Alumni Spotlight Archive
Geoffrey Obrzut, 1972 Triton Graduate
Retired President/CEO, Illinois Community College Board
After graduating from Triton College, I continued my education and received a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Throughout my career I have had the privilege to work as a director in the Department of Human Services: Division of Developmental Disabilities and the executive director of the United Cerebral Palsy of Will County. I was elected as a state representative in the Illinois General Assembly, 52nd District and served as an aide to Illinois Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, as well as Illinois Gov. Dan Walker.
In 1986, I was given the Outstanding Alumnus Award-Illinois Community College Trustees Association. I received the Outstanding Service Award-Illinois Student Association in 1992 and the Meritorious Service Award-Illinois Community College Trustees Association in 2007. I was elected to the Triton College Board of Trustees in 1981 and served on the board until 1987. I was the treasurer of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association in 1986-1987 and also served as the vice chair of the Triton College Board of Trustees during these years. In 2009 and 2010, I chaired the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges.
What would you describe as your strong suit?
One of my stronger suits is that I care about the well-being of other people. By being the president/CEO of the third largest community college system in the country, I gain great pleasure in seeing many of our students overcome great obstacles to meet their educational goals and succeed in life.
What have been some obstacles you've had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?
Most of my obstacles in my younger years were due to my parents and I not having enough financial resources to attend a four-year college. Fortunately, I had access to Triton College, which allowed me to obtain a quality education at a very affordable price. Triton also allowed me to play competitive sports and stay active in the environmental movement.
What has served as a source of inspiration both in your career and in your life?
My biggest inspiration has to be heading up the best community college system in the country. The Illinois Community College System has 48 outstanding colleges and serves close to a million students a year.
Next, was being elected to the Illinois General Assembly and to the Triton College Board of Trustees. I often feel very fortunate and honored to have served in these important roles.
How has Triton College impacted your life?
As I mentioned earlier, Triton gave me the opportunity to earn a quality education at a very reasonable tuition rate. It also allowed me to continue to play competitive sports and stay active in the environmental movement. At the time, the environmental movement was just gaining strength in the early 1970s with the first Earth Day. Thanks to Triton, I was able to start a chapter of SOAP (Students Organized Against Pollution) on campus, a group I co-founded as a student at West Leyden High School.
I am also proud to say, that Triton was where I met my wife of 38 years (Mary Bechtol of Melrose Park and a Proviso East graduate). We met as students in Rhetoric 101.
It also gave me the opportunity to meet and become friends with my current "boss" Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, who was on campus in 1971 with then gubernatorial candidate (later governor) Dan Walker, who spoke to the students about his gubernatorial race. Through this meeting and through Pat Quinn's encouragement, I actively got involved in politics and eventually my wife and I both were offered positions working on the governor's staff in Springfield. From my experience there, I later ran and was successful in becoming elected to the Triton College board and later to the Illinois House of Representatives.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?
Set goals and then stay focused on achieving them. Don't let others discourage you in your efforts. Don't be afraid to volunteer your time in something that you believe in; it is a great way to network and your efforts will not go unnoticed by those that can be helpful to your career.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love the outdoors and try to get to my cabin on the Menominee River in northeast Wisconsin as much as I can. I also enjoy golfing and fishing.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope I can stay in my current position as long as possible. I really enjoy my work and I am honored to head up what I, and many others believe, is the best community college system in the country.