Family Matters at John Wood Community College
Becky and Mike Will and their daughter Jennifer Grindstaff are a close, colorful family who clearly enjoy spending time together. Laughter comes easily and they don’t hesitate to tease one another or make jokes at their own expense. While this dynamic is not unusual, the family’s comradery is a notable advantage because the three all work at the same organization: John Wood Community College.
Mike started part time on the maintenance team in 2018, looking for a way to spend his time after retiring from his full-time career.
“I was retired for about three months when I told Becky, ‘I have got to find something to do, this is driving me nuts,’” said Mike.
Shortly after that conversation, Mike began his job at JWCC, doing a little of everything as the jack of all trades he naturally is. His job duties include mowing lawns, plowing snow, driving COVID samples to Springfield and whatever else he is asked to do. Earlier in his life, he also completed the truck driver training course offered by JWCC, which he used in various ways throughout his career.
Jennifer is an assistant professor of language, literature & humanities. While she doesn’t actually remember her first time on campus, Jennifer began her official relationship with the college as a student, before getting hired as an adjunct instructor in 2008 and finally on to a fulltime faculty position in 2016. As a faculty member, Jennifer has worked to grow her area and she is excited about the future of the program.
“We have a great English program. We have been expanding our literature offerings with more specialized courses, which is my personal area of interest. I introduced a Horror Literature course, which I teach every other year. Mr. Terry is teaching a sports literature class,” said Jennifer. “This is cool because a lot of times in 100- 200 level lit courses, you don’t’ get those specialized topics. They are more generalized literature classes. You don’t see those special topics in general until you get to the 300-400 level courses with all other literature majors. So it’s exciting that we are branching out.”
But, even adding the years Jennifer spent as a student and faculty member to Mike’s years of service, the two can’t compete with Becky’s standing at the college.
Becky Will works as the coordinator of the Learning Resource Center. Her job duties include scheduling classrooms, supervising testing rooms and working with online students, amongst many other tasks. During the years she has been at her job, Becky has earned a prominent distinction as the longest-serving staff member currently at JWCC. Being hired in 1986, she has helped to serve thousands of students as they achieve their educational goals.
When Becky Will began her career at John Wood Community College, the college was a different place. Literally. Located at 48th and Maine Streets, JWCC was a much smaller organization, not even having hit its ten-year mark.
Over the years, Becky Will has seen some major events and changes incorporated on campus, including:
The adoption of computers from typewriters.
“I was just happy when I started to have an electric typewriter! I had used manual typewriters in school before that.”
The addition of the internet to campus.
“I don’t really recall the exact moment when we got the internet. I think it was something that kind of slowly was incorporated. But we definitely didn’t have it when I started here.”
The construction of JWCC’s current campus.
“Becky was proud to work at JWCC when the new building was done. It really looked official.” -Mike.
The incorporation of online courses.
“That was a big deal. We had offered Open and Distance Learning up to that point, but online classes really felt like the future.”
The transition of power from six different college presidents and countless board members.
“I have served under every single JWCC president. I started with Paul Heath and then Dr. Keys. When leadership changes, you do see a change on campus, but we have also seen continual growth. I think we are definitely on the right path. JWCC is better accepted in the community. At one time, JWCC had a bad name…it was a community college and people didn’t think it was equal to a four-year college. They didn’t think you could get the same education here. But that has been changing and our acceptance is better now than it has ever been.”
Undoubtedly, the college has made immense progress over the years, achieving growth in the number of programs, campuses, operating budget, student enrollment and more. With their historic perspective, the three family members all have different perspectives on what the enjoy most about JWCC.
“The thing I like to see the most, is the Workforce Development Center. There are a lot of kids who have no reason for a four-year college degree. They do just as well to take the HVAC training or the truck driver training,” said Mike. “With the WDC, graduates can walk into a real good paying job and not have the great big bill associated with a four-year degree. I know they have welding out there. I have seen some of the work they have done. They turn out some real good welders, mechanics and truck drivers out there. To me, that has made the biggest impact.”
“Generally, I mostly teach transfer students,” said Jennifer. “I am a first-generation college student. I really like that we do have a lot of first-generation college students. I have a lot students who are parents coming to school and who are older coming back to school. They didn’t think they could do it, or maybe they tried when they were 18 but are now they are 30 and coming back. I love that so much.”
And though she has more than enough years under her belt to retire, Becky has no plans for that.
“I love my job here. I have always loved my job here from day one. And that’s why I am not retired now. Because honestly, I have love coming to work here every day.”
Pictured: Jennifer Grindstaff, Mike Will, Becky Will