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Waubonsee’s Featured Alumni Couple Have Rich History on Campus
Married couple James Bondi and Dr. Judith Vargas, of Aurora, share a long history with Waubonsee Community College. They both earned degrees from and then worked at the college, and they first met each other on campus. For the role Waubonsee has played in their lives and for their contributions to the college and the larger community, Waubonsee is proud to name Bondi and Vargas its featured alumni for March.
Vargas was a member of Waubonsee’s first class when the college opened in 1967. The fourth of nine children, Vargas was the first person in her family to pursue higher education, but she wasn’t sure exactly where it would lead.
“I just liked school, and the joy of learning has always been my motivation,” Vargas said.
In addition to learning inside the classroom, Vargas stayed busy outside of it, participating in drama club and student council while also working in the college’s Admissions Office, which was then located in an old Jewel store on Lake Street in Aurora.
“That was back when students used data cards to register,” Vargas recalls. She also remembers paying $6 a credit hour for her classes and learning from great instructors.
“David Pierce taught me Math 100, and he was the first teacher who made me believe I could do math and science,” Vargas said. “That had a direct impact on me gaining confidence in that area, which I then brought into all the higher level analytical and statistics courses I took as I continued my education.”
After earning her associate degree in speech in 1970, Vargas moved on to Northern Illinois University (NIU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism in 1972. But after working in the public relations department at Copley Hospital for a few years, her first college alma mater came calling.
There was a paraprofessional position available in Waubonsee’s counseling department, and the staff wanted Vargas to fill it. She took it, and in doing so, found her calling. “That was a pivotal moment for me,” Vargas said.
Vargas worked as a counselor at Waubonsee for more than 10 years, and during that time, she earned her master’s degree and doctorate from NIU in 1975 and 1982, respectively.
“Coming back to work at Waubonsee was a natural transition for me,” Vargas said. “I knew the material and the curricula from having worked in the admissions office, and the people who had been my counselors now became my colleagues.”
During the time that Vargas was working at Waubonsee, Jim Bondi enrolled at the college. He had just finished serving in the army for three years.
While pursuing an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in criminal justice, Bondi worked part-time jobs for Waubonsee’s campus police department, the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department and the Sugar Grove Police Department. After earning his degree in 1982, Bondi accepted the position of Waubonsee’s lone full-time police officer. He hired, trained and supervised security staff, which at that time consisted solely of criminal justice students working as cadets.
Bondi continued on as a Waubonsee student during this time as well, pursuing and earning a more general transfer degree from Waubonsee in 1985. He then earned his bachelor’s degree from NIU in 1988.
In his time as a campus police officer, Bondi often ran into Vargas since they worked a floor apart in the same campus building. In 1989 the two were married.
Ever the counselor, it was Vargas who urged Bondi to get in on the ground floor of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) when it was still in the planning stages. Once the school was up and running, Bondi was hired as its chief of security — a position he still holds 26 years later.
“It’s very rewarding to work in an academic environment,” Bondi said. “IMSA is great with the students and staff and the guest speakers they bring in. I’ve always said that when you bring together the best and brightest from across the state, magic happens.”
For Vargas, the most magical academic environment will always be community colleges.
“You just don’t get the same people experience anywhere else as you do at community colleges,” she said. “I really enjoyed the adult learners and motivated learners I worked with at Waubonsee.”