Roland Pettit was born in 1932 in a farmhouse near Wyoming, Illinois. After graduating from Wyoming Community High School in 1950, he attended the University of Illinois, with a stint in the United States Army, and obtained a Bachelor of Science in agriculture in 1956. He returned and completed his Master of Science in agriculture education in 1971, and later obtained his Doctor of Education from Nova Southeastern University.
He credits growing up on a farm and his involvement in agriculture organizations for leading him toward a career in agriculture education, which began in Granville and then Galena.
Roland helped to launch a new ag program at Galena, and, after a few years, went into the feed and fertilizer business. Roland was the President of Western Fertilizer in southern Wisconsin, but the classroom eventually called him back.
Despite opportunities at John Deere, he chose to come to Canton Community College in 1969. He helped to launch another fledgling agriculture education program, and again, it quickly felt like home. He made lifelong friendships and helped shape hundreds of lives before retiring in 1988.
Unfortunately, with professional success came personal tragedy. Roland and wife Bernice divorced in 1983, and he lost both sons — Dan in 1999 at age 30 and Tom in 2019 at 53. His longtime companion, Sally Pletz, passed away unexpectedly early in 2020. In a life full of experiences, he counts those as his most excruciating. But there were plenty of good experiences along the way, as well.
After retiring, Roland got a job with the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of International Marketing, helping to find markets for exporting Illinois’ farm products and natural resources. He traveled frequently and specifically mentions Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, France, and Italy as memorable experiences.
Today, Roland remains in Canton, with plenty to keep him busy. He recently sold his rental properties but remains involved with SRC and in the community, including Wesley United Methodist Church, and he enjoys working around his home.