2013 Alumni Brunch Celebrates Alumni, Influential College Leaders

Joliet Junior College celebrated the classes of 1943, 1953, 1963, 1973 and 1983 during the 2013 Alumni Brunch on Sunday, June 2.

“The Alumni Brunch is a wonderful event that brings together alumni, retirees, staff and community members to remember JJC’s past and bring it alive again,” said Amanda Quinn, alumni relations and annual fund manager. The day is filled with stories of individual experiences, people reminiscing of times they had, which is wonderful to experience.”

In addition to welcoming past students and faculty, three individuals were recognized as award winners at the 32nd annual event. Ronald M. Whitaker received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award; Paul Lester received the Susan H. Wood Hall of Fame Award; and Kurt Nelson received the Faculty Prestige Award.

See photos

A road naming dedication ceremony also took place to honor four others (all deceased) who were responsible for JJC’s beginnings and continued success. The men honored in the road naming dedication ceremony included: Elmer W. Rowley, Edward Cwiklo, William Glasscock, and J. Stanley Brown.

The following are bios of the award recipients and honorees:

Ronald M. Whitaker: Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Whitaker ’69 had a unique experience at JJC because he was a member and secretary of the Board of Trustees and a student at the same time. After graduating, he became president of the Alumni Association in 1973 and 1974. He went on to become the successful owner and operator of the insurance agency, Ronald M. Whitaker and Company. Whitaker is married to his wife, Mary, and has two children: R. David and Andrew.

Paul Lester: Susan H. Wood Hall of Fame Award

Lester served as a professor at JJC from 1946 until 1980. Before coming to JJC, he was a music teacher at Joliet Township High School. He is remembered for his operetta productions and appearances at the Rialto Theater. In 1964, he began teaching history and social science at JJC. Lester was also a student adviser during his time at the college. Lester is married to his wife, Katherine, and has three children: Paula Lester, Carolyn Lester and Nancy Sitton.

Kurt Nelson: Faculty Prestige Award

Nelson is not only a JJC alumnus but is also a professor. He began a teaching career in the Technical Department at the college not long after graduating in 2007. As a student, he was president of the Collegiate Club Council, a part of Student Government, a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and served as president of the Manufacturing Association. Currently, Nelson continues to work on a proposal with Lewis University to begin a student-teacher scholarship in the theology department. Nelson is also an employee with the U.S. Department of Energy.

J. Stanley Brown (“Inner Road” on the Main Campus is now “J. Stanley Brown Lane”)

In the 1890s, J. Stanley Brown became principal of Joliet Township High School. He was very passionate about encouraging students to further their education upon graduating high school. Many students, however, could not afford the expenses of college. Brown, who later became superintendent, thought long and hard about creating a solution. With the help of William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago, the two began a post-high school program where students could cheaply afford to take freshman and sophomore level college classes in 1901 – the beginnings of Joliet Junior College. Brown continued encouraging students to further their education in Joliet until he accepted the position of president of Northern Illinois Normal School. He passed away in September 1939.


Edward Cwiklo (“Exit Road” on the Main Campus is now “Edward Cwiklo Lane”)

Edward Cwiklo was a student in the class of 1933 at Joliet Township High School.

While he had dreams of attending college, he didn’t have the money to pay for it. With the encouragement of Ira D. Yaggy, dean of students at the time, Cwiklo applied for a full scholarship at Joliet Junior College. Cwiklo was granted the scholarship, which paid for his tuition for two years at JJC, where he earned an associate degree in electrical engineering. He vowed that he would re-pay JJC one day for the generous scholarship. After graduating from JJC, Cwiklo continued his education at the University of Illinois, and he eventually went on to become an engineer for General Electric. When he passed away in October 2004, a gift of more than $2 million in his name was donated to JJC.  Much of the donation funds scholarships for students today.

Elmer W. Rowley (“Entrance Road” on the Main Campus is now “Elmer W. Rowley Drive”)

Elmer W. Rowley began his studies at Joliet Junior College in the late 1920s, where he also became involved with the baseball team and theatre productions. He went on to further his education at the University of Illinois and later, the University of Chicago. In the 1940s, he became a dean at JJC. At this time, JJC was not receiving funds from the state of Illinois – unlike four-year universities in the state. Rowley played a big part in the legislation that finally allowed community and junior colleges to obtain funding from the state.  In 1967, Rowley became the first president of JJC. He was also fundamental in transitioning the college to its new location, along Houbolt Road in Joliet.    

William Glasscock (“Outer Road” on the Main Campus is now “William Glasscock Drive”)

William Glasscock, an alumnus of Joliet Junior College, became the first president of the Board of Trustees. He also served as president of the Alumni Association. Glasscock is most remembered for saving the Will County Courthouse’s bell and finding a place for it on the college’s new campus, along Houbolt Road, in the late 1960s. Glasscock purchased the bell with his own money and cleaned it up. Today, the bell is a part of the college logo.

About NewsRoom