Mike Korcek's mother, Josephine, believed in education so much that she earned her GED at age 80.
Meet Josephine Korcek, a member of the Greatest Generation. Born in 1917, Josephine dropped out of high school as a sophomore to get a job and help support her family during the Great Depression. Josephine married Julius Korcek and had two children, Mike and Debbie. When Debbie passed away in 1994, Josephine went back to work to cope with her grief and earned her GED. She was 80 years old.
To honor his amazing mother, Mike, B.S. '70 journalism, has established the Josephine Korcek Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for communication students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who write for The Northern Star, NIU's student-run newspaper.
"This is a win-win-win situation – first, honoring my mom who was extremely proud of her two NIU-educated children; second, I hope the scholarship recipients can have an educational and motivational experience similar to what we did; third, it's payback time," Mike says.
Josephine was proud of her two children for good reason. Debbie, B.S. '80 accountancy, earned her MBA from Northwestern and worked for United Airlines. And Mike – well, he stayed on at NIU as an award-winning member of the Office of Sports Information. He credits his parents for his success.
"Work hard, sacrifice, due diligence, save, educate yourself – Mom and Dad did know best," he says.
Mike credits NIU for giving him the chance to pursue his passion for sports writing. On Mike's first day on campus, he walked into The Northern Star and got a job as the men's cross-country beat writer. As a senior, he worked for the legendary Bud Nangle, NIU sports information director (SID), and then followed in Bud's footsteps, serving as SID for 22 years.
Mike's work won over 50 awards from the College Sports Information Directors of America, and, in 2007, he earned its Lifetime Achievement Award. Among many other honors, Mike was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame and the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
RECOGNITION FROM A GRATEFUL SON
While Josephine died in 2011 at the age of 94, her belief in the value of education will live on through the scholarship fund created in her name by a very grateful son.