70-year-old graduate of ECC: There’s much to life after retirement
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com June 14, 2012 5:30PM
Seventy-year-old John Clark of Bartlett came out of retirement and went back to school graduating last month, earning a associate’s degree in hotel management from Elgin Community College. June 13, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:10AM
ELGIN — There is life after retirement, according to John Clark.
In fact, there are associate’s degrees to earn and new careers to start. There are 10Ks to run each year, 100 miles to bike each week, slopes to ski, people to help and languages to learn, Clark said. At least, those are his plans for retirement.
The 70-year-old Bartlett resident graduated last month with an associate’s degree in hotel management from Elgin Community College.
“Life is good,” he said. “These are, in fact, the golden days. These are the best times of my life.”
Clark grew up in a small Ohio farming community in the foothills of Appalachia, he said. Nobody from his family ever had gone to college, he said, and he had no plans to earn one degree, much less three.
But he worked at a veterinarian’s office between his junior and senior years of high school, and that man encouraged him to attend college. So he did.
He worked for a year after graduating high school, then put himself through Ohio State University.
“I owe that man so much for putting me on that path and giving me the confidence to do that,” Clark said.
He graduated with a degree in economics in the middle of the Vietnam War, he said. That gave him a choice: Learn to shoot a gun in the U.S. Army or to fly a plane in the U.S. Air Force, he said.
He chose the Air Force, he said, and by the time the war was winding down five years later, he had earned half his master’s degree from courses he took on base in New Mexico.
He finished his MBA at the University of Cincinnati, then spent his career working in marketing and sales, first in Detroit and then in the Chicago area. He retired in 2006 from his own small business, Clark Business Interiors, based in Bloomingdale.
That lasted about a year, during which he read a novel and biked 100 miles a week, Clark said. He ran the Chicago Marathon. Then, he decided, “I have to do something more than this. I’m just passing time.”
“I’m a goal-setter. I set goals, and I work really hard to accomplish goals. Otherwise, I goof off,” he said.
So Clark started taking computer classes at Elgin Community College and got interested in hotel management there. He finished that program this spring and already is working for Interstate Hotel and Resorts Corporation, training at the front desk at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.
He loves meeting new people, and he’d like to travel to new places, too, working through the winter at IHRC hotels in Arizona or Florida for the next 10 years, he said.
Clark admits “there’s no free lunches in this world” and that he’s had his share of failures, too. He became an air traffic controller after throwing up three times into his oxygen mask performing upside-down loops as a pilot. He also is divorced, which he said is hard because, “I’ve always considered myself a family person.”
But, he said you have to “give yourself the right to fail.”
“Don’t not do something because you’re afraid to do it. If you fail, you fail. Go do something else now,” he said.
Clark already is on to something else. He’ll start classes on using Microsoft Word at ECC this summer, he said. And next up, he said, he plans to learn Spanish.