From adolescence, Resident Council President Everett Vandevoort was swept up by the idea of pursuing — and imparting on others — an education.
Ironically, though, his dream began by sweeping floors.
The first in his family to attend his Iowa high school, the 15-year-old Vandevoort took an assistant janitor job there to support his family — and his dream. It was 1934.
“I was smart kid,” said Vandevoort, who cleaned the school for 25 cents an hour.
During his daily shifts, Vandevoort would sweep the superintendent’s office, and the two became fast friends. In fact, Vandevoort overheard the superintendent tell a visiting salesman that Vandevoort was the true janitor, and the older gentleman he was helping was just “following him around.”
By associating with the school official, Vandevoort realized that he, too, wanted to become a school superintendent.
Vandevoort, however, wasn’t known only for his custodial work or academic aspirations. He was also considered an exceptional pitcher.
In 1937, at age 17, he became the youngest player on the Shell Oil baseball team. By pitching for Shell and four other teams, Vandevoort said he was soon recognized as the best pitcher in southern Iowa.
A year later, Vandevoort graduated as his high school’s valedictorian. Though flooded with many college offers, Vandevoort opted to begin his higher education in central Iowa to be near his family — and keep his janitor position.
Vandevoort began studying economics in 1939, but with rumblings of WWII beginning in Europe, he began taking administration classes.
Those classes would pay off, as Vandevoort received a notice during a Christmas vacation that he must be ready to depart within 24 hours. Just two months shy of graduation, he was officially drafted one month later.
Nevertheless, joining the military did not mean Vandevoort was done with his schooling. After a short stint at an Air Force base in Clearwater Beach, Fla., Vandevoort was shipped to administration school in Denver.
Eight weeks later, Vandevoort was posted to a supply position. He was responsible for cataloging and sending equipment to soldiers in Europe and Japan.
Still, his non-combat job did not mean he escaped all the atrocities of war. While in Germany, Vandevoort observed many concentration camps.
“I saw many things that I hope my children never see,” Vandevoort said.
After the war, Vandevoort returned to what he really loved: education. Upon discharge from the Air Force on Dec. 7, 1945, he returned home to substitute teach at his high school the following Monday. Soon after, he finished his bachelor’s degree.
Vandevoort’s dream to become a superintendent of schools still hung with him. Some people, he said, thought Vandevoort should become the next superintendent for communities in central Iowa.
So, he did. After marrying ”the best girl in the world” in 1947, Vandevoort pursued his master’s degree at Drake University. After graduating in 1951, Vandevoort soon became the superintendent of a district in central Iowa.
“I got to build my own school district around Iowa City,” said Vandevoort, who held the position from 1953 to 1960.
Still, Vandevoort wanted more. In 1963, he moved to Illinois to pursue his doctorate at Illinois State University.
In 1977, he continued his stay in higher education, but not for himself. He was named the coordinator of community college relations at Northern Illinois University — a post he held for a decade.
Today, at 92, Vandevoort is using the skills he learned as superintendent to be Lakewood Center’s Resident Council President.
“Being a superintendent of schools is an organization, and this is an organization in itself,” said Vandevoort, who has served for three years. “It requires the same elements.”
For the record, sweeping floors is not one of them.