Scores of prominent Peorians gathered at the newly renovated Hotel Pere Marquette Saturday to celebrate the work of Illinois State Senator Dave Koehler.
Koehler, a Democrat who has served as a senator for the 46th legislative district since 2006, was named the 2013 Honoree of the Henri de Tonti Celebration. The Peoria Historical Society, as well as Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service (IPL), presented the second annual award to Koehler.
“It’s not my comfort zone to have things focused on me, but [I’m here] with great appreciation and gratitude,” Koehler said after receiving the award. “I feel very humbled and honored by this.”
The award is presented each year to one individual who demonstrates outstanding community leadership. It’s named after Henri de Tonti, a fur trapper and explorer commissioned by France in the 1670s. de Tonti is said to be the founder of Peoria.
The reception was held in the Pere Marquette, the first large event in the hotel since its renovation, and featured appetizers and cocktails with live music, a dinner, speeches and the presentation of the award.
University President Joanne Glasser, who gave a congratulatory speech, said she is happy Koehler received the award.
“In my mind [Koehler] is the quintessential gentleman,” Glasser said. “I cannot think of a better example for young people today.”
Although Koehler did not attend Bradley, he continues to be involved with the university. His wife and three daughters are alumni, and Koehler was integral in the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance, Glasser said.
“He was a catalyst in securing funding for Bradley to build Westlake Hall,” she said. “I think it’s only fair to refer to Dave as an honorary Brave.”
Koehler’s presence in Peoria during the past 35 years has led to his work to improve state and local government, benefit Bradley and work on the restoration of the historic Pere Marquette. He and his wife own Peoria Bread Company on the near north side, as well.
A number of prominent Peoria figures gave congratulations to Koehler, including Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17), former Illinois State Senator Dale Risinger and Illinois Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92).
Several other politicians recorded video messages for Koehler, like former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood ’71, former Illinois State Senator George Shadid, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, East Peoria Mayor Dave Mingus and Pekin Mayor Laurie Barra.
Koehler said he was honored by the award and happy to serve the Peoria area.
“When you have a community with good people who do good things, why would you ever want to leave?” he said.