The Jacksonville Rotary Club recently honored eight members of the Jacksonville community for their volunteerism by naming them Paul Harris Fellows.
The Paul Harris Fellowship, named for the founder of Rotary, is an honor established by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International in 1957 to honor individuals who, though not necessarily members of Rotary, carry out activities that exemplify the humanitarian and educational objectives of the Rotary Foundation. Members of Rotary earn the ability to designate either themselves or others a Paul Harris Fellow upon making a contribution of $1,000.00 to the Rotary Foundation.
The Jacksonville Rotary Club has been in existence for nearly 100 years, has named 248 Paul Harris Fellows, and has contributed more than $342,000 to the Rotary Foundation. The Club’s most recent group of Paul Harris Fellows is comprised of eight people:
Antonia Alfano, a native of Sicily, came to the United States at age 13 and went to work at Leo’s Pizza in Jacksonville. Alfano is now co-owner of Leo’s Pizza and has served the community of Jacksonville not only at Leo’s, but countless times behind the scenes for anyone who is in need. Alfano volunteers at Passavant Area Hospital, New Directions Shelter, and Salvation Army. She has supported youth in the city in multiple ways, including as a member of Kiwanis. She exemplifies the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.” Alfano and has been married to her husband Sam for 37 years, and they are the parents of three children, Pete, Filie and Leo.
Kori Daniels, director of the Western Illinois Youth Camp, is an active volunteer whose personal mission is the positive development and well-being of underserved populations throughout our community. She volunteers regularly at the Jefferson Jet’s Tutoring Program, New Directions Shelter, Salvation Army, Share the Love, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Senior Center, and Grace United Methodist Church’s Kids Choir. Daniels is vice president of the Jacksonville Parks Foundation where she is involved in initiatives such as the Protect the Melon campaign to give every fourth grader a bicycle helmet, the Town Brook clean-up, and the proposed access at Lake Jacksonville to expand and encourage healthy activities for local residents and visitors to the area. Daniels encourages children every time she sees them, engaging them about school, activities, nature and giving back. She is a graduate of Bowling Green State University College of Education in Outdoor Recreation Management. She and is married to Jerry Daniels.
Ralph Gonzalez has had a long history of community involvement. He and his family moved to Jacksonville in 1971, where Gonzalez served as president of Central National Life Insurance and John Deere Life Insurance. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Farmers State Bank & Trust Company, and a member of Our Savior Catholic Church, the Elks Club, Kiwanis Club, and Moose Club. He has been chairman of the Jacksonville Chamber Board and the CACHE Campaign, chairman of the Jacksonville Fire and Police Commission, president and director of the Jacksonville Country Club, as well as chairman and member of the State of Illinois Racing Advisory Panel. He is active in the Republican Party, serving as advisor to many candidates over several decades. Gonzalez was recognized as the Jacksonville Man of the Year in 1982 and the Jaycees Man of the Year in 1981. He has a quiet way of making good things happen for Jacksonville, including his key role in the location of the Correctional Center that created many good-paying jobs. Gonzalez graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. He has been married to Evelyn for 61 years and they have four children.
Rotarian Doug Rahn joined the Jacksonville Rotary Club in 2014, and had previously been a member of Paw Paw Lake Rotary Club and Coldwater Rotary Club in Michigan. Rahn has been with Memorial Health Systems since 2006, serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Systems before moving to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of Passavant Area Hospital in 2014. Under Rahn’s leadership, Passavant Area Hospital has continued to make progressive changes for healthcare for the region, including a new Behavior Health Unit, a Transitional Care Unit with private rooms, and remodeled cafeteria and main lobby. He holds the Doctorate of Business Administration degree from Nova Southwestern University, an MBA from Illinois State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Rahn and his wife Mickie reside in rural Morgan County.
Jess Spradlin, the owner of Spradlin Home Sales for more than 30 years, is well known for volunteering as an auctioneer for charity. Spradlin was 17 when he first donated his auctioneering skills at Jacksonville’s annual AMBUCS Auction. He has since conducted auctions for countless worthy causes including public television, the Governor Duncan Association, Western Illinois Youth Camp, Women’s Crisis Center, Jacksonville Promise, and many, many more, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. Spradlin is a member of AMBUCS and the Chamber of Commerce Contact Club. In his spare time he enjoys riding his bicycle with friends and has participated in RAGBRAI (bicycle across Iowa) for 12 years. Spradlin is married to Daphne and they have three children and three grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way.
Dr. Mark J. Tierno, 16th President of MacMurray College, has served as an educator and administrator for more than 40 years. Before moving to Jacksonville, Tierno was the president of Cazenovia College in New York for 15 years. During his long career, he has also worked at University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, Kendall College in Evanston, Ill., Elmira College in Elmira, NY, Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill., and University of Pittsburgh. Tierno also served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and as a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, England. Since taking the helm at MacMurray in 2015, Tierno has reorganized the administrative structure, created a full-year first-year student program, and supervised a range of initial physical improvements to campus facilities. These and other changes are geared towards enhancing student success. Tierno earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in history at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Rotarian Steven Varble is a Jacksonville native who personifies the international spirit of Rotary. Varble spent his junior year of high school in Sweden, and returned there as a member of a Rotary District 6460 Group Study Exchange trip in 2000. He has served on short-term mission projects in Belarus and travels regularly for his design business in Asia and Europe. Varble has received numerous service awards including (at age 14) the Congressional Award of the U.S. Congress for Young Americans, the Spirit of Freedom Award for organizing the Wall Dogs Mural Event in downtown Jacksonville, the Friend of the Library Award, the Illinois College Fine Arts Award, and the Andy Applebee Award from Kiwanis. Varble is a member of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, Jacksonville Council of Churches, and the Morgan County Historical Society, where the Society is working to convert the Old Post Office into the Morgan County Museum. Varble attended the University of Illinois for three years and holds the Bachelor of Arts degree from Northern Illinois University. He also holds the “Ducktorate” for the college internship he conducted at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Sara Jo Littleton-Watret, although not a Rotarian, has grown up in a multi-generational family of Rotary service. Littleton-Watret’s grandfather Marvin Littleton and her mother Cathy Jo Littleton-Wahl are Rotarians. She and her parents Stanley and Cathy Jo have served as a host family for 10 Rotary International Youth Exchange students over two decades. She has been an educator in the area for 10 years and currently teaches Special Education at Jonathan Turner junior high school. Littleton-Watret’s service to the community includes being a big sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, serving on the Allocations panel for Prairieland United Way, and volunteering at the Rotary 4th of July Parade and Oktoberfest. She has also taken a leadership role at Community Christian Church in all aspects of youth ministry. Littleton-Watret is a graduate of Illinois College and holds the Master’s degree in Special Education from Eastern Illinois University.
Each Fellowship recipient was presented with a certificate, pin, and medallion, with one of the Rotary members responsible for awarding the Fellowship explaining why the individual was selected.