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Alumni Spotlight

Steve Clarkson

Steve Clarkson
(Ret.) Deputy Fire Chief of Operations, Champaign Fire Department; President, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association
Degree: AAS
Major: Fire Service Technology
Class Year: 2003

With 35 years as a firefighter under his belt, Steve Clarkson considers his Parkland College fire science training a springboard to advancement in this career field.

“Completing my AAS at Parkland gave me confidence that I had the knowledge, skills, and abilities to pursue my career goal of fire chief,” he says. “I received instruction from quality faculty at the lowest cost anywhere. It is the greatest education value available!” Clarkson used his Parkland credentials to earn a BS in Fire Service Management from Southern Illinois University and move up the ranks of the Champaign Fire Department.

He served most recently as deputy fire chief—operations and emergency management, a job he held for 10 years. In this role, Clarkson led and managed personnel from the fire suppression, technical rescue, hazardous materials response, safety, and response policy divisions. He also coordinated the city’s Emergency Preparedness plan and served as budget/purchasing officer for the department. He earned recognition from the City of Champaign both for his professional competency and for his teamwork.

“I was and am extremely proud of the Champaign Fire Department and the quality services delivered day after day,” he says. “My job as deputy chief afforded me the opportunity to work with great men and women while being responsible for delivering fire and emergency medical services to the citizens of Champaign. The most rewarding part was encouraging and helping others develop into leaders in the department.”

Although he retired from CFD in March 2014, Steve remains active in the fire service. He is president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, a group dedicated to promoting fire service excellence through information sharing, networking, and training. He is also co-chair of the Illinois Incident Management Team.

Steve advises anyone interested in Parkland’s Fire Service Technology program to take full advantage, not only of its excellent curriculum, but also of other courses the college offers.

“I am a believer that you get out of your education exactly what you put into it,” he says. “The instructors in the Fire Science program are experienced fire officers who use that experience and knowledge help students learn. However, Ed Kelly, my speech instructor at the time, was also excellent at coaching and developing my public speaking ability, which is a very necessary skill in becoming a leader in the fire service.

“I very much enjoyed the positive atmosphere created by Parkland’s students and staff. We were all there to help each other better ourselves as we learned together.”

Contact Information

Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Avenue
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217.351.2200
Toll Free: 800.346.8089


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