Jerry Thor does not possess superpowers, but he has been a distinguished role model with a focus on community and work ethic. Thor, who is the head women’s tennis coach at Eastern Florida State College, was one of seven alumni inducted into the Moraine Valley Alumni Hall of Fame in 2015.
“It’s great to see that the Moraine Valley likes me being a graduate as much as I am proud of being a graduate,” Thor said.
Mother Knows Best
Thor’s path to a career Florida started with a suggestion from his mother.
As a senior at Argo High School, Thor considered the University of Illinois or Bradley University to study finance. After several other campus visits to four-year schools, Thor’s mother suggested he tour Moraine Valley. That visit showed him several opportunities, and after meeting tennis coach and athletics director Bill Finn, he decided to attend.
“Moraine Valley is an awesome opportunity right in our community,” Thor said. “I wanted to make the best out of my two years.”
Time Well Spent
At Moraine Valley, Thor put “student” in student-athlete. He founded the finance club, was a student trustee and nominated as president of Phi Theta Kappa honors society.
He did that while completing 95 credit hours when only 64 are required for an associate degree.
He did that while helping the tennis team earn two Skyway Conference titles and two Region IV titles.
He did that while earning First Team All-Conference and Region IV selections as a freshman and sophomore. He competed twice at the NJCAA National Championships, where he helped the Cyclones finish the year ranked among the Top 20 in the nation. He also was an NJCAA Academic All-American and ITA Scholar-Athlete.
Feel Like You Never Work
After graduating in 2007, Thor transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in finance. After earning his degree, he started his pursuit of a career in finance, but “staring at Excel spreadsheets for 12 hours a day” made him realize it was not the career he wanted.
He yearned for a job that felt as though he never worked, while providing him with a secure income, so he came back to Moraine Valley.
Thor became an assistant women’s tennis coach under Finn, which opened the door that led him to a head tennis coaching job. He earned his master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia College, then started to turn around tennis teams.
His first job as head coach was at Seward Community College, an NJCAA program in Liberal, Kansas, where he guided the Saints to several school records and coached the men’s doubles team to its first ever ITA National Championship.
After three seasons, Thor took the head coaching job at Niagara University in New York, where he led the team to its best finish in more than a decade. Eastern Florida State College came calling after Thor’s season at Niagara, so he and his wife, Veronica, moved to Melbourne, Florida.
His work ethic and focus on community is part of the reason Thor was honored as one of the Moraine Valley Hall of Fame inductees.
“Work your butt off until you are 30,” Thor told students on a recent visit to his alma mater. “Don’t stress about it, don’t worry because life gets tough, and it will be easy from that point on.”