Marc A. Healy, associate professor of anthropology and human geography, is dedicated to teaching at Elgin Community College not out of some sense of duty or honor; rather, he truly loves what he does every day.
“I pinch myself every morning,” he said. “I’ve never had a day where I dreaded going into work.”
Even during times when he feels under the weather, Healy hates to miss class. Once, during a bout of laryngitis, Healy used a microphone to amplify his whisper. On another occasion, he woke up with a terrible sinus infection intending to teach his classes anyway, but resigned himself to cancelling classes only after he looked in the mirror and saw how grotesque his face had become.
When teaching, he explains how anthropology and human geography provide insight into the complexities of an ever-changing world. Healy enjoys moments when he speaks about topics that occur long before they are widely reported—such as the rise of Somali pirating and the Catalan independence movement in Spain.
“It keeps me up-to-date with the current news events,” Healy said. “It’s my job. It goes right back into teaching.”
It was a long road and a series of fortunate events for Healy to reach this point in his career. He arrived in Elgin with his wife (Heidi Zwart Healy, director of marketing) to start a family and bought a home within sight of the college. He applied for a position as adjunct anthropology instructor and was hired in 2004, and became full-time the following semester. Shortly thereafter, his wife was ready for her next career move and was hired as the marketing director of the ECC Arts Center.
“I’m glad everything turned out the way it has,” Healy said. “I’ve had an enormous amount of good fortune.”
We caught up with Healy to ask him some questions about himself and his work at ECC. Here are his answers.
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
I like to think that I teach, but in reality my job also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, especially since I'm the coordinator of a small department and I'm the only full-time employee. As far as teaching goes though, what I try to do is to give students fresh eyes with which to see the world around them in ways they otherwise might not.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
From time to time I have students tell me how important my classes were to them, how much they value what I taught them, and in some cases, how it changed their lives. I'm lucky to be in a profession where that happens. I see my students as my accomplishments. I estimate that I've taught somewhere around 4,000 students since I've been here.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
I would meet with people in the upper administration to get a better sense of what their jobs entail. It would be treated as a learning experience, not a chance to wield power.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
I've shopped that screenplay around Hollywood for years, and nobody wants it. I tried hard to get Matthew Broderick to agree to take the role, but all I have to show for it is a "cease and desist" letter from his lawyer.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I want to live to be at least 80. I will celebrate 50 years of marriage in late September of my 79th year in 2047, and I don't think it would be kind to my wife to drop dead immediately after that, but I will turn 80 about a month and a half later. I will have far outlived all of my direct male ancestors at that point, so I think it would be a fair accomplishment. I might feel differently when the time comes though.
What’s one fact we should know about you?
I crack a lot of jokes, and try to see humor in everything if I can, but I am an exceptionally serious person. The humor is just a way to keep things in balance.
What’s something about your job that others should know?
After my predecessor Curt Peterson retired, the college tried to get by using several part-time instructors instead of replacing him with a full-time position. It was a disaster.
Curt left some very big shoes to fill and I was extremely lucky to have been hired to replace him. I do my best to continue his good work and leave behind a respectable footprint of my own.
What was your favorite class in school?
I had a drawing class in college that taught me a lot more than how to draw pretty pictures. My pictures weren't pretty, mind you, but it helped me harness a creative energy I never knew I had. It also gave me confidence to try something that didn't come naturally and wasn't very good at; and made me appreciate better the idea that the reality we experience is highly filtered through our senses, and not necessarily an accurate one.
What was your first job out of school?
I worked as an admissions counselor for my alma mater (Ripon College) for two years before I went to graduate school.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes." - Marcel Proust
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I learn new things. Every. Single. Day.