By Jane Hayes
Dr. Robert Head, esteemed leader of Rockford University, was the featured speaker at the WCRTA (Winnebago County Retired Teachers’ Association) June 26.
This special luncheon was to honor six scholarship recipients — Christopher Davis, Sandy Farb, Jessica Fettes, Larissa Morrissey, Amy Wieting and Zoe Zuroske. The scholarships were funded by the Blanche Martin Scholarship, and thanks to Mike Cannariato and his team of retired teachers for choosing such stellar recipients.
After spending the week at Camp Lowden with his Boy Scout Troop No. 9, Dr. Head joked that it didn’t take too much coaxing for him to leave the campers and mosquitoes for a few hours to salute these six future teachers.
Mary Jo Powers introduced Dr. Robert Head to the audience by highlighting just a few of his accomplishments. As 17th president of Rockford University, his impact has been far-reaching. Undergraduate students are at a 12-year high; the endowments have grown by 20 percent; RU has students from 17 countries. Capital improvements have been made with $7 million; and this year will continue the pace with another $6 million of improvements. He also serves on several boards, including the steering committee of Transform Rockford.
Dr. Head believes there is no greater life’s work than that of the caring professions of teaching and nursing because of the meaningful experiences both service professions encourage. He sees the role of educators as serving as a bridge from imagined dreams to dreams fulfilled.
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life because they pursue meaningless things,” he said. “Instead, look for the meaning in your life and career that gives you a purpose.”
Heartwarming to most of us retired teachers who consider ourselves part of the “Geezer Generation,” was harkening back to our collegiate years when our dorms had one pay phone and a single television per floor. We were fortunate to have an eight-track tape or record player, and so few of us traveled to college by bus, train or plane and not our own cars.
Now, with the changes as a result of social media, cell phones, laptops and iPads, students experience an education far different from many of us in the audience. However, instead of realizing all the differences, Dr. Head’s focus advocated being lifelong learners. He alluded to The Wizard of Oz, comparing how Dorothy stayed on the Yellow Brick Road to focus on her goals. “You may often run into those with no brains, hearts or courage, and there will undoubtedly be a few wicked witches on that path,” he said.
“Nothing stays the same in this ever-changing world; the burden of teachers is to prepare the next generation for the future, which we cannot predict,” he added. “You must keep up with the pace and set an example to your students and be as James Madison, the main architect of our U.S. Constitution, to continue your goals of preserving a more perfect union.”
Dr. Head’s tribute praised teachers for their impact and charged them to be architects of their own futures and that of their students. Retired teachers at the luncheon, who have seen so many dramatic changes in education and felt the pangs of disrespect, were inspired and actually validated by Dr. Head’s comments. So many of us in attendance left feeling touched by a man of vision, eloquent words and practical insights, who has lived his own message by being an architect of change.
Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE) and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment (REACT).
From the July 2-8, 2014, issue