Judy Stahl Forney’s college journey to a successful career

“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.” — John Wooden

MOUNT VERNON — Thousands of graduates this month will hear rookie speakers describe the road to success, a road that will bring challenges and setbacks but offer potential reward.

Judy Stahl Forney traveled this road, overcoming the obstacles of a journey that began 25 years after high school. Its story inspires this season of caps and dresses.

Ultimately, she would succeed on her own determination. But something she overheard her father say to a neighbor when she was a young girl helped her enroll in college three decades later while juggling the roles of a full-time working single mother. weather.

Forney, now treasurer of the Knox Educational Service Center in Mount Vernon, is a familiar face in Knox and Richland counties where she is known simply as “Judy.”

She served for a long time as Treasurer of Lexington Local Schools (2003-2011) and Mount Vernon City Schools (2012-2019). She was elected to the Lexington School Board in 1996 and re-elected in 2000 before being appointed as a School Board Member for the City of Mansfield Schools.

A long and demanding career path

While many know Judy, most are unaware of the long and demanding journey that led to her career goals.

Perhaps that was a hint of what was to come when she was elected treasurer of her junior and senior classes at Malabar High School on the south side of Mansfield. But college wasn’t in the cards when Judy Stahl graduated in 1967.

“We couldn’t afford it. Dad worked at Westinghouse and mom was a housewife,” she recalls. “College just wasn’t an option.”

Over the next nine years, Judy would marry, have two children and work at Farmers Saving & Trust. In 1980, she began a 16-year tenure as print production manager for the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center in Mansfield.

The late 80s were going to be a tough time.

“Mom died in 1986. Dad died in 1987, one year to the day that we buried mom,” she said.

In 1989, her marriage broke up. Finances became tight.

For a few years, she supplemented her ESC Mid-Ohio income as a freelancer for the Mansfield News Journal, covering school board meetings in Lexington, Lucas, and Clear Fork.

Made his news the hard way

“I got $30 for each story,” Judy recalls. “There was no e-mail at the time. After each meeting, I had to go home, type up the story, then go to the News Journal and put it in the outside drop box. Sometimes it was midnight before I finished, and then I had to be at work by 8 the next morning.

One day at ESC Mid-Ohio, Judy mentioned to a colleague that she wanted to go to college.

“I would start college now, but I think I’m too old. I’ll be 40 next year,” Judy said.

His colleague’s response: “How old will you be next year if you don’t start university?”

That remark stuck with Judy. It took a while to put it all together, but she enrolled at North Central State College in 1992.

“I started college at 42, with a full-time job and two kids at home,” she said. “I was definitely a late bloomer.”

For three years, she took classes at NCSC after work, traveling to and from the campus on the northwest side of Mansfield from her home near Snow Trails on the southeast side.

Master’s degree from AU in 2003

In 1995, she earned an associate’s degree in accounting and finance. A bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from Ashland University followed in 1998 and a master’s degree in education and school finance from Ashland in 2003.

During her college years, Judy helped support her children with a variety of odd jobs, including part-time work at the Richland County Law Library and proofreading names in school yearbooks. elementary. (“I got $5 a page to take them home and cross-reference the names under the kids’ photos with a master list of names.”)

She also sold tickets to Lexington High School football and basketball games.

“I was paid $17 a night. When there were back-to-back home basketball games from Friday to Saturday, that meant $34, so I told my daughter we could have a pizza for her and her friend,” she said with a smile. .

In total, Judy has been a school treasurer for 20 years, including nearly three years at Bucyrus (1999-2002) and over a year at Lucas (2002-2003).

She began working as Treasurer of Knox ESC in March 2021, where she manages an annual budget of $5 million. ESC has full-time staff at its learning center in Mount Vernon and its preschool at the New Hope Early Education Center. He also hires classroom assistants for his client districts – Centerburg, Clear Fork, East Knox, Fredericktown, Danville and Mount Vernon.

“My assistant and I manage all aspects of financial operations, including semi-monthly payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, accounts receivable and managing federal grants,” Judy said. “We work collaboratively with our client district treasurers.”

Clearly remembers his father’s words

Happily remarried for eight years, Judy watched her two grown children succeed in their own careers. She has four grandchildren, three in Mansfield and one in Dayton.

A lot of hard work and personal courage led to her professional success, but along the way, Judy remembered what she had heard her father say many years ago.

“I was 12 or 13 and in my room in our Third Street house in Mansfield when I overheard my father talking to a neighbor outside. He said, “The thing is, with Judy, she can do whatever she wants.”

“I never forgot that,” she said, a tear forming in the corner of one eye. “I couldn’t let him down.”

Larry Gibbs is the public information officer for the Knox Educational Service Center in Mount Vernon.

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