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ECC history professor leaves impact at ECC

Lisa Lilianstrom, Staff Writer

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A witty sense of humor, a supporter of unions, generous, understanding, a political activist, and someone who people often talked to. Those were words that people used to describe the late Dr. William Pelz.

Pelz, 66, was a history professor at Elgin Community College for 20 years and was well liked by staff and students alike, he was known for his jokes especially for when it comes to meeting his students for the first time.

“Walking into my first 8 A.M. class, I came in hoping the teacher would be at least somewhat lenient when it came to the morning grogginess. I was very relieved when he would lightheartedly joke about the class being asleep. It immediately showed how understanding he was, but I didn’t know just how understanding he really was in the beginning,” said student Jonathan Fonseca.

Throughout the semester, Pelz was always there to hear his students out.

“A week before he passed away, he asked, “So, what’s going on?” We sat down for as long as we could before I had to rush to the next class. Those ten minutes of me venting about personal issues and all the evil in politics currently going on today served to be such a relief. I was finally talking with no filter, and he was there for me, to hear all of it. He truly understood what’s going on and the severity of it when it comes to my personal life. I lack a guidance. I can admit that. He was the man I could look up to when it came to standing up for what was right. It turned out a lot of what he had been fighting against over the years was a lot of the factors that put me in such an awful predicament.” Fonseca said.

Pelz also got other students to be enthusiastic about their own passions.

“I always thought he was a good guy, he was very enthusiastic about teaching, and he got me to be enthusiastic about history, we were like two peas in a pod,” said ECC Alumni Peter Chlebanowski.

When Esmeralda Flores Espinoza was running for president, Pelz was the one that pushed her to run, and his reaction the day after was her favorite memory of him.

“After I won he called me Madam President, the next day he was like so Madam President whats going on around ECC,” Flores said.

Mr. Pelz was big on European history as Chlebanowski experienced when he took his class, especially when it came to the Romans.

“He really liked Roman History, he always talked about the Ancient Romans in his class, because we learned a lot from the Romans and our society is based off Roman society, so he was a pretty big advocate for that,” Chlebanowski said.

For ECC English Professor Ryan Kerr, he was a good person to talk about politics with and was also his go-to person when it came to election season.

“Though there was plenty to be frustrated with regarding the news, I loved talking politics with him through the entire primary and general election season in 2016.  I’ll be hard-pressed in 2020 to find such a discussion partner,” Kerr said.

Pelz was also known as a mentor, especially for ECC professor Ellen Vartanian-Maher, who said that Pelz had helped her believe in herself more.

“I learned to believe in myself. And how to generate conversation in Dr. Pelz’ classes: he often recruited me to enroll for that very reason: our little insider joke,” Vartanian-Maher said.

Although Pelz is now gone, according to others he will not be forgotten with everything he taught.

“His legacy will be one of speaking truth to power, a life-long strong supporter of labor unions, and a guardian of the history of the labor movement and its martyrs in the history of the United States, and in other nations, past and present,” Vartanian-Maher said.

 

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ECC history professor leaves impact at ECC