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Karen Hasara, Proudly Investing in Students’ Dreams

Karen Hasara speaks at UIS Commencement, 2010
Karen Hasara BA ’72 LAS ’92 PAA believes UIS has dramatically changed the Springfield community, and to prove it, since 2003, she has been giving to UIS to help students achieve their own dreams of public service like her own.

Last fall, Karen created a new scholarship: the Karen Hasara Scholarship Fund, especially powerful because it’s completely unrestricted—which means it can be used where most needed—and because it qualifies for the Access Illinois match program, doubling its impact for students.

A Close Association Since 1970

This gift continues Karen’s close association with UIS, one she says stretches from the day in 1970 (then Sangamon State) when she first registered for classes.

“I wanted to be an elementary school teacher.,” she related in her 2010 UIS Commencement address. “I was the second person in line to register for classes. My life would change for the better forever.”

In 1972, she was in the first graduating class, and she went on to work as a teacher, then on the Sangamon County Board—at that time the only woman among 29 county board members. Her life as an elected official continued as Sangamon County Circuit Clerk, then as state representative and state senator.  During those years, she returned to UIS for a master’s degree in Legal Studies. While in the legislature, Karen “proudly voted” for Sangamon State to become the University of Illinois Springfield.

Karen Hasara with Dr. Bruce Wicks, Vladimir Sharov, and Dr. Ron Pope in Russia
Springfield’s First Woman Mayor

In 1995, she became Springfield’s first woman mayor, serving until 2003. Since then, she has pursued a passionate commitment to citizen diplomacy, through which everyday Americans interact with people from other countries, playing an important role in shaping global opinion of the United States and building international cooperation and good will. She serves on the Board of the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, and has helped create ties to Ukraine, Mexico, Ireland, Russia, and several other Eastern European countries.

She remains committed to women in government, and has helped to train women in other countries on subjects such as running for office and constituent relations.

University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award

During all these years, through her generous donations, her efforts on behalf of alumni events and leadership, her participation on UIS Leadership Roundtables, and her genuine appreciation for her education, Karen has contributed to UIS.  In 2007, she received the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award from the U of I Alumni Association, and in 2009, she was appointed to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

“I feel blessed to be so personally connected to almost every step of the development of UIS in the past forty years,” Karen said at the conclusion of her commencement address. “Now I feel as if I’ve come full circle—from being that second person in line, and then in the first graduating class, and now to this day, when another one thousand two hundred people are earning their degrees from UIS. I am one of you, and I take great pride in saying that.”

The pride goes both ways, Karen, and we hope many other alumni will share your investment in students’ dreams through an Access Illinois scholarship.

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