Pete Frigo’s first office was above a local welding shop on Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn. The dean of Counseling for Moraine Valley from 1968-1999 now can look back and laugh, but the early days were no laughing matter.
“We were just trying to get it together before the start of classes in mid-September,” said Frigo, who was hired to be a counselor the summer before classes began in fall 1968. “We almost had to begin classes at Stagg High School, but at the last minute, we were able to lease two warehouses.”
Those two warehouses were transformed into open-concept classrooms and offices, some separated by colorful sheets. All of the college’s staff and faculty had to pitch in to ensure the warehouses were ready for the start of classes that first fall.
“We were emptying trucks full of tables and desks and assembling them all day and into the night,” said Frigo. “Getting the college set up in our own building allowed us to establish our identity in the community rather than leasing space from a local high school.”
While everyone was getting the buildings ready for students, the new faculty and staff also were busy developing programs and curriculum.
“In the initial years it was an exciting time because we were setting everything up from scratch,” said Frigo. “Throughout my career, Moraine Valley remained a special place to be a part of.”
Under Frigo’s leadership came the expansion Moraine Valley’s Counseling and Advising Center. As the college grew and programs got added, the staff expanded.
“Because the college was growing every year, we needed to adjust and reevaluate our plan to be the support arm of the college,” said Frigo.
Counselors and full and part-time advisors were added to focus on the personal, educational and career needs of students, including those who were looking to earn a career-oriented or transfer degree.
Services for students with learning and physical disabilities were established to ensure all students had equal access to all programs.
“It took the efforts of a lot of people to coordinate the services we needed to provide ample opportunities for learning,” said Frigo.
Frigo retired in 1999, after 31 years of service Moraine Valley. He said no matter how many changes happened at the college, one thing has remained the same: the student-centered approach.
“From the beginning, the philosophy of Moraine Valley was to work together to create a student-centered environment,” said Frigo. “Moraine Valley is still very much the same campus as it was 50 years ago because it hasn’t lost sight of one thing, and that is putting students first.”