In its early days, Moraine Valley Community College was housed in a warehouse, several miles east of its current location. Back then, the college boasted open-concept classrooms, separated by colorful tapestries. The backs of the rooms were open so anyone could drop in and listen to the lectures.
Fifty years ago, this concept was the new trend in education, and Moraine Valley was on the forefront.
Dr. Sharon Fritz, who retired as professor of Sociology/History in 2002, was one of the college’s original faculty members. She was hired as a Spanish and political science teacher.
“Our first president (Robert E. Turner) was a visionary, and he was considered a national guru in starting new colleges,” said Fritz. “The early years were a wild ride.”
Of course as with beginning anything new, there are often challenges. Fritz recalls one time when her class was taking a test, and two curtains down, the typing class was serenading her class with a chorus of keystrokes.
“Students were trying to concentrate while they took a test, and we kept hearing keystrokes,” said Fritz.
Another time, Fritz recalls shouting answers to the professor who was asking her class questions one curtain over.
“You couldn’t help but yell the answers out,” said Fritz. “Looking back, it was really a quirky way to experience college. The joke was enroll in one class, get the education of several for free.”
While most of the time it was disruptive to have only fabric separate one class from another, Fritz said the concept built wonderful relationships.
“The open concept helped build a strong camaraderie among faculty and strong relationships with students who could wander in at any time,” said Fritz. “Even though we all welcomed actual walls years later, teaching during those first years were memorable.”
Fritz said her most unforgettable moment was meeting her husband, Dick Fritz, professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. Fritz worked at the college from 1969-2002.
“Moraine Valley was a wonderful place to work, especially with a family,” said Fritz. “Our colleagues became our friends and our family, and it was a special place to work.”
After her husband passed away in 2004, Fritz established a scholarship with the Moraine Valley Community College Foundation to award a first-generation college student who has an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
“We always gave back to the college as well as many foundations,” said Fritz. “Establishing this scholarship honored his interest and our commitment to Moraine Valley.”
In addition to the scholarship, Dick Fritz also is honored annually with the Richard A. Fritz Integration Bee. This annual event gives Moraine Valley students a chance to show off their math skills and win prizes.
“It’s fun to see the students being cheered on by their friends while they solve equations on the white boards and the clock ticks,” said Fritz. “It’s a wonderful tribute to Dick that they named it for him and have continued it.”