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We Are Knox...

James Hallock '69

President, Earth Block Inc.

2010 Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Major: History

With more than 39 years of experience in the construction industry,
James L. Hallock, a Galesburg native, has dedicated the last 15 years to
promoting earthen construction as a solution to environmental and global
housing concerns. Beginning with the 1995 founding of Earth Block, Inc.,
in Colorado, he has served as general contractor on dozens of homes, many of which have been featured in national magazines. In recent years, Hallock has expanded his efforts on an international scale, consulting both on high-end developments and affordable housing projects around the world, including his service as consultant to the United States Department of Agriculture in the reconstruction of Honduras following Hurricane Mitch. As founder and president of a Mexican-based company, Tierra y Cal, Proyectos Sustentables, he continues to focus on bringing healthy, high-quality housing to those in need and is in the process of establishing an institute for training in methods of sustainable construction and living.

Knox Magazine:
Please describe your Knox experience.
James L. Hallock:
A short list of the words that come to mind: history classes, friends, frolic, fraternity, frauleins, football ... and ... foundation-shaking political upheaval. I was fortunate to be a history major at Knox from 1965 to 1969. ALL of my professors were outstanding, and I felt that I knew each one of them as a person. I know this is one of the advantages of attending a small school, but that group of men and women were special. They helped shape my understanding of life, my attitude towards the future and, most important, my sympathy for the tribulations and desperation of many of our fellow travelers on this planet. They were instrumental in helping me understand the issue of the day: the Vietnam War. I think of them often and have been fortunate to have remained in contact with Rod Davis, off and on, for all these 40 years. Westward Movements was my favorite history class. I hope it is still offered.

Friends, frolic, fraternity, frauleins: It was the 60's and I was 18 to 22 years old. That's my excuse. I would change the ratios somewhat between these 4-F's (a draft status sought by many) and attention to history classes if I had another chance at it. I still maintain contact with several of my best friends from that era, so the fraternity wasn't all bad. Football: 1-22-1 ... that was the Siwash record during my three years of varsity ball. You can't help but learn something about the world and yourself from that experience. I probably hold the dubious honor as the fellow who suited up for more Knox losses than anyone in the long history of the team. The simple lesson from this battering might be the old adage: "You can't win ‘em all." The caveat is that you might lose them all. The choice is to persevere or quit. Choosing an alternative path might have been prudent. I wish I had learned to speak Spanish and that my rotator cuff were still intact.

Politics and war: The 60's were a time of change. The conscious environment at Knox was instrumental in comprehending the nightmare that was Vietnam. In 1964, as a junior in high school, I served as the school campaign manager for Barry Goldwater. In 1968, as a senior at Knox, I served an unfortunately short stint as campus campaign manager for Robert Kennedy. Clearly, some changes had occurred, and the lessons learned have not been forgotten. It was the best and worst of times to be 21.

What do you believe is your most notable achievement?

JH: I hope that my most notable achievement has not yet occurred. I would measure my impact, this time around, by my goal to assist as many disadvantaged people as possible in obtaining a dignified earthen home. There is no final count on that, until the buzzer sounds. Maintaining persistence and optimism in the face of long odds, while being confronted by the desperation of so many, requires constant renewal. Meeting this frequently difficult challenge is an achievement for anyone.

What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
JH: I will return to Haiti and try to be worthy of the award. The previous (and future) recipients of this honor comprise some pretty heady company. It is humbling. I'm an earth builder.

What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
JH: Never give unsolicited advice. Read Muhammad Yunus's books. He is one of the greatest men of our generation. Study, enjoy, and explore. The "straight and narrow" lacks interesting twists and turns. Take Spanish (or Chinese) unless you know you are going to be a diplomat to Germany. Following the procurement of employment (or not), career advancement (or not), marriage (or not), and children (or not), it's unlikely that you will have as much time as you now have simply to learn ... read books, hang out with excellent professors, discuss, write, think ... all that academic stuff. You can see by the "describe your Knox experience" section that I had an enjoyable time. Echoing some of the thoughts from the first question, I could have altered the ratios of time spent doing what 20-year-olds do with a bit more time at the library. And finally: 1-22-1 ... Don't be afraid to change course.

Listen to the presentation of Hallock's 2010 Alumni Achievement Award by Rodney Davis, Professor Emeritus of History.