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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Blessing of the Cupola: Dedication Ceremony Woodlands Academy and Barat College Campus Reunited

Barat College Cupola

Blessing of the Cupola

Almighty and everlasting God, may this cupola be a reminder to all that you gave us this land to expand our academy and build a college that carried the name of our foundress, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. May this cupola be a place of peace and repose, and may it remind us of the many who have served and studied on these sacred grounds. 

Pictured above l-r: Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ, Cindy Cox, Meg Steele,
Irma Patricia Reiss, RSCJ, Heidi Kuharich, Scott Eisenstein, Barbara Wood-Prince,
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ and Meg's mother, Tammy Mullen Steele, MC'65

The early morning thunderstorms and the threat of more rain did not seem to dampen the spirits of the attendees who traveled near and far to Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart for a dedication ceremony and open house on Friday, September 18, 2015.  Yes, I did say far, as some attendees traveled from Boston, Indianapolis, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. just to attend this event.  The following Religious of the Sacred Heart were also in attendance: Susanne Cooke, RSCJ, Director of the Sacred Heart Conference; Martha Curry, RSCJ, Barat alumna and author of the book Barat College: A Legacy, A Spirit and A Name; Woodlands Trustees; Margaret McDonnell, RSCJ and Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ; and Irma Patricia Reiss, RSCJ, Barat alumna aka "Sr. Patsy", Religious of the Sacred Heart in Residence.

Ms. Meg Steele, who began her tenure as Head of School on July 1, 2015 greeted the seated guests outside the former Sr. Madeleine Sophie Cooney Library.  The former Cooney library designed by Dirk Lohan was the last building built in the late 1990's on the campus of Barat College. The college closed in 2005 and all buildings on the original 43 acre site were eventually razed with the exception of the Library. Ironically, I attended the Sister Madeleine Sophie Cooney Library dedication ceremony 18 years prior on September 18, 1997. The 20,000 sq ft. building has been beautifully repurposed and renamed the Gloria Dei Center. The Center will serve both the Woodlands and Lake Forest communities.

The Dedication Ceremony was spilt into two parts -  Part I: Lessons and Prayers and Part II: Blessing of the New, Expanded Campus.  The following were invited to the podium by Head of School, Meg Steele to give either a prayer or lesson:  Mrs. Amy Perlick, Director of the Woodlands Academy Global Education Center; Ms. Madonna Edmunds, Principal; Mrs. Barbara Wood-Prince, Chair, Board of Trustees; Mrs. Mary Gramins, Campus Minister; and Sister Irma Patricia Reiss, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart in Residence.  Sister Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ, Director of the Sacred Heart Conference gave a celebratory reflection and final blessing of the cupola.  The cupola along with many other (internal and external) parts of the campus were salvaged during the demolition  of the Barat College campus. The restored cupola will rest in a prominent space on the front lawn and be surrounded by a garden.

It was a lovely day despite the cloudy skies and the threat of more rain. It was also a hopeful beginning to bringing this site that in the 19th century, the Fifth Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Mabel Digby, RSCJ envisioned would impart a Sacred Heart education to all who stepped foot on this campus in beautiful Lake Forest, Illinois to now be reunited in gratitude, generosity and grace.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sacred Heart Alumna Receives 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

 Deborah Johnson, Author and Sacred Heart alumna
of Duchesne Omaha

Congratulations to Deborah Johnson, 1966 alumna of Duchesne Academy in Omaha who has been awarded the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.  Johnson's recently released novel The Secret of Magic depicts an African American attorney working for the Legal Defense Fund with Thurgood Marshall in the 1940's.  

Authorized by Ms. Harper Lee as a means to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird and to honor the former Alabama law student and author, the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal partnered to annually award the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction in 2010.  The Prize has been awarded annually four times previously.  Narrowed down to three finalists, Deborah Johnson is the first woman, the first African-American and the first Sacred Heart alumna to receive the coveted Prize

"The Secret of Magic is exactly the kind of book the Harper Lee Prize is intended to honor; and the quality of legal literature we hope to encourage.  The language is rich, the storytelling is gripping, and the subject fits squarely in today's discussions about race, courage and the rule of law," said Allen Pusey, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal.  Pusey also served on the selection committee for the Harper Lee Prize. 

The award criteria is to publish a book-length fictional work that "best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society, and their power to effect change." The prize was awarded in Washington D.C. on September 3, 2015 in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Book Festival.  Johnson received a signed copy of the book To Kill a Mockingbird

Additional books authored by Deborah Johnson and under her pen name of Deborah Johns are listed under "Books by Sacred Heart Alum Authors" on this blog.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Nick Prokos, Master Potter, Sculptor and former Barat College Professor and Art Dept Chair has Died

Photos taken at Prokos Studio Open House May 1, 2011 ~ Pictured with Nick are:
Mary Schumacher, RSCJ, Martha Curry, RSCJ,  MER and Michael Boruch

The following news of Nick Prokos' death was forwarded to me by a fellow alumna who received word of Nick's passing from his son John.  I promised to post his obit (posted first on his son Michael's Facebook page who is also a potter) and pass this info on so that his former students and faculty members of Barat College would be apprised of Nick's passing on August 24th.  Personally, I will treasure my last visit with Nick on May 1, 2011 and most especially the beautiful vase that I purchased that day.  May Nick and all the former lay faculty and rscj of Barat College who have died rest in peace. 

Teacher and sculptor, Nicholas G. Prokos, of 1698 1st Street, a 55 year resident of Highland Park, passed away peacefully on August 24th, 2015 at Highland Park Hospital. Mr. Prokos was born May 17, 1934 in Escanaba, Michigan. He was the fourth son of Greek immigrants, George and Koula Prokos.
“Prok”, as he was nicknamed, was well known in local and regional art communities as an artist, teacher and professor. His son, John, remarks “Dad couldn’t walk more than a block in Highland Park before being greeted by a former student or friend”. He had a major and lasting impact on many throughout his teaching career. His many former students continued to visit him through the years at his home and studio in Highland Park, some traveling from as far away as Japan to visit their beloved professor and teacher.
Mr. Prokos taught ceramics for over 35 years. He received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin and his M.A. from Wayne State University. As a young man, in 1961, he received his Illinois State Teaching Certificate and secured a position with the Highland Park School District, teaching at Highland Park H.S. In 1963 he opened the studio, Ravinia Stoneware Studio, on Roger Williams Ave. In 1964, he purchased the First Street property and at that location, re-opened the ceramics studio with his wife, awarded book illustrator, Jean Cassels. There, they owned and operated a clay company, created and produced their own work, and taught. Prok would occasionally host other notable potters such as Paul Soldner and Peter Volkous.
In 1969 he began teaching at Barat College in Lake Forest where he earned tenured status and served as Chairman of the Art Department. He was a ceramics professor at Barat for 23 years. He also taught at Lake Forest College, The Art Institute of Chicago, Mundelein College, Eastern Michigan University, and St. Cloud State College.
Mr. Prokos’ works were exhibited nationally and internationally and are in the permanent collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Illinois State Museum, Kenosha Art Museum, Springfield Art Association, Wayne State University, South Bend Art Association, and the International Minerals & Chemicals Co.
Mr. Prokos put his artistic talent to work by serving his community. In 1985, he received the Community Service Award from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association for outstanding contributions for the advancement of parks and recreation in the state of Illinois. He also served for many years on the Highland Park Design Review Committee.
Mr. Prokos was passionate about building and flying model airplanes and shared his numerous talents with family, friends, and students. Additionally, he was a talented golfer and a long time member at Sunset Valley Golf Course. He inspired many and will be greatly missed.
Mr. Prokos was preceded in death by his son, George, and is survived by his sons, Michael  (Mindy) and John (Saraswoti), two grandchildren, Nicholas and Chloe, and four brothers, Charles, John, James and Konstantin.
Plans for a memorial service have not been finalized. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to "The Nicholas Prokos Scholarship Fund" at The Art Center - Highland Park.
Donations may be sent to:
The Art Center-Highland Park
1957 Sheridan Road
Highland Park, IL 60035
Donations can also be made by credit card or paypal online


The following excerpt was taken from page 183 of the book BARAT COLLEGE: A Legacy, a Spirit and a Name “Very suddenly, in July 1972, at the age of forty-five, Father Reicher died from a ruptured appendix.  Barat’s faculty, administration, student body, and his many friends attended his memorial Mass celebrated in the Drake Theatre when the fall semester commenced. The next year, the chair of the Art Department, Nicholas Prokos, established Barat’s first permanent art gallery in honor of Father Reicher. The Reicher Gallery provided an important venue for shows by outside artists as well as senior art majors.”    

To read more about the history of Barat College - contact Martha Curry, RSCJ