published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Climbing ever upward
Dr. Charles Mojock reflects on career and education
THERESA CAMPBELL | Staff Writer
Appreciating the past while anticipating the future has been Lake-Sumter State College's focus for its 50th anniversary year, and the school's president recently reflected on the same theme in his life and career.
"I saw a tremendous potential and that is what attracted me to this college," said Dr. Charles Mojock, 59, who became LSSC's fifth president in July 2002, coming here from Daytona Beach Community College, where he was employed for 23 years.
"It was a college that I saw had a lot of growth potential and great community support and commitment to quality," he said. "The personalized attention and interaction that I saw here was really impressive. I like getting to know the students and interact with them and I certainly have had a lot of opportunities to do that here."
Timothy Morris, chairman of the District Board of Trustees of Lake-Sumter State College, recalled it was an "honor" to be on the search committee that recommended Mojock as the college's leader.
"Since his tenure here, I have seen a 'culture of excellence' instilled in the faculty and staff. It is evident this has come from the top down. He has brought ingenuity with his understanding of our students' needs, even with the budget constraints we have encountered, Dr. Mojock is always prepared for any issues that arise," Morris said. "It is a pleasure to serve with him."
LSSC's president said he envisioned being in a leadership role in his youth, the youngest of two sisters and one brother in a Catholic family with Italian roots while growing up in Western Pennsylvania and Baltimore.
"My father's name was Marzocchi," Mojock said of the family name that was changed through customs in the United States, while Fabbri was his mother's maiden name.
He played saxophone in the high-school band, was involved in student government, and faced adversity when his father died during Christmas season of his senior year from heart disease. Mojock was considering becoming a priest when he went off to St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.
"Celibacy was the one thing that I wasn't too keen on, so that was a big part of it," Mojock said of changing his mind. "I felt that being a dad was something that I wanted more."
It's easy to see that family life has been important to Mojock. Numerous family photos surround his office of his three sons, three granddaughters, and wife, Cathy, of 36 years of marriage.
He fell in love with Florida after he graduated from St. Mary's Seminary and was invited by his college roommate to come to Daytona Beach in 1975, where his friend was teaching at the Catholic high school.
"I really liked it here, especially coming in January, from Baltimore and Western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. I fell for Florida sunshine, beaches, and no longer having to deal with shoveling snow," he said.
Mojock ended up inheriting his friend's teaching job after his buddy went back to school for his master's degree.
"It was a great experience," said Mojock, who taught theology, marriage and family. Then came the job opening at Daytona Beach Community College to work with disadvantaged high-school students, helping them gain work experience and employability skills.
"I really enjoyed that mission of a community college in terms of being an open door and making an equal opportunity, and really being really there for students who might not otherwise have any option to go to college," he said.
He moved up then ranks as senior vice president for planning and institutional development, while also earning a master of arts degree from Stetson University and doctor of education degree from the University of Central Florida.
Mojock's latest honor came last month when he was selected to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional accrediting body of higher education institutions in 11 southeastern states. As a trustee, he will represent more than 800 institutions and will be responsible for determining commission policy, reviewing and and making decisions regarding the accreditation of institutions.
"I really believe in the goals in terms of trying to help provide quality to all of our students making sure that students are getting a good education, regardless of where they go," he said of his involvement with SACSOC.
"We are always learning hopefully, we are life-long learners," Mojock said, who believes one is never too old to learn something new.
"I have always regretted never taking Italian, and that has been my heritage," said Mojock, who is fluent in French and aspires to study the language of his ancestors.
LSSC's president said he's inspired on a daily basis from students he meets and hearing their stories.
"Some of the veterans coming back now comes to mind," he said. "We have a lot of combat veterans, people that served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sacrifices that they have made. They are coming back and now trying to get on with their lives and careers, and it's good to see them here."
He's also inspired by disabled students who are determined not to let anything stand in their way, and he has been touched by mother-daughter students who graduate at the same time. One of LSSC's oldest student was a man in his 80s who walked across the stage to receive his diploma.
"This was one of his life-long dreams. He said he was going to come back to school and finish," Mojock said. "I admired the discipline that it takes to do that and the courage to say 'This is important to me and I don't care what other people think.' "
Mojock said LSSC is blessed with dedicated trustees, great faculty, adjunct faculty, and a college foundation that has excelled in fundraising and produces "one of the highest per capita giving rates in the state."
"It is just an honor and privilege for me to lead this institution. I'm blessed to be here and I'm happy to have the opportunity, this is a great place to be," Mojock said, adding the ultimate highlight of his job is seeing students' succeed and to be able to honor them at the commencement ceremony. "To be able to stand, shake their hands and award their degrees and certificates, that is just the greatest thing."