Message from the Founder
August 24, 1949 – March 19, 2014
It all began in a trailer ...
In 1967, my first job was writing copy for a Springfield, IL radio station; occasionally I helped out in the news room. Next, I was hired as an Account Tech I by the State of Illinois, Institute for Social Policy. But, when a new governor was sworn in, our program was thrown out. Illinois politics. However, with a state-funded retraining stipend, and encouraged by my boyfriend, Les Pauly (my husband since 1974) I began looking at the brand new community college, LLCC (Lincoln Land Community College). In those days, LLCC was a collection of classrooms in trailers parked on an asphalt lot. As I loitered outside the door to registration, not terribly impressed by what I saw, a man opened the door, and motioned me forward. That man was the first president of LLCC, Dr. Robert Poorman, and, I was on my way.
As a new student, and ‘a bit’ strong-willed, I struggled to understand the process of higher education. But, when I was discouraged or wanted to quit, there was always a faculty member or advisor who encouraged me to give it "just one more semester." I owe a tremendous debt to my community college; one which it has been my privilege to repay in a small way.
After earning an Associate in Arts degree at LLCC, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management, and a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Illinois, I eventually returned to LLCC as a tenure-track faculty member. I regularly saw myself in the wary eyes of my "first semester" students. As I gained more experience, I observed the many and varied students, all with their own stories, working hard to build a future for themselves and their families.
Eventually a job opportunity for my husband moved us to St. Louis and ended my full time teaching career. However, I was able to join the adjunct staff of St. Louis Community College, Meramec Campus. Eighteen months later, my husband was drawn back to Springfield for a better job (that guy owed me big time!) My former faculty position filled, I decided to try my entrepreneurial wings. My first office, an 8 foot by 10 foot room, housed my dreams at a monthly rent of $65. Not certain if I'd be able to "make rent" I returned to LLCC as an adjunct faculty member to cover expenses. Eventually, I became a partner of Cona/Pauly Consultants, a central IL financial industry executive search firm. When invited to serve on the presidential search committee for LLCC, I looked on it simply as a public service opportunity. It turned out to be a bit more.
Out of curiosity, while serving on the search committee, I discovered there were no search firms specializing exclusively in community colleges. However, before I could think much more it, tragedy struck. The LLCC search had just concluded and the new president named. Two weeks later, my partner, Joe Cona, suddenly died. With my friend and mentor gone, it was time to pick a new path as I was out of business.
From my personal inventory I knew I could write, having been a feature writer for Springfield Magazine, Chicago, and numerous other publications; I could sell just about anything; and I knew how to run a business. Most importantly, I was well experienced in the process of conducting executive searches. Also, I had faced and dealt with unethical and unsavory practices which periodically surface in a search.
Next, I knew I loved teaching at LLCC; I loved being a volunteer for our community college, having organizing the first alumni association, hosted the first graduation party for LLCC newest alums (and signing them up as alumni members in the process), I’d been on LLCC’s Foundation Board and I’d just completed serving as a member on their search committee. Yep, I was an official community college junkie.
As a result, I began to seriously explore the organization of a national search firm dedicated exclusively to the nation’s community and technical colleges. From its inception in 1990, PGI (Pauly Group, Inc.) has been guided by a mission that has defined our client colleges as well as our firm:
“The advancement of administrative excellence in community and technical colleges through diversity and gender equity.”
Today, Pauly Group, Inc. is a strong and respected organization, working hard to assist community and technical colleges to identify, recruit, interview, reference, and hire strong, diversified academic leaders for their schools. Yet, I continue to marvel at all the changes in the community colleges. Brick and mortar have replaced the trailers; iPads have replaced textbooks; and distance learning has brought the world to our students’ door. PGI has changed and grown, as well.
Heart disease and cancer influenced my decision to pass the leadership reigns to the next generation. Under the leadership of Angela Provart, our president, our recruiting efforts now reach literally thousands of potential applicants and nominators. Video-conferencing, introduced in the 1990’s, has been upgraded time and time again and is now the norm. Candidate referencing, a PGI hallmark, is now the best in the nation. And, Angela’s latest program, Certified Interim Leaders, is under development.
I’m retired now. It has been a great honor to have worked with the nation’s community college leaders. As our colleges change and evolve to meet the needs of the next generation of students, the future looks very bright, indeed. It has been my profound privilege to have served this wonderful community of smart, energetic, and entrepreneurial people who have a heart for the student and a strong vision of the future.
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