Evanston Township High School and its Alumni Association will honor four of its graduates with the Distinguished Alumni Award on Monday, Dec. 8.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award winners are:
Libby Komaiko, 1967
Libby Komaiko is an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer, who, as founder and executive director of Ensemble Español Spanish Center for Spanish Dance & Music, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Youth Company, and American Spanish Dance Festival, has been honored for spreading the culture of Spain with great artistry and authenticity. As a professor of dance at Northeastern Illinois University, where Ensemble Español has been in residence since 1975, she has created, developed, directs and teaches the first complete academic program for classical, folkloric and Flamenco dance and music. With her company she presents imaginative educational outreach to Hispanic youth and groups in Chicago and communities across the country. In 1983, King Juan Carlos I awarded her Spain’s highest honor, the Lazo de Dama de Orden de Isabel la Católica, for her contributions to Spanish culture, the first American artist in history to be so decorated.
Komaiko credits her ETHS experiences in musical theater, where she danced under tutelage of the Gus Giordano, sang, acted, and began to choreograph, as a catalyst for pursuing a Broadway career. At age 18, she was discovered by the legendary José Greco and learned and performed with his world-famous Spanish Dance Company—a life-changing experience. Since then, she has studied in Spain and the United States with famous teachers and with the company of Lola Montes. Her performing career has spanned opera, television, film, and guest appearances with the Boston Pops, Detroit Symphony, Evanston and Skokie Valley Symphonies, and repeated performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Her original company of seven now includes 40 dancers and musicians, and she has choreographed, staged and produced the majority of the company’s 120-plus works. Komaiko has commissioned and produced major international Flamenco ballets, dramas and other works with guest artists from Spain and the Americas, and has staged thousands of concerts throughout the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. Lately, her focus has expanded to writing and film documentation of Ensemble Español to further present the company to the world stage and continue its cultural and educational mission.
Komaiko has received numerous academic and civic honors, national awards, and choreography fellowships including those from the National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, and the Chicago Office on Fine Arts. In 2003, she received the Ruth Page Award, the International Latino Cultural Center Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, and is listed in a variety of “Who’s Who” publications. In 2007, she joined the Curriculum and Instruction Committee for World and Percussive Dance and Music for the new Chicago Fine and Performing Arts High School, which will open in September 2009.
Denise Guillebeaux Martin, 1969
Denise Martin is an award-winning educator and community volunteer, whose entire professional career was devoted to Evanston Township High School. Following her high school graduation in 1969, and from Northwestern University in 1973, Denise returned to ETHS that fall and over the next 33 years served the school district as a history teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, associate principal, and finally, as Assistant Superintendent/Principal in charge of the day-to-day operations of the high school.
In her many administrative capacities, Martin never lost sight of the students and their journey toward graduation. She originated many programs to bolster, support and celebrate student academic success such as the Sophomore Honor Society, honor-roll bumper stickers for proud parents, Freshman and Sophomore Most-Improved Awards, and the Freshman of the Month program. While her concern was for the success of all students, she especially advocated for students of color, and organized the Black Summit program, an annual half-day workshop for African-American staff and teachers committed to working toward achievable goals for minority student achievement.
A firm believer in the benefits of volunteering, to the giver as well as the receiver, Martin fostered many school-based community-service projects. Students and staff participated in projects such as drives to send goodie boxes to soldiers in Iraq, a garage sale to benefit tsunami victims, annual Thanksgiving and holiday baskets for needy families, annual soup kitchens served by ETHS administrators, and the ETHS Closet which provides used and affordable clothing to students in need. In her retirement, she continues to give back by delivering meals to the homebound and taking cancer patients to and from their medical treatments.
Martin demonstrates her strong commitment to the Evanston community in a variety of ways. Some activities benefit children such as serving with a Leadership Evanston youth-development program and as a founding mentor of the YMCA’s Project Soar that supports at-risk youth. Other involvement benefits the community: a sampling includes serving on the boards of the Evanston Historical Society, Evanston United Way, and currently, as president of the Rotary Club of Evanston.
Her youth advocacy and community involvement have been recognized repeatedly over the years. She has been honored locally by the Evanston YWCA, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Top Ladies of Distinction, the Evanston NAACP, two churches, and the city recreation department, among others, as well as by the Illinois State Board of Education. She is also listed in Who’s Who in America and the International Who’s Who of Professionals.
Michael Werner, 1959
Michael Werner is the Project Scientist and Science Working Group Chairman for the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chief Scientist for Astronomy and Physics at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. He has been an active researcher in infrared astronomy for over 35 years, studying star formation, dust in the interstellar medium, and the central regions of our Galaxy, particularly material around stars that may signal the formation of planets.
Werner has served as Spitzer Project Scientist since 1984 and was one of the leaders of the evolution of Spitzer from a shuttle-attached payload into the elegant free-flying observatory now operating successfully in an Earth-trailing solar orbit. Launched in 2003 as a companion observatory to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer has been incredibly productive scientifically working in the infrared portion of the spectrum in contrast to Hubble’s optical and ultraviolet capabilities.
Werner began his career with NASA as an astrophysicist in 1979 at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Prior to that he was an Assistant Professor of Physics at California Institute of Technology.
Over the past five decades, Werner has authored over 270 scientific articles for a variety of publications, journals, and books. In 2006, the Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of the success of Spitzer named him the George Darwin lecturer. A recipient of two NASA Outstanding Leadership medals (2004, 2005), Werner has also recently delivered named lectures for the Caltech Astronomy Department (2004), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2007), and Catholic University of America (2008).
Werner earned his bachelor’s degree in physics at Haverford College in 1963, and his doctorate in astronomy at Cornell University in 1968.
Lester Crown, 1943
Lester Crown is a public-spirited Chicago business leader and philanthropist.
In the business realm, Crown is Chairman of Henry Crown and Company, a family-owned and operated company that includes diversified manufacturing operations and real estate. He serves on the Board of Directors of General Dynamics Corporation and is Chairman of its subsidiary, Material Service Corporation. He is also director of the YankeeNets Partnership and an indirect owner of the Chicago Professional Sports Limited Partnership (the Chicago Bulls Basketball team).
Crown devotes considerable time to civic activities. He serves as a director of the Children’s Memorial Medical Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Foundation. He is Chairman of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (formerly …Foreign Relations) and Vice Chairman of the Aspen Institute. Crown is a Life Trustee of Northwestern University and serves as a trustee of the Michael Reese Foundation, the Jewish Theological Society, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Crown is also known for his philanthropic interests. He serves as vice president of his family’s charitable foundation, the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, which supports a diverse array of interests including Jewish programs, health care, human services, civic affairs, education, cultural arts, and the environment.
In 1943, Crown went from ETHS to Northwestern University, graduating three years later with a degree in chemical engineering. After a year teaching mathematics at Northwestern, he went to the Harvard Business School and earned his MBA in 1949. After working as a research chemist in Cleveland, Ohio, he returned to Chicago to work for Material Service Corporation.
Among his many local, national, and international honors, Crown has been awarded honorary degrees by six institutions of higher learning, and in 1999, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The alumni award program, now in its seventh year, was established to honor graduates who are noted in their field of endeavor and/or recognized for their expertise and good works by their peers and others. John Donohue, ’54, has served as committee chairman since the program’s inception.
The awardees will be recognized at an assembly for the ETHS senior class and at a dinner for school and community adults.
To be nominated, alumni must have distinguished themselves through achievement, service, and/or contributions to society. Also, nominees must have graduated from or attended ETHS at least 10 years ago. Posthumous nominations are accepted.
A selection committee of alumni, students, community, and current and retired ETHS faculty evaluate the nominations and choose the recipients. All nominations are kept on file and reconsidered for three years.