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Interview with Sharon Fisher-Larson

Elgin Community College Archives
Polly Nash, Interviewer |
Elgin Community College Archives |

0:00 - Introduction of Interview with Sharon Fisher-Larson

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Sharon Fisher-Larson, …

Segment Synopsis: Polly Nash introduces the interview, states why Fisher-Larson was selected to give her oral history, including the fact that she was both a student who subsequently became an employee of the college.

Keywords: Elgin Community College; Higher Education; Sharon Fisher-Larson

Subjects: Higher Education

1:07 - Fisher-Larson’s Personal History

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Partial Transcript: May we start out, please, with a little bit of your own personal history, …

Segment Synopsis: Sharon tells how she was born just after the end of World War II in California where her father was stationed when he served as Office Assistant to the General at the Presidio in San Francisco. Because both of her parents were originally from Chicago, they return when she was very young. She remembers how she developed a fondness for theater when she was in grade school in the Chicago Public School system and, later, how much she loved the nuns at the parochial school she attended. She explains what brought her family out to Streamwood from Chicago, namely the desire to own their own home. She recounts that her father was originally a bus drive for Chicago Motor Coach which was later taken over by the Chicago Transit Authority. When CTA took over, he went into auto shop repair.

Sharon recalls that she attended Elgin High School from 1959 to 1963. At that time, Elgin High School was in the 300 block of East Chicago Street in Elgin and was located right behind Renner Hall which was one of the buildings ECC used for its campus operation. She also recollects how her friend helped her get involved in high school activities.

Keywords: Austin & Lawrence; Chicago Motor Coach; Darwin Elementary School; Elgin High School; Goodman Theatre; Larsen Junior High; Logan Square; Presidio; St. Joseph parochial school; St. Robert Bellarmine parochial school

Subjects: Higher Education

6:00 - Decision to Attend Elgin Community College

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Partial Transcript: So, you graduated in 1963 and then what did you do?

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson reveals that she had intended to attend Robert Morris for a fast-track secretarial program. However, she discloses that, because all her friends were going away to college, she decided to attend ECC so she could be available to party when they came home for semester breaks. She explains that few other Elgin High School graduates attended ECC in the fall, although a greater number would attend in the spring because they hadn’t done well in their first semester away from home.

Sharon describes the courses she took and how, because of the skills she learned in high school, she was able to help other students in the shorthand course. She recalls Vern Bashaw who saw her potential as a teacher and encouraged her to pursue that career.

Keywords: Robert Morris; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

8:37 - Description of Elgin Community College in Mid 1960s

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Partial Transcript: So, can you tell me about the campus at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Sharon portrays how ECC really didn’t have a “campus,” as such because classes were held in a myriad off buildings throughout downtown Elgin. She also describes the registration process which involved all the faculty in a large room with enough 3x5 cards for the number of students who would be allowed in each of their classes. Students would get a card for each of the classes they wanted and take them to the registrar who would create the class lists from those cards.

Keywords: Dean Gilbert Renner; Erika Varrak; Henry Peddle; Masonic Temple; Registration Process; Renner Hall; YMCA; YWCA

Subjects: Higher Education

12:48 - Convocation and Influential Faculty

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Partial Transcript: So, you get registered for class and then is there any kind of gathering…

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson recounts the convocation with Dean Renner and all the faculty who talked with the students at the beginning of the fall semester about all matters of importance. She also shares many of the influential faculty members that she encountered as a student, even one who she had known when she was a high school student who was also on the faculty at the college.

Keywords: Dean Gilbert Renner; Grace Grizzard; Grace Selby; Henry Peddle; Karl Lehr; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

16:03 - Co-Curricular Activities in Which She Was Involved

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Partial Transcript: While you were at ECC as a student, what activities were you involved in?

Segment Synopsis: Sharon recalls the organizations and activities in which she was involved, including Associated Students, talent shows, and dances. She describes how she came to work for Erika Varrak in the Registration Office. Specifically, she elaborates on how the 3x5 cards came into play in that office. She also describes a time when there was an ice storm and she and Mrs. Varrak were at Mrs. Varrak’s home sorting the 3x5 cards and recording grades.

Keywords: Associated Students of ECC; Erika Varrak; Registration Office; Vern Bashaw; West Side Industrial Supply; Women’s Association

Subjects: Higher Education

19:25 - Freshman Camp

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Partial Transcript: Another memory might be Camp Edwards.

Segment Synopsis: She explains the Freshman Camp that was held for freshmen and sophomores (who acted as counselors for the freshmen students) over the first weekend of the fall semester.

Keywords: Camp Edwards

Subjects: Higher Education

20:31 - Dean Renner

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Partial Transcript: You said earlier that you, uh, worked closely with Erika but that you had a relationship with Mr. Renner.

Segment Synopsis: She explains the Freshman Camp that was held for freshmen and sophomores (who acted as counselors for the freshmen students) over the first weekend of the fall semester.

Keywords: Dean Gilbert Renner

Subjects: Higher Education

21:47 - After Graduation From ECC

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Partial Transcript: So, you, in the spring of 1965, completed your degree.

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson recounts what she did after she graduated from ECC. She illustrates the differences between taking a general education course at SIU and ECC and about her time at that university as a married student – school, go to work, go home, study, repeat.

She recalls that, though she had planned to go to graduate school to work on her master’s degree, she found out she was pregnant and couldn’t be a teaching assistant and pregnant. Daughter was born in December and they moved back to the area in May.

Subsequently, Sharon shares that she worked at the Vocational Center to which several area schools sent their students for vocational training. She tells of starting the secretarial science program and teaching there for 5 years, from 1969-74.

Keywords: Bachelor’s in Business Education; Burlington Central High School; Mid-Valley Vocational Center; Shannon Elaine Fisher Hernandez; Southern Illinois University; St. Charles Geneva High School

Subjects: Higher Education

26:15 - Arrangements Made So She Could Teach At ECC

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Partial Transcript: And you were also associated with ECC at some time during that period.

Segment Synopsis: Sharon describes the time in the early 1970s when she was working on her master’s degree at NIU, teaching at Mid-Valley on a full-time basis and teaching part-time for ECC, teaching Business Communications, as well as raising a toddler.

She elaborates about the “culture shock” of teaching a community college course. Later, she explains how she was brought in by Vern Bashaw to split a full-time assignment with Ruth Ogden who stepped down from full-time to half-time with benefits. Sharon describes how this arrangement allowed the department to offer more courses. At the end of the year, she depicts how an additional full-time position was approved and she was hired.

Fisher-Larson tells of the courses she was brought in to teach, primarily Business Machines, Machine Transcription, and training on the various machines that were used in offices (mimeo, ditto, etc..). She recalls that some courses like word processing were later added.

Keywords: B Wing; Francis Craig; Jack Gualdoni; Mid-Valley Vocational Center; Northern Illinois University; Ruth Ogden; Spartan Campus; Tom Medina; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

30:47 - The Classrooms and Lab Available to the Secretarial Program in the 1970s

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Partial Transcript: You were now in B wing. What was that like?

Segment Synopsis: Sharon reminisces about the beautiful open lab area that was surrounded by the faculty offices for the program. She recalls that there were also several other specialized classrooms, i.e., even one classroom with only calculators. She reveals how accommodating and supportive the college was of the department’s need to stay current with office practices in the field. Finally, Sharon describes a photograph from the college’s archives of the shorthand lab where each “channel” was a different speed for taking shorthand.

Keywords: Francis Craig; Shorthand Lab

Subjects: Higher Education

32:52 - The Development of the Single Skills Lab

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Partial Transcript: So, at some point, you took that idea further...

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson expounds about her interest in individualized instruction and her influence on others through an article that she had written earlier about this method. She elaborates about her working with the vice president to write a grant to create an instructional format that would allow a student to begin anytime and have no more than 16 weeks to complete their work. This was designed to address women who wanted to re-enter the workforce.

She describes a “Celebration Day” photograph which shows the “first drop” of the $85,000 grant. Sharon also explains how this program changed the college culture and processes, particularly those of the registration and records office.
Sharon explicates the staff of the lab.

Keywords: AVT; Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW); Erika Varrak; Jack Weiss; Judy Neat Christensen; Kim Bone Petschow; Lynn Willett; Mid-Valley Vocational Center

Subjects: Higher Education

39:58 - Influential Colleagues at ECC

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Partial Transcript: I’m thinking also about your colleagues, and…

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson discusses those colleagues who were particularly influential to her as a professional.

Keywords: Erika Varrak; Grace Selby; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

41:00 - Teaching and Learning Spaces for her Program

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Partial Transcript: Can we talk a little bit about the various teaching environments that you have been in.

Segment Synopsis: Sharon clarifies the other teaching and learning spaces in which the secretarial science/office administration program was housed. The program started out in the B Wing of the Spartan Campus. She then recounts how some leaders in Elgin saw a need to “revitalize downtown Elgin” with programs in a vacant Sears building that would attract the female population to the downtown area. The secretarial science program was a logical choice. Later, the decision was to move the program back to the main campus into a building called the Applied Business Technology Building (ABT). Sharon explains that each time they moved, they got bigger and better facilities to meet the needs of their programs and their students.

Keywords: ABT Building; B Wing; Barbara Wascher; Carolyn Hayward Williams; Carolyn Kirk; Dorothy Weise; Fountain Square Campus; Karen Blay; Linda Hefferin; Sears Building

Subjects: Higher Education

43:51 - Evolution of The Students and Their Teaching

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk about that evolution of your students – how they changed; how they stayed the same?

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson illustrates the changes in the student composition as well as changes in student interest with the example of the jitter-bug. She depicts the other changes which included software changes and technology changes. All these necessitated changes in her teaching – from Selectric typewriters to mag tapes to computers. And then she recalls the many changes in software, sometimes there were as many as 4 to 5 different word processing packages that she taught during the same term.

Keywords: Francis Craig; Ruth Ogden

Subjects: Higher Education

48:10 - Her Leadership in the College

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Partial Transcript: I’d like to talk a little bit about your leadership in the college.

Segment Synopsis: Sharon talks about her leadership within her department, as instructional coordinator, including the various responsibilities of the coordinator. She also discusses her role on the Curriculum Committee where she and others reviewed the curriculum as proposed by other departments. She also explains her role as the co-author of a North Central Accrediting Association Self-Study, for which the college received a ten-year re-accreditation. Finally, she recaps her role in helping fellow faculty, administration and staff members learn new software.

Keywords: Jack Weiss; Susan Spengler-Abell; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

53:18 - Fisher-Larson’s Major Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Can we talk a minute about some of your major accomplishments…

Segment Synopsis: Sharon reflects on some of the things of which she felt most proud. The first that she mentions is how proud she is of her students and what they have accomplished. Another that she recounts was the development of a CPS certificate (Certified Professional Secretary) which made a tremendous difference in the students’ pass rates of the PSI examination. The third that she recalls is the creation of the Single Skills Lab which changed the college’s paradigm of thinking about semesters.

Keywords: CPS Certificate; Interactive TV Program; Professional Secretaries International (PSI)

Subjects: Higher Education

56:56 - Special College Events

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Partial Transcript: There were also some special events that were going on at the college…

Segment Synopsis: Fisher-Larson reminisces about a special event that was held in the winter for a number of years at ECC.

Keywords: Madrigal Dinner

Subjects: Higher Education

57:44 - Fisher-Larson’s Professional Development Efforts

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Partial Transcript: What about your own professional development and leadership outside of the college?

Segment Synopsis: Sharon recaps her involvement in every business education organization, from the local, state and national level. She reports that she served as president for every level of professional business education association. She also mentions that she’s written a number of textbooks.

Keywords: David Sam; NBEA

Subjects: Higher Education

59:12 - Retirement Decision and Activities Since Retirement

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Partial Transcript: In 2000, you decided to retire. Can you talk about your decision?

Segment Synopsis: She talks about her reason for retiring as well as the fact that she worked for McGraw-Hill for 10 years after retiring from ECC. She also shares her other efforts since she retired from ECC.

Keywords: David M. Eno Scholarship; ECC’s Alumni Group; Food for Greater Elgin; Helen Kettering; Purses with Purpose

Subjects: Higher Education

61:55 - Particularly Memorable Colleagues

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Partial Transcript: As we sort of wrap up, are there colleagues that you particularly want to remember and share?

Segment Synopsis: Sharon illuminates the impact of the psychology professor that greatly influenced her.

Keywords: Erika Varrak; Grace Selby; Kate Davery; Vern Bashaw

Subjects: Higher Education

63:41 - Final Reflections

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Partial Transcript: As we close, would you share with us reflections that you have on your career…

Segment Synopsis: She starts out reflecting on her life as a student at ECC and how supportive the faculty and staff members were and made her the person she is today. And influenced her even as a faculty member. Closing with “ECC is still the best place to be.”

Keywords: David Sam

Subjects: Higher Education

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