Alumni Profile - Sharon U. Thompson
"SVCC is the greatest human resource in the Sauk Valley, and we are fortunate to have it here," says Thompson of Dixon, who was selected Sauk's 1992 Outstanding Alumnus/Alumna.
Today, Thompson is a successful real estate broker. However, she is most well-known for a distinguished career of public service and community involvement in the Dixon area that spans more than 25 years.
Her road to college began when she graduated from Amboy High School in 1960. Thompson said she wanted to go to college, but, the opportunity was not available to her at the time; however, she was not about to give up. Thompson attended her first class at Sauk in 1968. The college was barely three years old and was housed in the temporary building affectionately known as "Old Ironsides." By this time, she was married with two children, aged 4 and 1.
"I know firsthand the sacrifices that many people make in order to attend Sauk," she said. "I didn't have much money, and went to school nights while working for Walder & Rhodes Insurance Company during the day. "My desire for a higher education was strong, and Sauk made it happen for me."
She took classes ranging from poetry to real estate, from advertising to accounting, from government to data processing. Through the College, Thompson not only earned an Associate in Applied Science in Marketing (1989), she continued her education and earned a Real Estate Sales License, and, later, a Real Estate Broker's License.
Sauk, Thompson says, has played an important part in her personal life and professional life. The College enabled her to enjoy personal growth and development as well as broaden her mind and interests. She also gained the self-confidence that helped expand her career of successful public service in local, county and state government organizations.
She served on the Lee County Board, and, is perhaps most widely recognized as having served as Lee County treasurer for 20 years (1974-1994). She served as president of Illinois County Treasurers' Association, the Illinois Association of County Officials, was executive trustee to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, member of the Governmental Interinsurance Exchange Advisory Board, member of the Illinois State Mandates Board of Review and chair of the wholesale and real estate divisions of the Lee County Area United Way.
Thompson has been a long-time member of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board and was congressional coordinator and member of the Lee County Area Association of Realtors. She was chosen 1987 Treasurer of the Year by the Illinois County Treasurers' Association, selected for the 1987-88 Who's Who of American Women, and, received the 1998 Hillary Rodham Clinton Leadership Award for the State of Illinois.
That self-confidence also helped her excel in service to her community. Thompson has been involved in the Lee County Chapters of the American Cancer Society and American Red Cross; the Dixon Chamber of Commerce, Dixon Rotary Club, Dixon Area United Way, Lee County Association for the Handicapped, Lee County Historical Society, Sauk Valley Hospice and Lee County Council on Aging. In addition, she is also a charter member of the Sauk Valley Community College Endowment Fund.
"I am a firm believer that education is a key to success. I'm still learning and enjoying the challenge," she says.
With that strong belief, Thompson encouraged her children to make the most of their educational opportunities. Her daughter Angela earned a master's degree. Her son Robert graduated from Northern Illinois Law School continues the family tradition of public service as Lee County's Public Defender, and president of the SVCC Board of Trustees.
In a keynote address to graduates at Sauk's 1999 Commencement, Thompson told the graduating class:
"We know that college and career are filled with challenges. You know this , too, because you are the graduates who come here right after high school, the single mothers and fathers who have returned to school, the determined who have refused to give up and instead earned your GEDs, and certificates; the middle-C student who thought a college education could not be possible; the financially-challenge students with student loans; the physically challenged students with daily obstacles; the time-challenged students who left jobs, careers, and families to better themselves; and, all of you who came here and achieved academic excellence."
Thompson gave the graduates another valuable piece of advice that can serve as a mantra for all Sauk graduates.
"Graduating from Sauk is not the end. It's just the beginning," she said.