Diane Sterchi will receive the Lake Land College 2017 Alumnus Achievement Award during the annual Commencement Ceremony, Friday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lake Land College Field House.
The Alumnus Achievement Award is awarded annually to an individual who has attained outstanding success and distinction in his or her field of endeavor; has gained favorable statewide or national recognition; or has performed service which has proven beneficial to society.
Sterchi is currently an independent histotechnology consultant, the president of the National Society for Histotechnology and a member of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. She is a leading researcher in the field of histotechnology, the study of tissue abnormalities and treatment for the diseases which cause these abnormalities. Though she still acts as a consultant, she considers herself to be retired most of the time.
“Histotechnology is a highly specialized profession and one in which Diane has been a clear leader and advocate resulting in distinctions and invitations from all over the world,” nominator Jacqueline Joines, executive director for college advancement, said.
After serving in the U.S. Navy as a medic, Sterchi and her husband settled in his hometown of Olney. She enrolled in a local community college in nursing. However, when she transferred to Lake Land College, she had to change majors. At that time, Lake Land did not offer nursing.
She went on to earn an associate degree from Lake Land College in 1975 and then transferred to Eastern Illinois University. There she received bachelor’s degrees in both zoology and chemistry. She has a master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and has taken graduate courses from the University of Illinois.
“My life would not have been this great without going to a community college. I would have not had the experience of all the possibilities a community college can direct you to. I struggled in high school even with an 85% average, I felt I was not smart enough to go through or even get into a four-year college. So, I joined the Navy. The Navy put me through training in the medical field which I did well in and they felt that was what I was best suited for. After serving in the service I still didn’t have confidence in pursuing college except for nursing. I had the GI Bill and I knew that I needed to use it to get at least technical certification or an associate’s degree. That is where a community college came in,” Sterchi said.
She said she struggled at Lake Land because she was taking classes in subjects she never had before, but her “stubbornness and determination to learn more and do better” motivated her to complete her degree at Lake Land and go on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a specialized medical field. “All from starting in a community college,” she added.
Sterchi first discovered the world of histotechnology through her mentor Dr. Ruskin, who she first met while acquiring laboratory supplies to collect samples from her home care patients. Ruskin, then the head pathologist at Sarah Bush Lincoln, offered her a part-time job mixing reagents, allowing her to utilize her chemistry degree. Seeing Sterchi’s dedication and love for tissues motivated him to send her to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to be trained in histotechnology. From there, both Sterchi and Ruskin went to work for the University of Illinois Veterinary School. Sterchi moved on to more exclusive jobs at top-end bio-medical companies, such as Eli Lilly & Co., crediting her success to having Ruskin as her mentor throughout her journey until his passing.
Along with receiving numerous employment opportunities, Sterchi has gone on to share her expertise through countless presentations, paper and even training other histotechnologists around the world. She has also served on numerous boards and committees as an executive officer, competitive judge and curriculum consultant.
“Diane has presented as an expert in the field of histotechnology all over the world including China. She is often called upon to help others in the profession with difficult cases and in training and grading others. Her current passion in developing curriculum ensures that she will leave a legacy in her profession. With each honor, position and opportunity, Diane promotes her Lake Land College education,” Joines said.
Originally from Reading, Pa., Sterchi and her husband now live in New Palestine, Ind. They have been married for 46 years and have a daughter.