I am fortunate that Sauk was available to me and I took advantage of the opportunity to pursue an education.
At the time when Sauk Valley Community College Alumnus John McCormick graduated from Newman Central Catholic High School in 1965, college was not at the top of his priority list. However, events led him to Sauk, which helped lay the foundation for McCormick to build a long a successful career.
"From the time that I was a child, I knew that I always wanted to be a business man. Yet, here I was, a farm kid in the ‘50s attending a one-room country school, and the only one in my class. Now throw in the sign of the times: the Viet Nam conflict was the major issue across the country (which included the draft), we were the front runners of the Baby Boom Generation, and some of us thought college was far beyond our reach,” said McCormick. “Percentage wise, most of us were not pushed or encouraged to go on to college. We had a counselor at Newman who told many students that they were not ‘college material.’ At class reunions, many of us share the joke about that counselor since many of those same individuals have gone on to receive graduate degrees.”
Because of a back disorder from birth, McCormick was classified as 4F upon registering for the draft. It was at this time when a rumor of a local junior college became a reality. In its preliminary stages, Sauk’s informational location was in the old First National Bank in Sterling. It was there that McCormick went to pick up pamphlets and information about the college. With hopes of working a physical job now gone by the wayside, he signed up for an Accounting 101 and an Economics 101 class in 1966.
McCormick worked at Armour in the daytime and took classes at night. He worked 10 hours a day and attended Sauk at night. He completed his associate’s degree in account at Sauk in 1970 with a 3.66 GPA, going strictly nights. McCormick said, “Pretty good GPA for someone who was told that he might not be college material.”
In April of 1970, McCormick went to work for Frantz Manufacturing in Sterling. He credits Sauk for the opportunity to land that job. He then went on to tackle his bachelor’s degree at Northern Illinois University (NIU), again taking all night courses. McCormick says, “Frantz was instrumental in helping me pursue my bachelor’s degree with an employment reimbursement program and flexibility in accommodating employees’ schedules.” He took one-to-two classes a semester and maintained a 3.0 GPA while working full time and commuting.
Work responsibilities took him to Galesburg, Illinois. He returned to Sterling in 1977 and received his bachelor’s degree in business from NIU in 1978. It was at a later date McCormick had an opportunity to pursue an executive MBA program at NIU. Attending classes alternating Fridays and Saturdays, he received his MBA in 1989.
McCormick credits the quality of instruction he received at Sauk for helping him succeed in not only his job at Frantz, but in his NIU undergraduate and graduate studies. “My experience at Sauk was great and my education from Northern was important in my professional career,” says McCormick. “Looking back, the instructors at Sauk in ‘66 were very much interested in the students. It (Sauk) was small and conducive to some great learning.”
McCormick forged an impressive and distinguished career at Frantz. Starting as a cost accountant and a production clerk, he held a variety of positions in different areas (except engineering) becoming Treasurer in 1983, a post he would hold for the next six years. He was also, in 1983, appointed as one of three trustees on Frantz’s Profit Sharing Trust. From 1983 until 1989 he researched all investments and helped make investments for the company that ranged between one to four million dollars. His education and work environment helped him to progress professionally. During his career at Frantz, he was responsible for the Benefit Programs for approximately 500 employees; warehouses located all over the country; a wood door plant in Wisconsin; a wood processing plant in Roseburg, Oregon; a Sterling garage door location; a bearing plant; and a steel ball plant, which was all part of Frantz prior to 1994. As Vice President/Treasurer, McCormick also managed the company’s group medical and benefits plan.
"I have challenged people to find somebody in my business that has sat on both sides of the desk,” he says. “I sell these programs now, but I bought them then. And, I had the responsibility of doing that for a fairly decent-sized organization.” An investment professional with Woodbury Financial Services, Inc., McCormick is self-employed (McCormick Financial Services) in Sterling. He helps clients accomplish their financial goals and objectives, whether it is saving for retirement, their children’s education, buying a home, or estate planning. McCormick also holds a securities license.
McCormick has been a member of the Sauk Foundation Board of Directors since 1989 and has served as secretary and as president. Serving on the Foundation Board has been his way of giving back to the college and to the community. He continues giving back to the community by serving on the following: YMCA Board Member between 1993-1999; RRIAFA Board as past president; Sterling Chamber of Commerce Board; and St. Mary Finance Commission for several years. He now serves on the Sterling Rock Falls Community Trust and the Sterling Plan Commission. While his son was growing up, McCormick also served on various committees for both St. Mary Grade School in Sterling and Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling. He is a champion for education and holds Sauk in high regard. He says the incredible record of grade point averages of Sauk students who transfer to other universities does not surprise him in the least.
In looking back on his life, McCormick said that if he had to do it all over again, consider the time and events in the 60’s, he would not change a thing. However, he would encourage students today to go full-time so they can enjoy the entire college experience. “I went nights, I was serious and very focused. The full-time students have the opportunity and time to meet many people, build life-long relationships, and participate in social events.”
Referring to the motto of Sauk, “Sauk Makes It Possible…You Make It Happen”, McCormick says, “This wonderful opportunity of having Sauk in our community makes it possible for anybody to attend, but it’s the individual that makes it happen. Don’t kid yourself, it’s a tough road, especially if you are working full-time and taking classes at night, and for some of us, it was also about having a family at home.” He went on to explain, “When I was first assigned to Galesburg, I remember driving from Galesburg at night to DeKalb to finish classes for a semester. I stopped to see my wife in Sterling, who was nine month pregnant, and drove back to Galesburg that night to be back at work the next morning…. It was tough. There are opportunities that come along to every individual in their lifetime. They either take them or they don’t. I am fortunate that Sauk was available to me and I took advantage of the opportunity to pursue an education.”