I feel such a loyalty to this institution because of what it did for me and what I see it doing for others
When Debi Hill first stepped onto Sauk Valley Community College's campus, she was a junior in high school taking classes for her first higher education degree. She never gave it a thought that she would "transition through life with Sauk," but, that is exactly what she has done. Hill transitioned from student to professor of English and speech at Sauk.
Since that first day back in 1969 when Hill took classes in "Old Ironsides," she says she has "felt at home here." And her loyalty continues today.
"I feel such a loyalty to this institution because of what it did for me and what I see it doing for others," says Hill. "I feel really protective of it. It is not just a job. It would not be the same if I went to any other community college."
Today, it is quite common for students to begin taking college courses while still in high school. But in the late 1960's, it wasn't so common. The Hill family set a trend in this arena. Hill said that to start college early back then was pretty much unheard of at the time. She explained that her older brother was the first student at Sterling High School to graduate early and come out to Sauk as a high school senior. Debi was the second to accomplish that. "We were not actually allowed to graduate, but we were allowed to come to Sauk full time that last semester of our senior year," she says.
Hill attended Sauk from spring 1969 to December 1971, then transferred to Indiana State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in English. From there, she continued her education, earning a Master of Arts in Performance Studies from Emerson College in Boston. She credits Sauk with assisting her with her chosen career pathway.
"I got involved in a lot of activities and plays, which then pointed the way to a career in English and theater. In fact, I went to Indiana State because of one teacher that I met through the festival that Jerry Mathis (Sauk professor in theater) took us to," explained Hill. "I fell in love with the work of one of the oral interpretation teachers down there and I majored in English and minored in oral interpretation at the time."
Hill knew that she always wanted to be a college professor, but her career would take a short detour before that became a reality. She moved back to Boston where she worked in the publishing business for six years. She returned, got married, and had a family. When her children were small, she began teaching part-time at Sauk, which she did for more than three years. A full-time position eventually came open; she applied and got the job.
Hill recalls that when she was a student at Sauk, what she loved most about the college was the intellectual environment, sense of community, and personal attention. Hill remembers the classes were small with so many interesting personalities on the faculty who really challenged students. She adds that the college was very much a part of her whole life. She said Sauk faculty -- Ed Beatty, Dave Lovekin, George Vrhel, and Dr. Jerry Mathis would attend social gatherings at her parents' home.
"They were a part of my family life as well as my school life, which was a unique and interesting experience for me at that age," Hill recalls. "I just loved listening to the faculty and being included and being respected."
When asked to compare that life with the life she experiences today as an instructor, Hill says she loves her job and is thankful everyday for being hired at Sauk.
"I have never walked into the building without feeling really good about it," she says. "I have never felt, ‘Oh gee, do I have to or I wish I had another job.' I have always loved walking into this building." While teaching at Sauk, Hill also found time and energy to pursue more education for herself and completed a Masters in Counseling from National-Louis University in 2003.
Hill says Sauk offers a high quality education and that the faculty and staff will do anything to help a student through the process, and that there are more ways to help students today than ever before.
"I think Sauk holds a candle to any higher educational institution in the state. The community is very fortunate to have this school," says Hill. "It is a quality school and a beautiful place. We do so much for what we have available in resources."