It must be neat to have a grandmother who takes you with her on a regular basis for summer vacations in Europe and visits with family in her native Germany.
Count six kids scattered from Benton, IL, to Muskegon, MI, and Denver, CO, who would agree. They are fortunate to have an active, vibrant “Großmutter” [Editor’s note: or “Grossmutter,” German for grandmother] like Margot McAfoos of Benton.
The six grandchildren, who get to take turns going on the annual outings, are not alone in their assessment.
• Rend Lake College organizers and other volunteers on the Institute for Learning in Retirement Advisory Board think it is neat to benefit from such a strong advocate as the worldly Mrs. McAfoos.
• Instructors in the ILR program and Rend Lake College Community Education offerings such as computer software workshops think it is neat to have the inquisitive, 82-years-young McAfoos enrolled in their classes.
• RLC Fitness Center and Aquatics Center personnel enjoy the enthusiastic approach and the example set by such a neat lady who is a twice-a-week regular.
• Recent high school graduates quickly learn it can be neat sharing classes and knowledge with a nontraditional classmate who already boasts 72 credit hours and counting. (Since 1999, she also has completed 84 non-credit courses.)
• The National Girl Scout Organization and, in particular, the local Girl Scouts of Shagbark Council, considered it pretty neat to have McAfoos as a volunteer (the first 18 years) and staff member during a span of 37 years.
That’s not all. Add the Illinois Community College Trustees Association to the long list of those who know she is a pretty neat individual.
The ICCTA selected Margot McAfoos as its recipient of the 2006 Lifelong Learning Award. She was recognized at the annual Awards Banquet earlier this summer at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield.
The honoree was joined by her daughter, Muskegon Community College instructor Kathy Tosa, Rend Lake College “Faculty Excellence” recipient Larry Williams, RLC President Mark S. Kern and other college officials.
“Margot is a true ambassador of Rend Lake College,” wrote Hunt Bonan in his letter of recommendation.
Continued Bonan, Chairman of the RLC Board of Trustees and President of the RLC Foundation: “Her enthusiasm encourages older adults to realize the importance of education at all ages. It is with great pleasure and respect that we, the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees, support Margot McAfoos for the 2006 Lifelong Learning Award.”
The love affair between the former resident of Berlin and translator, who came to the United States in 1948 to marry her former boss, Captain John McAfoos of Benton, and Rend Lake College actually began in 1969, before the campus moved to its permanent Ina home. A high school foreign exchange student hosted by the McAfoos family was not sufficiently challenged, so Margot turned to the comprehensive community college for help.
“I was impressed (then) by Rend Lake College’s willingness to accept her as a student. My relationship with the college was off to a wonderful start,” she noted in a self-statement for the ICCTA.
In additional commentary, McAfoos indicated, “Rend Lake College was a great influence in my professional development as well as my private life . . .
“As my job became more demanding, I turned to my local community college for resources and knowledge to help me be successful . . .
“Rend Lake College permitted me to organize the first Girl Scout Leaders and Girls Training Event for the whole Shagbark Council in 1977-78. We were permitted to take over the campus; some RLC instructors even volunteered. The event still takes place today, bringing leaders and Girl Scouts from 24 counties twice a year to the Girl Scout Fair at Rend Lake College . . .
“When Rend Lake College established the Institute for Learning in Retirement, I began participating in this program. I’m also a member of the Advisory Board. I’ve enjoyed the historical bus trips and lectures on local historic persons. I’ve taken Journal Writing and Bible as Literature courses, as well as computer classes. These programs offered by Rend Lake College keep senior adults involved and stimulated. I have always enjoyed learning, and I will continue as long as I am physically able . . .
“Rend Lake College established a fitness center and built a pool. In order to keep myself fit and mentally alert, I enrolled and remain to this day a constant student. I also enjoy participating in the opportunities offered by RLC’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. It has and continues to enrich my life.”
Retired Girl Scouts of Shagbark Council Executive Director Nancy Hickman calls McAfoos a “valued friend” and “exemplary model.” “Ever the innovator and teacher, Margot kept pace with the times,” she informed the ICCTA. “She developed novel ways of being a change agent and encouraged volunteer adults to learn new skills in order to help prepare girls for adulthood.”
ILR Instructor Evelyn Claxton, herself a statewide Lifelong Learning Teacher Award-winner, calls McAfoos an “excellent choice.” “Margot has taken most of my classes, as well as many more,” Dr. Claxton said. “She is good to have in a class because she asks good questions and fully participates in class discussions. She is a good example of the benefits of this program, growing and keeping her mind and body active.”
McAfoos admits to having “embraced volunteerism” during her lifetime. She organized the city-wide Benton Cancer Drive in 1969-70, canvassing homes block by block and tripling the previous year’s results. She was a 4-H Youth Leader for four years and served on the Shagbark Council’s Board of Directors for six years. An active member of the University of Illinois Extension Services since 1954, she has served as chairperson of a unit for the past six years.
Any doubts about the worthiness of the 2006 Lifelong Learning Award-winner? Margot McAfoos is going to be a tough act for somebody in Illinois to follow in 2007.