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If Raquel Martinez could turn back the clock, she would choose
Morton College all over again.
“My high school counselor told me not to go to college,”
Martinez recalled. “It’s because of Morton College that I’m an attorney. The
instructors I had set high expectations, challenged students, and yet were
concerned about us as individuals. They were willing to take the time truly
“I’m a strong community college advocate. If I had a chance
to alter any of my institutional choices, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Morton College set a solid foundation for my future education.”
The native of Lyons fondly remembered engaging instructors
such as Mark Pohl (educational psychology), Elia Lopez (Spanish), Hurley
Langert (economics), James Seaholm (philosophy) and John Steinmetz (biology) on
her way to an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Law in 1979.
“My family was very
supportive, but we weren’t people of means,” Martinez said. “My dad said that
paying for one’s own education builds character. I would have preferred less
character and more financial support, but he was right. There’s no investment
worth more than education and it can never be taken from you. I also knew I
could get a quality education at a reasonable price by going to Morton
While Martinez held several part-time jobs to pay for Morton College, it didn’t
sideline her from participating in leadership, recreational and cultural
endeavors. Martinez was the student member on the College’s Board of Trustees from
1978 to 1979 and served on the Student Senate the previous academic year.
“Being a Student Trustee was a phenomenal experience,”
Martinez said. “I had a chance to partake in actual grassroots government on a
first-hand basis. Since I was active in statewide student leadership
organizations, I was able to travel throughout Illinois and meet students from
other colleges and universities. I made friends that I have kept throughout my
life. Morton College had a wonderful administration and Board of Trustees when
I was a student.”
For enjoyment, Martinez took part in the Sportsmen’s Club
and Spanish Club. Jack Holt, the chief of Campus Safety, was the Sportsmen’s
Club advisor. That club promoted outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing
“The college experience is so much more than just
instruction and homework,” Martinez noted.
Martinez transferred to UIC, majoring in political science
and criminal justice. She then went on to earn a law degree from John Marshall.
However, the pinnacle of 21 years in formal education for a person who was the
first in her family to graduate from college just so happened to fall on the
same day of a great moment in Chicago sports history – when the Bears trounced
the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986.
The folks at John Marshall were no dummies. They moved up the
time of the commencement ceremony so not to conflict with the game and
displayed TV screens all across the venue. The recessional was “Bear Down,
Chicago Bears” the Bears’ fight song.
“My family and three brothers were excited,” Martinez said.
“We had planned to go out for a fancy dinner, but lo and behold, we went to my
parents’ house, had sandwiches and watched the Bears win on that momentous
At a young age, Martinez was driven to become a lawyer. She
knew she couldn’t match her three older brothers when it came to size, speed or
“The only defense I had was my mouth,” Martinez quipped. “I had
a feeling of powerlessness as a child and vowed that it wouldn’t be permanent.
I just always knew I wanted to be a lawyer.”
Martinez embarked on a 25-year career in public service with
the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County State’s Attorney and the
Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Her forte with the State Attorney General’s
office was consumer protection. She prosecuted many trade school fraud cases as
an Assistant State’s Attorney. At ISAC, Martinez spent a decade as the group’s
Deputy General Counsel.
Martinez also presented seminars on consumer protection and estate
planning to community organizations. She participated in community services
program sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association, such as the “People’s
Law School” held at Morton College.
In light of her gratitude to Morton College, Martinez became
involved with the College’s now-defunct alumni association and later joined the
Morton College Foundation. She was honored by the Illinois Community College
Trustees Association with its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1998, joining
other luminaries such as actor Jim Belushi, author John Fountain and
real-estate magnate Dempsey Travis.
“The Morton College Foundation is my favorite charity,”
Martinez said. “It’s a way of giving back. We have a dynamic group of
individuals who are committed to helping students. I had a lot of difficulty
financing my education. I promised myself that if I ever got to a position to
help others, I would.”
Martinez and her husband, Eric Denny, live in a
165-year-house in rural north-central Indiana on a farm that has been in her
mother’s family for generations. Although it’s 100 miles from Cicero, Martinez
still serves as the Morton College Foundation’s recording secretary.
“I’ve been reinventing myself since moving to the country,”
Martinez said. “I read for pleasure, exercise regularly and run a crafting
business, which offers high-quality, hand-made greeting cards, scrapbooks,
bows, wreathes and center pieces. I’m engaging the other side of my brain.
Her business, “Rocky’s Paper Scissors,” plays off her
nickname of Rocky.
“There are different measures of success. You don’t
necessarily ascertain it with dollar signs. I live in a beautiful country
setting, spend all day with my four-legged children (dogs, Bonnie and Clyde)
and enjoy my mother’s golden years.”