About Colleen Callahan
Colleen Callahan grew up on a purebred Hampshire hog, Angus cattle and grain farm near Milford, Illinois. While attending Milford High School she took agricultural classes but was not permitted to be a member of the National FFA Organization because women were not admitted into FFA until after her high school graduation.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from the University of Illinois, Colleen became the first woman Agribusiness Director for WMBD Radio and TV in Peoria. After 30 years there, Colleen started her own communications firm. She continued farm broadcasting at WGFA Radio in Watseka, IL until April, 2010.
As a small business owner, Colleen specialized in giving motivational speeches, facilitating meetings and debates and connecting people, enabling them to develop strong professional relationships. Colleen’s passion for agriculture has taken her all over the world, including a journey to Afghanistan and Iraq, paid at her own expense, at the invitation of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Colleen also has a strong commitment to public service, having served on numerous executive boards of including: the Peoria YWCA, Great Rivers Regional Nature Conservancy Board, Peoria Children’s Home, University of Illinois Alumni Association and Morton Community Bank.
She was the first female President of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and was Chairman of its Ethics Committee. Colleen served as a member of the St. Francis Medical Center Women’s Health Services Public Relations Committee and was a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
In February of 2008, Colleen was unanimously selected by the 18th Congressional District Democrat County Chairs as their candidate for the District’s open seat. In seven short months (and her first effort to run for an elected office), Colleen received over 117,000 votes.
Colleen’s husband, Richard Burns, also a 1973 University of Illinois graduate in Agricultural Science, is a regional sales manager for Burrus Seed. They raise purebred Angus cattle on their farm near Kickapoo, Illinois and own a farm in DeWitt County, Illinois. Their daughter, Brittney, is an attorney in Chicago, Illinois.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bachelor of Science with Honors, Agricultural Communications, August 1973
- Mortar Board National Honor Society
- Hoof ‘n Horn Magazine, Editor
- ACT (Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow)
- Livestock Judging Team, National Champions, 1972
- Champion Livestock Showman, Little International, 1970
- 4-H House Cooperative Sorority
Milford, Illinois Township High School, Salutatorian, May 1969
Congressional Candidate, Illinois 18th Congressional District, 2008
- Unanimously selected by Democrat County Chairs - February 2008
- Announced candidacy – March 10, 2008
- First effort to run for elected office
- Campaigned throughout 20-county District – March 10-November 4, 2008
- Received 117,000+ votes – November 4, 2008
- Raised over $600,000.00 in seven months
Colleen Callahan Communications, Owner, January 2003 – April 2010
- Traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan & Uzbekistan at invitation of USDA Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, November, 2003
- "Back from Iraq" and "From the Midwest to the Middle East" / Over 100 presentations given throughout the U.S. / December 2003 – Present
- Motivational Speaker
- Media Coaching
- "Colleen’s Comment" – Weekly Commentary
WMBD Radio/JMP Media, Agribusiness Director, September 1973 – 2003 Sr. Agribusiness Consultant, 2003-2005
- Director of Agricultural Programming, Monday – Friday, 5:30 A.M. - 6:30 A.M. & Noon Agribusiness Hour 12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.)
- Creator of the following successful radio segments:
- - "Fields of the Future"
- - "Centennial Farm Tour"
- - "Agri-Woman of the Month"
- - "Planting and Harvest Tours"
- - "Colleen Callahan County Fair Tour"
- Creator and Host of "Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous", 1998-2001
- Responsible for all Agribusiness Programming on CBS 31 TV, Peoria, Illinois, and Channel 3, WCIA, Champaign, Illinois, 1974 to 1997
- Creator and Host of the following successful television segments:
- - "Town and Country" and "Midwest Morning" – 2 to 5 minute programs, airing Monday – Friday, featuring local and national individuals involved in agricultural vocations and avocations
- - Daily agricultural commodity market reports during the "Noon News" on Channel 31 and Channel 3
- Co-anchor of "Blue Ribbon Dreams," Live broadcast on Channel 3, WCIA, of the Governor’s Championship Auction during the Illinois State Fair, 1996-2002
WGFA Radio, Agribusiness Director, 2005 – Present
- Daily Agribusiness programming
- Agricultural Sales and Marketing
RFD Livestock Report, Producer, 2007
- Produced the daily "RFD Livestock Report" for the RFD Radio Network, reaching an audience throughout Illinois.
National Association of Farm Broadcasting, 1973 - Present
- President, 2002
- First Woman Elected in the History of Association
- President-Elect, 2001
- Vice President, 2000
- Director of Development
- Board of Directors
- Chair, Ethics Committee
- Planned National Annual Meeting, 2001
- Co-chaired Regional Meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters
PROFESSIONAL AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
- Oscar in Agriculture, Television News Category, 1975
- Outstanding Young Woman of America, 1978
- Communicator Award, Illinois Pork Producers Association, 1979
- State FFA Degree, Illinois Association Future Farmers of America, 1980
- Service Award, Illinois Livestock Association, 1980
- Award of Merit, University of Illinois Agriculture Alumni Association, 1985
- - First woman
- - Youngest Recipient in Award History
- Excellence in Farm News Broadcasting, Illinois Beef Association, 1986
- Communication Award, Peoria, Illinois YWCA, 1987
- American Women in Radio and Television Commendation Award, 1988
- - "Farm Wife Financier", 1st place, Television News Category, Presented by Jane Pauley
- Media Award, Land of Lincoln Soybean Association, 1989
- Communication Award, American Soybean Association, 1990
- Distinguished Merit Award, Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, 1993
- Silver Dome Award, Illinois Broadcasters Association, 1995
- Friend of Agriculture, Illinois Extension Agricultural Association, 1996
- Outstanding Farm Broadcaster of the Year, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, 1999
- State 4-H Alumni Recognition Award, Cooperative Extension Service, 2000
- Contributions to Ag Industry Award, Illinois Corn Growers Association, 2002
- Excellence Award for Public Education, Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education, 2002
- 25 Women in Leadership, The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and WEEK 25-TV, 2004
- Friend of Agriculture Award, Illinois Commodity Conference, 2005
- Eagle Award for Excellence, Illinois Farm Bureau, 2005
- Chicago Farmers, President, 2008 -2009
- Fighting Illini Pork Club, Co-Chair, 1998 - Present
- - Established in 1973 by my Dad, Fran Callahan. The purpose is to promote pork, and at the same time, establish scholarships for the Athletic and Animal Sciences Departments at the University of Illinois. Over $500,00 has been raised, with 80% distributed to athletics and 20% to animal sciences.
- Morton Community Bank Board, Member, 2004 - 2010
- OSF St. Francis Medical Center Women’s Heath Services, Public Relations Committee
- Peoria Notre Dame High School Auction, Publicity Chair
- Peoria Notre Dame High School Parents’ Board, President
- - Membership Chair
- - Graduation Event Coordinator, 1999
- Peoria Notre Dame High School, "Soccer Mom", 1996 - 1999
- University of Illinois Alumni Association, Board of Directors, 2006 - Present
- University of Illinois College of ACES
- - Agricultural Communications Leadership Council
- University of Illinois College of ACES Alumni Association Board, President, 2005 - 2006
- The Nature Conservancy/Great Rivers Region, Board of Directors
- Youth For A Cause, Board Member
- Peoria YWCA Board of Directors
- - Executive Committee
- - Marketing Committee, Chair
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- St. Mary’s Church (Kickapoo) Education Board
- Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education
"Not Winning, Doesn’t Mean Losing…My Run for Congress"
I’m writing a book about my decision to run for Congress and the experience that followed.
I may not have achieved the goal, but I did NOT lose. I met people I could have never known otherwise. I learned things I could have never known otherwise. I learned about myself, because I did things I would have never done otherwise. I learned that people whom I thought I knew, I didn’t know as well as I thought. And I learned that people that I didn’t know (and who didn’t know me), that once we got to know each other, they’d go to the mat for me!
Some couples renew their vows. Dick and I ran for Congress. One should not make the commitment to run for office without the complete support of family. I had that rock-solid foundation.
Now that the campaign is over, many ask, “Are you getting back to normal?” The answer is, “It’s a new normal!” You can’t “go back,” because the experience is now a part of your fabric.
Click on any thumbnail below to begin slideshow
"What a pleasure to meet you last week in Kansas City! You are a true inspiration to us and we value your insight.
Thank you for your kindness and your contributions to the ag industry."