Owen Elementary School is named after one of Indian Prairie School District 204’s dedicated, retired School Board members. Owen C. Wavrinek was appointed to the Board in 1980; he was elected and reelected five times over the next 21 years; and he served as Board president from 1985 to 1989.
While serving as a board member, Owen helped make decisions that benefited thousands of district children. In addition, he worked closely with three superintendents and was proud to be involved in choosing the successors to Superintendent Clifford Crone -- the late Tom Scullen and Gail McKinzie.
Owen was influential in helping District 204 meet the challenges posed by its rapid growth, which included involving parents in the preparation and passage of eight referendums. Although he does not have any children of his own, he has attended a countless number of school functions, including school plays, field trips, assemblies, open houses, and sporting events. One of 204’s biggest fans, he was often quoted as saying, “I view all the kids in the district as my kids.”
Now 73 years old and retired from the District 204 School Board (after 21 years of service -- 1980-2001), Owen also was a member of the Board of Directors of the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation for 21 years. He served the IPEF and its website using his public relations and photography skills, which he developed during a career at Amoco Corporation in downtown Chicago, where he was a writer, editor and photographer for more than 25 years. He joined the company in 1971 after earning a B.S. in communication arts from Cornell University (1965), doing graduate work in journalism at Syracuse University, serving two years (one year in Germany) in the U.S. Army, and learning about the newspaper business as a copy editor and assistant city editor at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. Since 1994, he has been working out of his home as a free-lance writer. As such, he prepares quarterly newsletters for the Will County 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone Systems.
In addition to Owen’s District 204 experience, education has always played an important part in his family life. His mother, Frances Owen Wavrinek, taught third and fourth grades in south suburban Matteson, Ill., for more than 20 years; his father, Clifford, served on the Rich Township High School Board of Education in Park Forest; and his Aunt Genevieve (Jenny) Owen taught elementary school students in or near North Salem, Ind., for 53 years. Also, as a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, he was a mentor for his Little Brother Josh Barton, who lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo. Now51, Josh and his wife, "Sam," reside in Bangalore, India; and his 19-year-old son lives in metro Boston.
Upon learning that the district’s 21st elementary school was going to be named after him, Wavrinek asked the School Board to use his first name rather than his Czechoslovakian last name. “While I am very proud of that name, it often is misspelled and/or mispronounced,” he said. “Going with Owen will be a lot easier for the kids.” Further, he indicated that calling the school Owen also would honor the many educators from the Owen side of his family (Owen was his mother’s maiden name).
He is the second School Board member in the district’s history to be honored by having a school named after him. (The other was the late Gordon Gregory, who was a neighbor of Owen’s.)
Owen and his wife, Luz (who was born and raised in Colombia, S.A.) now live in in Aurora (not far from Waubonsie Valley High School and just down the road from Metea Valley High School). However, Owen resided in unincorporated Naperville (south of 87th Street) for nearly 34 years. He and others have often referred to his Naperville and Aurora homes as the "museum" – because of all the artwork, masks, and artifacts (including many OWLS, turtles and butterflies) that are displayed. His home decor reflects his travels to Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia), Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and South America (including Colombia; Ecuador; the Galapagos Islands; and, Peru). Also, he served several years as president of and more than 35 years as the newsletter editor for the North Wheatland Township Homeowners Association, which he helped create in 1974.
Obviously a big believer in volunteerism, Owen has made a personal commitment to giving back to the community in which he lives. “Perhaps, my next challenge should be to help save the world’s sea turtles, whales, or coral reefs – along some undetermined secluded beach,” he said. “But whatever I do and wherever I go, the Owen Owls will be Number One -- on my mind and in my heart.”