Diane Horwitz, Retired Faculty Member and Creator of the Returning Women’s Program
“I started this program during a time when the thought was that married women didn’t go to college.”
As an instructor at Moraine Valley in 1970, Horwitz observed an increasing number of nontraditional-aged women returning to college. As a result, she developed the Returning Women’s Program—a cohort where women could learn together in an intellectually challenging environment. More than 1,000 women were enrolled in the program. Horwitz shares comments from many of them who were impacted by the experience.
Janice Stoettner, Moraine Valley Alumnus
“I’ve so often been called the community college cheerleader.”
Stoettner attended Moraine Valley right after high school; then returned as an adult. She also spent several years as a Moraine Valley employee. As the executive director of Career Preparations Network, she fosters strong partnerships with community colleges. She recalls as a young teen her parents talking favorably about the referendum because they believed it would be valuable to have a community college in the area. She is a huge supporter of Moraine Valley and is very appreciative for everything the college has done for her.
Michael Espinoza, Instructor of Criminal Justice, and Eric DeVillez, Associate Professor of Communications/Literature
“It’s the best feeling when you hear from students. I always want my students to do better than I’m doing.”Two faculty members discuss their love of teaching and how they came to be at Moraine Valley. Teaching college students was not their first career choice, but they found themselves here, and the “rest is history.” Family was a strong influencer for both men to work at the college; Espinoza’s mom took computer classes to advance herself at work (his three kids also were students here) and DeVillez’s father was a long-time professor. They found a home at Moraine Valley and feel lucky to have it.
Teresa Hannon, Counselor
“When people hear I work at Moraine Valley, they all come talk to me because they all want to be here, too.”Hannon recalls her many connections to Moraine Valley over the years, starting as a student studying psychology. She graduated on the same day as her future mother-in-law, and her son graduated from the first Fire Academy class. Moraine Valley has always felt like home to Hannon, who loves hearing stories of her students, particularly when they succeed. She feels very blessed to be here.
Ron Kurfirst, Retired Director of Buildings and Grounds
“I found another home.”…”This campus is beautiful.”
Ron Kurfist worked at Moraine Valley for 16 years, from 1986 to 2002. He wasn’t sure he wanted the job when he first arrived on campus and saw all the temporary buildings. He remembers his time here very fondly though. He talks about the environment that was created for the students and of how appreciative everyone always was of the work his department provided.
Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins, President
“Being the college president is just a position that allows me to give more support to many, many people.”
Dr. Sylvia Jenkins started at Moraine Valley as a part-time librarian in 1986. She went on to hold various positions at the college and is currently the President of Moraine Valley Community College. When she began in 1986, many of the founders of the college were still here and she was able to learn a lot from them. She enjoys being surrounded by people who understand that the purpose of a community college is to help people succeed.
Dr Vernon O. Crawley, President Emeritus
“Student success became my motto.”
When Dr. Vernon O. Crawley came to Moraine Valley at the start of his 21 years here, there were only three permanent buildings. He is very proud of all that transpired at the campus and the transformation the campus has gone through.
He started his career as a scientist, but because he wanted more contact with people, was drawn to leave private industry for education. He wanted to serve students and believes that focus on student success is what makes Moraine Valley a great college.
Dr. Margaret Lehner, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Assistant to the President
“It gave me the opportunity to be a part of something that was new and to build something from scratch.”
When Dr. Margaret Lehner first came to campus in 1969, the campus was hard to spot. She drove up and down the street seeing only houses. Luckily, someone flagged her down and directed her to her interview location. Since that initial introduction to Moraine Valley, she has served in many roles at the college. She began as a Professor of Communications and Literature, later becoming Dean of Liberal Arts and then Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences. She went on to hold the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs and is now the Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Moraine Valley Community College provides something new everyday–new people to meet and new opportunities.
Bill Finn, Athletics Director
“Everything we do here and everything I do here is based on the fact that I want people to love Moraine like I love Moraine.”
Bill Finn came to Moraine Valley Community College when he was 22 years old as the head basketball coach. More sports were added the next year and he was asked to be the Athletics Director. His goal was to build a program where every kid in the area would want to go.
Glenn Carpenter, Photographer
“Diversity and variety make the job fun.”
Glenn Carpenter became Moraine Valley’s photographer 27 years ago and has been living out his life’s passion everyday by taking pictures. He believes that pictures are the invitation to the story and Glenn has enjoyed capturing Moraine’s story for so long.
Dr. Linda Brandt, Counselor
“For so many students Moraine becomes their village, their family–to really provide that foundation and encouragement to succeed.”
Dr. Linda Brandt has been with Moraine Valley Community College for 42 years. She feels it is an honor and privilege to watch students grow. Administration, faculty, and staff at the college are all working toward the same mission and goal of having an important impact on people’s lives.
Dr. Wally Fronczek, Dean of Liberal Arts
“I think we’re very innovative here at the college.”
Dr. Wally Fronczek has been at Moraine Valley Community College for 32 years. He began his work here in Student Activities and has had the opportunity to do many different things and be involved in a variety of projects. He recalls lots of exciting events on campus, including respected guest speakers and big name performances.
Dr. John Donahue, former Board of Trustees Chairman
“What we focused on was making sure the community knew they could get a quality education here.”
Former Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. John Donahue speaks about the college’s 25 year plan and how the college has become a tremendous asset for the suburban community. A good board, teachers who care about their students, and quality education are reflected in a great student body.
Lenette Staudinger, Retired Biology Professor
“I loved the job. I thought that was really important–especially to be a role model to young women because when I joined the Biology department I was the only woman.”
Lenette Staudinger was a professor of Biology here for 32 years. She tells about some of the creativity involved in putting classes together in the college’s early days, like stocking the Botany classes with discarded plants from the cemetery. The college has grown and progressed so much and she is proud that Moraine Valley has done so well.
50 Years of Women’s Voices: Oral Histories of Moraine Valley
During Women’s History Month this year, and as part of the college’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the MVCC Library hosted a panel discussion that highlighted stories of women who have played a very large part in Moraine Valley’s history. All of these women were or have been with the college for decades. Dr. Sharon Fritz and Lenette Staudinger were members of the original faculty body. Dr. Linda Brandt has been with the college for over 40 years. Dr. Sylvia Jenkins has been with us for over 30 years and is the college’s first female president. Dr. Margaret Lehner is the college’s longest serving tenured employee.
They share stories of their memories of Moraine Valley and share their unique perspectives as women who have seen the college grow and progress. Earlier administrations were not as supportive of women and things really began to change in the 80s. The campus has seen great advancements and now has many women in leadership positions who enjoy serving as role models for young women. Women at this campus show each other that we can do this.
Norma Vazquez-Zwick, Enrollment Services Secretary
“Moraine Valley changed me…it made me think differently about school.”
For 13 years, Vazquez-Zwick has had “wonderful experiences” assisting students from some of the college’s most vulnerable populations. Her first decade at Moraine Valley was spent helping ESL and GED students. “I told those students all the time they should be proud that they came from another country without knowing English,” she said. Her favorite experience at Moraine Valley has been greeting students who need assistance in the Counseling and Career Center. More than anything, Moraine Valley has changed her analytical, black and white banking background into a welcoming environment with people and warm personalities.
Kate Wulle, Retired Theater Faculty Member
“Most every time our students performed made me proud.”
Wulle discusses the early days of the college, specifically the layout of campus buildings, classrooms without walls and the interdisciplinary team-teaching class structure. She recalls the only faculty strike that occurred at Moraine Valley and shares insight into life as a faculty member. She, along with two other theater faculty, produced, directed or acted in 100 plays on campus from 1975 until the Fine and Performing Arts Center opened in 1994, which they were instrumental in helping to design. They also created the outdoor Shakespeare Theater that continues every summer.
Brian Andersen and Matt Walsh, Charter Members of the Foundation—Andersen, Executive Vice President; Walsh, Foundation’s First President
“All you had to do was say you can’t do it, and we would do it, and we would find the funding to do it.”
Andersen and Walsh discuss the Oak Lawn Rotary’s role in creating Moraine Valley Community College and each of their roles in starting the Foundation, which built the Fine and Performing Arts Center and was responsible for many “terrific” events that benefited the college: Children’s Fair, scholarship program, 2006 referendum passage, innovation grants for faculty/staff, golf driving range, to name a few.
Ray Pietryla and Kay Schneegas, Retired Physical Education Faculty Members
“This school is fantastic. It was a great experience, and that’s why we stayed so long.”
Pietryla and Schneegas discuss the creation of the Physical Education department at Moraine Valley. Without a gym or building to use, they offered a lot of outdoor activities and used facilities in the neighboring communities, including a pool at Little Company of Mary Hospital, county parks for softball games and local bowling alleys. The pair also started the first fitness center in Building G and invited organizations such as Special Olympics, Elim School and Pine Manor Nursing Home to bring their clients to campus for recreation.
Bill Helmold, Director of Client Services, Information Technology
“I’m proud to be a part of this institution and am very grateful for everything it has done for me.”
Helmold discusses the role Moraine Valley has played in his life for 50 years, including community member, student, faculty and staff member. As a youth, he played tennis on campus at night with his sisters. Ten years later, he enrolled in classes, and 10 years after that, he was hired as a help desk technician. He’s been here ever since and shares how technology has changed over those decades.
Douglas Gehrke, Retired Economics Faculty Member
“Moraine Valley was a sleeping giant.”
Gehrke discusses the early days of campus life focusing on the interesting nuances of the Quonset huts, the first buildings erected on the property, and the open classroom concept. He shares the history of the five Moraine Valley presidents, the start of the faculty union and stories about the “good ‘ole days.” As the college’s first Athletics Director, he reminisces about the first basketball season.
Lenette Staudinger, Retired Biology Faculty Member
“Whenever I get the chance, I tell people I was a faculty member here.”
Staudinger discusses the first days Moraine Valley opened in buildings on 115th Street, including the open concept floor plan that created classrooms with no walls, crossing the street to the cemetery for old flowers for the biology lab and spending hours moving fruit flies into tubes for students. She fondly recounts tales of lab animals’ hysterics and the closeness of the 30 faculty hired in the first year, many of whom are still her close friends.
Stephenie Presseller, Sustainability Manager
“I’m proud of Moraine Valley for coming along to make this a better future for everyone.”
Presseller discusses the cultural change that has occurred at Moraine Valley regarding sustainability in the seven years she has worked at the college. She praises the college president for signing the President’s Climate Commitment, pledging Moraine Valley to be climate neutral by 2042.
Pat O’Connor, Chief of Police
“Moraine Valley has been good for the community and good for me. It all started here…and it’s gonna end here.”
O’Connor discusses the evolution of his 42-year career in law enforcement, which started and will end at Moraine Valley. His Introduction to Law Enforcement instructor wondered about the long-haired musician in the class, but ultimately guided him into police work. O’Connor worked for the Office of Campus Safety and Security on the midnight shift before spending the next 30 years working for municipal police departments. When he returned as police chief in 2007, his career had come full circle.
Mark Horstmeyer, Retired Director of College and Community Relations
“Moraine Valley is an outstanding institution, and our community and students realize that.”
Horstmeyer discusses the top three highlights of his 17-year career at Moraine Valley: outstanding relationships he has developed with faculty and staff; growth of the college – both in enrollment and physically—thanks in large part to the $89 million referendum he led in 2006; and, his role as the men’s and women’s cross country coach.
Holly Katavich, Manager of Compensation and HRIS, Human Resources
“It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the 17 years here.”
Katavich discusses how a temporary student employment job turned into a 17-year career at Moraine Valley. Despite an interest in going to work after high school, she stumbled upon the college and took classes while working part-time in several campus departments. Two associate degrees and one bachelor degree later, Katavich continued her professional career in human resources. She reminisces about the open floor plan in Building T, a fountain in the Library and working at the college on 9/11.
Elaine Echols, Class of 2007
“Returning to Moraine Valley was best thing I could ever have done. Moraine Valley is the place to be.”
Echols discusses coming to Moraine Valley because she needed to support her kids following a divorce. A Criminal Justice major, she is now a court advocate for DCFS and will begin law school at Northwestern School of Law in June 2017. She credits her public speaking professor with encouraging her to begin a motivational speaking group, Sister2Sister Network. Her successes have led to her induction into the college’s first Alumni Hall of Fame class.
Demetrius Robinson, Manager of Student Life
“I’m so proud to be a part of this particular college.”
Robinson discusses Student Life in the old College Center before the Student Union was built. Referring to it as “my stomping ground, my humble beginnings,” some of his favorite memories in the old center are celebrating the Chicago Bears trip to the SuperBowl and dressing as a clown for a big referendum party. Now he oversees the new Student Union and all of the student clubs and organizations.
Ray Lehner, Retired Respiratory Care Technology Faculty Member
“I’m a very lucky man, a very fortunate man…a very privileged human being because I was part of Moraine Valley in the early days, the earliest.”
Lehner shares stories of a faculty who respected, encouraged and loved each other…and they still do. They had humor and fun, cracking jokes about each other, sharing stories and insights. They joined their minds and opinions, and no one was stopped by failure. They always found a way. He came to Moraine Valley because it was the place he could make the biggest difference. He calls it a resource, a reference, a refuge, a lifeboat, a safe haven, and for some a second home. Humphrey Bogart said, “This is what dreams are made of.” Lehner responds, “Welcome to Moraine Valley.”
Dave Termunde, User Support Services Coordinator, Information Technology
“Moraine Valley exposed me to doing what I enjoy doing. This place has that special feeling. This was really worth it.”
Termunde discusses coming to Moraine Valley when he was a young child to take Photoshop and Print Shop classes, which allowed him to build technology skills before everyone had technology in their pockets. He enrolled in classes at 13, earned an associate degree here and started working in various technology roles at the college, including teaching IT classes.
Nicole Selvaggio, Alumna and Adjunct Communications Instructor
“I can’t express enough how much of a life changing place this has been for me. All roads lead back to Moraine Valley.”
Selvaggio discusses the many roles she has played at Moraine Valley in the last six years, including student and star tennis player, head women’s tennis coach and now adjunct faculty member. She reflects on her full circle moment of teaching in the classroom she once sat in as a student as well as her experiences playing in and coaching at the national competition every year she was involved with the team.
Jerry Bennett, Mayor of Palos Hills
“For 35 years our partnership has been an honor and privilege for me, but also for what it’s done for the southwest suburban area. We look forward to continued growth and excellence.”
Bennett discusses the “amazing” transformation of the college he has witnessed as mayor for 35 of the last 50 years. He is proud of the showpiece it has become for Palos Hills and credits the founders, board of trustees, Foundation, and college presidents with building a facility that is “second to none in Illinois.” He praised the college for its commitment to the community in providing a place for activities as well as quality educational opportunities.