Charmaine Owens, MLA’98

A look at what UChicago has done for the Alumni Club of Chicago's Board of Directors Volunteer Chair.

My name is Charmaine Owens, MLA’98. When I reflect on my life experiences, outside of the birth of my children and my marriage to the most incredible guy in the world; the one experience I will never forget is my MLA journey. Those three years of being exposed to the most brilliant minds (faculty/ students) and the diverse cultures helped me to expand my world of thought and stimulated me in way that I never imagined or expected. One of my biggest dreams was to attend the College but due to family financial constraints, that dream was never fulfilled. My MLA experience has more than made up for it and has enabled me to proudly say that I am a University of Chicago Alumnus. With a son who is a graduate of the College (AB’04), an experience for him that has paid dividends exponentially; a wish fulfilled is why I volunteer for the Alumni Club Board. It’s not being connected to just the name of the institution, but a desire to be actively involved to keep the memories of my MLA experience alive.

Since being on the University of Chicago Alumni Club of Chicago Board of Directors (September 2008), my role has been both Chair and/or co-Chair of the Board’s Volunteer Committee. Saying that “I have a desire to give back to my community” is often viewed as a cliché and as such; the importance of giving back tends to be minimized. My firm belief is that there is always a need in the communities in which we live and “play”. As such, one has an obligation to do his or her part to help that community survive and thrive. If you can’t help financially, time is “free”. If we take a step back (maybe several); we will find that there can be time allotted in busy schedules to serve at a food pantry, food kitchen, youth center, etc.

My favorite volunteer experiences have been volunteering at the Hyde Park Union Church Food Pantry. Seeing the lines of the individuals/families in need humbles you and at the same time, energizes you in filling the food bags because the recipients in turn express their appreciation. That reward is priceless!

I also want to add that it pleases and amuses me that the Chicago Alumni who serve together work like a well-oiled machine. Whether it’s the first time or repeat day of service; we always get the job done efficiently. Efficiency in service says University of Chicago all the way!

A wish fulfilled just doesn’t get any better.