Fifty years ago this month the first members of the Board of Trustees were sworn in at Moraine Valley Community College, making it officially known as Junior College District 524.
The oath of office was administered to local residents Frank Bella, John R. Coghill, Alice Johnston, Francis E. Julien Jr., H. Kenneth Ramsden, Theodore F. Lownik, and Warren Potter, by Noble J. Puffer, Cook County Superintendent of Schools, following the first election in April 1967.
Bella, who served a three-year term, recalls his years on the Board with great fondness. “At first, we had no physical presence anywhere so we’d have to find a room somewhere to meet,” Bella said. “That’s when we had to work on acquiring a site and hiring a president. We also needed to come up with a name for the college.” Bella served as chairman of the committee charged with finding a name. A contest yielded the winning name, chosen because of its location where the Valparaiso and Tinley moraines meet to form a valley.
“I really did enjoy my time on the board,” Bella said. “My wife and I went to a convention with other community college people where we exchanged ideas and learned so much. It was invigorating.” Bella has visited the campus on several occasions over the years and was pleased to see its growth. “I was very impressed. It’s dynamic,” he said. “This college plays a big role in filling a great need.”
Over the past 50 years, the Board of Trustees has had a little more than 50 trustees, including Dr. John Donahue, who served as trustee from 1989 to 2003. “I learned so much from being a board member at Moraine Valley. I took away a lot and I think everyone who has interaction with this institution in any way hopefully can say the same thing,” he said. Dr. Donahue, whose four children attended Moraine Valley, said he believes the college has become a true center for teaching and learning. “We focused on letting the community know they could get a quality education here and once the community realized the value of this institution, the rest followed,” he said.
“You can really see how this campus has changed so much and has become a tremendous asset for this entire suburban community,” Dr. Donahue said. “When you have a good board, good administrators and excellent teachers, you have a good student body coming here all the time. That’s the goal. That’s what’s important and I think that’s what we accomplished over the years.”
Joseph Murphy, who has been on the Board since 2001, currently is serving as vice chairman. During his tenure, Murphy has been at the forefront of much of the progress at the college. One of the key responsibilities was to find a successor when Dr. Vernon O. Crawley resigned after more than 21 years as the college’s president. “What we found in Dr. Sylvia Jenkins were attributes we felt were the best fit for the college—experience as an educator and a curriculum leader in both transfer and career programs,” Murphy said.
Murphy ran for office because, he said, his father was active in his neighborhood and he believes those experiences taught him “we should all work to do some public service for the good of our communities.”
“One of my main priorities when I was first elected was to work to continue to make Moraine Valley a well-respected institution of higher education for everyone in the 26 communities we serve. That priority has never faltered and we continue to offer world-class instruction in quality facilities.”