her bright spirit and devotion to our students will be sorely missed.” President Clarence Wyatt


Engquist, who lived in Berlin, Maryland, joined Monmouth’s Board of Trustees in 2002 and served on its Enrollment Management Committee and Nominations Committee. She previously served on the College’s Alumni Board of Directors from 1996-2002.

A lover of history, Engquist relished her memberships at museums in the Washington, D.C., area. She also enjoyed teaching swimming.


Putting students first

“Nancy was not only a great friend to Monmouth College, but one of the true advocates for student success,” said former Monmouth vice president Don Capener, who is now at Utah Valley University. “She dedicated so much of her time and efforts to helping our students succeed.”

Added Monmouth physics professor Chris Fasano: “Nancy was always so kind and thoughtful, and she was wicked smart. The students always came first – it was always about them and serving them. Truly a life of serving others. I will miss her so.”

That sentiment was shared by many others, including those who served with her on the Board of Trustees.

“My heart is broken this morning. I learned that my great friend, the president of my fan club, my mentor, my fellow Monmouth College alum, has passed away,” said Monmouth trustee Dan Cotter ’88. “She now is no longer suffering, but the world is a bit sadder today, as one of the warmest, kindest, giving persons I have known is no longer with us.”

PROUD TO SERVE: Nancy Engquist (far right, front row) poses with other members of the Board of Tr...PROUD TO SERVE: Nancy Engquist (far right, front row) poses with other members of the Board of Trustees at a Monmouth Commencement ceremony. “Nancy wrote to me on my birthday in January, telling me she was gravely ill with the same cancer that killed her mother,” said another trustee, Sandra Epperson Wolf ’64. “Johns Hopkins accepted her case, and she fought bravely. She was my touchstone at the trustee meetings – so friendly, communicative and hard working. I can’t believe that we will only see each other in heaven.”

Carlos Smith ’90 and Anita Ridge ’88 have been Monmouth trustees since 2001 and 2014, respectively.

“I am truly heartbroken to hear this news,” said Smith. “Nancy was a true supporter to me and my entire family. She always had a kind word and encouraged my girls’ accomplishments as if they were her own daughters.”

“I was lucky to be Nancy’s friend through our shared commitment to Monmouth College,” said Ridge. “Nancy was welcoming, compassionate, dedicated to education and witty. I will miss her kind words, her smile and her thoughtful questions. Deepest sympathy to her family and to all who loved her.”


‘Ms. Monmouth’

Along with Cotter, Geri Pope Weber ’76 coined a nickname for Engquist – “Ms. Monmouth.”

“She was one of the nicest, kindest people who always had time for you,” said Weber. “She had a caring, helpful nature, always helping others. Monmouth College was one of those recipients. As Dan and I called her … ‘Ms. Monmouth.’ Her smile, her laugh, her sense of humor – there wasn’t anything not to like.”

Engquist is survived by her husband of more than 40 years, John Engquist; daughters Kristin Bergey (Ryan) and Laura Engquist, and four grandsons.

A visitation will be held from 10-11 a.m. on July 20 at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. A private graveside service will follow.

Memorial funds have been established for the Monmouth College Physics Department, the Bushnell Public Swimming Pool and the St. Charles Public Library (donations of children’s books are appreciated).

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