Alumni Service Awards: Gerald (SESP59) and Joanne Jablonski (WCAS61)
Jerry and Jo Jablonski have made a few big moves over the years, relocating to Boston, Virginia, and Florida. Yet wherever they go, they are quick to show their hearts never left Evanston.
“The first call in our new city was to locate the local alumni club,” Jo says. “We always had that Northwestern connection to integrate ourselves into a new community. That connection made both Virginia and Florida feel like home.”
For the past 30 years, Jo and Jerry have worked to make prospective students feel more at home. They have served the University as members of the Alumni Admissions Council in Virginia and Florida, presenting their “purple picture” at college fairs, high schools, and hotel informational sessions.
The Jablonskis have even been known to host students at their home and offer fellow alumni a “safe house” during hurricanes.
The leadership of Jerry and Jo is also credited for helping the NU Club of Washington, DC, grow into one of the top alumni clubs in the nation. After moving to the Sunshine State, they helped turn the NU Club of Southeast Florida into an important resource for the more than 2,600 alumni in the area. Jo served as the club’s president in 2005 and has served in multiple capacities since.
“Not only has the Southeast Florida club become active, but in these tough times it is a valuable networking tool,” she says. “Our legacy has been passed on to other alumni who have taken the nucleus of the club and made it better.”
Jerry majored in education while at Northwestern, but one of his most memorable experiences was a job at the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house. For four years he held the posts of house boy and head waiter and made one notable decision to skirt the house rules.
“Dating girls in the house was frowned upon by the house mother,” Jerry recalls. “But with a little perseverance I did meet my future wife over a plate of meat loaf and mashed potatoes.”
Jerry served in the U.S. Army after graduation, followed by a career with the Defense Intelligence Agency that took him all over the world. Jo, who majored in medical technology, was a health care professional at multiple hospitals. She also served as president of a home owners association in Oak Hill, Virginia (taking over for Jerry after he was assigned to Vietnam), and is now a member of the home owners architectural review board in their current home, Coral Springs, Florida.
Jo and Jerry have two adult children and four grandchildren.