Alumni Association

Karen Webster

After many years of working in the financial services field, in 2005 I retired from my Chief Operations Officer position at CEFCU so my husband and I could pursue our long-time dream of relocating to the “Valley of the Sun” Phoenix area foothills. The beautiful desert, wildlife, and triple digit temperatures always appealed to us, and for the past 9 years we both have been very active with golfing, hiking, and mountain biking.

Friends who know me well know that it’s sometimes hard for me to slow down. Within a year after retiring I saw an interesting career position in the Wall Street Journal and decided to “jump back in” to pursue another challenge.  I am now responsible for strategic growth, and management and oversight of 48 hospital clinics in 15 States—we are veterinary ophthalmologists. I am the President/CEO of this awesome company and work with a fabulous board of directors and administrative team, and an amazing group of scientists who have devoted their careers to the profession of vision. We are the largest veterinary ophthalmology group in the world and have the nation’s largest residency training program, having trained and graduated more than 50 doctors. Our doctors complete 11 years of college before they can sit for board exams to become certified in ophthalmology.

I owe a world of gratitude to Illinois Central College (ICC) as it provided me with the foundation I needed to move my formal education and career forward to a higher level. ICC is one of the most successful and well-recognized community colleges in the nation. It’s a tremendous asset to the community and provided me with a high quality and affordable education.

And now, as an ICC alumni living nearly 1,600 miles away, ICC still has a special place in my heart—for many reasons. For me going to college right after high school wasn’t an option. I came from very humble beginnings, raised by a single parent, and the financial resources just weren’t there. So, after obtaining a full-time job I started attending ICC’s evening classes, one at a time. I had some wonderful teachers along the way. One ICC professor I had early on that stood out to me was Dr. Tom Shaughnessy. Throughout Dr. Shaughnessy’s class he emphasized important business basics such as having a positive attitude, integrity, and possessing good listening, organizational, and communication skills. In fact, he later authored a book, “We Are All Leaders”, which speaks to what he instilled in his students. That book is sitting on the 1st shelf in my home office.

After graduating ICC and later completing my bachelors and masters degree in business, I wanted to give back to the College that gave me my foundation. I got involved with ICC by volunteering my time. I chaired the Stewardship Committee, served on the Scholarship Committee, led the Donor Wall Project team, and served on the Interview Committee for the incoming President (Dr. John Erwin) when Dr. Tom Thomas retired. I recall very vividly how thrilled the Interview Committee was when Dr. Erwin accepted the offer. Dr. Erwin’s been a pillar of strength for the College and ICC is so very fortunate to have him at the helm. I later served a 6 year term, with 2 years as President, on the ICC Educational Foundation Board where I had the privilege of working with Vice President/Chief Development Officer, Robin Ballard, and other talent such as Executive Vice President Bruce Budde and Former Vice President Vicky Stewart, and the list goes on.  While serving on the Educational Foundation Board we were able to approve and build Woodview Commons, the College’s first on-campus student housing. Those were some exciting times!

My words of wisdom would go to individuals young or senior, financially challenged or not, who want to pursue an affordable, quality education to give ICC the opportunity to help build the foundation for self-improvement and higher work-life goals. And then pay it forward and give back for a truly rewarding experience. ICC rocks!!!