After almost 25 years as McHenry County College Director of Athletics, Wally Reynolds has opted to take early retirement.
His move is effective as of Thursday. Although if he had it his way, Reynolds likely would not have retired for another several years.
Reynolds got his start in athletic administration in 1980 at Harper College, where he worked in numerous athletic support roles in addition to coaching the baseball team. He then moved on to Morton College in Cicero to be the baseball coach for seven seasons and the athletic director for six and half season before taking his current position at McHenry County Community College in July 1990.
In June, Reynolds was inducted into the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Hall of Fame, in recognition of his 31 years of service in the conference.
Reynolds also sparked several advancements within the conference and the college. He updated the athletic facilities, as well as the school logo.
His greatest satisfaction, however, comes from something different.
“The best part is to be able to work with students and help them improve their situations and their circumstances in life by being involved with our program,” he said Wednesday. “What I’m most proud of is that our coaches and our athletic staff really focused on helping our student-athletes to develop, not only in their sports skills, but their academic success, their personal growth, their maturity, and to try to help them go on to four-year universities.”
Reynolds said he wanted to continue as athletic director for as many as three more seasons, but he was pushed toward retirement by recent legislation.
Illinois has one of the country’s most poorly financed state employment pension systems, with about $100 billion owed to retirees. In December 2013, the state legislature made a deal that cut cost-of-living increases for retirees and increased retirement age for younger employees by as many as five years.
In Reynolds' case, the legislation also cuts pensions for individuals who retire after July 1. After consulting with his retirement counselor from the State University Retirement System, Reynolds said the decision was essentially a “no-brainer.”
“The bottom line is I wasn’t going to leave this year, but I was forced into it by the pending legislation to reduce retirement benefits,” Reynolds said.
The deal is being contested in the courts, where union leaders believe it violates the State Constitution by illegally slashing pension benefits. But Reynolds said by the time of the most recent litigation he already had his mind made up and was worried about what the uncertainty would mean for his retirement.
“It makes it more difficult, but on the other hand, it was going to happen at some point anyway,” he said. “To be honest, my concern is still that they’re going to be able to find a way to cut the lifetime benefits and the monthly annuity benefits for retirees. It’s probably better off from a financial standpoint for me to do it now anyway.”
Reynolds, who plans to continue to hold leadership roles in NJCAA Region 4 and assist in other ways with the conference, said that while the retirement may not have come the way he had expected, he will still look back fondly at the memories he made at McHenry County College.
“The parts that I’m going to miss the most are the personal parts – the dealings with the coaching staff, the hiring of the coaches, watching the athletes perform, my colleagues with the other athletic directors in the region and the conference,” he said. “I’m around a lot of great people every day. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”