The Sycamore Education Foundation (SEF) is proud to announce that three outstanding Sycamore High School alumni have been selected as the 2023 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Since 2013, the Distinguished Alumni Awards have been presented annually to Sycamore High School alumni who have maintained a high standard of excellence and made a significant contribution in their fields of endeavor. This award is a tribute to graduates who have shown exceptional personal, community, and/or professional achievements. This year’s recipients include Sally Stevens ’48, Judge Sarah Gallagher Chami ’96, and Mark Pietrowski ’01.
Sally Stevens is a philanthropist and leader who has spent her life in service to the Sycamore and DeKalb area. After graduating from Sycamore High School in 1948 where she participated in several clubs and activities, she attended Lake Forest College. She served as the Sycamore High School Secretary and Treasurer for the Board of Education for 12 years and served as Secretary to the President at Northern Illinois University for 32 years under 6 different presidents.
She has been a member of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra Board for over 40 years and served as secretary for 20 years as well as chairing several fund-raising committees. She has been a member of the Sycamore Women’s Club for 18 years and serves on the Board of Directors and well as chairing the Memorial Committee Programs. Sally has also been a member of NIU Women’s Club since 1996, the Sycamore-DeKalb Panhellenic since 1952, The DeKalb Drama Club since 1996, The YMCA Board of Directors, fundraising committees for the Egyptian Theater and DeKalb Public Library, and most recently 100+ Women Who Serve.
She has received many notable awards, including the NIU Outstanding Philanthropist Award, Altrusa International Woman of Accomplishment, the NIU Alumni Association F.R. Geigle Service Award, Boy Scouts of America Tribute to Heroes Award, Kishwaukee YMCA Key Leader Award, and many, many others. She has been named an “NIU Huskie Legend” and was honored for being “50 Years a Huskie.” She was inducted into the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Hall of fame and has held many leadership positions at Oak Crest where she has lived for over 31 years.
Sally enjoys musical programs and sporting events, particularly at NIU, and supports many scholarships and programs for the arts at NIU. You can visit the Sally Stevens Players Theater at NIU, affectionately called “The Sally,” to see a production.
Judge Sarah Gallagher Chami represents a fifth generation in DeKalb County, having been born and raised in Sycamore. She is the only child of Judge T. Jordan Gallagher and Deborah Gallagher. Sarah graduated with Honors from Sycamore High School in 1996. She continued that strong academic performance at DePaul University and Chicago Kent School of Law. Her legal experience is extensive. As an attorney Sarah worked in both civil and criminal courts, investing her with a broad knowledge of the law. Sarah has served as both a Cook County Prosecutor and a DeKalb County Prosecutor, as well as having worked on the civil side in the well-regarded Turner Law Office. She later went into private partnership at the law firm of Dixon Gallagher Chami, LLC. Sarah has gladly served her community accepting appointments from the City of Sycamore, Sycamore School District, and in her generous service of various other charitable boards. Sarah’s life and legal experiences provided the necessary foundation for her appointment to the bench in 2022, whereas she was appointed to the position of Associate Judge of the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit.
Sarah lives in Sycamore with her husband Elie Chami and their four children Michael, Norah, Sophia and Elena.
Dr. Mark Pietrowski Jr. has lived in DeKalb County since he was five years old and was educated through the Sycamore School District. While at Sycamore High School Pietrowski was involved in the student newspaper and played basketball. He first attended Kishwaukee College where he was a senator in the student government and organized two forums with experts once before the start of the war in Iraq and once after it started. After earning his associate degree, Pietrowski transferred to Northern Illinois University where he would earn a B.A. and M.A. in Communication and an Ed.D. in Community College Leadership. In his undergraduate, he worked for the Northern Star student newspaper, was selected for the Outstanding Major award, and belonged as a member of the NIU Public Relations Student Society of America. During his Master’s Degree, he was selected as the winner of the Martha D. Cooper Teaching Assistant Peer Leadership Award and served as President of the Graduate Student Communication Committee. In 2018, Pietrowski was one of forty individuals selected for the University of Illinois system leadership program, Edgar Fellow, led by former Governor Jim Edgar.
In the community, Pietrowski was first elected in 2009 as a member of the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. In 2012, Pietrowski stepped down from the board of trustees as he was elected to serve on the DeKalb County Board to represent District 3. He would also be asked to serve as a delegate for President Barack Obama at the 2012 National Democratic Convention and won his election to serve as a delegate for the 14th Congressional District in Illinois. In 2014, Pietrowski was selected by the 24 member DeKalb County Board to serve as DeKalb County Board Chairman and President of the DeKalb County Forest Preserve. He would serve in that role for six years and for each of his three terms he was selected unanimously to serve as Charman. As Chairman his accomplishments included helping Fairdale recover from a Tornado and rebuild, built a new Jail, relocated residents in a floodplain and converted it to the Sycamore Forest Preserve and pushed for and secured the first ever Enterprise Zone distinction for DeKalb County. He also had the distinction of passing unanimous balanced budgets each year he served as Chair. In 2021, Pietrowski was elected as the Mayor of Cortland.
Other community service included being a board member for Joseph Glidden Homestead and Historical Center, DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board Member, DeKalb Kiwanis Board member and former President, and Egyptian Theatre Board member and Vice-President. Pietrowski currently is a DeKalb County Farm Bureau member, and Cortland Lions Club member.
Pietrowski now serves as the Director and Advising Dean for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. He is an LGBTQA Ally, Undocumented Student Community Ally, Mentor, CODE facilitator and ally, member of the NIU Annuitants Association, Operating Staff Council, and University Council. He was awarded the Supportive Professional Staff Presidential Award for Excellence in 2017.
Pietrowski loves public education and seeing what students can accomplish in life. He has a passion for leadership, community service, comedy, politics, and government. Pietrowski currently resides in Cortland, IL with his wife and two dogs and assists with their business Belle & Herbie’s.