Photo by Diane Cox
George C. Terry has spent more than 40 years working as a leader in the community and a beacon of hope for generations of students. The vice president of student life at Lewis and Clark Community College, Terry has received awards from the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns and Higher Education, 100 Black Men Service and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
ALTON — Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. George C. Terry is known for that type of saying, each more fitting than the next.
Terry began his basketball career at his alma mater of Alton High School, where he was All-Conference and All-Downstate. He was a recipient of the Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial Scholarship in 1964. He continued his basketball career at Illinois State University, where he received bachelor and master of science degrees. He was named Honorable Mention College All-American and was inducted into the ISU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1967. He finished his basketball career with a 22.6 points-per-game average and is listed as the No. 9 all-time scorer. He coached two years at ISU and earned a spot in the Illinois Coaches Basketball Association Hall of Fame. He also earned a specialist degree in education administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1976.
Looking past his personal and educational accomplishments, Terry gives credit to those who saw his potential in his early years.
“The most influential things in my life were the teachers I encountered throughout the Alton school system,” Terry said. “All of my teachers were positive influences, but Richard Johnson — he was my hero. He helped me during my high school years; he helped me get to college and through college. I owe Mr. Johnson a lot. He was my fourth-grade basketball coach at Lovejoy. He was a physical education teacher, a coach and then an administrator. I kind of look at my involvement the same way as his.
“I think if we had more people that took an interest in somebody and nurtured them all the way through, we’d be in really good shape. We have a lot of teachers on our staff and administrators that do take that time and do that same thing. I’m very proud of the Alton school district.”
Terry decided on a position at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. He worked his way to the position of vice president of student life and served as an assistant to the college president for affirmative action. Serving more than 40 years, Terry was known for helping students and teachers with racial issues.
“I’ve worn many hats over the years,” Terry said. “Being at Lewis and Clark for 41 years, I’ve done many jobs and have seen so many young adults come and go. Over the years many students came to me with concerns of racism, discrimination; some justified, some not so justified. As an administrator, I had to look, weigh and evaluate and try to help them; in whatever direction it went, as much as I could. Along with people like Bishop Sam White and Rance Thomas, I was associated with the Black Students Association for many years and we worked closely with those kids.”
Throughout his career, Terry has been recognized for his work in education and community service through organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, from which he earned the NAACP Service Award. Terry was also awarded the Illinois State Board of Education’s Award of Excellence, the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education Award and the 100 Black Men Service Award.
When it comes to the issue of equality and racism, Terry says he believes education and communication are the first two steps toward change.
“We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” Terry said. “That dialogue is coming along. We as human beings have gained a lot of ground. Administrators and people in charge who are decision makers are more willing to listen and try to understand as well as let their thoughts and points of view be heard.
“When I sit and talk with students, I encourage them to believe in themselves,” he said. “They can go as far as they want to go. The kids today need to do the best they can with every opportunity they have. The focus of my career has been just the care and education of young people.”
In 2012, the Lewis and Clark Community College Board of Trustees voted to rename the LCCC River Bend Arena to the George C. Terry River Bend Arena to honor a man who has dedicated himself to students and athletes throughout Greater Alton.
With all of Terry’s accomplishments, he says biggest reward has been seeing his own children’s success. Terry has three sons and one daughter, of whom he is very proud. George C. Terry III and Jarrett L. Terry both have earned master’s degrees, while Bryan J. Terry has received a doctorate. Mary K. Terry is an honor roll student at Alton High School.
“People have asked me what I feel my biggest accomplishment is over the years,” Terry said. “So many assume I’ll answer the arena at Lewis and Clark. It’s my four children and what they’ve achieved. I have seen my children work to their potential and that is the best achievement that any parent, teacher, coach and administrator can have.”
Follow @NewsAdVantage on Twitter