2014 Distinguished Alumni

Each year, the Alumni Association (HCCAA) will recognize an individual who through their accomplishments, both personally and professionally, personifies the values of the College which include a "can-do" attitude, a respect for diversity, and ethical decision-making among others.

Award Recipients

2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Jay Verner delivered this year's commencement address, sharing his personal story of success and demonstrating how Heartland Community College positioned him for a rewarding career and success in his philanthropic activities. Verner is the sixth recipient of the annual award, which recognizes individual career achievements and positive community impact while exhibiting Heartland values.

A former news anchor and reporter for WJBC Radio and WMBD-TV, Verner serves as the Public Affairs and Media Relations Manager for COUNTRY Financial assisting to administer the company's philanthropic giving and telling the COUNTRY story in the community. As someone who admits he once thought higher education might not be for him, Verner is convinced that "none of [his] professional opportunities would have been possible without the confidence, drive and enthusiasm [he] developed at Heartland."

Top Three Mistakes He Made Since Leaving HCC

Verner's advice to graduates was to not make the same mistakes he made after leaving Heartland Community College. He listed three main mistakes:

  • Trying too hard to be better than others. Verner says, "I wasted so much time trying to be a perfectionist. Trying to impress everyone, or compete with them." He added, "Don't focus on being perfect compared to others. Focus on being the best you, and believe in you."
  • Taking myself way too seriously. "I thought for a long time that I was way too important." Verner later suggested, "Life is so quick. Every once in a while, take a step back and enjoy it. Watch the sunset. Go for a bike ride. Finally find out what would happen if you got all the Tollhouse dough together and made one, big gigantic cookie."
  • Not knowing your own poetry. "My poetry is my family," According to Verner, "They are the reason I get up at six in the morning and drive to work through four inches of snow. Or why I give time and money to the Children's Hospital, where both of my kids started their lives in need of special help. Or why I leave work a few minutes early every now and then."

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Contact Us

Chris Downing

Foundation Executive Director
Phone: 309-268-8587
Email: alumni@heartland.edu

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