A tireless advocate

Jennifer Miller earned the Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award for her lifelong dedication to helping disadvantaged and underserved communities.

Jennifer Miller champions those facing financial challenges

In the half-century since Jennifer Miller graduated in 1970, she has done the challenging job of working with people exposed to extreme poverty, mistreatment and abuse. And Miller says it has all been worth it.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to have been involved with so many communities throughout the U.S.,” explains Miller. And since retiring in 2000, she’s extended that help internationally.

Miller started working in Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey’s office after college, before heading to New York City’s mayoral office. Following those two year-long stints, she returned to Wisconsin to operate the Cooksville General Store.

Then Miller’s career took a turn that would steer her for the rest of her life. From 1976-85 she worked in Wisconsin’s Rock County, focusing on neighborhood reinvestment and housing projects in special needs areas.

Next, Miller headed to Chicago, setting up programs to rehabilitate neighborhoods. Eventually she worked with city and statewide leaders helping to deliver low-income loans, heading to Wall Street with the first bundle of low-income loans to be sold on the open bond market.

From 1994-98 Miller was the first woman chairing the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. The institution provides liquidity to banks and a secondary market for mortgages in addition to encouraging community reinvestment for Illinois and Wisconsin.

After retiring in 2000, Miller started volunteering with Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs, a large non-profit serving homeless and low-income residents in Chicago. When the organization expanded internationally, she traveled to many poverty-stricken areas to work with former child soldiers, abused women and others struggling for basic human rights.

Her impact hasn’t gone unnoticed. “I would characterize Jennifer as a progressive, but more importantly as a person with a strong desire to see a society, both here in Chicago and nationally, that is culturally and racially diverse and that achieves that diversity with a sense of justice and compassion,” says Thomas Thorne-Thomsen, an attorney specializing in affordable housing and economic development.

The Rev. Sid L. Mohn or IMPACTO Consulting says Miller has been a tireless advocate — and has made a difference for many in need.

“She has had a four-decade long involvement in building communities in Illinois and Wisconsin that are racially and economically integrated,” Mohn notes. “She has advanced civil and human rights for marginalized individuals be they persons with disabilities, new immigrants, women, LGBTQ or persons of color.”

Jennifer Miller, ’70

  • Renowned career working with low-income, poverty stricken or abused persons; worked to revitalize neighborhoods in Rock County, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
  • Retired but remains active volunteering for the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.
  • Bachelor’s in history and English.

Six to receive distinguished alumni awards

Alumni from five decades have earned top awards bestowed by the UWL Alumni Association. They’re being honored for distinguished service and successful careers.

The alumni were planning to return to campus in September but due to COVID-19 the event has been postponed to March 5 and 6, 2021. The recipients will participate in a panel at 2 p.m. Friday, March 5, in the Stzrelczyk Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. The Alumni Awards Brunch Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 6, in The Bluffs Room, Student Union. Tickets are $25 and will be available for purchase online Jan. 1, 2021.

The awards and honorees include:

The Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding achievement of alumni who have brought honor and distinction to the university. Long-time administrator Maurice O. Graff instituted the honor in 1977.

Michael McGinley, ’82

  • Revered for a dedicated career in animal health, improving the lives of animals by preventing disease and championing more effective vaccines and drugs.
  • President of Biologicals & Pharmaceuticals, Heska Corp.
  • Bachelor’s in microbiology. Master’s and doctorate from Iowa State University. Advanced management program at Harvard University.

James Burkhart, ’68

  • Internationally recognized scholar in radon science and leader in developing high-quality radon measurement equipment to reduce radon-induced lung cancer.
  • Professor emeritus in the Physics Department at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
  • Bachelor’s in physics and math. Master’s and doctorate from UW-Milwaukee.

Rada Distinguished Alumni Award

Recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 20 years, achieved professional distinction and taken part in humanitarian activities. Professor emeritus Ron Rada and his wife, Jane, created the award in 2002.

Kara Pennoyer, ’06

  • Respected leader in state government, including advisor to the Wisconsin governor and his chief of staff on planning, policy development and problem resolutions, along with overseeing numerous internal teams.
  • Deputy Chief of Staff for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
  • Bachelor’s in political science and communication studies. Master’s from University of Illinois Chicago.

Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding alumni who have contributed significantly to the improvement of multicultural understanding on the campus and in their careers. History Professor Emeritus James Parker initiated the award in 1997.

Jennifer Miller, ’70

(See above)

Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award

Honors and recognizes outstanding educators and the significant contributions they make to children and communities. Professor Emeritus Burt Altman and his wife, Norma, long-time supporters of teacher education, created the award in 2015.

Penny Kroening, ’85

  • National award-winning leader in empowering kids to live physically active lifestyles by promoting physical literacy using creativity, design and integrated arts into lessons; 2016 SHAPE America Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year.
  • Executive director of the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association.
  • Earned a Bachelor’s in physical education with a concentration in adaptive physical education. Master’s from Carroll University.

Steven Olson, ’85

  • Respected educator with a reputation for putting students first, while leading with integrity; recently facilitated a five-year district strategic plan resulting in a mission statement of “Enter With Promise. Leave With Purpose.”
  • Superintendent of Community High School Dist. 155 in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
  • Bachelor’s in broadfield social studies. Master’s from Northern Illinois University. Superintendent Endorsement from Aurora University.