University Park, IL,
15:41 PM

GSU Connection: Joseph Waldron

Joseph Waldron fondly remembers the time he nearly set Governors State University on fire.

The then-GSU graduate student in Educational Administration was with a friend, Tony, inside a glassed-in vestibule area. The two were practicing a science demonstration. The experiment, involving a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and a 5-gallon water cooler, was one Waldron had performed several times before. This time, something unexpected happened.

“You put a lighter in front of the spout, and when you open the spout, it makes a sound like a jet engine,” Waldron explained with a laugh. “Well, when I did it, a huge flame shot out toward the ceiling. I mean, it was only a second, and everything was fine, but to this day, Tony still says, ‘Do you remember when you almost lit GSU on fire with the 5-gallon water cooler?’”

Waldron, who earned his Master of Educational Administration degree in 2008, now works in Abilene, Texas, as the chief financial officer for Abilene Independent School District. Before being named CFO, Waldron was an assistant superintendent for human resources for the district.

Waldron’s story starts in Lemont and Orland Park, towns where he grew up. He graduated from a Catholic high school on the South Side, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and worked for 15 years as a biology teacher before enrolling at GSU.

“It was my first experience in having the flexibility of a schedule that allowed me to attend classes after work, in a degree plan that wasn’t drawn out for years,” Waldron said. “GSU offered the opportunity to get it done in a timely manner for an economical price point.”

When he enrolled at GSU, Waldron was a teacher in the Manteno Community Unit School District #5 (and later became superintendent in Morris Community High School District).  He commuted to GSU with his friend Tony, who studied in the same degree program. When the two friends reminisce about GSU, Waldron said they often laugh. Another memory that makes them chuckle is their education law professor, who Waldron described as eccentric and “kind of ominous.” However, the professor made an impression on Waldron by instructing his students to always look to the law as their bottom line.

“You could tell he loved education law, and he would apply it to real-life situations in the classroom,” Waldron said. “I can’t tell you how many times that’s come in handy. In education, you’re governed by board policy, which is written from school education law. When you need to decide the best course of action, the overarching philosophy is to be aware of what the law says, and do what the law says.”

Despite his busy schedule, Waldron said he found time to spend on campus at GSU, mostly talking with Tony inside their favorite glassed-in area — the site of the flame experiment.

“There was always hustle and bustle going on, students working,” he said. “It was pretty neat. We still got the campus life experience even though we didn’t live there.”

Waldron went on to earn a Doctor of Education degree. After a few moves, his family is now settled in Texas. He said the time he spent at GSU catapulted him into his doctoral program. The intensity of GSU’s master’s program prepared him for the concentrated nature of his doctoral studies.

“I really was ready to attack my doctorate program,” Waldron said. “GSU laid a foundation for my continued education. If I didn’t have a good experience, I don’t know if the snowball would have kept rolling.”