Dr. William Marzano

  • Community college success drives pursuit of excellence

    Dr. William Marzano embodies the positive attributes about the nation’s community college system.

    Dual credit allowed Marzano to fulfill his associate degree requirements at Morton College. The community college boom of the 1960s opened the door to his first teaching job. During Marzano’s time in the private sector, partnerships with area community colleges created workforce development programs to train employees. Finally, community colleges provided him the opportunity to become an administrator.

    “They called out my name, announcing I was the class valedictorian… I was shocked. But it was something that set the bar for the rest of my life."

    “Morton College holds a cherished place in my heart,” Marzano said. “It had a tremendous impact on my life. I’m just one story among the countless other ones out there. Morton College is and continues to be a great school.”

    Marzano, now the Assistant Vice President of Transfer and Developmental Education at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, grew up on Chicago’s Near West side near Taylor and Racine. His family was among the 8,000 people displaced when then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley built the new University of Illinois at Chicago Circle (now UIC) in the 1960s. They moved to Cicero and settled in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood when he was 10. He graduated from Morton East High School in 1967.

    “My father went to Crane Junior College (now Malcolm X) and then on to Northwestern,” Marzano said. “I grew up with the idea of implicitly going to college, but starting at a junior college. It was a given.”

    Marzano, who also decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a teacher, took advantage of the clubs and activities offered at Morton College. He participated in the Model United Nations event and was cast as a gangster in the college’s theatre production of “Guys and Dolls.” Marzano held instructors Dr. Sam Meyer (English), Leroy Gebhardt (behavioral science) and John Steinmetz (biology) in high esteem.

    “We were in the same building as the high school, but just on the fourth floor,” Marzano said. “The college instructors treated us like adults. I had a great experience.”

    An event at Morton College’s Commencement ceremony in 1969 greatly shaped Marzano’s life. He was named class valedictorian, which today is known as the Robert M. Hale Memorial Award. Marzano still has the pin he received as valedictorian. It’s attached to his Morton College diploma, one of the four college degrees Marzano displays in his office at Waubonsee.

    “They called out my name, announcing I was the class valedictorian,” Marzano remembered. “I was shocked. But it was something that set the bar for the rest of my life. I had to strive and sustain that level of excellence."

     The dual credit hours Marzano earned taking that college algebra class as a senior at Morton East unexpectedly made the difference.

    “It turned out to be somewhat of a saving grace,” Marzano admitted. “I was able to fulfill my associate degree requirements and be eligible to be named the valedictorian. I could have blown it, right?”

    Marzano met his future wife, Mary Hudetz, while earning his bachelor of arts in psychology with minors in sociology and secondary education at Northern Illinois. He then received a University Fellowship that helped Marzano complete his master’s degree in educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Marzano then came to a crossroads – stay at Illinois, work toward a doctoral degree and become a university professor or fulfill his dream of teaching at a community college? He chose the latter, but didn’t realize he was on the tail end of the community college version of the early 2000s dot com tech boom until shortly after being hired at Illinois Valley in Oglesby to teach psychology in 1973.

    “I was very fortunate to get that job,” Marzano admitted. “The guy who hired me said I got on as the door was closing.”

    Community college experienced a tremendous growth spurt in the 1960s. The number of community college nationwide in that decade more than doubled, going from 412 to 909, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. A hiring flurry of instructors followed.

    Marzano’s 11 years at Illinois Valley were busy ones both personally and professionally. The Marzanos welcomed their three children, Anthony, Gwendolyn and William Jr., while living in Oglesby. Marzano also pursued his doctoral degree in post-secondary curriculum and instruction at Illinois State, completing it in 1984.

    Marzano spent the next 15 years helping build his father-in-law’s printing business in Naperville. His background in psychology helped in creating incentives to motivate employees. His community college experience also was a plus because Marzano was familiar with adult education programs.

    “As an employer, the first thing you should be doing is working with your community colleges,” Marzano said. “We worked with the College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College. I recognized the value of being partners with community colleges.”

    The business grew from 100 to 600 employees with three locations, including one overseas. Marzano worked his way up from human resource director to vice president of educational services. When the landscape of the printing business changed with the advent of the internet in the late 1990s, Marzano moved back to community colleges.

    “I wanted to get back to community colleges,” Marzano said. “It was time. I had kept in contact with a number of colleagues and friends. Fortunately in 2000, there was an opening for the Dean of Continuing Education at Waubonsee. I fulfilled a goal of becoming a community college administrator. I strive to excel being a community college administrator by helping our faculty and students each and every day.”

    He’s held four other administrative positions in his 13 years at Waubonsee. His mission in any of the positions he's held is to “encourage, support and affirm the relentless pursuit of curricular relevance and instructional excellence.”

    Marzano still attempts to reach out to the students in extracurricular activities. He also stays involved in the classroom, teaching a supervisory management course since 2006.

    “I try to interact with the clubs and let the students know years from now they will appreciate what a special experience they are having,” Marzano said.

    All in all, Marzano views community colleges as one of the U.S. educational system’s greatest assets.

    “When you think of higher education, it was for the elite,” Marzano said, “for the best and brightest. Community colleges are the democratization of higher education. Look at my dad. His parents were immigrants. If not for a junior college, he would not have been able to go to college."

    “For me, the community college influenced and shaped my entire adulthood. I am both very proud and grateful to have been a community college student, teacher, business partner and administrator.”

  • Marzano Alumni