JCCC Stories

Leaving a legacy, from student to EVP

May 8, 2017

Retiring executive VP Judy Korb to address commencement ceremonies

In 1983, Judy Korb graduated from Johnson County Community College with her associate degree. In 2017, she’ll take the stage as commencement speaker with the letters D-R in front of her name and 35 years of service to her alma mater behind her.

Korb, executive vice president for instruction and operations, retires after a career that began in 1982, when she was still a student. Hired as an administrative assistant for the business department, she stayed on after graduation.

As her advanced degrees compounded, so did her opportunities at JCCC. Her resume is filled with words like “director” and “professor” and “consultant,” but it’s “JCCC” that appears most often.

It was about the shorthand

“I didn’t plan to stay this long,” Korb said. “But the truth is, I had not worked here very long when I realized I really buy into the mission of the College. I love the support that we provide students, and I believe that education really does change lives.”

It almost didn’t happen that way. Korb interviewed with an airline for a position as an administrative assistant for its corporate office. She was offered the job but then found out that she had to fly to Los Angeles for a series of employment tests, including shorthand.

Korb said she had shaky confidence in her shorthand skills, and she’d never been on a plane before, so she turned the job down.

“I do wonder what my life would have been like had I taken that job, but I don’t think that path would be as satisfying as the one I’ve had here,” she said.

Finding her inner teacher

Korb gains satisfaction from teaching, she said, so even as an administrator she still teaches business administration classes.

But teaching almost didn’t happen, either. Korb’s mother and grandmother were teachers but she came to JCCC to get a business degree, with no plans to teach. She also didn’t plan to get any more degrees beyond the one from JCCC.

Then her inner teacher found footing. In her job as administrative assistant she had the opportunity to teach technical skills to other employees, and she found she rather liked it.

“I realized that teaching was something I could do and really, really love my job,” she said.

Leading, mentoring and being nice

Korb said she’ll miss the relationships she’s cultivated at JCCC. She has embraced her role as mentor to others in the workforce, helping students and colleagues as well as direct reports.

Karen Martley, vice president of continuing education and organizational development, compiled a list of sayings she’s learned to appreciate from Korb. These “Judy-isms” reflect the best of what Martley has learned from her mentor:

  • Choose to be fascinated, not frustrated. “Judy uses this line often,” Martley said. “She always smiles and chuckles a bit after she says it so people think about it. It’s about making a choice in the situation.”
  • Be nice. “I don’t think this one needs an explanation,” Martley said.
  • I can see his/her point of view.  “This is always the one that gets me when I go to her with an issue,” Martley said. “It is why I love working for her. She has really taught me to take the time to think more compassionately about the other person’s point of view in a conflict situation.”

Korb said she’s been surprised at the number of people who, once they learned she was retiring, offered up some sort of transformative conversation they’d had.

“You never know what sort of impact you’re having on someone,” Korb said. “I hope my legacy lives on in the coaching and mentoring I have done for other people. That’s what I hope I leave behind.”

JCCC President Joe Sopcich said Korb definitely made an impact on JCCC. “Throughout her career, she helped so many people here, including myself, by sharing her expertise, wisdom and compassion,” he said. “This College is a very special place thanks to Judy.”