Dreams may be deferred, but they don’t have to die.
For Donald Gillespie, the dream of an education began in a turbulent era in a Mississippi town. More than three decades later, it came true at Carthage.
Mr. Gillespie said he first thought of attending college during his senior year of high school in Macon, Mississippi, when schools were desegregated midway through the school year.
“I was transferred over to the ‘white’ school,” he recalled. “I met Richard Gillette, one of the three white students who stayed and didn’t transfer to a private school. We decided to move to Chicago, become lawyers, then fix all the racial tensions in Mississippi.”
Mr. Gillespie eventually settled in Waukegan, Illinois, where fate sent him on another course.
“I stopped by a barber shop to get a haircut,” he said. “The barber worked at American Motors, and he was telling other people that American Motors was hiring. The next morning, I borrowed a friend’s car, and drove up to Kenosha. Surprisingly, they hired me.”
‘A distant dream to go to Carthage’
For the next decade, Mr. Gillespie lived in Racine, and began a 31-year career with American Motors and Chrysler. He completed his service there as a production supervisor.
“I’d drive down Sheridan Road to work, and I’d be fascinated by the College,” he said. “The buildings sat so far back from the road, it was almost intimidating. But it was a distant dream to attend Carthage.”
In 1984, Mr. Gillespie started pursuing a degree, by taking a class at another institution. A year later, he was one of a group of workers from the Kenosha plant transferred to work at AMC’s Jeep factory in Toledo, Ohio. He would continue working there and at Chrysler plants in Michigan until 1996.
During this time, he took classes from institutions in Ohio and Michigan, but it wasn’t easy.
“Because of the ups and downs of the auto industry, moving from shift to shift and state to state, I started courses and had to drop them in the middle,” he explained.
‘I came straight to Carthage’
By 1996, when Mr. Gillespie returned to Kenosha, he had less than half the credits he would need to graduate.
“When I came back and came here, that’s when I had fewer interruptions,” he said. “I didn’t even consider (other schools). I came straight to Carthage, because this was where I wanted to go. It was a challenge, but a good challenge.”
No sooner did Mr. Gillespie earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2004, than he enrolled in the Loyola University Chicago MBA for Executives program at Carthage. He received his MBA in February 2006.
“I had just finished, and I was so excited from the educational experience I felt like I was on a roll,” he said of his decision to go on. He enjoyed learning from fellow students who held managerial positions at various firms and was fascinated by a trip to China that was part of the MBA program, calling it a highlight.
From student to teacher
Shortly after his graduation, Mr. Gillespie turned the table and taught a Graduate and Professional Studies course in production management.
Mr. Gillespie said he couldn’t help thinking that “after riding by this mysterious, intimidating college sitting up on a hill,” he had the opportunity to teach there. “I’m thrilled beyond words. The only person more thrilled is my wife,” Desanka.
Mr. Gillespie has a further desire to learn and teach. He had plans to apply for admission to Loyola’s doctoral program in theology, with the thought of possibly teaching that subject eventually.
“Business is what I did, earning a living,” he said. “Theology is what I want to do.”
Mr. Gillespie said he has lost touch with Richard Gillette. But he adds with a smile that “I’d love to run into him. We’d have a lot to talk about.”