Community residents line the sidewalks at Moraine Valley Community College to get a glimpse of Vice President Walter Mondale during his visit to campus in 1980.

Moraine Valley Community College has welcomed both local and nationally elected officials from all branches of government to its campus throughout its 50-year history. The college is proud to have hosted President Ronald Reagan, Vice President Dick Cheney and United States Senator Barack Obama along with dozens of state politicians and mayors. Their visits have allowed students and community members to interact with the people who represent them.

“It’s been an honor for the college to have such a varied array of politicians come to campus over the past 50 years,” said Dr. Sylvia Jenkins. “They came to campus for various reasons, but each gave our staff and students the opportunity to see democracy in action.  We have just celebrated President’s Day. It’s important for us to honor our system of government and the contributions of our great leaders.”

Reagan’s campus visit almost didn’t happen because of the weather. Buckets of rain descended and high winds blew on that stormy day in 1988, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from lining the old baseball field and campus sidewalks to see his helicopter land.

Student Government hosted him in the old gym, where he promoted his party’s nominee, George H.W. Bush, to bleachers crammed with people lucky enough to get tickets. Students sat in the front rows brandishing welcome signs they made and met him after his speech.

Wally Fronczek, dean of Liberal Arts, was the program supervisor of College Activities at the time and had one week to plan for the president’s visit with the Secret Service. He said the visit was a big deal for the college.

“He was a very well-liked sitting president, and we were much smaller back then. Our community was much smaller. His visit was the biggest deal in town,” Fronczek said. “Everybody was so thrilled to have him here, and he was such a great speaker. People talked about it for years.”

Fronczek also remembers being a student in 1980 when then-Vice President Walter Mondale spoke outside on the campus grounds. He was 19 years old and helped bring a celebrity in the political world to his school. “It was kind of surreal,” he added.

Vice President Dick Cheney connected with the college through a community member in 2000. He held an open forum about the education system. The forums were heavily geared toward students and faculty, so he moderated a panel comprised of students who answered his questions, and he reached out to the audience for comments.

Barack Obama, then a United States Senator, spoke to a packed gymnasium for Black History Month. “He was an outrageously good speaker, and he had our students moved and inspired,” Fronczek said. “He put the onus on our students. ‘Opportunities exist, but it’s your responsibility,’ he said. When students hear that, they hear messages from people who are worldly and bring a great deal of experience to our community.”

Two state politicians, Governor Jim Edgar (1991 to 1999) and United States Senator Paul Simon (1985 to 1997), visited with Moraine Valley students quite a few times during their respective tenures. Senator Simon was involved with student trustees in Springfield, so he would visit the college to have open discussions with 12 Student Government students, and then he would return to get their feedback. “I think he enjoyed it as much they did,” Fronczek said.

Governor Edgar was pro-community college and a very polished speaker who would come to campus whenever the college asked him to do so. He spoke several times with Bacchus, a long-time drug and alcohol group on campus.

Knowing politicians’ presence on campus benefits students and the community by exposing them to the democratic process as well as being educational and historic, the college will continue to invite these storied guests to visit Moraine Valley.