DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Family, friends and state leaders gathered in Vermilion County Wednesday morning to honor their late friend Sen. Scott Bennett.

He died in December of a brain tumor, and now many are making sure his legacy lives on.

It starts with planting a tree in the center of the Danville Area Community College (DACC) campus. It’s a place he poured time and effort into to help pave a path for students and higher education.

Now, leaders want to make sure his love for learning is never forgotten.

“In a world of public service, Scott was a statesman. That’s not a word that I throw around lightly,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said. “He radiated joy, he always lent a helping hand when he knew that you needed it.”

To honor that joy, state leaders planted a burr oak tree for Bennett at DACC.

“Higher ed was his passion,” Stacy Bennett, his wife, said.

She knows her late husband saw the power of education firsthand and took action.

“He created a scholarship in honor of his mother who returned to college when he was about 8 years old,” she said.

Bennett was pushing to create a future for others inside the classroom.

“He clearly saw the community colleges in particular as incredible, open-ended opportunities,” Robert Bennett, Scott’s brother, said. “To the majority of the population he served for whom such opportunities are often unavailable for want of time.”

This dedication means a lot to the Bennetts.

“Our family is very grateful,” Sen. Thomas Sennett, his uncle, said. “DACC is a magical place where you change and you touch lives every day. Scott so loved being part of that.”

Sen. Paul Faraci, one of his close friends, said moments like these help process the emotions.

“We just miss Scott every day. It’s hard to do this without him,” Faraci said.

While Bennett may be gone, his work continues.

“May this tree, like Scott’s legacy itself, outlive him greatly. May it exist, thrive, and inspire for many many more decades to come,” Robert Bennett said.

If you want to see the tree and plaque, it’s on the west side of campus near Prairie Hall and the Clock Tower.