Sauk Valley Community College

an institution of higher education that provides quality learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of its students and community

Alumni Profile - Roberta Dillon

Roberta Dillon

Alumni Profile - Roberta Dillon

Sauk Valley Community College alumna Roberta Dillon once addressed an SVCC graduating class and told them that through all of the changes in their lives, they would never really leave Sauk -- for the lessons they learned, and the experiences they had would enrich their professional and personal lives from that point on. Dillon (A.A. 1975) said those words because she had found them to be true in her own life.

"Some of the lessons I learned at Sauk stood me in good stead," said Dillon of Sterling. "I'd learned that I could set a goal and attain it. I'd learned that I could meet external expectations without totally losing myself or my sense of what is right, or what is important. I'd learned that professors had once been human beings too. I'd learned that mistakes are not terminal and could be lessons and that disappointments could make accomplishments sweeter. I'd learned that people, all people, are important and that respect for diversity is not an option."

Dillon found herself in need of Sauk in 1966 when, as a wife and mother of three children (all under age three), it appeared to be the only option available to her for a higher education degree.

"I came to Sauk because it was available, and accessible at that point in my life, and for so many people in the area.  If you are juggling family or work responsibilities," she said. "it's just wonderful to have the College here."

For Dillon, Sauk truly was a springboard for higher education. After she earned an Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts in 1975, she went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Social Work in 1978 from Marycrest College and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) in 1996 from the University of Iowa.

Her work experience closely followed her education. Dillon worked as a medical social worker at CGH Medical Center for five and a half years. While at CGH, she remembers thinking about graduate school. She thought she would continue in social work until she had several chance conversations with women who had changed careers and entered law. Dillon asked them why, where and how they did it, but more importantly, were they glad they did? The answers to those questions were always a resounding "yes."

Encouraged by several family members, she enrolled in the University of Iowa Law School. As a law student, she worked summers at the law firm of Ward, Murray, Pace and Johnson. After completing her law degree and passing the bar exam, she became as an associate at the firm.

She left the firm because of a family illness, but remained involved in law through a volunteer capacity in mediation. This led her to make another important life decision, and she recently opened her own office as an attorney mediator for alternative dispute resolution in Sterling.

Thinking back at her time at Sauk, she remembers most the professors and how genuinely interested they were in their students. And she remembers the students themselves as influencing her life.

"I think some of the professors made the greatest impact on me as well as the students that I met here," said Dillon. "There was always a variety of students and I enjoyed that. I got to meet people from different situations, people who were coming right out of high school and people with families who were either going to school for the first time or returning. I felt the professors were all genuinely interested in teaching. Without exception they had a great deal of knowledge to share and an enthusiasm for teaching."

Dillon also remembers how Sauk afforded her the opportunity for enrichment activities at varying points in her life that included the College's student newspaper, choir, speech activities, and theater.

Through all of Dillon's experiences, good and bad, she has been one to persist.  Perhaps part of that persistence was learned at Sauk as she continued to reach for that first degree.  The last requirement for her associate's degree was a lab course in biology.  She panicked at first, but she remembers Professor David Youker advising the class, "Don't quit until you've finished at least three weeks."  She completed the course, met the requirements, and graduated.  "It was good advice," she recalls.  As she said in her speech to the graduating class, "The lessons you've learned here and the experiences you've had will inform and enrich your professional and personal lives now from this point on."