Brueck, Gaylord named 2021 Distinguished Alumni

The SCC Alumni Association honored two Distinguished Alumni during SCC’s 2021 commencement ceremonies. Paul Gaylord (Keokuk, ’58) and Judy Brueck (West Burlington, ’70) were chosen from an impressive selection of nominations.
After earning an associate degree from Keokuk Community College, Gaylord continued his education at Western Illinois University. He went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling and school administration from Illinois State University.

Gaylord worked in the Keokuk Community School District for 28 years, serving as counselor, assistant principal, and eventually principal of Keokuk Middle School for 16 years. One of the many highlights of Gaylord’s career was in 1988 when he received an award as one of the top 150 schools in the U.S for Excellence in Education on behalf of Keokuk Middle School from President Ronald Reagan at a ceremony at the White House.

Gaylord’s granddaughter Meghan Leenerts and Brueck delivered keynote speeches at each campus’s respective commencement ceremony.

Leenerts challenged the graduates to consider what a blessing looked like in their lives, adding that her grandfather was a blessing.

“He was a blessing to me because he taught me the value of servant leadership,” she shared. “He dedicated his life to educating individuals and advocating for Keokuk.”

Gaylord served his community diligently for the benefit of children, he encouraged everyone he knew to take pride in the city, and served as a positive role model for students and parents alike.

Leenerts said that Gaylord was an ordinary person who produced extraordinary results.

“He touched many hearts and impacted a plethora of lives with the support of people around him—his blessings, as he called them.”

Gaylord passed away on February 23, 2019.

Brueck earned her licensed practical nurse diploma from SCC’s West Burlington campus.

She worked at Burlington Medical Center’s (BMC) Intensive Care Unit before returning to SCC to complete her associate degree in nursing in 1979. The next year, Brueck was among the first nurses selected to staff BMC’s new oncology unit. She went on to help start its home health/home hospice service, spending the next 20 years providing end-of-life care and family support.

Brueck eventually joined the BMC Case Management Department where she managed patient and medical services data records. Her work contributed to the department’s data validation rate of 98%, as measured by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, earning BMC a Get with the Guidelines quality improvement award in 2018.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Western Illinois University in 2005.
In 2020, Brueck retired from Great River Health Systems as the only employee in the hospital’s history with 50 years of continuous service.

In addition to her professional career, Brueck was active in a number of community organizations over the years, including the Boy Scouts, the Danville School Board, Des Moines County Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission, and the Burlington Fine Arts League.

Her keynote speech focused on the journey ahead for the graduates.

“I want you to take your diploma and think of it as a key that will open many doors for you,” she said. “The path to the doors ahead may seem long and daunting. Take a deep breath, grab your self-confidence, and start your journey.”

She told the graduates that the doors will lead to both exciting and challenging experiences, and sent them off with a celebratory message.

“Today is your day. It’s all about you,” she concluded. “You’re off to great places to do great things. Go and be the best you that you can be.”

Watch Leenert and Brueck’s full keynote speeches at

Distinguished alumni are selected by the SCC Alumni Association board from nominations.

Visit to submit your nomination online.

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