Written by Joan Hadac
In a meeting long on congratulation and short on deliberation, Moraine Valley Community College trustees sat back and watched a parade of accolades at their May 14 meeting, held at the school, 9000 W. College Parkway, in Palos Hills.
“We have quite a few students that we are recognizing tonight, and this is always the time of year that we do that [at Governing Board meetings],” said Sylvia M. Jenkins, MVCC president. “It is important to recognize their hard work and achievements.”
Like a commencement exercise, the meeting was long and included awards for dozens of students, a live performance demonstrating student excellence in forensics, and reminiscences and other observations from faculty and staff as they accepted praise from their colleagues upon their retirement.
Health Sciences Department Chair Susan Phelan offered an anecdote about the reach of MVCC’s positive impact. She recalled a time when she was asked to share her phlebotomy training expertise with a group in Bangor, Maine.
“So I went, and it was great,” she told the board. “Two or three years later, they called me and asked me to come again. So I said, ‘Sure, what would you like me to speak about this time?’ and they said, ‘Well, the same stuff you talked about last time.’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s a little redundant, but it’s your dime and I’ll talk about whatever you want.’
“So when I got there, I quickly realized that they didn’t really want me to go over the same ground again,” she continued. “They wanted to let me know that they had implemented some of the [phlebotomy training techniques] we had talked about the last time, and all of their quality indicators didn’t just rise, they skyrocketed. And it may sound silly, but for the first time I realized the impact of quality training and education on health care in a region.
“I realized that what we do here [at the college] is bigger than all of us, and I have been very proud to be a part of this,” she concluded, as board members and the audience of several dozen burst into applause.
David Deitemyer, Dean of Academic Services, echoed the sentiment.
“I’ve been in education my whole career—as a teacher for many years, as an administrator for many years, and now in higher education,” he said. “This is my fifth stop, and I’ve been here for 11 years.
“All school districts of all kinds have a mission statement,” he continued. “I want to tell you, though, that this place, in my experience, comes the closest, every day, to manifesting its mission statement. I’ve worked in school districts that were fun places to work, but the gap between what they say they value and what we did every day was huge. Here, there’s not much of a gap—and I have benefitted from being able to spend, really, a pivotal part of my career here.”
A lighter moment was provided by Joyce Mufich, the retiring grants and scholarship clerk at the school.
“I just want to say that I’ve handled more of the college’s money over the years than [MVCC Chief Financial Officer] Bob Sterkowitz will ever know,” she began as the room broke up in laughter, including Sterkowitz himself. “And that’s the truth.”
She described a list of duties and programs that took her “all over the community and all over the college community.” It was a dizzying array of programs, and Mufich stopped short, saying it was getting boring, but the point was made about the challenges to keep it all straight. “And they’re good sports over in Accounting,” she deadpanned, triggering another wave of laughter and applause from her peers.
“Seriously, though, it’s been great, and I’m happy I’ve had the chance to work with so many wonderful people,” she added, as she headed into a retirement expected to include her antiquing hobby. “But I am happy that I’m leaving in 10 days.”
After the procession, the meeting shifted into hyperdrive, with trustees approving a 34-part consent agenda in mere seconds, without a whisper of discussion or debate.
A rumored discussion of an employee pay raise was nowhere to be found.