Foundation Honors Distinguished Alumni

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Members of the Hillsboro Education Foundation presented its Distinguished Alumni award to Amy (Cobetto) Stewart, Dr. Jerry Parola and Nancy (Bliss) Slepicka during an Old Settlers reception Thursday afternoon, Aug. 8, at Mulligan's Lakeside Restaurant at the Hillsboro Country Club.

The awards were presented by Hillsboro Education Foundation President Gene White, who introduced the foundation board members present and shared how the organization operates by awarding scholarships through private donations. He also reminded attendees about the newly implemented "wish list" to benefit teachers in the Hillsboro School District.

Introducing Amy (Cobetto) Stewart was Kevin Leitheiser of Hillsboro, by summarizing the accomplishments she has made in her lifetime, including her recycling efforts in Montgomery County. Leitheiser described the award winner as "charming and nice," during any given situation, which he said was a true gift Stewart has.

A graduate of Hillsboro high School class of 1973, Stewart has dedicated her career to the environment and public health. Beginning as a sanitarian and health educator for the Montgomery County Health Department, she has served in local, state and national levels and has aided in preparing the country to respond to a public health threat.

Locally, she organized a volunteer effort to recycle newspapers in celebration of Earth Day, which grew to a county-wide recycling program.

Stewart said she credits the great education she earned from the Hillsboro School District, ultimately sparking her love for the environment, as well as her teachers and the community for their support.

"It all started right here in this community," Stewart said. 

Award winner Nancy (Bliss) Slepicka was introduced by Don Karban of Hillsboro, who shared his pleasure in the travelling column she and her late husband, Richard, published in their family-owned business, Montgomery County News.

As he recalled her volunteer work, he said, "We are blessed with her presence."

Slepicka graduated from Hillsboro High School with the class of 1965 and earned a degree from Northwestern University before joining her family business. An award-winning journalist, she committed her life to her local community through not only her career, but through active memberships in numerous organizations.

Following the award presentation, she said it was "a fun honor" and acknowledged her late husband for the partnership they shared and the shared passion he had for the business, as well as John and Susie Galer for their willingness to work with them in combining the two Hillsboro publications.

Introducing Dr. Jerry Parola was his cousin, Greg Springer, who recognized the foundation and the accomplishments Parola has made during his lifetime.

Dr. Parola graduated from Hillsboro High School in 1957, and went on to earn a degree in civil engineering, masters in civil and structural engineereing and Ph.D. in civil and geotechnical engineering. 

The Hillsboro native spearheaded many high-profile Chicago projects over the years, including the Chicago S-curve on Lake Shore Drive, working with Donald Trump on Trump International Hotel and Tower, and designing a plan to fix a breach that caused "the great Chicago flood of 1992," which earned him the Outstanding Service Award from the Association of Drill Shaft Contractors and an induction as a Chicago Geo-Legend by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Dr. Parola acknowledged Denny Springer, who nominated him, as well as Hillsboro Education Foundation and it's president, Gene White, fellow distinguished alumni and Mike Plunkett, for writing a nice biography of him.

He also thanked his parents, teachers and coaches for instilling  in him the value of hard work.

"Its a great honor to be a Hiltop alumni," Dr. Parola said. Sharing advice for current Hiltoppers he said, "Get all the education you can and be better than good."

For more information on establishing a scholarship or planned gift, please contact the Hillsboro Education Foundation at 217-532-5921.

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