News Update from John Benka ’60
The following text is a copy of the remarks made at the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce event “A Night of Stars” on February 16, 2020, where Dr. JOHN BENKA ’60 was honored with the 2019 Park Ridge Lifetime Achievement Award.
He may have been born in Cudahay, Wisconsin, the son of a Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff, but John Benka’s roots have gone deep in Park Ridge during his 22 years as Assistant Superintendent for Maine Township High School District 207 and his numerous volunteer activities both during his working years and after retirement in the community he has called home since 1973.
Active in parish ministry at Our Lady of Ransom as a reader and distributor of Holy Communion, his faith has been a core to his professional and civic work and the philosophy of servant leadership. He served as Park Ridge alderman from 2000 to 2004 and served the maximum number of years as a library board trustee including two terms as treasurer, two terms as vice-president and on every committee during his tenure. He has coached Park Ridge basketball and football, delivers Meals on Wheels, and has volunteered for more than two decades at Franklin School as a tutor for the Benka home with the help of Rainbow Hospice, John was inspired to serve on the board of that organization. A founding board member of the Main Township District 207 Health Center, he also served on the Park Ridge Human Needs Task Force.
After graduating from Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1960, John served as a Lieutenant in the United States Army Chemical Corps in Ft. McClellan, Alabama. In 1962, he began teaching English at Ela-Vernon High School where he met his late wife, Diane. When Ela Closed, he moved to Stevenson to teach English and also coached football and basketball. When an opportunity presented itself, he accepted a position as assistant principal and Franklin High School in South Milwaukee. From there he moved to Milton, Wisconsin, where he served as principal and later as assistant superintendent. Recruited to Main Township High School District 207, he moved his family which by that time included sons, Tim and Andy, and daughter, Jennifer, to Park Ridge where he has lived, worked, and volunteered ever since.
He holds a master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and a Ph.D in Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Son Tim recalls, “I remember watching him work on those professional awards and honors, John has been recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Citation by the Ripon College Alumni Association.
Even though he retired from Maine 25 years ago, John still shows up when Maine colleagues are hospitalized or to pay his respects at their passing saying simply, “We are family, it’s the Maine Way”. Suffice to say, whenever and wherever there is a need in the community, John Benka steps up to do what he can do to meet it.