Retirement Luncheon at Erie House Honors Three Veteran Board Members

August 19, 2016 | Chicago, IL

board of directors luncheon

Sy Nelson (far left), Mark Jolicoeur and James Fitzpatrick (far right) collectively contributed 39 years of service to the board of directors. FILE PHOTO

The Erie Neighborhood House Board of Directors hosted a celebratory luncheon on Thursday, August 11, to honor three now retired board members: James Fitzpatrick, Mark Jolicoeur and Victor Sy Nelson.

All three retired from their board positions earlier this summer. Between them they contributed 39 years of service in a board capacity, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the mission of Erie House.

“Jim, Mark and Sy have made a significant impact on Erie House and the work we do in the immigrant community,” says Patty Perez, Erie House board president. “Their individual roles have helped advance our mission, and they leave behind them a real legacy of service.”

Nelson, who enjoyed a 37-year career with longtime Erie House partner Northern Trust, previously served as president of the board and oversaw the creation of the workforce development program in that role in 2007. He also served as vice president and was a member of the executive committee during two pivotal developments—in 2004, when Erie House expanded into Little Village; and the following year, when Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS) opened in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood (he would also serve as a founding member of the board of directors for EECS). In all, Nelson was a member of the Erie House board for 18 years.

Jolicoeur is also a former board president, having served in that role when Celena Roldán was appointed executive director in 2009. A principal for architecture firm Perkins + Will and member of First United Church of Oak Park, Mark has contributed his leadership and insight to Erie House as a board member for the past 14 years.

For his part, Fitzpatrick served as treasurer for 5 of his 7 years on the board of directors, drawing on his skill set working in administration, finance and general management in the for-profit sector. He first encountered Erie House as a volunteer tutor in the agency’s ESL program; he later joined the board after sitting down for lunch with Jolicoeur, who was board president at the time, and Nelson.

“The board is critical to the work we do at Erie House on a daily basis,” says executive director Kirstin Chernawsky. “It’s because of their vision and commitment to that ongoing work that we are well-positioned to meet the needs of our community.”

She points out the many ways board members carry out her organization’s mission, from financial support to committee work to strategic planning. They also serve as ambassadors for the agency within the broader community, and numerous board members have hands-on experience volunteering in Erie House programs.

“These three individuals—Sy, Mark and Jim—have exceeded expectations,” says Chernawsky. “They have been tireless advocates for our mission, and they embody the passion for helping others succeed through education and empowerment that has sustained Erie House for the past 146 years.”

The luncheon devoted time to celebrate the contributions Nelson, Jolicoeur and Fitzpatrick made during their board tenures, and each had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences at Erie House. It was attended by several of their board colleagues, past and present, as well as senior leadership from the organization.

Perez feels confident about the board moving forward. Several new members were approved by the board of directors during its June meeting, and Dan Hartnett was appointed to the role of treasurer following Jim’s departure.

“It’s never going to be easy to say farewell to three individuals who have given so much to the mission of an organization,” says Perez, “but we’re excited about carrying on the legacy they’re leaving behind.”


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