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Alum Walt Wilk: Encouragement Key To Degree

Walt Wilk HeadshotThis year marks the centennial year for adult education at Loyola and we are celebrating the anniversary by gathering stories of our alumni who want to share their Loyola experience, and how it has transformed their lives. SCPS changed its name a number of times but it has consistently served adult students.

The following bio came from Walt Wilk, who graduated from University College in 1962 with a BBA in Accounting.

I grew up on the far south side of Chicago and was a member of the Polish parish, St. Salomea. My family was blue collar and I was the first member of my family to graduate from high school. Growing up with my grandparents, it was believed that the most important thing was a steady job. There was no higher education environment in our house and the only college graduates I know were the priests at our church, St. Salomea. My grandmother refused to speak English, so I spoke Polish first and English was my second language. When I finished high school in 1951, I hadn’t a clue what I would do with my life, so I got a steady job for three years in the printing industry. Then I was drafted into the Army.

The third day in the Army, I was solicited to take the Polish Language Test and since I could read, write, and speak Polish, I breezed through the exam and was earmarked for Germany. I served as a Polish interrogator with the 513th Military Intelligence Group. I have never worked with so many well educated people in my life. A few of the lawyers I worked with decided they would change my life. They enjoyed taking me to the opera to improve me culturally. They were the ones who insisted that I apply to college upon my discharge.

Their encouragement worked and I was accepted to Loyola University Chicago. In September of 1956, I started Loyola at the age of 23. By October, I had a girlfriend and continued to work part-time in the printing industry. By the second year, I pledged a fraternity, EK-TKE, and for the first time in my life, I had friends who were five years younger than me. I had a great time catching up on social activities and change occurred when I got married in June 1958.

After I had married, the college joys were over and I had to make a determination of how badly I wanted a degree. I switched to the University College and stared working full time in the printing industry. I have to thank the late Thomas J. Dyba, Admissions Director for Loyola (1957-1968), a fraternity brother who gave me encouragement to complete my studies in the next 3.5 years. You have to go to night school to appreciate the difficulties of the travel to work, to school, and then home. It is a whole different world studying with mature students, but I will never forget the first two years. The person I give the most credit to is my wife of over 50 years, without whose encouragement I would never have made it. The most surprised people at my commencement at the old McCormick Place in 1962 were my mother and godmother, seeing the first member of the family to graduate college.

If you would like to share your story as an alum, please email it to scps@luc.edu. We would love to hear from you.