Chicago Tribune’s ‘Someone to Know’ Featuring Monarch Landing ResidentJune 16, 2021
An educator steps up to use what he has learned
When a guest expert en route to Monarch Landing to deliver a presentation on the Treaty of Versailles experienced a GPS malfunction, resident David Curtis stepped forward. Under most circumstances, this would have resulted in an inconvenient cancellation of the program at the Naperville community. Curtis quickly recruited an impromptu panel of residents who he thought might be well versed on the topic, and the highly anticipated program went on.
Extraordinary in its own right, the panel consisted of more Ph.D.s, J.D.s, and master’s degrees than could be counted on one hand.
“I had every confidence the three of us knew a few things,” Curtis says. “I knew the two other guys were smart and interesting and that I could tell a joke or two along the way, and we could keep things going. Everyone was engaged. A lot of people said afterwards that it was one of the best events they’ve attended; it was really well received. People felt a certain pride in their neighbors and friends who could speak about this.”
Impressive but not surprising, Curtis, who moderated the group, possesses broad interests and generously shares his knowledge with others.
A native of Georgia, Curtis grew up in California and studied political science at the University of California in Riverside. He had originally planned to become an attorney, but in 1963, after deciding there already was a surplus of lawyers, he shifted gears. He attended the University of Denver, where he earned his master’s degree in higher education.
“I’d been in student government in high school and college, and the dean of men in Denver became a mentor. I liked how he spent his day and what he did for a living. I decided higher education was a great career choice,” says Curtis.
While at the University of Denver, he met a lovely young woman, Jean, who was pursuing a similar path. As she earned her master’s degree in education administration, Curtis finished his master’s. The couple married and moved to upstate New York, where Curtis worked as dean of freshmen at St. Lawrence University.
In 1965, Curtis received his induction notice and joined the Navy, where he “saw the world” from an ammunition ship in the Gulf of Tonkin,” he recalls. After completing his service, he used the GI Bill and a fellowship opportunity to earn his Ph.D. in public policy at Stanford.
Upon receiving his doctorate, Curtis accepted a job at a new university just opening in the Chicago area.
“There weren’t even any students yet,” he says. “I became both a professor of political science and assistant vice president for research and innovation at Governors State University,” he says. He left the university for four years, accepting a position as vice president of academic affairs at Lewis University. He returned to Governors State, in 1982, as provost and professor of public policy and management. He briefly retired 20 years later, but then returned to Governors State for 18 additional months as interim provost. Between both schools, Curtis spent a total of 40 years in education.
During his career, Curtis worked as a volunteer evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission. In that capacity, he explains, he’d visit colleges and universities to accredit their academic programs. “We’d review the faculty, libraries, and overall academic standards for quality assurance,” he says. He also developed the standards for a new Defense Department program, evaluating academic programs on military installations throughout the world.
Jean and David, who have been married for 56 years, have traveled extensively, visiting most of Western Europe, Australia, Africa, South America and more. “Since I had done more traveling than Jean, she has a 51% say in where we travel. Alaska is our next trip,” Curtis says.
In addition to serving on the finance committee, Curtis has organized Monarch Landing’s Great Decisions program for five years. Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association, Great Decisions annually delves into eight important foreign policy issues facing the country. Participants discuss topics such as competition with China, open trade, Russian expansion, etc. The program is very popular at Monarch Landing and has been divided into two groups in order to accommodate everyone.
Curtis has found his experience, expertise, and willingness to pitch in very much appreciated at the community. He says that he is always impressed with the “breadth and depth of knowledge” of his fellow residents. “I’ve known since we moved here, from eating dinner with people, meeting neighbors in the hallways and attending many programs and events, that we have a lot of people here who know a lot of information about a lot of things.”
What he particularly likes, he adds is the fact that the residents are allowed, and even encouraged and empowered to share their interests and knowledge with each other. “We are always learning and sharing.”
As seen in Chicago Tribune.