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JTHS Alumni Spotlight: Richard L. Chavez

Richard L. Chavez
Richard L. Chavez

The Joliet Kiwanis Club recently celebrated Joliet Township High School Class of 1960 alumnus Richard “Rich” Chavez for a lifetime of giving back to the community, which includes having donated a total of $100,000 to the Kiwanis scholarship.

In turn, the Kiwanis Board voted to name the Key Club scholarship the Richard L. Chavez Kiwanis Key Club Scholarship.

As a child, Chavez lived on the east side of Joliet near Heggie Field and went to Lincoln School. Chavez worked very hard, graduated in the top 6 percent of his class from Joliet Township High School in 1960 and then attended Joliet Junior College.

As he was finishing up at JJC in 1962, he won the $1,000 scholarship from the Joliet Kiwanis Club, which covered his room and board, tuition and fees for one year at a university of his choice.

He continued his studies at the University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in education with a major in Social Studies and a minor in Spanish. Afterward, Chavez pursued post-graduate studies of the Spanish language at Middlebury College in New England and studied abroad in Spain.  

After completing his studies, Chavez returned home to teach Spanish for four years at Lincoln-Way High School and the remaining 35 years in Plainfield. Chavez retired after 39 years of service to students, but he was so passionate about teaching that he worked as a part-time teacher at Lockport after retirement. 

In 2002, Rich was awarded with the Walter G. and Juanita F. Niehus Award at Plainfield, which honors staff members who have shown extraordinary commitment to students, parents and employees.

In addition to his support of the Kiwanis Scholarship, Chavez has also donated to the MERIT program at the University of St. Francis, and La Casa and the iPromise scholarship program at the University of Illinois.

He also has a scholarship at Plainfield Central available to students attending the University of Illinois.

Chavez was also a long-distance runner for 45 years. He ran his first marathon in three hours and 5 minutes, qualified for the Boston Marathon twice, and ran it once.

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