Alma Harrell

Harrell Named Waubonsee “Fabulous 40” Alumna

Waubonsee Community College has named Alma Harrell, program manager for a health care accreditation agency, as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni. Harrell, seen here in the college’s new Science Building, earned her associate degree in nursing from the college and is an active volunteer for a number of community groups.
Sugar Grove — Alma Harrell has always had a philanthropic nature. From her career in health care through her charitable volunteer work, Harrell is making a positive difference in the community and beyond. Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor her as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.

As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.

Like many Waubonsee students, Harrell’s career and education path did not follow a straight line. After growing up in the Lawndale section of the west side of Chicago, Harrell earned a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Southern Illinois University. She spent a year in an unsatisfying job before deciding she needed to make a change.

“Waubonsee gave me a second chance,” she said. With a young child at home, Harrell wanted to find a career that was more flexible and would allow her to raise her family, while focusing on her science skills. She came to Waubonsee and earned her associate degree in nursing. “Waubonsee was local, accessible and met my educational needs,” Harrell said. “The faculty were stupendous, not just in nursing, but in other departments as well.”

While a student at Waubonsee, Harrell would occasionally bring her children to the library to study, having them help her make copies or place post-it notes in textbooks.

“Waubonsee helped me to instill the educational ideology within my children,” she said.

After Waubonsee, Harrell joined the staff of Copley Memorial Hospital (now known as Rush-Copley Medical Center) as a registered nurse. She remained at Copley for 14 years, progressively advancing in her career and continuing her education at the same time. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Lewis University and a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University. While at Lewis University, she was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, an honorary nursing society.

At Copley Memorial Hospital, Harrell discovered an innate ability to teach and help others in their development. She was promoted to a Staff Development Coordinator and later as Director of Educational Services. Today, Harrell is a program manager with a health care accreditation agency.

Showing her modesty, Harrell highlights the support she received as being key to her success.

“I had the support of my immediate family and my husband,” she said. “They made sacrifices in order to help me succeed. My success wasn’t just my success — it was my family’s success.”

Active in the community, Harrell has always placed a great deal of importance on volunteering and working toward the greater good.

“Giving back to the community is so important,” she said. “Whatever gifts and talents I have are a gift from God, and I am fortunate to be able to share that with others less fortunate. To me, my success comes from what I can give back, not from what I receive. If I can give back, then I am successful.”

Harrell is co-chair of the Resource Development Committee for the Fox Valley United Way, which is currently looking for volunteers and donations to further their mission. She is on the board of the Visiting Nurse Association and has worked with Return Inmates to American Society (RITAS). She is also a member of Main Baptist Church in Aurora.

An Aurora resident, Harrell and her husband, James Harold Harrell Jr., have four children, Cerise, Nahshon, Jabari and James III, and three grandchildren, Evette, Kaleb and Korey.