Kopielski receives alum award for service

June 24th, 2016 | SMWC

“Camille has devoted her life to serving her school, church, community and country,” reads one of the nomination letters that contributed to Chicago, Ill., resident, Camille Filar Kopielski, 1959 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), receiving one of the College’s most prestigious alumni awards, the Frances Murphy Rumely Award.

Kopielski received the Frances Murphy Rumely Award from the College for demonstrating outstanding dedication to civic, religious or educational organizations and leadership through her volunteer work for such organizations.

“What an honor to be recognized,” said Kopielski. “I am happy to do what I can for the Polish community in Chicago. The foundation here (SMWC) taught me serve and do what I can do.”

Nominated by her fellow alums, Kopielski wears many hats including high school counselor, volunteer extraordinaire, philanthropist and an activist for Catholic, Polish-American and women’s rights. Following graduation from Holy Family Academy, she attended SMWC to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in history and government. She continued her education at Boston College where she received a master’s degree in history and political science. Her counseling and guidance hours were earned at Northeastern Illinois University. 

Her 33-year teaching and counseling career was spent at Carl Schurz High School, the largest general high school in Chicago. Because of the influx of Polish immigrants, she established the first high school Polish bilingual program in the Chicago Public School System and served as the Polish counselor. Kopielski was among the first to be a Nationally Certified Counselor and served on North Central Certification teams. 

President Dottie King, Ph.D., and Camille Filar Kopielski '59

In addition to working directly with the students, Kopielski served as a faculty representative to the Local School Council, was the long time Secretary of the Secondary School Counselor Association, attended a White House conference on drugs and alcohol abuse and served on an ad hoc Holocaust Committee for the Chicago Public Schools.

Scholarship and education have played a prominent role in her life as she served for many years as scholarship chair of the Chicago Intercollegiate Council and the Polish Women’s Civic Club scholarship committee chair. In addition, she served on the scholarship committees for the Polish National Alliance District XIII and the American Council for Polish Culture Summer Study program.

Her love for politics led her to volunteer as a charter member and President of the Coalition of Polish American Women, whose purpose is to enhance women’s political power. She maintains involvement in the National Polish American Congress and served as National Director, Vice President and President of the Illinois Division.

Her volunteer activities focusing on her Polish heritage include President of the American Council for Polish Culture, President of the Polish Women’s Civic Club, President of the Polish National Alliance Lodge 1792, Vice President and Treasurer of the Polish National Alliance Council 91, Vice Chair of the 40th Polish National Alliance pre-convention committee and many more important roles.

Her faith and commitment to her church are strong. During her lifetime, she has encouraged high school students in CCD classes, served as Eucharistic minister coordinator, Lector, past vicariate, pastoral council representative, Chairman of Parishioners of Our Lady of Wayside parish and initiated “Swiecone,” the traditional Polish Easter dinner. Kopielski is a Dame of the Sovereign Order of Malta of St. John and serves on the Boards of Catholic Charities. She is a faithful member of the SMWC Chicago Alum Club and has served on the Advisory and Trustee Emeritus Board at Holy Trinity High School and was the first woman appointed to the Gordon Technical High School Board.

For 31 years, Camille was married to Stanley B. Kopielski, a physical education teacher and gymnastics coach at Glenbrook North High School. His kindness, generosity, wisdom and devotion still permeates her life and actions.  

This award is presented annually by the SMWC National Alumni Association in memory of Frances Murphy Rumely, class of 1935, whose life was a celebration of the education she received at her beloved Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.