Oliver Ruff and Charles Lewis

Two long-time Evanston residents and two Evanston Township High School students received Chessmen Club Community Service awards at the annual gala and fundraiser on March 16. The club recognized philanthropist Charles Lewis, educator Oliver Ruff and ETHS students Jillian Collins and Darius Johnson.

Jillian is president of the ETHS Community Service Club, a member of the ETHS badminton and swim teams and a volunteer with Girls Play Sports. She plans to major in public health in a four-year college.

Darius, this year’s McGaw YMCA volunteer of the year, has been a mentor and counselor in several programs there. He is involved in several ETHS clubs, Evanston Scholars and track and field at the high school. He plans to study business technology.

The generosity of Mr. Lewis and his wife, Penny Sebring, to Evanston causes and institutions is known throughout the community. In accepting the award, he said he had moved here 50 years ago from the East and “come to realize what Evanston’s about … It’s an experiment of all kinds of people living here.” He thanked the Chessmen for the award, saying, “I’m really honored to receive it.”

Mr. Ruff’s mantra, “High expectations, no exceptions, no excuses” is the key not just to his own success as teacher and principal but also to the success of his students. He serves on boards of several local institutions that promote education and scholarship, particularly for minority youth. He recalled a saying Lorraine Morton – the former Evanston mayor who died last year – said her father had passed down to her: “Only a life of service is a life worthwhile.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...