A fear of public speaking and a job with a drug store chain wasn’t going to get Kathy Embry ’84, M.S. ’89 where she wanted to go. That’s why she decided to return to Illinois State University for a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences.
“When I went to grad school I couldn’t sit in a room with my peers and talk out loud,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to advance if I couldn’t speak in front of people.”
So she pushed herself, taking a couple of speech classes and forcing herself to get involved with groups that would put her in front of people. She earned a spot on the Graduate Student Advisory Council and became president. She also helped start several alumni chapters, led a Chicago-area chapter and served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for 12 years.
While she was a grad student, she learned how to network, which she credits with moving her through several management positions in the sewing industry and an experience as an entrepreneur before she joined the International Academy of Design & Technology in 2000. Starting as an adjunct faculty member, she’s now vice president of academic affairs at the Chicago school. No longer afraid of speaking, she’s been in front of thousands and gives an annual commencement address.
“I tell everyone that I am where I am today because I attended Illinois State University,” she said. “I’m sitting here today because I was provided opportunities there. I’m in a great position now and I can start to give back and try and make an impact. I have my passions and Illinois State’s one of the things I’m passionate about.”
Embry’s established a planned gift, making ISU the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. She’s also made annual gifts to the University and recently established a scholarship for a family and consumer sciences transfer student.