Campus News

MC Spotlight: Munoz discusses lifelong learning

By Jesus J Montero | Posted January 18, 2015


One of the duties of Associate Dean Hector Munoz is to assist the adjunct instructors at Morton College. This March will mark Munoz’s seventh year at Morton College.


Born and raised in Chicago and the son of immigrant parents, Munoz never forgot where he came from. He has earned four bachelor’s degrees and three graduate degrees. With hobbies like photography and activities in the arts and science, Munoz says there is “always a new skill to learn.”


Many students may recognize Munoz as he tends to roam the halls frequently and often attends student events. The Collegian had a chance to ask Munoz a few questions about his upbringing, educational experiences and the beginning of his career in engineering.


Where did you grow up and go to school?


When I was real little I used to live what’s now called River North, and at that time it was an old Italian neighborhood. The ethnic areas were really pronounced back then. The Spanish-speaking population were really small.


I went through grade school in the Lawndale area, then ultimately went to Austin High School, which is just north of here, and that’s where I graduated.


It was really diverse; the only Latinos there were me and my cousins. I grew up with immigrants. The friends I grew up with, their parents were from Italy, Poland and Germany. I always had that interest and my friends had a similar background in ethnic groups.


How did you first get introduced to the world of engineering? When did you know that engineering was what you wanted to do?


They had a program that was actually the way I got into architecture. Eugene Jarvis was the instructor for the four-year program for the student’s interest into architecture. It was a college pre-curriculum. I attribute that to getting my feet off the ground so to speak. I went to University of Illinois back when it was at Navy Pier.


Who inspired you growing up?


Since I was a kid I used to like to read. That habit I picked up from my father. He used to read all the time. He really liked to study history a lot on his own even though he never went to high school. Now I’m an older guy I think back I never really appreciated what he was doing at the time and how knowledgeable he really was.


I attribute that to my high school teacher Eugene Jarvis. He had a passion for [architecture] and exposed us to it. I was still in high school when he would take us out on field trips where I got to meet Frank Lloyd Wright just before he died. I was a junior in high school and it was at the Sheraton hotel and he was there showing the drawing of the mile high building. Now they put that in the paper, I took it, dry-mounted it and have it framed in my house. Another thing that impacted me was he was already 90 years old and still doing it.


How were your first few years of college?


It wasn’t as fiscally challenging as it is now going to school. I’m not going to even tell you what I was paying because you wouldn’t believe me. To me it was a lot of money at the time but it’s hardly anything what someone has to go through today.


During the summers, I was able to get a job as a draftsman at different companies. So when I finished the two years there I really didn’t have the money to go down to Champaign. So I worked about a year in a half.


Did you experience any culture shock being a Hispanic student at University of Illinois?


That was the reality I had to make adjustments. It was a lot difference then it is now. The Spanish-speaking population was almost non-existent. We had more exchange students then we did American Spanish-speaking students. There were a few of us were down there.


Was it hard finding a job? Where did you work?


I had a good trait to begin with. I ultimately ended up working at Western Electric in the engineering department. They had their offices downtown and also in the Merchandise Mart. This was also when the Hawthorne one was still up.


How was it working at Western Electric?


When I left, they told me if I was interested that they would have something for me. So every summer I worked downtown. What they had us do was to work on a lot of things that needed to be redone. They hired all these college kids to do that, to work on the drawing boards.


It was a wonderful opportunity I had a job waiting for me every summer. I owe a lot to Western Electric, it enhanced the opportunities I had to get through school.


How was it at first working at Morton College? What stood out to you the most?


It felt like home here. I’ve felt at home at most schools but here especially. What I see is what my parents and all your parents have done. They taught us good manners. It’s great.


What interested you about Morton College? What did you notice about the students on campus?


People really get to know each other. I owned up to being at a community college because I noticed when I was at Northern Illinois University was the students that were coming in from community colleges did far better than the ones that came straight from high school. Granted they were a couple years older. But they were serious.


They literally raised the bars in the classes and I noticed that even among the student teachers. But there was a big difference in maturity. They were a lot more serious and committed.


We’ve got people who are just picking up skill. I found myself doing that. When [computers] came out, I started taking classes at College of DuPage and picked up a few classes. I used to go to the Art Institute and get classes, too. I had all these graduate degrees but I needed to build my skill levels. Then there’s others who aren’t necessarily looking for an occupation, they just have an interest. My wife is a good example. Years ago she got her nursing here and then she went to St. Francis to get her BSN. She’s worked all these years as a ER nurse and then she’s taking art. She loves it, now she’s making jewelry.


It sounds like you enjoy being in school and learning new things.


The more you know, the better. One of the things I always emphasize with my students was don’t ever go into anything for money. It’s a big mistake and you’ll never excel in it. You got to have a passion for what you do


Can you share something that someone on campus might not know about you?


I used to like to go dancing all the time. I like aquatic sports. I don’t think a lot of people know that I water ski and sail boats. I used to downhill ski but I won’t do it now. It would be too cumbersome walking around with a cast on my leg.

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