Written by Shayndel Valles
Photo by Shayndel Valles
After 48 years of service, Elgin Community College Trustee John Duffy has retired as the longest-serving community college trustee in the state of Illinois.
“The fact that I’m the longest to me doesn’t make that much difference,” Duffy said. “It’s a matter of the fact that I was doing something that I thought was very worthwhile.”
Throughout Duffy’s ten terms on the Board of Trustees, 47,880 degrees and certificates were earned by ECC students. Prior to his tenure, 1,915 degrees and certificates were earned by students.
“I was a part of a movement that allowed thousands upon thousands of people to achieve their dreams and to live better lives because ECC was there for them when they needed it,” Duffy said. “I am most proud of changing people’s lives for the better and helping people achieve their dreams and their families be better off because of it.”
On Monday, April 10, ECC hosted a retirement reception to honor Duffy’s years of service on the Board of Trustees. Hundreds filled Building E’s Dining Room as he stood at the entrance and personally greeted all attendees. Current board members and former students and colleagues shared their experiences working with Duffy.
“He is a model trustee and always put the needs of students first,” said Chair of the ECC Board of Trustees Jennifer Rakow. “Trustee Duffy leaves an incredible legacy and an indelible mark on the college; his presence on the board will be greatly missed.”
Rakow also recognized Duffy’s highest levels of professionalism, integrity and dedication.
“No one can or will ever question your love for Elgin Community College and your 48 years of dedicated service to the greater community,” said Trustee Donna Redmer. “You serve as an example of what servant leadership looks like.”
When first elected in 1975, Duffy “hadn’t even thought about being re-elected.”
“By the time it came to be re-elected in 1978, my wife Anne and I had one student already at ECC,” recalled Duffy. “I said in my campaign, ‘I am entrusting the future of my children to Elgin Community College,’ and no other candidate could make that same statement. I saw what it was doing for my daughter and I saw what it was doing for everybody else and it made me want to continue.”
Since 1976, Duffy has served on several state and national committees and has attended nearly every Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) national legislative summit and convention.
Toward the end of his term as chair of the ACCT-AACC Joint Commission on Federal Legislation, Duffy was appointed to the national board of directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
“It was a real honor because almost never is a trustee appointed to the AACC board,” Duffy said.
Jee Hang Lee, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Community College Trustees, attended the reception and presented Duffy with a lifetime membership.
“You can’t be a board member for 48 years at the local level unless you have what we in the ACCT call a ‘duty of care,'” Lee said.
At one of these national conferences, Duffy became inspired to pitch a Foundation to the board.
“When we go to national leadership conferences, there are sessions where we learn about the best practices of other community colleges all over the nation,” Duffy said. “I brought the idea of an ECC Foundation back from that national meeting and suggested it to our Board of Trustees and it kind of fell on rocky ground.”
His fellow trustees said ‘only four year institutions have foundations’, but Duffy persisted and the Foundation was established three years later. At the reception, the ECC Foundation announced the founding of a scholarship in his name.
“Mr. Duffy has been here for all of our challenges and successes,” said ECC President Dr. Sam. “His legacy will exceed another 48 years.”
After almost half a century, Duffy will continue to spend his days as he did before, with exception to the second Monday afternoon and second Tuesday night of each month.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Duffy. “You do it a day at a time and it just kind of builds. I love what I did.”