Loretta Ragsdell

An Oak Park woman recently earned the National Council for Higher Education’s first-ever Higher Educator of the Year award. 

Loretta Ragsdell, a part-time faculty member who teaches English and writing at City Colleges of Chicago, spoke to delegates at the National Education Association’s representative assembly earlier this month. 

“We should focus less on the system and more on who it’s designed to serve,” Ragsdell told delegates, according to an article on the NEA’s website. “We are after all, one education family.” 

Lily Eskelsen García, the NEA’s president, said that Ragsdell “exemplifies what we want higher education in America to be.” 

Ragsdell, a former Street Beat correspondent with Wednesday Journal Inc.-owned Austin Weekly News, said that she educates whenever she can — whether at the grocery store on in a laundromat. 

At City Colleges, Ragsdell, who is the part-time faculty union president, helped win bonuses and more professional development for her union members. Adjuncts teach 70 percent of the courses at City Colleges. 

“Someone has always had to be there to say, ‘Wait a minute, the university is a very special place,” Ragsdell told NEA delegates. “It’s not WalMart U … and students are not consumers — they are students. Someone had to be there to say: The pursuit of knowledge is a fundamentally different human activity than buying patio furniture.” 

Michael Romain 

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