Empowering leader

Pamela Kalafut

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of articles recognizing alumni receiving distinguished service awards in September 2019.

Retired teacher encouraged students to be the change they wanted to see

Look at Pam (Brickey) Kalafut’s many accomplishments at Hinsdale (Illinois) Central High School and you wonder how she did it all. While the retired Student Activities Director headed up a litany of activities over three decades, she quickly points out that students did the activities. She simply empowered them.

Kalafut is proud that she went to college despite being told it would be a waste. Kalafut did what she loved — and it showed.

Kalafut initiated “Character Counts” in the early 2000s after the long-time art teacher became director of activities. The program helps students grow socially and emotionally into happy, responsible, productive members of society. She empowered students stepping forward as leaders who promoted trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Those values quickly came to life and remain prevalent at Central today.

“It was Pam who revolutionized the school and woke up the student body to recognize that they could be the change they wish to see in the world as Gandhi challenged,” says Pam Bylsma, assistant superintendent for academics at Hinsdale Township High School District. “Even in retirement, she continues to awe me with the passion and positive energy she brings to all she does.”

Under Kalafut’s leadership Central earned “National School of Character” honors. That resulted in her taking on a national role in character-based leadership.

Among her other impacts was a “Teachers in Need” program, allowing students to help staff facing medical situations. Kalafut also championed “Break Down the Walls,” an anti-bullying, anti-harassment program. And she provided many service-work opportunities for students to volunteer not only in school but worldwide.

After a Central student heard about education apartheid impacting South African black children, Kalafut helped the student organize a response that included trips to deliver money and supplies for science and math schools in Cape Town.

“She is a fierce, relentless change agent who worked tirelessly to be her personal best for those who look up to her for guidance,” explains Bylsma. “She has mentored and inspired thousands of students who love her dearly and stay connected with her long after they graduate.”

The Pamela (Brickey) Kalafut file

• Prestigious high school teacher, mentor and student activities director at Hinsdale, Illinois, Central High School for 34 years. In retirement is a substitute teacher with the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

• Some of the many successful programs at Central High School she oversaw: Character Counts; Teachers in Need; Freshman Class Activity Fair; Break Down the Walls; J. Kyle Braid Leadership Program; National Honor Society; School-wide Assemblies; Inspire and Aspire Awards Breakfast.

• Honors include: Illinois Activities Director of the Year, 2013; Hinsdale Central High School Hall of Fame, 2013; Community Educator Award, 1997.

• Bachelor’s majoring in art education, minoring in physical education, 1977. Holds a master’s from Northern Illinois University and an administrative certificate from National Louis University.

Six to receive distinguished alumni awards

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

The alumni will return to campus in fall to speak with students and participate in a panel at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, in the Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. An Alumni Awards Brunch and Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, in The Bluffs Room, UWL Student Union. Tickets are $25 per person and can be ordered through the Alumni Association at 608.785.8489.

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.

Sharon Weston Broome, ’78

• Respected politician. Former Louisiana State Senator and State Representative; first woman to hold pro tempore positions in both. Currently, Mayor-President of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish.

• Bachelor’s in mass communications.

Lynda Kohler, ’83

• Admired advocate for children experiencing life’s educational challenges in southeastern Wisconsin. Currently, president and CEO of SHARP Literacy Inc. in Milwaukee.

• Bachelor’s in recreation leadership.

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.

Sulaimon “Wale” Elegbede, ’05

• Esteemed business and servant leader. Founding board member of La Crosse Interfaith Shoulder to shoulder Network to curb growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Currently, Director of Strategy Management Services in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology?at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

• Bachelor’s of information systems.

Corey Sjoquist, ’96 & ’03

• Influential college admissions counselor in the state of Wisconsin. Currently, director of the UWL Admissions Office, where he has worked since 1996.

• Bachelor’s in mass communications; master’s in college student development and administration.

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.

Angela Kellogg, ’92

• Renowned student services administrator; advocate for diversity and inclusion. Currently, senior academic planner for the Office of Student Success at UW System Administration.

• Master’s in college student personnel.

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.

Pamela Kalafut, ’77

• Prestigious high school teacher, mentor and student activities director at Hinsdale, Illinois, Central High School for 34 years. Currently, retired and serves as a substitute teacher with the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

• Bachelor’s in art education.