COD Stories

As College of DuPage celebrates its 50th anniversary, faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community have been asked to share their stories about COD. Below are a few of what was submitted. You can also check out videos about COD’s history as shared by current and former administrators, faculty and staff.

You can also read our Spotlights and discover how College of DuPage continues to impact our current students and alumni. We’ve also taken some of these spotlights to show just where our alumni are around the world

James Wengerd

Alumni/Parent of Students

Where to begin? At age 56, I was stressed out on my job and felt I really needed a change. Had an interest in gardening and one of my kids suggested COD. Took the course Introduction to Horticulture while still working and really fell in love with it. I think a lot of it had to do with the other students and faculty I interacted with.

At age 57, I quit my job and took a new job in the garden center/nursery/landscaping industry and continued taking classes. After many classes and several years, I received an associate degree in Ornamental Horticulture in June 1999.

I worked in the horticulture industry for more than 20 years until 2014 when I “retired” for good.

Some of the happiest times of my life were those spent with the instructors and students at COD. During all this time, my wife and I became avid supporters of the MAC programs and averaged eight to 10 shows a year.

COD is a wonderful asset to our community and most people don’t even realize its education, entertainment and cultural value. Two of my children got their early college years completed at COD and went on to finish with teaching and master degrees elsewhere.

Over all, my time spent at COD was a wonderful experience. 

Caitlin Luetger

COD Adjunct Faculty/Former Student

I attended COD for one year during my undergraduate degree. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to transfer, so like a lot of our current students I used COD as way to do a little bit of soul searching. I loved it here as a student and now I’m a lecturer in the Humanities department (and I still love it). I remind my students almost daily how lucky and smart they are for attending COD. My experience at COD as a student stuck with me and inspired me to pursue community college education as a career path. 

Jake Barber

Student

Fun Fact #1: The Chaparral, our mascot, is a road runner and COD students used to be known as road runners because classes initially were spread out over a variety of locations forcing them to race around.

Fun Fact #2: If you were to take the current bridge to the Health and Science Center and twist the windows together, it would form a portion of a DNA structure.

My Story: When I was about to start my first semester here, I had no idea about how college worked or how to do anything. I was not looking forward to my time here and did not expect to make any friends or join any clubs or organizations. I made an appointment to meet with the admissions representative and was given an appointment with Rio Almaria. When we met, we talked and she offered me an opportunity to interview to be a student ambassador which I did and was invited to join. This one moment changed not only what I thought about COD, but it also gave the spark to get involved and to meet many new people and make many lasting friendships. 

Shirley Jones

COD Supporter

I have funded a COD scholarship for students majoring in Psychology  My late husband, Walter, was a professor at COD and taught Psychology for many years. 

Gib Egge

COD Instructor/Alumni/Met Wife at COD

When I graduated high school in 1994, I received a bunch of these paper gift certificates for one quarter hour of tuition for classes at College of DuPage, each worth $25 apiece.

But months before I stepped foot in a COD classroom, the College was my employer. I enjoyed the outdoors growing up so I took a student worker position with the then field and coordinated studies department assisting the equipment manager with setting up adventure-based field study courses.

While here, I met and started working with experiential professors who took their students out of the traditional classroom. Hal Cohen brought me to the Indiana dunes to study ecological succession and wildlife biology, Marco Benassi used the experiential approach to improve my public speaking, and Tom Lindblade not only made me a better paddler and competent outdoorsman, but he also opened my eyes to possibilities of a career in the field.

While finishing up my studies here at COD, I was promoted in the department in 1996. A couple years later, my student worker’s cousin, Rachael Hoshaw, moved to Glen Ellyn from Alaska. She needed a job and was hired by the College as a student employee. While finishing up my bachelor’s degree and still working part-time at COD, Rachael and I would see each other and take a class here and there.

In 2000, Tom Lindblade retired and I began teaching as an adjunct some of the programs he pioneered. In 2006, I married Rachael with many of my COD colleagues in attendance. Bill Norris, an adjunct faculty member and past instructor of mine, performed the ceremony, and students who once graced my outdoor classroom played the music and photographed the event. During the past 22 years, College of DuPage has given me incredible opportunities and support, not only as a student, but as an employee. Happy 50 COD! 

Ted Tilton

COD Provost, Retired

John and Jim Belushi used to rotate in Board members’ chairs prior to Board meetings, emulating each of the Board members! 

Patricia Posavec

Student/Parent of Student

As I am writing this (August 2016), I have just started my last semester at COD to complete the requirements for my Associate's Degree in Management. I will be 59 when I graduate next May, and my 20-year-old daughter will graduate with me with her Associate in Fine Arts-Music degree in Music Performance and Education.

My daughter was awarded the Presidential Scholarship which paid her basic tuition until she graduates. I was unemployed after being laid off from my job in 2013, so I accepted entrance into a program to pay for my schooling so I could find a better job with a degree. This was through WorkNet DuPage.

Neither of my parents attended college and my older sister only got a GED high school diploma, so college was never in their plans for me. I went to work full time after graduating high school doing secretarial work. Eventually, I started a job in industrial customer service and inside sales and did that for 25 years. However, I was laid off from three different companies, all by female managers younger than me. The last time, I decided to go back to school and get my degree so I can be the manager next time.

It’s taken me three years to get to this point. When I was out of work, I took classes full time. When I eventually found secretarial work at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital (where I am today), I continued taking classes part time while working full time to complete my degree. I’ve really enjoyed the experience! I loved Business Law and Psychology and Business Ethics! Now I’m taking Business Math, and it’s all coming back to me what I learned over 40 years ago in high school. I believe what gave me the courage to go back to school at this age was the experience of being diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer and fighting it and SURVIVING! The experience made me a stronger person and gave me a new outlook on life.

I now have the goal of working in the newly expanded Cancer Center at the Hospital in some sort of supervisory or management position thanks to my new degree from COD. I also managed to attain Honors status throughout my time here at COD and look forward to graduating with my daughter this May, both of us with Honors.

I thank COD for the experience, and one of its partners, Worknet DuPage for paying for my tuition so I can soon say I am a college graduate. I would definitely encourage other older adults to attend COD. 

Arlene Schneible

Alumni

I was not young when I attended COD. I was working for the Lombardian Newspaper and we were putting the ads together by hand, the old fashion way. That was the only way I knew how to design. I was in my 40s and was an ad designer. We went with computers and I knew if I didn’t learn fast I was out of a job.

I was the oldest person in class. Everyone was wonderful and adopted me. I knew nothing about computers and everyone helped me get up to speed. It was so scary at first, this old lady with all these young kids. I was greeted with so much kindness. Everyone knew my job depended on me “getting it.” So with that I became the class project and got help every time I needed an answer. Help came not only from the teacher but from all of my classmates.

Yes, I did learn and did very well as a matter of fact. By the end I could go back to my job and “work.” Thank you COD, you helped me keep my job! 

Lisa Miller

Alumni

I was a student off and on at COD from 1974 to 1979. I went to study graphic design and I was one of the first students in the program and I received my A.A.S. in Commercial Art. I have worked in Graphic Design and Production art most of my life.

While I was a student there, it was a requirement to take Speech. I was terrified of giving speeches. But I saw that Readers Theatre was a choice. I took the course with Jodie Briggs as my instructor. I learned so much and had a ball in the class! At the end of the quarter, Jodie approached me and said she would like me to see her the following year about joining the Forensics Team. I thought, “The Forensics Team!? They have a great reputation and I would have to give speeches!”

But I took her advice and sought her out the next year. I was on the team for two years with our amazing coaches, Jodie, Jim Collie, B.F. Johnston, and Sally Hadley. I made lots of friends (some who are friends to this day), I learned so much and I learned a lot of things about myself. I gained a confidence I never had, I found that I loved giving speeches, and I won many awards. I got to travel to tournaments in Illinois and the National Tournaments in Sacramento (‘78) and Minneapolis (‘79).

I went on to Elmhurst College to receive my B.A. in Speech Communication. As I said, my degree gave me the basis I needed to get jobs in my chosen field. But more important, my experiences at COD gave me memories and experiences I will always treasure and they have helped me through my life. 

Paul Passi

Alumni

I attended COD in the early 1980s and earned my Associate in Science degree in pre-engineering. Primarily took classes in Building A (now the Berg Instructional Center). All bronze colored windows. Really enjoyed Mr. Leake as my math teacher.

Then went on to Iowa State University to get my BSCE degree. Saved a lot of money at COD and all my credits transferred to ISU!!

Have had a great/financially rewarding working career. Living in Wheaton now for 25 years. 

Sharon Mitchell Wochok

Alumni/Met Husband at COD

I was a part of the swim team at COD and spent most of my time with the team. Through those friends I met my husband, who was also a COD graduate. We have been married 24 years.

Both my husband and I only have our associate degrees from COD and we currently run our own corporation. We have about $500,000 in sales annually and are able to provide for our family with just our degrees we received from COD.

Al Zamsky was a positive role model teaching all the kids he coached about self-esteem. He treated us like his own children and genuinely cared about each one of us. He was a great asset to the school. I was blessed to have swam on his team.

My advice for students is that participation is key. 

Keri Karesh Halpin

Alumni/Parent of Student

My adult life began and is ending with COD, a total of 45 years!

I started at COD in 1971 and graduated in 1974 with a transferable Associate in Arts degree, with honors, in General Studies. The summer after my freshman year in 1972, I went to Washington, D.C., for a summer clerical job with the federal government and ended up staying full time with the government, transferring back to the Chicago area. At that point I returned to COD and finished my degree with night classes. COD gave me the opportunity to get the basics out of the way while I explored different interests, including architecture and accounting.

I was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement, in a clerical position, at a time when there were no female Special Agents. As such, I began accompanying male agents in an undercover capacity, posing as a niece, wife or girlfriend. I had a forward-thinking manager who guided me to learn the legal aspects of wildlife law and encouraged my continued education with a goal of becoming one of the first female Special Agents.

With my AA degree from COD, I transferred with ease into the Social/Criminal Justice program at Lewis University. I attended full time at night while continuing to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Upon my graduation in December of 1975, I was hired as the first Wildlife Inspector in Chicago, specializing in enforcement of federal laws and treaties regarding the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products. The following year I was promoted to a Special Agent and sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for the required federal Criminal Investigator basic training.

I was a Special Agent for eight years and loved my job! I was involved in all aspects of criminal investigations, including considerable undercover work, interviewing, testifying, arrests, serving search warrants, but also fieldwork as a “federal game warden” and considerable travel. It was such a great job I could not believe I was paid to do it! So it was with a heavy heart that I chose to resign when my second child was born, but I felt I could not do an outstanding job at both full-time jobs. I was blessed that my husband’s career allowed me to have the opportunity to be a full-time mom.

After eight years, I returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to supervise the Wildlife Inspection program. In addition to enforcement of federal wildlife laws, a significant portion of our responsibility involved education of the public about wildlife laws and protection. We conducted frequent talks and tours for a variety of groups. Our office received considerable coverage in the Chicago newspapers and was often featured on local TV news. Our enforcement program was also highlighted in TV shows on Animal Planet, Wild Chicago, Bozo’s Circus and Behind the Scenes with Joan Lunden. I personally was able to attend the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and had the opportunity to travel to Nepal to conduct training as part of an U.S. Agency for International Development program.

After a total of 30 years with the government, I chose to retire. I returned to my COD roots and now work part time in the Cashier’s office. I greatly enjoy assisting the students solve their problems and answer their questions, which tend to reach far beyond making payments at the cashier’s office.

I feel strongly that COD is a wonderful opportunity allowing students to mature, explore interests and save money. In fact, my daughter Lorene Halpin also graduated from COD with honors and an A.A. degree. She transferred to Western Illinois University and received free room and board her junior year due to her success at COD!

Advice to students attending COD: If you plan to transfer, make sure you follow the plan and take the variety of required courses to actually earn your associate’s degree. This will give you junior status at almost any college in the country, and you will not risk losing any credits. Make sure you meet the requirements to get an associate’s degree, not just the equivalent number of hours! You may have to take a class or two outside your area of interest, as most associate degrees require a well-rounded educational experience. The associate degree will allow you to transfer virtually anywhere with Junior status, instead of the next college picking and choosing which courses will transfer. 

The Krieglstein Family

Professors/Alumni

Dr. Werner Krieglstein was a full time professor in Philosophy at COD for 21 years. He was voted Outstanding Faculty in 2003 and Distinguished Regional Humanities Educator by CCHA in 2008. COD gave him the opportunity to expose hundreds of students over the years to overseas experiences through the Field Studies office.

I (Dr. Maryann Krieglstein) was an adjunct instructor at COD for seven years in Sociology and Human Services and full time for 10 years in Human Services, for which I was coordinator for her last four years. In 2007, I won the College of DuPage’s Women of Distinction award. Under my watch, the Human Service program won the College’s first Center of Excellence Award.

All five of our sons – Robin, Mark, Daniel, Thomas and Michael – graduated from COD. Robin and Thomas were the Outstanding Male Graduates of their respective classes.

Thomas was the first Academic All American for COD.

Two sons, Robin and Thomas, met their future wives at COD.

All five sons can attest to the wonderful education they received at COD. Robin started at a top 100 school with a full scholarship but transferred to COD after one semester due to the school’s “lack of personal contact with students” and “inability to let him develop as a unique individual.” He quickly found that at COD. All went on to earn bachelor’s degrees and one, Daniel, will earn his Ph.D. in Psychology later this year. All have become successful in their respective careers thanks in no small part to the wonderful higher education start at COD.

COD gave me the opportunity to bring my social work connections with the community into the academic arena. It gave me the opportunities and supported my efforts to start the first Native American Pow Wow at COD in 1993 which I continued until 1997, to initiate Domestic Violence/ Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness fairs, and to bring the County Wide Mental Health Courts conference to COD along with many other educational events.

All in all, COD has had a powerful impact on the Krieglstein family over the course of many years. 

Andy Vana

Original student; graduated in 1969

It was the best of times...

I remember driving my 1964 Chevy 200 to 300 miles each week to attend classes at various locations. Fantastic staff. Would not have missed it for the world.

Graduating class: Friday, June 6, 1969, 7:30 p.m., Glenbard East Auditorium, Lombard, IL 

Bryan Koeppl

Original student; graduated in 1969

Proud to have been in the first graduating class from COD. Was last of students who attended LTJC! COD gave me an easy transition to final two years at a major university.

Favorite memory: Having most of my classes at the venerable Lyons Township High School North Campus. There were virtually few buildings “in the beginning”! So many great professors and staff, whose names have escaped me but whose images are yet in my mind.

Advice for current or future COD students: Take advantage of as many of the wonderful programs as you can, because so many did not exist in the first years.

Currently celebrating class of 1966/50 year reunion from LTHS. Many, many of us were in the first classes offered by COD. So many memories being shared. 

Cassandra Wiese

Alumni/Honors Student

As part of the Honors Program at COD, I had quite a few adventures that I would not have had anywhere else. The people, program along with the academics helped to shape my life in a meaningful way. The classes and experiences led to my completion of a BS degree in physics, an internship at Fermilab, a MS degree in engineering and a MBA in international business that has taken me around the world for study and business. I look forward to expanding my career with COD as the foundation. 

Maungmaung Kyawwin

Former Student

After completed my studies at COD, I believe my life has been changed. With the financial aid bestowed by the COD and State Educational Department plus two scholarships, I managed to study the subjects I like most. With the knowledge and experiences I gained from COD, I can now apply to some works that gives me chances to contribute to my community on some important occasions. COD plays a major role in my new life that has started in 2008 two years after I fled my country (Burma) on political persecution. Today my country has liberated from the military regime and has recently been installed a people's elected government to which I am now contributing with some knowledge I had learned at COD. Someday, I hope I can return my gratitude to COD before I die. I am now 67. 

James Blaha

Alumni/Chair of COD Board of Trustees

I am the oldest living valedictorian of LTJC/COD. Former Chairman of the Board Trustees in the late 1970s and 1980s. Chair of the Advisory Council to four Presidents of the College. Happy 50th.  

Michael Long

Former Student

I attended Lyons Township J.C. (Tower Tech, Upstairs U, etc.) during the last two years it was in existence, Fall 1965 to Spring 1967. The transition was happening those last several months. I then enlisted in USAF, served four years, came back, and eventually took some computer language classes at COD about 1973. That got me on track to a career as a programmer, analyst and engineer. 

Joe Buchholz

Alumni

I am and probably will always be a local boy. Being the youngest of 11 children finances were always tough but opportunity was always there. After working off my tuition in order to attend St. Francis High School in Wheaton, I knew I would have to have a similar path to afford college.

With that said, I always had my eyes set on attending College of DuPage and possibly even playing basketball for them. Playing on the basketball team did not pan out as they were very good at the time. But it did not prevent me from getting involved with the student/school activities. Intramurals became a big part in my school experience and social growth.

However, my academic experience was even more enjoyable than I could have imagined. Realizing I came from a small private high school with approximately 100 kids in my class, college was going to be different. However, I quickly realized that COD fit in nicely as the class sizes were very similar.

More importantly, the teachers I had were fantastic. They did not lecture at you they taught to you. You were able to participate in class and go over case studies that you could relate to. I gained a friend and a mentor in my Business Law teacher Mr. Orsinger (who is now deceased) ...Wow he was someone special....

I was very fortunate to come out on top at COD after my two years and I received scholarships to attend four-year state universities tuition-free. I will always be blessed for gaining the knowledge/experience over these years.

Although I felt confident coming out of high school, I was only a c+ student and not for lack of effort. The staff at COD embraced me as I did them and together we gelled and had a great run. This run continued on as I entered into Loyola University in Chicago as a commuter student. I had the confidence to work full time and complete my business degree in the two additional years at Loyola. Yes, I graduated in four years and I was beaming with confidence. The staff at COD truly had that strong of an impact on me then and now.

Favorite memories: The unlimited nacho bar in the cafeteria. Attending my older brother’s football games as he was the quarterback on the nationally ranked team in 1981 under Coach McDougal, playing basketball and attending the basketball games that Mr. Klaas coached. Seriously, being able to maintain that student/mentor relationship with Mr. Orsinger. As I have done throughout this text, Mr. Orsinger was my most influential teacher in all my years of study. I am still learning my profession and the experiences that we shared back in 1980-1982 still come into play. He was a true professional and a wonderful person and educator.

Advice for students: Take full advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the campus has to offer: the course selection, the social aspect, the great teacher/student ratio, the ability to work and stay home to save for the next level without the fear you will be behind. Put the time in now and it will pay off. 

Lynne Denemark

Original student/Alumni

My best friend, Patti Bernstein and I enrolled before COD was built. We sat on some stairs at a temporary facility to fill out the enrollment forms. We had both taken college acceptance forms and were accepted at U of I in Champaign, but our parents couldn't afford to send us and loans were almost nonexistent. We both enrolled into basic college courses, due to many circumstances were unable to complete.

I returned years later to complete my degree in Travel and Tourism, and continue in that business today and have traveled the world. I have also taken various courses, Fashion merchandising and marketing, interior design, horticulture and landscaping, and creative writing. I am considering enrolling this summer in some additional courses.

Influential professors: Carol Scott and Mr. Mik, Travel and Tourism. He passed last year, his wife Helen lives in Florida. 

Melissa Donahue

Alumni

College of DuPage laid the foundation for my success in further educational pursuits through the Adult Fast Track program. It isn't necessarily a "rags to riches" story by any means, but when I had to drop out of school due to tragic circumstances in the early 1990s, it looked like I was never going to be able to finish what I'd started. COD gave my future a nudge in the right direction.

I’ve had salary increases, promotions, and the means to show my children that no matter what life throws at you, if you want it and work hard enough, you can achieve it.

Favorite memories: Late nights studying with my cohort group at the Westmont campus, many of whom I still am in contact with – 10 years after we started the journey!

Advice: Pursue it and you can do it. College of DuPage has the courses you need, regardless of discipline. You'll receive a quality education without breaking the bank, and be well-prepared for the next step in your educational career.

Favorite professors: Christine Monnier and Ingrid Peternel. I had the pleasure of Christine as my instructor twice during the Adult Fast Track program, and Ingrid was my speech instructor for my online speech course requirement. Both instructors used the online Blackboard system and other online tools in their educational curriculum, which appealed to me so much that I changed my major and am now employed in the eLearning field. 

Daniel Ehrhardt

Alumni

I started at COD after graduating high school. After a rocky start I worked myself up to where I needed to be. I didn't think I would do well enough to go on to higher education after COD, but I pushed myself to achieve my goals.

COD helped me become a more responsible student in the classroom and outside of it as well.

Any of my favorite memories at COD would have to be whenever I was having fun while doing an assignment for class that I especially liked.

The advice I would provide to future students would be to not give up. It may seem like a long path to travel, but if you put your mind to it and stay strong, you will get their successfully.

One of the people who really helped me at COD was my adviser, Dr. Duggan. I met him halfway through my time at COD and he was always willing to help me with any problem I had. I always enjoyed seeing him as we talked through any questions I needed to get through. Another teacher who helped me out was my math instructor Carl Taft. I remember him taking the time after class to talk through any issues I was having. He also became a mentor as he helped me with some career objectives. 

Linda Feltman

Alumni

In the fall of 1969, I had been accepted to about three different four-year colleges and I was so excited to join my high school friends at one of these places of higher learning. Then my dad sat me down one day, looked at me, and said they had no way to pay for me to go to college. They had never dreamed that I – a girl – would not already be married. I was devastated. My parents were old world and my dad was an immigrant from Sweden. They were good, salt of the earth people, but their daughter going to college was unimaginable.

So after getting over that and crying on my best friend’s shoulder about the injustice of it all, she told me about COD. She was one of seven children and no way did her parents have money for college. We both worked good summer jobs and we enrolled at COD.

I admit I was not happy at first, but that soon changed. If not for COD, I really have no idea what I would have done. It was a key stepping stone for me to enable me to further my education and my career path. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and the doors that opened for me.

COD showed me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it. I have an excellent position at Penn State now. None of my life’s accomplishments would likely have happened without the foundation I received at COD. I grew up those two years. It gave me the courage to continue my education. I was one of the very first cousins in my family to attend and graduate from college and I was the only female. I know my parents were proud of what I accomplished (and surprised).

During 1971-72, I was the advertising manager for The Courier. We had several record-breaking issues with ad inches sold and our advisor, Gordon Richmond, challenged me if I sold some seemingly impossible number of inches for an upcoming issue that I would earn an extra bonus. I don't recall what the bonus was, I do recall I hit that mark and blew away Gordie. It was great. For me it was an “ah ha” moment. It told me that I could rise to a challenge when the incentive was worthwhile. I also wrote a column on astrology, believe it or not. COD gave me so many opportunities that I may not have had at a bigger school.

Advice: Appreciate and take advantage of all that COD has to offer. I live in PA now and we do not have a system or method to easily earn an associate’s degree at a reasonable cost.

Professor Roy Grundy was a new instructor in fall 1970 and taught my first business class – and I think I was one of very few females in that class. I can't tell you why, but we hit it off. He was like a second father to me. His family has become my family and my daughter refers to Roy and his wife Priscilla as “aunt and uncle.” They have remained a steadfast part of my life for 46 years. I can honestly say Roy was often the impetus pushing me to get my four-year degree at Penn State. He believed in me when I was having trouble believing in me. I had been financially independent since I was 18 and at times that was really overwhelming. He helped me in so many ways that it is impossible for me to imagine what my life may have been without Roy and Priscilla’s constant friendship and influence. 

Danica Hubbard

Former Student

I first came to College of DuPage the summer after my senior year of high school at Naperville Central. I enrolled as a reverse-university transfer student in Principles of Biology 101 in 1987. I fondly remember the small class size and accessibility of the instructor, unlike the large university campus I attended during the fall and spring semesters. College of DuPage felt like home. The positive environment and welcome atmosphere fit and I was hooked.

Years later during my pursuit of a Master’s Degree at DePaul University, I was engaged in a Writing Center graduate school project and called College of DuPage for assistance. I had heard wonderful things about their Writing Center and made contact with an English faculty member named Nancy Webb. She immediately e-mailed me a body of literature on Writing Centers and my admiration for academic excellence at College of DuPage continued.

A few years later after earning my Master’s Degree in 1994 I began taking classes at College of DuPage once again as I pursued a certificate in secondary school education. Again, I reached out to an English faculty member inquiring about a part-time teaching position at College of DuPage while working as a high school substitute teacher. I spoke with an English faculty member in the Communications subdivision named Jan Geesaman. Jan was amazing and invited me on campus to meet with her. She encouraged me to complete an application and I was hired shortly after our initial phone call.

After teaching for one year part-time I applied for a full-time position and over 20 years later, I continue to teach with a passion for College of DuPage. I am a "home grown" student and proud faculty member.

College of DuPage is my second family. Our youngest daughter Madison was part of the kindergarten class in the Early Childhood Education Center and was asked to cut the ribbon on the new building in 2007. Our older daughter Morgan has taken classes at College of DuPage to study for her ACT tests. My husband has taken guitar classes here and our entire family has participated in the Broadway Bound theater class in New York. College of DuPage has opened doors for travel in France with Chef Theilman in the French Country Cooking class and offers me and my family a variety of rigorous course offerings and activities on and off campus.

One of my favorite memories at College of DuPage was meeting Tom and Jim on the first day of orientation as a full-time faculty member. They dove into our faculty orientation and took me under their wings. Working with Tom Tipton and Jim Allen for over 20 years has been a delight. We have supported one another professionally and personally. Tom encouraged me to train for the Chicago marathon after running several marathons himself. He was instrumental in encouraging me to make it across the finish line. Jim's daughter Meghan used to be our two daughters’ babysitter. I also taught Meghan a few composition courses here at College of DuPage and had the honor of attending her wedding. It’s the people who make our campus vibrant. The relationships we form not only assist our everyday work activities, but truly elevate our morale and the 100 percent effort we all bring to one another each day.

Advice: Listen, learn and love our campus at College of DuPage. We have an incredible variety of course offerings, student clubs, activities and events to participate in. Get involved, network with students, faculty and staff. We're all here to help one another to make our time at College of DuPage the time of your life.

My former colleague, Mary Daly, was John Belushi’s English professor. Belushi was the actor made famous for movies like “Animal House,” “Blues Brothers,” and his memorable and comedic role as a cast member of the television late night classic show, “Saturday Night Live.” Mary was a powerhouse in our department. I first met her in 1994 when I started at COD as a new full-time faculty member. She frequently wore a navy blue skirt and white starched shirts to school. Mary meant business. She commanded attention when she walked into the room. Back then we worked together in an area called The Center for Independent Learning where students had individualized appointments with faculty in a variety of classes. Mary would sit poised at one of the long tables in the middle of the room, waiting for her students to arrive. Students made appointments to review their writing assignments and Mary held nothing back. If a student was more than 30 seconds late she would yell, “Did you come to see me today? Well, you're late! Don't you own a watch?” She would wave their papers in the air and bellow, “Do you really want me to read this? It's crap. Go back and look at it. I won't accept it.” And a few moments later her voice would soften and she would say, “Okay, listen . . . it needs revision here in the third paragraph. Let me help you.” I can only imagine what a pair Mary and John made in the classroom. A teacher-student relationship involves trust, a positive attitude and motivation to learn. Was John anything like his movie character Bluto, the college fraternity brother who wreaked havoc in the 1978 “Animal House” feature film? Did he pay attention in class? Did he ask questions? I am confident Mary sparked his interest in writing and reading literature at College of DuPage. 

Jackie Johnson

Alumni

I began my journey at COD in the summer of 2000. I came feeling disillusioned and confused. I had graduated in 1999 with my Bachelor’s from George Mason University and moved to Illinois with high hopes. I went into education wanting to change lives but found myself feeling saddened by the educational system. I was working with a special needs student who wasn’t receiving the proper care. I was only 21 years old at the time and I didn’t know how to cope with the lack of support given to special needs students.

In my free time, I loved art and being creative. I decided in December 1999, I’d go back to school and get a degree in advertising, design, and illustration. That one year was pivotal in helping me see my academic capability and overall personal growth.

However, it wasn’t in that moment that my life was changed. Over the next 10 years, I faced several life changing situations. All the while, coping with a physical disability.

During 2001-2012, my life was a whirlwind of change. By 2012, I had overcome an emotional breakdown, recreated my life, went back to school and got a Master’s in teaching, and started working again in education. I found myself back at COD studying Spanish in 2010, but more consistently in 2012. It was my time in the Spanish department that had an unexpected and amazing impact on my life. I was 34 years old when I entered Jane Burke’s intermediate level II Spanish class. Jane was personable, friendly, funny, quick-witted, and an excellent educator. One day we were talking in the part-time faculty office and I was describing my frustration learning Spanish and a bit about my life situation. She responded in a calm, considerate, and thoughtful matter, telling me she felt I was getting caught up in my Ego. You might think this to be harsh, but I had told her my BA was in Psychology and she used her insight to motivate me. I don’t think Jane could have realized the impact this 10 minutes would have on my future and life. She didn’t know at that time I was facing the realization of never being able to physically have children, my hopes at becoming a classroom teacher had been dashed due to the progression of my physical disability, and I was struggling to come to terms with being gay. Although, I was in therapy, I needed a new perspective on everything.

Over the next six months, I read everything I could on the Ego and how it works in a person’s life. I realized that lack of confidence and lack of self-acceptance were all a part of the Ego. The voice of the Ego is negative, defeating, and critical. Although, I had tried on my own to be a happy person, deep down I wasn’t. What I saw when I looked in the mirror wasn’t what others saw in me. For the first time in life, I realized I had to change my mindset and I knew how to do it.

I had to rid myself of the Ego’s hold on all parts of my life. First, I accepted my physical disability and looked at it as a blessing and a source of inspiration. Second, I accepted my sexuality becoming unashamed and unapologetic. Lastly, I realized how beautiful I really was as a person inside and out.

I’m now an online ESL teacher teaching students all over the world. I’m a life coach and holistic counselor. I’m also developing my speaking ability to become a recognized motivational speaker.

Although, there were several other people supporting me in my process of transformation Jane Burke’s impact was profound and long lasting. Anytime I become afraid of taking risks, I think of her, our conversation, the Ego, and I propel myself into a victorious mindset once again. I’m so grateful for going to COD twice and both times being provided with renewed confidence and self-awareness.

The best advice I can give is take the time to talk with your instructors. They have life experience, knowledge, and wisdom that can change your life. 

Jennifer Cilella Kurek

Alumni

COD was close to home and convenient. I did not want to go away to college. I was and still am quite the homebody. I was also working as well.

I met my husband there in 2003. I married him in 2011 and we have a beautiful daughter.

Favorite professors: Sherwood Edwards and Dean Bapes, two excellent teachers.

When you get to COD, take the time to really focus on what you want to get out of the school. What is it you really want to do? Focus on your education first, fun comes later. Get involved, whether it be a sport, student group, etc. Volunteer to show other kids around the school during HS visits. Make the most of your time there. Don’t sell yourself short. If you want to get into the dental or nursing program, get your general education out of the way. Don’t rush, if you don’t get into the program right away, don't be discouraged. You have time. If Disney University comes around recruiting, go for it! Adds life experience. If you’re taking a foreign language, and a trip opportunity comes up, go on that trip! Go somewhere you’ve never been. COD is so different than from when I went there. Community college or not, make the most of it. Take your education seriously. If you didn’t do so great in high school, make up for it now, whether you’re just out of high school or an adult going back for a degree. 

Fred Meyer

Alumni

COD provided the foundation for my career selection and basis for my continued education at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. COD provided an applied learning model that helped me identify my true interests and career aspirations: completing an internship, attaining my AAS and getting hired at a local sheriff’s department. You can do anything you want in life and COD will provide you the foundation for success.

Favorite professor: Robert Murdock, the chair of the CRJ department during my enrollment at COD. He saw potential in me and facilitated an internship at a local sheriff’s department. That resulted in me being hired by the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department. In 1999, I moved to Las Vegas and am now a Captain on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. During my time since attending COD, I have earned both a BA and MA from UNLV and am currently ABD in their Public Affairs Ph.D. program. I also started the first internship program at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and speak regularly at the College of Southern Nevada and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It all started with Mr. Murdock and the CRJ Department at COD!

Community colleges provide an outstanding opportunity to explore your interests and learn a great deal about life and your field of interest. Your success is limited only by your efforts. 

Mark Pfefferman

Alumni

Armed with a Bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and waiting to enter DePaul’s MBA program, I spent a gap semester (and then much more) studying journalism at COD. I joined The Courier staff and covered the college’s Board of Trustees meetings as a reporter. Those meetings intrigued me so much that I ran district-wide for a trustee position and was the youngest member ever elected to the COD board. That six-year stint led to a keen interest in public service and volunteerism and I later served as Village Trustee and Village President for Glen Ellyn for eight years. After receiving an associate’s degree and being a classified employee at COD, I volunteered in many career services and other capacities for the college for 27 years. And a large part of my professional job today is leading our company’s communications efforts, many of the skills for which I learned at COD. I am extremely thankful for College of DuPage’s impact on my life. 

Cindy Kucera Pieper

Alumni

It was still Lyon TWP Jr. College when I first got my AA (1965-1967). Then I returned in 1987 and took the Travel and Tourism program and received another associate degree and three certificates in travel/tourism.

Favorite memories: Student lounge at LTJC and mixers with live bands like Cryan' Shames, The Travelers, Shadows of Night. Great times! Made many friends!

It is a great school! Very fortunate to have it so close to home. Great economical way to get an education. You can have great college experiences here if you make the effort! You will get out what you put in! 

Melissa Weldon-Padera

Alumni

College of DuPage was a perfect fit for me. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a career woman, but I also knew my family couldn’t afford to send me away to a fancy four-year college. Upon graduating from Montini Catholic HS, I decided to continue working at a local bank a block from my home while I also attended college courses at COD. This was a perfect fit for the lifestyle of someone who needed an affordable and flexible option at an excellent junior college to jump-start their future. I started out as a Criminal Justice major since that was my primary interest and I ended up as a Psychology major when that later piqued my interest. The best part was that those two pathways led perfectly and directly to my future career goal and current job as a Forensic Psychologist. I had excellent, intriguing, and professional teachers at COD from whom I learned a lot and whom I greatly respected. 

Dana Malone

Alumni

When I first started at College of DuPage in 2009, it was through the Fashion Department under a grant program thorough the Kane Department of Education, where they paid for my schooling for the Fashion Merchandising Certificate and I graduated May of 2015. 

Even though I faced many challenges while attending, it was Sharon Scalise who grabbed me by the hand and stated her famous words to me, “Dana, You Can Do This One Step At A Time.” And it was one step at a time why I lost my mother in 2009, had several major surgeries, my two beautiful foster daughter taken and the hardest of it all became homeless and now still in transition for a place to live.  

I could not have made it through without Sharon Scalise, Dennis Emano and Rochelle Favale, also I cannot leave those in the Reading and Writing, Rosalyn, and Math Center, Ron Jerak, my tutor this semester. Even though I am unable to name them all, there have been many that have been a great support for me.  And because of it I would not have been able to push and work as hard as I have. It has been by the grace of an excellent God allowing them to encourage me and schedule once a month meetings with them and listening to what they had to say and turn around all of the hardship that I had encountered by staying focused last year and complete the incompletes that I had. Now as I prepare for graduation this coming May, it is with great honors for me to be a part of the 50th class. 

College of DuPage

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  2017 College of DuPage