Al: I should have emailed you and given you some ideas about what I wanted to accomplish in this interview. However, I would like start with your family history and finally get to you as a dean at DeVry. So let's start with your family. What I would like to know your childhood, where you grew up, your family.
Al: And your mother's side?
Anne: My mom's dad was a farmer and owned a grocery store. They were poor and plucked the chickens right out of the backyard. They were from the other side of the tracks. My dad's side of the tracks had some money. His company was called City Beverage in Chicago Heights. So my dad went to military school, Marmion Military Academy in Aurora for high school. He had a sister and a brother. Both he and his brother worked for his mom. When my grandfather passed away at a very young age; I think 52, my dad and my uncle took over the beer business.
The Mafia came in and tried to twist their arms to make them sell a certain type of beer and they said "We're from the military academy; we don't know this street stuff." So they sold the business. My dad was in the seminary for two years studying to be a priest, and he met my mom. He also went to Notre Dame. There was a real strong work ethic and a real strong educational background on my dad's side.
My mom and her brothers and sisters, who came from a bigger family, didn't have much schooling. My mom married my dad at nineteen so she went straight from her father's house to my dad's house and started having kids right away. I have four brothers and sisters. I'm the tail end; I'm the youngest. I have two sisters, two brothers.
Al: In what town did you grow up?
Anne: Kankakee, and when I was six we moved to Bourbonnais, which was only two towns over from Kankakee. Bourbonnais was just up and coming and all cornfields. I grew up in a Catholic grade school, and I went to a public high school, because that's where my brothers went. I was familiar with them--basketball games and those sorts of things. I was always attracted to the familiarity of things. I wanted to know my surroundings. I was very shy. I was the only girl in the neighborhood. We were surrounded by cornfields so my brother, Joe, who is only two and a half years older than me would include me in everything. He'd say, "Come on, we're going to play football." I would say, "Yeah but...." He would say "No, no, come on--you're going to play with the boys, and you can handle it." They would full out tackle me. Then I'd cry, and they would say that I can't cry. If you want to play with the boys, you don't get to cry. That made me tougher.
Al: And you are a dean now....
Anne: My dad had a drafting table in the basement. I remember, at maybe seven or eight years old, I'd sit at the drafting table with a pencil and start to draw. I always did it with a straight edge. I didn't like to do it freehand. I liked the structure and the uniformly of using the tools. I loved it. I did it as a hobby. I would go downstairs to the basement and draw. I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a drafter or an architect.
Al: Did you do that in high school?
Anne: Yes, I went in that direction in high school where if you want to be an architect or drafter. I was in vo tec classes which were all boys. They didn't have any girls or even allow girls in their classes. I was in high school at a time when girls were not allowed in those classes. They would say, "You go in the home economics classes and learn how to sew and cook." I grew up in the era where women were making the adjustments...slowly. Women were starting to be more independent, and it was starting to be accepted. However, I just plowed right through. My dad always said, "You can do anything to which you put your mind. Anything. Don't you let anybody tell you that you can't do something."
My mom would always say, "What about interior design. That's more of a girl's area." I didn't want that. She came from the old school that girls are supposed to be. Nevertheless, she adapted to the whole idea that I'm going do what I want to do. She was right, and she knew what she was talking about, but my dad was more right. He knew that if I intended to do something, there was not going to be anything to stop me from accomplishing it. I was the only girl in my college classes. I started at Eastern Illinois University, and I didn't like it. I went there for two years, because that was where my friends went.
However, they didn't have architecture so I have no idea why I went there. My brothers went there, and one of my sisters went there; it was familiar. So I went there. I hated it; I hated it. I lived on my own also, which was bad advice from someone, but it taught me independence as well as being in the classes with all boys. Being the only girl, I learned how to pretend that I wasn't intimidated and also be independent. There's the core of my being able to excel at certain things and hide the fact that I'm intimidated or fearful of other things. It really helped me grow. It helped me grow a lot. I left Eastern.
Al: What did you dad say about that?
Anne: My dad said, "Well, either you're going to work for me or work somewhere else. My dad was such a tough employer. I told him that I would go work somewhere else, and I did. I worked for a year and went back to school to UIC in the Architectural program. They said that it's a five-year program and care what you took at Eastern. Those two years didn't count. I retook my English and math classes. It was very structured; there was no transfer of credits. There was a two-year waiting list to get into UIC. I didn't know what you're going to take while I was waiting.
Al: So what did you do?
Anne: I told my dad, and he said, "What?" I switched then to Illinois State University where I transferred all of my credits; they took everything. I was in an Industrial Technology Degree where I focused on drafting. I gave up the architectural dream and realized in the process that really what I wanted to do was drafting. I went to Illinois State where more of my friends were. I was really happy there. I got straight As, because I was enjoying what I was doing. I lived on my own again. I was very, very independent; I did everything by myself. However, I also went home every weekend.
I was not one of these campus life people. I didn't meet a lot of people. While I wasn't intimidated, I was very, very shy until you got me around people that I knew. Then I was the ringleader. Many of my hometown friends would all wait for the phone call from me, and we would meet up in a group of twenty. When I went away to college, I would stick to myself and would go to the library. My focus was studying, because I was too afraid to go and meet people.
I finished ISU in December 1993 and got my Bachelor's degree in Industrial Technology. The majority of my Industrial Technology program contained classes in drafting, but I had to do welding, machine tool, construction, and interior design. The only thing that I didn't do was automotive.
At ISU, I never had to do automotive work, but my dad made me change a tire one day. My mom had a flat tire, and he said, "If you want to use the car, you change the tire." I said, "I don't know how to do that." He said, "Stay there until you figure it out. I read the manual, and I did. He was so proud of me.
A light bulb went out in the closet one time in a bedroom in the house, and I was the only kid at home. My dad said, "Change the light bulb." I said that I had put a new bulb in and it didn't work. He said, "Figure it out." He knew that I would really sit there and work it out, which meant you unscrew the light and play with the wires. He knew enough to shut off the main so I didn't electrocute myself. God bless him, he was a nice father, and he loved me. I fixed it. I saw the wires were disconnected, and it was easy but not something a five foot person, really four foot eleven girl, does at a young age. It's not something typical. My dad shaped me in a lot of ways.
I'm also a good cook and that's where my mom is more the nurturer and my dad the tough, good leader. I didn't get to play until your work is done. Period. He was so structured, yet, compassion a little bit from mom and dad each have shaped me in many ways.
Al: That's a good balance. What about your siblings?
Anne: I have brothers and sisters who can be critical, and they are Italian. They would yell and argue. They talked with the hands, and we come together. Yet, we also fight. That also shaped me in a lot of ways. It made me an emotional person where I'm more about other people. It was always that you respected your elders before you got respected, which is partly the Italian way. It's also the old school way. It's also the Perry way apparently.
Al: You were also the last-born.
Anne: Being the last in line, you're always sit in the back row. You're always in the back seat; you never get to sit in the front seat. You're always the last one to get whatever the treats were. As everybody went away to school, the chores, with fewer siblings around, were added to my chore list. It kept growing and growing, because everything still needed to get done. I learned at a young age that you respect your elders, and that's just the way it is. You don't question your elders. My four brothers and sisters, who pushed me around a lot, also shaped me. I would say the influences from the family were great.
I also had a close group of friends with whom I went around with a lot. We are all turning forty this year, and we all went to Las Vegas together. They drank but like college kids do, not in excess. They all had great family upbringings. They are good honest people, and I got really lucky. I take credit for some of that, because I've influenced them as well. My friends kept me on the straight and narrow, but they always say, "What would Anne Perry think about that?" I would stop the guys from doing something stupid. I drove everybody around. I made the plan and made sure everybody would safely get home. That doesn't mean I didn't have fun myself, because they would look out for me. However, I was sort of the ringleader. I was always the person that would sort out problems and conflicts. My friends would say, "Anne is here, and she'll figure it out."
Al: You've got both your parents and many of your friends shaping you.
Anne: Yes, they definitely shaped me, and I also have a lot of my brothers and sisters in that I got to watch them make mistakes. I also got to see the rewards of their hard work. I took note of it, and I was very observant as a child...a very observant child. I was one of those kids that came home from the bus, and my mom had a side job. My mom didn't get a degree so she had some part-time jobs. She worked at my dad's office. I would get home and be alone at a very young age, seven or eight years old. I was home alone. They never worried about me. I was very responsible, because I was scared. I didn't do anything stupid out of fear of disappointing my dad, and I just didn't want to disappoint him. It was more out of respect than fear, but there was some fear. It was a bit healthy.
Al: Speaking of your father, what is the name, Perry? It isn't an Italian name.
Al: What part of Italy were your father's family from and your mother's.
Anne: I'm not sure about each side, but I can tell you some were from Calabria, Naples, I think Portofino. Those are the only ones I know for sure.
Al: When you show this interview to your parents, your dad will tell you.
Anne: I'm sure he will.
Al: After you graduated from college, what did you do?
Anne: I went to work for my dad.
Al: What does he do?
Anne: My dad is a commercial and industrial realtor in Kankakee. He was the expert. He didn't do any residential at first. There's Kankakee, Bradley and Bourbonnais; three small towns together and the Kankakee County. Roper moved out and donated their factory to the three towns and named my dad as the director for job development, which pulled in companies like Sears, J.C. Penney, or Armour Pharmaceutical. Businesses would come to town and would create jobs. They called it an incubative facility. He ran that in addition to being a commercial realtor. In addition, by being so involved in the community, he saw that you're not going to bring companies to a depressed area and Kankakee was very depressed. Bourbonnais not so much; Bradley had its areas. However, Kankakee was very depressed. He met someone, and he brought a program to town called Christmas in April. Christmas in April was a volunteer program where got businesses to donate money, contractors and union people to work on the last Saturday of April. They started with three houses, which needed new roves or new hot water heaters, etc. What that did was gather the community and volunteers to work on your community on the last Saturday of April. It's just an amazing program. I drove around and took pictures. The second year we had ten houses. In the third year, we had twenty-five, the fourth year we had sixty. I was involved for nine years total starting in 1991. My dad was the director. He got some sort of a little management fee, because you have to use the copy machine, the phone, and use a secretary He never accepted any money; my dad didn't. However, the lady who was the administrative assistant had a tumor and didn't know it. She died suddenly with all the data in her head. I went to work for them, and the first six months were miserable trying to get things organized. I had a boss who was, I would say sexually harassing me. I said something to my day said get out of that situation by come over to manage his office. His assistant had died and everything was falling apart. They ended up $40,000 in the hole. We did get the volunteers, I ran it the following year, and we ended up $40,000 in the black. We paid all the bills. It was just an amazing experience. Then I said that I couldn't work for my dad; he was too tough.
Al: So you told your dad that you just couldn't take it any longer....
Anne: Yes, we fought. We fought. His secretary for his company was taking the taxes out of the employee paychecks but not paying the government. So the government called him one day, this is all at the same time. The government calls him one day and said, "We're freezing your accounts." He said "What?" They said, "Are you stealing the money, what are you doing?" Well, we hired an accountant, and he's leaning on me, but I don't know any accounting. I know drafting, but I learned very quickly, and I pulled all-nighters trying to figure it out. I ended up $40,000 in the black for dad's Christmas in April project. I ended up getting $52,000 in checks returned to us for penalties and interest that he had initially to pay. We had to prove that nobody was stealing any money; this person just made some serious mistakes. He fired her. He paid the taxes, and the penalties and interest were returned to us. At the end of that, I said that I can't be this stressed out at 25 years old.
I remember when I had my 25th birthday, which I was unemployed, and it was okay with me. My dad was really influential around town and knew a lot of the businessmen and Mr. Meece called me and said "I need a drafter for Meece Engineering." I went to work for Meece Engineering.
A couple of years later my mom called and said that she knew that I wanted to be an architect or a drafter, but she wanted me to consider being a teacher. She said that it was in me to teach. She told me that there are ads for teaching at a community college in drafting. I did. It overwhelms me as well as all the men in the department that were doing the hiring and were in the interview. All men. My experiences with all men growing up playing football in high school and college, being the only girl in the classes paid-off, because they didn't make me nervous at all. I was nervous, because it was an interview. I was nervous and talked fast, but I wowed them. They were wowed. One of them said, "The energy you bring to this table we want. We want you." I was the program coordinator and the full-time faculty member for Computerized Drafting at Kankakee Community College and that's where I started in higher education. If it wasn't for my mom pointing that out to me, I might still be at the engineering company, but I was instantly happy, instantly. I found such reward in it, because I was doing something I really enjoyed. I was getting the rewards of being a teacher.
Al: So everything was beginning to come up like roses?
Anne: No, I got cancer. So all of a sudden, I had cancer. I was having back issues, because I went and had fun skiing with my friends and fell. I kept having these issues with my neck and my hands were going numb so I went to the doctor. He said, "Anne your back is fine. You've got this thing on your thyroid that you need to take care of immediately." Turned out to be malignant and turned out to be thyroid cancer. It was God telling me that I should get your butt in gear or stop just coasting. I decided to be happy and do all the stuff you want to do...all those dreams you have but are too busy doing something for yourself. So, I enrolled in school immediately.
Al: You're like your father.
Anne: Probably. I think my dad thought that he was God for a few of those years. My goal was always to go to a great school and get straight As. I kind of screwed around in college and in high school and never got straight As. I knew that I could so I applied to Loyola to the Higher Education Administration Program, and I commuted while I was going to school full-time. I was working and going to school full-time. I took taking two classes at a time and got straight As. I finished in two years almost to the day. In two years, I got a masters degree in higher education administration and almost the same month that I was getting my degree, my boss, the department chair for the entire technology division, announced his retirement. I said this is perfect timing. I applied for his job, I did that for two years, and when I left, it was a tearful experience. I loved KCC. I loved my job, I loved the men that I supervised in my department, because I had taught for eight years. They respected me, and they knew that I knew my stuff. I held my own with my male students who were all male. All my students were all male, all the other teachers were all male...I mean everything was all male.
Al: And there you were...in the middle of all that.
Anne: I knew how to hold my own, and then I would go in my office and cry. When I left, they said "Don't leave, please don't leave." That just validated everything for me. I wanted to move out of Kankakee. It really wasn't a good life for me down there, because I was always Tony Perry's daughter or Joe's sister, or so and so's sister. I never had my own identity, and I just needed that for myself.
I got the job at DeVry as a Dean of Evening and Weekend programs. When they restructured, they made me Dean of Academic Advising, which has given me a really wonderful experience. The position of the Dean of Liberal Arts became open, and I applied for it. I liked it because it's a set schedule, and it was a move up. Now, I have the technical side of the house, I've got the advising side, and I have the liberal arts side. I'm building a really nice résumé. I met a nice guy and now I'm thinking, hmmmm... I'm not for sure I want to keep moving up the ladder, because that's really time consuming. It's takes away from family life, and I think I might want to build a family.
Al: How long have you been at DeVry?
Anne: It will be four years this coming October.
Al: So you've gone from Evening and Weekend Studies, to Dean to Academic Support and Advising, to Dean of Liberal Arts. That is remarkable in less than three years. I'm impressed not just in this interview but also having worked for you during this time.
Anne: I was involved in every committee that I could have been involved in at KCC. I wanted to be involved, because I felt being involved is how you learn. In doing so, it taught me if you're a really good student at any level, you learn a lot. It pays off when you want to either teach others or lead people. In the midst of KCC, they sent me to the leadership academy, which was the most wonderful experience. It taught me to be a leader; it taught me how to be a leader. The characteristics of a good leader: how you become a good leader, and how you actually treat people so that they want to follow. They see in you something they want to become and aren't intimidated by that or not scared. You're surrounding yourself with really great people if you're allowing them to grow. I learned that through that leadership academy, and it changed my life.
Al: So everything was coming up roses, again?
Anne: Well, last October I had another cancer scare. It turned out to be benign, and it opened my eyes again. It was after I decided to go for doctorate, just as I started, but it sort of put other things in order for me and that's one of the reasons I applied for this job. God keeps giving me messages. I'm not a very religious person. I grew up in the Catholic schools, but I'm not a religious person. I don't go to church every week, but I'm a good person. I have ethics and morals, and I set good examples. I live by integrity. That's what it's all about.
Anne: Sure, I'm comfortable talking about it.
Al: Well, let's talk about it. I tell all my students that they have to travel. Go to the country of their national origin even though some people feel antsy about going overseas. Once you get that out of your system, you went to Italy, I went to Scotland, and once you do that . . . .
Anne: You realize that there's a world out there.
Al: Absolutely. However, it's really critical for they all travel. So what is the story about you going overseas?
Anne: At Loyola, the last class I had to take, it was more of an elective, was Spirituality in Higher Education because it was a school. We had the option of taking that class in Rome. I said that I don't have that kind of money. I don't want to spend the money, and the shy part of me came out. I'm going to leave the country and go with people I don't know? I got scared. My mom said that I was insane if I didn't, and my dad said that he'll give me the money. It's like the first time ever, which was a shocker. I said that no. I had gotten to the point with my dad, when I bought my first house, which he said that I shouldn't. Well, I did...and I exceeded his expectations. So many people in that little town thought he was supporting me that I had to prove myself. I then turned down the money and said, "No, I can do it on my own."
Once I got pass that, I made the decision to go to Italy. I found out you could bring someone with you and two people were bringing spouses and everyone else was bringing a parent. I asked my mom to go, and she was thrilled. She had been to Italy once or twice before with my dad. We stayed in the dorm, and we brought a net for the window. There are no screens or anything at the dorm. Besides, it was going to be hot in Italy in June and July. It was very hot, and there was no air conditioning. We went for three weeks. The first two weeks, we stayed in the Loyola Center in a dorm room, and I think there were eighteen or twenty students that went and everyday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. visiting all the churches, getting a tour of Rome, and the history of Rome. One day was set aside to visit the Vatican. We were supposed to have mass with the pope.
Let's back track for a moment. Right before we went, this Catholic scandal came out and was at its height. Priests were being accused of inappropriate things with young boys, which gave me a stomachache. It was so appalling. It didn't occur to me until later that priests don't do that, pedophiles looks for safety in the Catholic Church, which was my theory. I figured that out later. I was disgusted with the Catholic Church: One, because all these people I looked up to growing up just disappointed me. Second, the church had hidden all this from us.
Al: And it was done for all these centuries...and it just recently became apparent to the world.
Anne: How could you betray us like this? That's number two. And number three was my dad who had been in the seminary and was giving money to the church every week stopped it. I knew it was bad if my dad stopped going to church.
Anne: We got the visit to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum. We saw a newspaper headline about the church being broke and can't pay their legal bills that day. I thought that I didn't feel sorry for them while I'm stumbling over rubies and all these jewels and gold and silver in the Vatican Museum. I thought that I must be missing something. And we had to journal every day. I did a lot of journaling about my learning experiences every day. We went to the Sistine Chapel.
Anne: We didn't get to do the mass, because the pope was at his estate on the Mediterranean. It was so hot in Rome. That made me think, again. I thought that the church was broke. Nevertheless, things aren't adding up. It was the most wonderful opportunity, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. All the students journaled about this, and we all felt the same way. The teacher said that it was okay to tell him what we really felt. We just blurted it out. I was appalled, and I came home I stopped going to church. That experience at the Vatican disappointed, and I turned away from the Catholic Church. I had a lot of friends that died at very young ages, which affected me in a lot of ways. I needed to faith in something, because when your friends die, or a parent dies, you've got to have faith that they either went somewhere or that their lives had some meaning. You have to have something to believe in and without some sort of church or faith-based something, you're on your own. Being on your own is hard; I knew that.
Anne: So I went to a Catholic church in Frankfort, and the sermon was about being ashamed of yourselves and blah, blah, blah. I thought that wasn't for me so I went to one in Mokena. It was the same thing, "You don't give enough money...." I thought, it's not about money. That was disappointing. I went to a third one—again, disappointment. I just wanted somebody to preach theology to me. Here's how to the Bible explains how your life; this is the rule book. The Bible is the guidebook for life. Can somebody make the connection for me theologically, because I might not have listened a lot when I was in grade school? However, it shouldn't all be about guilt, and why was I leaving the church feeling guilty?
Al: So what did you do?
Anne: Oddly, with my architectural background, I liked to drive around and look at houses on Sunday. It was just a way to pass time. I had never dated anyone really seriously and spent a lot of time alone. I had a lot of time on my hands and had to do something. I was driving around looking at beautiful houses, and I said that I got to go back to church. I wanted something. I'm just going to drive around and stopped at the church that had the most cars, because that's got to be some sort of indicator about what was going on inside. I'm on Wolf Road, and I'm going near to Chartwell Downs, which is this beautiful neighborhood. I pass this place called Parkview Christian Church. There was a sign that said, "Please excuse our mess while we're expanding our parking lot for your needs." The next sign said, "Come as you are." It was about 10:45; talk about God speaking to you. There was an 11:00 service, and I walked in and the place is enormous with another sign saying, "Come as you are." I walked in and there's a guy there, "Hi, are you new?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Welcome, there's a welcome desk over there, go get a mint, go get a coffee, feel free to bring your coffee into the service, we're going to start in a couple of minutes. If you have any questions, come out here and talk to us, but feel comfortable." He's wearing jeans, and I go inside. It's this giant place and the pastor comes out in an untucked in button down shirt and a pair of jeans, and he said, "Here's what John the Baptist said...." He connected everything to our lives. He made it so incredibly clear, but yet it was entertaining. He had a family and talked about his daughters who are in college. It was as if I got more out of that half-hour than I got in my years of going to the Catholic Church.
I stayed there, and I don't go as religiously every Sunday as I would like to because I go to school every third weekend, because I went back for my doctorate. I'm doing homework all the time. But if you ask me where I go to church, that's it. I go there. I'm a member, and they've done so much for me just by listening. I feel like I've kind of turned my back on the Catholic Church, although that's my foundation; they taught me morals and ethics and the difference between right and wrong. I also credit the nuns for my grade school education and my childhood discipline.
Al: They taught you a lot, but it's unfortunate that some of them didn't apply to themselves what they taught to the students.
Anne: It's hypocritical, and I felt the hypocrisy. I'm so disappointed by it. I kept thinking to myself, I'm a really good person, I don't do drugs, I don't cheat, I don't lie, but why do I feel so guilty all the time. It shouldn't be this way. I shouldn't leave church feeling like I owe them something. What am I confessing? I shouldn't have to brainstorm to confess. Right? I was disappointed. However, Italy was a wonderful experience and my mom. I stayed an extra week and went to Naples, which I found very dirty. We also went to Sorrento. We were in Naples; we were supposed to remain four days of our trip there, and my mom said, "You're not happy. You're not having fun." I said "No, are you?" She said, "No, what if we get up really early in the morning and rent a car and drive to Tuscany?" So we did.
Here's the way my mom reads a map; she turns it and says go that way, and she points. I said, "Mom, you can't turn the map. North is north that doesn't change when the map turns." She and I had the most amazing experience of my life. We bonded, because we are a mother/daughter, we fight a lot, but we always make up. We absolutely had the most wonderful time. It was the best experience that I've ever had in my life. It was really wonderful. So we spent a few days in Tuscany and went to Sienna, we went to Florence and saw Michelangelo's David. I was overcome with emotion, and I cried. I can't tell you why. You saw it, and it's overwhelming. It brought tears to my eyes. That is when I started to appreciate all those art history classes that I had at Eastern Illinois. It all started flooding back to me. The size of the Coliseum was amazing; I was just overwhelmed.
Al: Italy is overwhelming in many ways. I've spent six weeks in Italy, but there's too many other places in the world I want to visit, but my Ann wants to go to Italy. I'll be back in Italy sometime after Greece and Turkey this summer.
Anne: I want to go to Venice, and I've decided for both Eddie and me. I've told him this is what we're doing. My graduation gift to me is a trip to Venice. When I graduate, we're going to Venice. He said, "Oh yeah." Then I said, "Yeah, we are." Then he said, "Okay, that's great." He's from Poland. We're going to swing around and visit Poland, he has family there. I want one more trip at least.
Al: Venice is a lot like Naples? It's dirty?
Anne: Yeah, that's putting it lightly. Venice is dirty?
Al: However, it's worth it.
Anne: I agree.
Al: This has been the best interview. I kid you not.
Al: Absolutely. There's a couple things about education about which I'd like you to talk. You love education; how can you love being a dean? I love teaching; I could never do, even if I had the ability, what you are doing. I couldn't get out of the classroom. How can you?
Anne:...because I teach the faculty. There's so much more to learn than just your subject area. There are two reasons: The first answer, the quick answer, is that I hated grading papers, hated it. I loved the feeling that you get when a student gets it, when I student says, "I can't do this..." and then do it. You figure out all sorts of weird ways to help them learn it, and you don't give up on them. You teach them that they can do whatever when they put their minds to. There is that look they get on their faces when they understand something; that's just the most amazing feeling. The feeling you get when students send you cards saying you have changed my life, or at graduation when they hug you and kiss you and introduce you to their family. They credit you with changing their lives. You do see that you've had an influence on their lives. I've looked at the bigger picture. If I can make the institution better as a whole and focus on students, then I am happy. There are many people in schools who are there to collect the paycheck, or they're doing things with their own agendas. I really get frustrated with that. I get unnerved with people in meetings who talk about themselves, and they never mention the student. That's how I hire people. I always ask a question where the answer is the student. You want to tell them, "I can't believe you don't know the answer to this." It's always about them or pleasing faculty. All you faculty has some level of seniority and whether it's tenured or not, it doesn't matter. You've got all this faculty who want to teach what they want to teach and when they want to teach it. How do you schedule your classes? The answer to those is that you know that I schedule classes, and I'm the boss and I do what I want to do. On the other hand, you look at the seniority of the faculty, and you give those faculty members what they want first. I'm always disappointed, because the answer is you give the students what they need and so often the students gets lost in the bureaucracy.
I find my satisfaction in the student coming into my office in tears, because they're either going to give up, they want to drop their classes, they're failing because they don't think they can do it, or whatever the situation may be. I get problem issues where they need someone to hold their hand. They need some support from someone who has a little bit more influence than that teacher does in that classroom. I've found a lot of satisfaction in being able to have a student who has a financial aid issue. I walk them over the financial aid and sit with them while we iron out some problem. I will find some tutor for them or a faculty member who's willing to spend the extra time. I also enjoy helping faculty member who has an issue and isn't seeing the clear-cut solution. I can help them come up with a solution. I like to push people along. I've just found another way to help people outside the classroom. It works for me. I also like the organizational development. I like that. I'm not a control freak, but I like influencing process. I love process. I don't know why, but it's an area I found with which I identify.
Al: Can you get the same reward that you get from teaching kids who wake up and smell the roses from faculty. Can you wake faculty up?
Anne: Oh, yeah. I've had some faculty in the past at KCC, and I have some faculty here, who are challenging to me. Part of that challenge is maintaining my cool, which I learned at the leadership academy. It is important to learn how to be reflective rather than reactive. Coming from an all-Italian family and the youngest in the family, you react, you blow up, and you make demands. I have learned how totally to turn that around so you're more reflective. You come up with a solution that helps people. You have faculty members who have their own personal issues and are taking it out on the students. Okay, let's get to the core of what's eating them. Sit down and let's talk about it.
At KCC, I had an automotive instructor. I supervised the program coordinators for automotive, welding, machine tool so all my experience in college paid off, because I knew about welding. I could weld, I could do machines, and I knew those machines. They respected me. He respected me but not from any knowledge issue. He got frustrated one day, and I didn't really understand why he was so frustrated. However, he was about to retire. He had announced, you had to announce three years ahead of time, and he said, "Anne, maybe I'll just quit at the end of this semester." Now, we're talking about an older gentleman who has kids older than me coming to me frustrated and wanting to throw in the towel. He'd been a teacher all his life, and I said him what was bothering him? Well, some students didn't want to study, and he was tired of it. However, I couldn't lose him at that time, because I didn't know about automotive and needed him to stay. I also didn't want somebody leaving and feeling like that. I asked when his next class met? He said 5:30 and it was probably about 3:30 in the afternoon. I said, "Let's go get a Dairy Queen." We sat on a park bench and just talked for over an hour while we ate our ice cream. I talked him down from the ledge.
I don't remember how, but I let him vent and what I realized from that was if you validate people, most issues go away. People are going to go along with the program, they are going to adopt your ways of thinking, or your new processes. They are going to adapt to change if you validate them. Everybody needs validation. There was a key to my becoming a better leader, a better program chair, a better department chair, and a better Dean. I found the key to it all; you have to validate people. You can't embarrass them in front of their peers or in front of anyone. You have to stay neutral on a lot of things because now you're playing the balancing act between administration, who wants you to sometimes do things that might be unfair to faculty, or faculty doesn't agree with, but you're supposed to be the advocate for faculty.
How do you play both sides? How do you balance both sides and keep the respect of both sides, but stay true to yourself? You can't. What many administrators blame administration for making them do this to you. I never, ever did that, and I was always against doing that. I always stood behind my decisions. Always. I always took on administration if I disagreed with what they said. If they wanted me to cheat someone out of an extra couple of credit hours that we promised to pay them if they did a job, administration would say, "Ah, we're not going to pay them." I stood outside my dean's office near the VP's office at KCC and raised my voice with my dean, "This is not fair. I don't agree with it. It's unethical. I won't do it." I stood up to my dean, and the VP came out of her office saying, what's the problem? I said I'm not doing it, we promised, and you people are backing out on your deal, and that's unethical. You can't screw over a faculty member like that or anyone and I wouldn't do it. If you want to fire me, you fire me, I don't care.
The president came out of his office, and he just watched. I had my back to him and didn't know he had come out of his office. I said, "No, it's unethical and I'll have none of it." I stood my ground, and they're smiling, because I didn't know he was behind me. I added, "I don't care if the president just heard me." He said, "What's the problem?" I told him the story, and he said, "You're right; that's wrong, and we're not going to handle it this way." My faculty heard all about it, because my dean told my faculty and so did a half dozen other people who came out of their offices. After that, my faculty was as loyal as you ever want them to be.
When I came downstairs and said, "The walls look terrible, and they need a paint job." The school said that they didn't have it in the budget. I said, "Well, if we have pride in our building, I had faculty members who would have said, that it is their job to paint the building. I went to administration and asked, "What if you bought the paint, and I got faculty? They burst into tears laughing, "You're going to get your tenured and union faculty to come in on weekends, over the summer, to paint your building. Dream on, dream on, Annie." As they laughed at me, I said, "I'll show you guys, you just watch." I went to the most difficult faculty member and said to Lester Wheaton, "Les, I have a problem, and I think you're the most seasoned person around here. I was just wondering if you might give me your opinion. I just don't know what to do?" And I'm leaning on his desk and said, "This hallway just looks terrible, and we don't have it in the budget. How can we get the building painted so that it will brighten it up? He said, "Oh hell, tell them to buy the paint, and we'll paint it ourselves."
Not only did every faculty member participate on a weekend in the summer but also their spouses came and people from other departments volunteered to help. The marketing director came; we took a picture and had a cookout. Every time that I asked for something, they said, "Whatever you want, Annie." They were amazed that I got. I started with the most difficult faculty member, of course, but he was a good guy. He was so passionate about the department. It meant so much to him that he brought his wife. It was great. That's where my reward comes in. Those are the things. It's like being a broker and be in a position where I can make that connection.
Al: We need to let you get back to work but a couple of real quick things, I want to find out what do see as some pros and cons of DeVry of where we are now.
Anne: The pros of DeVry are that it gives an opportunity to anyone who can't otherwise go to school. In other words, the single mom whose car is broken down and has three kids at home and just can't go to a university or go to a daytime classes, because she has a daytime job to support the kids. With the accelerated programs, they can get done with a degree in less than four years. That is really beneficial to someone who is trying to balance family and work. We need a compacted schedule with flexibility. That's the number one pro of DeVry. We give people the opportunity; the ability to get an education that otherwise would not have the opportunity.
The second, and I just mentioned it, is the accelerated classes and program. We need to shorten semester lengths and accelerate the individual class work. We need to get them back to work; we need to get them trained quickly. Those are the benefits, there are many benefits to DeVry, many. The fact is that many of our teachers are pros, former CEOs, former engineers. They know what they're talking about, and they're seasoned. We've got really credible people, and they care about the students. It's that community college mentality that it's about the student, who don't have tenure so they're not guaranteed a job. We don't have a union; our teachers are here for the students. The community college/DeVry mentality is valuable, because I've worked with union tenured and non tenured. I'll help you even after class or a Saturday if you need me; those faculty members who are willing to devote that kind of time. We are here for the students. You can't buy that, you can't pay people $200,000 to be that way. Those are the top benefits of DeVry in my opinion.
Al: And now for the cons...
Anne: The cons are work for profit university, and people don't like for profit. The traditional universities don't know how to put together an online program or an accelerated program. They are about research and not about getting student's through quickly. They don't like us. We aren't as credible. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those faculties where I got my education. However, they don't necessarily see the value in the for profit yet because we are pulling away from other students. In addition, what they say about us is you're putting students in school that shouldn't be in school. Well, who are you to say that? I don't believe that. I think everyone should have the opportunity to get an education. I saw a TV show where a guy who was putting former drug addicts and prostitutes in school and people criticized for doing so. Where else do you want them to be? Wasn't that a great way to reform them? Educate them and give them a chance. Because if you tell them that they're no good and they feel like they're no good, guess what? They're not going to go anywhere. You're just pushing them back to their old ways.
I'm not saying those are DeVry students at all, but I'm saying everybody deserves the opportunity. The opposition that we get is there are people out there who are judging us because we're giving anyone an opportunity. We have an open enrollment system; anyone is welcome to come to DeVry. It's as simple as that. Some are not going to make it, but we're going to do our damndest to help them.
Al: Some do make it.
Anne: Some of them shock the hell out of us really, but they deserve an opportunity. Schools like the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Harvard, and MIT want students who are up here and are the best. Well, somebody has to give everyone else an opportunity. That's what DeVry does.
Al: Some people are just at the right place at the right time.
Anne: They didn't have the influences like I had, but we will give them opportunities.
Al: What advice would you give my students? Give me five things that they will sink or swim if they don't take heed.
Anne: If you coast through school, you're going to lose your job eventually. You're not going to end up successful. You either pay attention in class or apply yourself. The faculty will help open your eyes. If you think you know it all you're not allowing any new knowledge to come in so when you close yourself off to new knowledge, to maybe seeing the opposite side of the story, you're limiting your opportunity to learn and to all sorts of new opportunities. My number one piece of advice is to pay attention in class, take advantage of the knowledge that's being given to you in class. Read the materials, do the homework, and you're going to learn gobs of information that will allow you to be successful when you get a new job. Do you get a new job or just keep you old job? You want opportunities. You want to get promotions, you want to make more money, and you want to be the best. The only way you're going to be the best is to sit in the front row, pay attention, and do all of the homework. There is a reason we put all of that homework in front of you. We do know what we're talking about. That is the first thing.
The second thing is don't cheat. Don't cheat. Not for any other reason than it's a matter of integrity. If you cheat yourself, that's the end of the road.
Al: Then you've cheated yourself.
Anne: Right. What's your value if you're not even honest with yourself?
Third, helping other people brings back multiple rewards. I've learned that all my life. I learned it in helping students with my teaching. You aren't always paid for the good things you do. If you cheat yourself out of doing good things for other people, you cheating yourself out of those internal rewards. I do believe in God, obviously, and I do believe that God has kicked me in the pants for certain reasons, and I've been rewarded for certain reasons. I think that everything comes back around; I really do. You get what's coming to you. That's not to say that people who have bad situations in their lives always deserve it, there are unfortunate situations out there. There are people with health issues or financial issues, people who lose a job that might not deserve it. Again, we have an opportunity to help them, and we get a reward.
Al: There's an opportunity for them to motivate themselves.
Anne: Everything happens for a reason.
Al: Okay, so pay attention, don't cheat, and help others; do you have two more.
Anne: It's not about the money. I've taken pay cuts to do things that made me happier. I took a pay cut when I went to the engineering company and to becoming a teacher. It paid off. Who would have known? Going to work and being happy overflows into your family life. If you're miserable at work, but you're making a lot of money, you're going to be miserable in your life. I would take a $10,000 pay cut to be happy. I would say that if you're unhappy in your daily routine, make a change. Figure out what change you need to make whether it's going back to school or having the courage to quit your job if you're being abused or sexually harassed. Follow your dreams and make something come true for yourself. I hate when students say that they always wanted to do this or that. Why don't they try? If you love what you do, pursue your passion. Rewards will come your way.
Al: And it's not in money?
Anne: It's not in money. Money is not the reward. Absolutely not. The pot of gold is filled with all sorts of lovely things, but it's not filled with money.
Al: One more final thing...
Anne: I would say that leadership is an important aspect of anyone's life whether it's leading a younger brother or sister or even people that are older than you. Learn how to be a good leader. If you sit back and reflect, you, I bet could come up with a few people that think of you as a leader. Younger brother or sister, colleague, co-worker, whoever it might be, you're leading someone. You're setting an example for someone, make it a good one. Be a good example. Set a good example for others. There is no good comes with drugs or alcohol. Or like my dad always tells me, nothing good ever happens after midnight. He was right. Yes, he was.
Al: I'm trying to think of a cute way of saying to you that I want to take back something I said to you a long time ago just after you came to DeVry.
Anne: About how they will eat me alive?
Al: Yes. That was said to you for a couple of reasons. I care about you and your success. However, it was also said to you, because I didn't know who you really were. I thought that I knew you well back then...but not well enough. What I learned today was a lot more than I ever would ever have dreamed. You know one thing about me; I don't b.s.
Anne: I do know that.
Al: The other thing is that there is one person who is going to get the web address to your interview. It will be Stan.
Anne: Really? Okay. I think Stan would probably not recognize himself as a good leader. He's taught me so much. He's a great leader.