100 Stories of Impact & Inspiration

March 2021 View more

Running through the end of March, Naper Settlement’s exhibition, Women: Waves of Change, commemorates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage by spotlighting women who have played a pivotal role in Naperville’s past and present. As part of the exhibit, Naper Settlement asked the community to nominate female-identifying Naperville residents who have shown leadership, overcome challenges, or empowered others. The result is the HERstory project, which tells the stories of 100 women and girls through an indoor display at Naper Settlement and extended bios online at napersettlement.org/herstory. In partnership with the museum, we’re thrilled to recognize these phenomenal women here in our pages.

Osie B. Davenport
As a longtime member and president of Naperville Community Unit School District 203 board, Davenport carefully weighed the needs of students, parents, employees, and taxpayers when tackling issues over the years, from changing school boundaries to retiring Naperville Central’s Redskins mascot. “It meant lots of listening, lots of understanding of where people are coming from, and how things impact their daily lives,” says Davenport, 77, now retired. “I always tried to make a decision that would be as helpful as possible but not cause any harm.” Diversity initiatives were also a passion of hers. “The board spent a lot of time understanding what it meant to have a diverse staff,” she says. “The more we understand different cultures, different backgrounds, and different opportunities, the better.”

Becky Anderson
Owner of Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and Downers Grove

Megan Androwski
Current nursing student and former student ambassador at College of DuPage

Grace Arimura
Retired medical technologist and former Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana

Lisa Averill-Latimer
President-owner of Nortek Environmental Inc.

Kathy Groat Baron
Former VP of lending at Northern Trust Bank Naperville and Bank of Naperville

Andrea Beaty
Author of children’s books Rosie Revere, Engineer; Ada Twist, Scientist; and more

Mary Ann Bobosky
District 203 educator and administrator, founder of Naperville Education Foundation

Ann Boecker*
Bookkeeper, Boughton Materials employee

Catherine Boecker*
Navy Wives Clubs of America member

Three Doctors Making a Difference

Dr. Sara Jane Hendren
As an emergency room physician at Edward Hospital, Hendren worked with fellow doctors to source personal protective equipment by the thousands for medical professionals all over Chicagoland during last year’s shortage. “I feel I’m called to connect with people and help people, and in the ER I get to do that every day,” says the 41-year old wife and mother of

Dr. Nefertiti Nowell
“My passion is working with women in trauma,” says Nowell, owner of counseling practice Nowell and Associates in Naperville and Chicago and creator of SOS: Scars of the Soul, a documentary chronicling the stories of abuse survivors. Nowell’s next endeavor is launching Mental Health Matters, a nonprofit providing mental health services to abuse survivors in need.

Dr. Shannon Simonovich
In her career as a health disparities researcher and assistant professor at DePaul University School of Nursing, Simonovich, 33, has studied at-risk maternal populations, food insecurity, and the experiences of medical nurses on the pandemic frontlines. “I would love to eliminate food insecurity,” she says. “Access to healthy food is a human right; it shouldn’t be dependent on what you make.”

Mariam Boecker*
Ellsworth Naper School and Lincoln Junior High School teacher

Roberta Boecker
Teacher, banker, and Bell Labs librarian

Sonja Boecker
Longtime Little Friends volunteer

Sylvia Boecker
Attorney and Peace Corps volunteer

Verna Boecker
School teacher in India in the 1920s and ’30s

Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz
Sports airplane pilot, author, cancer survivor, CEO of JJR Marketing

Christy Carter
Adjunct professor at Harper College and Wilbur Wright College

Shamim Chalisa
American Association of Retired
Asians volunteer

Rosa Chang Claro
Cofounder of Blossom Inspirations, author of Cuyita Wants to Know the World

Mariam Paré
When visual artist and disability advocate Paré, 45, suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury from random gun violence 25 years ago, it didn’t change her drive to make art. It did, however, transform how she makes it: She taught herself to paint using her mouth. Most recently, she and fellow artists Reveca Torres and Tara Ahern created the Tres Fridas Project, a series of iconic images reimagined starring subjects with disabilities—think Mona Lisa as a wheelchair user—on display at College of DuPage’s Cleve Carney Museum of Arts later this year. “It’s been through collaboration with other disabled artists that really made me realize that we live in a time where accepting one’s own body and disability in and of itself is activism,” she says.

Jacque Clermont
District 203 community relations director, Rotary Club membership chair

Jeannette L. Collazo
Speaker, author, and president-CEO of Lurdez Consulting Group

Diane Coppe
Manager at Nuance Communications and volunteer running coach

Anne Cottez-Jones
Owner and teacher at NaperFrench, a language school

Cindy Creevy
Home-based daycare provider for 30+ years

Jenny Dawley
Director of senior services and veteran affairs for Naperville Township

Sonali Dev
Author of A Bollywood Affair, Recipe for Persuasion, and more

Shalini Dixit
Artistic director of Rhythms & Grace Dance Studio in Plainfield

Ruth McNabb Dow
Retired registered dietitian and Eastern Illinois University professor

Sam Evans
Author of Love Letters to Miscarried Moms

Carolyn Finzer
Retired teacher for school districts 90 and 203

Nicole Finzer
Northwestern University digital projects and outreach librarian

Loren Francis
Founder of LF Educational Consulting and District 203 volunteer

Peggy Frank
President emeritus and former president, CEO, and curator of Naper Settlement

Bev Patterson Frier
Business owner and founding member of Omnia, a nonprofit promoting the revitalization of Fifth Avenue

Lakshmy Ganesh
University of Illinois at Chicago research specialist, cofounder of Happy Feet Walkers Club

Ginger Grant-Del Valle
Educator and leader for District 204’s Parent Diversity Advisory Council

Three Leaders Inspired by Learning

Ria Bawiskar
After learning about computer programming through Girls Who Code, this Naperville North junior formed a student group called Empower to teach elementary-aged girls coding in her school district. “I thought, what if I gave these girls just a little bit of knowledge to inspire them, just like Girls Who Code inspired me?” says Bawiskar, 16.

Aruna V. Davis
“Professionally, I’m an engineer, but I have always had a writerly spirit,” says Davis, 47, founder of Learn To Write Now, an English language arts enrichment center for K–12 students. What started more than a decade ago as a free writing camp in the basement of her home has grown into varied year-round programs now offered online to students around the country.

Dianne McGuire
McGuire spent 27 years teaching and served as Naperville Unit Education Association president and a National Education Association board member. “The two hats I wore—that of an association leader and that of a teacher—each provided me with tremendous challenge and satisfaction,” says McGuire, 74. In 2017, she cofounded Indivisible Naperville, which has hosted events from a panel on voter suppression to a rally to end the separation of border families.

Patty Gustin
Naperville councilwoman and former Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman

Kim Henderson
Vice chair of Naperville Education Foundation 203’s Board of Trustees

Karina Duncker Hoffmann
Adjunct assistant professor teaching German and English at North Central College

Kathryn Holler*
Ellsworth School teacher, Edward Hospital volunteer

Saily Joshi
Chair of District 204’s Parent Diversity Advisory Council

Erica Katz
Emergency room nurse at Edward Hospital and U.S. Marine Corps veteran

Ella King
District 203 student and creator of Beebe Elementary’s Dine 4 the Better program

Jordan King
Diversity and inclusion committee co-lead for the Alive Center’s teen advisory board

Keri King
Cofounder of Beebe Elementary’s SUCCESS Group, partner with The Alive Center

Mary Ann Lisson Kuhn
Century Walk mural artist

Ruth Ladd*
Legal secretary, election judge, genealogical researcher, and author

Tanesha Lambert
Co-owner of MKH Early Education Center

Ann Lord
Longtime Naperville Municipal Band emcee and Naperville North teacher

Sophia Luo
Director of community engagement for Xilin Asian Community Center in Naperville

Marge Lyse
Motivational speaker, author of Too Much Me

Ellie Martin
Founder, Neighborly Naperville Facebook group

Sue McKenna*
Immigrant to Naperville from Hong Kong in 1964 and former Bell Labs employee

Lauren McLaughlin
Owner of Joyful Balance Wellness and Path to Recovery Foundation board member

Eunice Pietela Nelson*
Longtime District 203 teacher, Nichols Library employee, Naperville Heritage Society member

Carrie Noe
Resource development manager for Youth Outlook, a nonprofit serving LGBTQ youth

Becky Simon
As president of the League of Women Voters of Naperville, Simon has her mother—a Waukegan league member—to thank for emphasizing the importance of voting. “I remember helping her put together the league newsletter back in the days of mimeograph machines,” says Simon, 57. “It wasn’t even an electric one—I got to crank it.” One of the league’s recent accomplishments is partnering with NAACP to help DuPage County acquire electronic pollbook systems to support faster voter processing. Simon also founded Naperville Preservation Inc., a nonprofit that led the effort to save the now-landmarked Old Nichols Library from demolition and has expanded its scope to other historic Naperville sites, including Naperville’s Kroehler Mansion, built in 1907.

Setha Nowell
10-year-old student promoting creativity with Amazing Setha’s Smiling Peaches on YouTube

Elisabeth Nuesser
CEO and cofounder of apparel companies Fight Chix and Yogi Chix

Monica Patankar
Miss Illinois 2019 and partner at Piccony & Patankar law firm in Aurora

Rose Peck
Gaming entrepreneur and former
professional opera singer

Stephanie Penick
Founder of independent community newspaper Positively Naperville

Sally Pentecost
Naperville Heritage Society Board member, former District 203 teacher and principal

Kathryn Peot
YMCA board member, special needs swim instructor, and community volunteer

Barbara Harshbarger Perry*
Naperville Central High School volunteer, Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church sacristan

Margaret P. Price*
Former Naperville councilwoman and two-term Naperville mayor

Deirdre Read
Visual research editor for O, The Oprah Magazine

Wilma Reschke*
Former District 203 school board president and Sister City commissioner

Karyn Ross
Author, founder of Women in Lean and the Love and Kindness Project

Jelena Sanchez
Assistant professor of Spanish, organizer of the Flamenco Festival at North Central College

Shobha Sankar
Founder and program director of the Study Huddle in Naperville

Evelyn Schum*
Former nurse at Copley Hospital and Naperville YMCA board member

Jabeen Shaik
Islamic Center of Naperville volunteer, IPSD 204 Parent Diversity Advisory Council liaison

Sue Shanahan
Volunteer for Naperville Senior Task Force, Ride Assist Naperville, and more

Three Entrepreneurs Minding Their Business

Toni Baumgartner
As owner of Baumgartner Construction with late husband Ron since 1952, Baumgartner, 90, witnessed the company’s growth from curb and gutter work to much larger projects. “We worked on the Hotel Indigo, did a lot of work on the Riverwalk and many facilities in downtown Naperville,” she says. She’s now retired from day-to-day business, and five of her 10 children (plus two grandchildren) are involved in the company.

Sakina Fakhruddin
Former IBM software engineer and Girls Who Code instructor Fakhruddin, 36, founded Codinu in 2016 to offer coding classes and camps to children ages 7 to 17. “Our mission is to teach coding to kids in a more creative way and help them become really passionate about technology,” Fakhruddin says. She is motivated to bridge the gender gap and mentor young girls in STEM careers.

Liliana P. Jones-Muñoz
Originally from Colombia, Jones-Muñoz says her path to American citizenship inspired the launch of her law practice in 2014, Hispanic American Legal Services, now with offices in Bolingbrook and Aurora. “The Latino community here is huge,” says Jones-Muñoz, 50. “I thought, my first language is Spanish; I think the best way I can help people is to start practicing immigration law.”

Kelly Sherwood
Indian Prairie School District 204
Volunteer Award recipient

Lourdes Singson-Chew
Dietitian, District 203 volunteer, City of Naperville Senior Task Force member

Glenda Sirota
Owner of One of a Kind by Glenda and volunteer mask maker

June Sochen
Author and professor specializing in American women’s history and American Jewish history

Dr. Cathy Subber
Owner of Advanced Health of Naperville and founder of the Branch

Jane Temple
10-year-old entrepreneur selling fairy garden planters to benefit local businesses

Joan Thompson Uebele*
Longtime nurse and community volunteer

Marita Valdizan
Award-winning mixed-media artist

Silvia Vega-Mitchell
Community volunteer, copresident of Hill Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association

Deborah Venezia
Director of Arts DuPage and former executive director of the Naperville Art League

Bettye Weber-Wehrli
Founding Naper Settlement board member, charter member of Century Walk Board

Jean Knoch Wehrli*
Argonne National Laboratory proofreader, Naperville Arts Commission member

Joyce Wehrli
Author, We Are Family: The Pre-Emption House and the Gertrude Hiltenbrand Wehrli Family

Mary Lou Wehrli
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County commissioner, former cochair of DuPage Neighbors for Open Space, Clean Water and Clean Air

Kimberly White
Executive director of the Career & Networking Center and Rotary Club of Naperville member

Linda Wilhelm
Community volunteer and owner of Allegra Marketing Print Signs in Romeoville