Today Moraine Valley Community College is a bustling campus with beautiful buildings, but it’s unrecognizable compared to what it looked like 50 years ago.
Just ask Dr. Margaret Lehner, vice president for Institutional Advancement and executive assistant to the President. She drove right by the campus the first time she visited it for her job interview in 1969.
In fact, she couldn’t find it.
“I drove up and down 111th Street and 88th Avenue, and I couldn’t find the college,” said Lehner. “After circling back round, I saw a man waving on the corner of the street, flagging me down.”
Lehner was offered job opportunities to teach at area high schools as well as Moraine Valley, and she weighed the pros and cons of each. However, she was excited about the prospect of teaching at a community college.
“I thought to myself that this (Moraine Valley) is a great opportunity to start building something from the ground floor,” said Lehner. “Community colleges were the people’s college, and it was an exciting time to be a part of one and one that was so new.”
As the longest tenured employee, Lehner has found her nearly 50-year career at the college exciting.
“I’ve seen a change in administrative structure, the addition of college buildings, and the growth of students,” said Lehner. “Because each day is different, and so many things have changed, everything is still just as exciting today as it was when I started in 1969.”
Perhaps nothing has been as exciting to Lehner than the addition of the Fine and Performing Arts Center.
Recognizing the south suburbs needed a cultural center, Lehner conceived of the idea of the center and chaired the committee to bring a venue to the area. After exploring multiple options, it was decided to build the center on campus.
“Moraine Valley was the perfect place to have a building dedicated to the arts,” said Lehner. “We had land that could accommodate such a center as well as well the resources to make it an educational hub for everyone in the community to enjoy and learn from.”
Bringing the idea to reality was a matter of funding. The community passed a referendum, and the Fine and Performing Arts Center opened on Moraine Valley’s campus in January 1994.
“We put our heart and soul into making sure the building design and the amenities that it had were nothing but state-of-the-art,” said Lehner. “By far it is one of my favorite contributions to the college was working on this project.”
Throughout her Moraine Valley career, Lehner has served the college in a variety of capacities. From professor in the classroom to dean and from vice president to the foundation secretary, and more, Lehner has held a variety of positions throughout her career and is a huge part of the college’s growth and development.
“I have been fortunate to be able to serve the college in a variety of roles, and I’ve loved each one of them for different reasons,” said Lehner. “I love administration and the impact I’ve been able to make in that capacity, but I think teaching students as faculty were among my most favorite years at Moraine Valley.”
As big of an impact as Lehner has made on Moraine Valley, the college also has had a profound effect on her. She met her husband, Ray Lehner, retired department chair of Allied Health and professor/coordinator of Respiratory Therapy, at the college. In addition, many of the Lehner’s best friends are retirees of the college.
“I can’t imagine my life without Moraine Valley because it really is my life,” said Lehner. “Good thing I was able to find the campus the day I had my first interview because my life would be very different otherwise.”