Owen Elementary School is named after one of Indian Prairie School District 204’s dedicated, retired School Board members. Owen C. Wavrinek was appointed to the Board in 1980; he was elected and reelected five times over the next 21 years; and he served as Board president from 1985 to 1989.
While serving as a board member, Owen helped make decisions that benefited thousands of district children. In addition, he worked closely with three superintendents and was proud to be involved in choosing the successors to Superintendent Clifford Crone -- the late Tom Scullen and the late Gail Williams McKinzie.
Owen was influential in helping District 204 meet the challenges posed by its rapid growth, which included involving parents in the preparation and passage of eight referendums. Although he does not have any children of his own, he has attended a countless number of school functions, including school plays, field trips, assemblies, open houses, and sporting events. One of 204’s biggest fans, he was often quoted as saying, “I view all the kids in the district as my kids.”
Born in Chicago on Oct. 7, 1943, Owen is almost 80 years old. He retired from the School Board in 2001, but continued to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, which he served using his public relations and photography skills. Owen developed these skills during a career at Amoco Corporation in downtown Chicago, where he was a writer, editor and photographer for more than 25 years. He joined the company in 1971 after earning a B.S. in communication arts from Cornell University (1965), doing graduate work in journalism at Syracuse University, serving two years (one in Germany) in the U.S. Army, and learning about the newspaper business as a copy editor at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. In 1994, he retired from Amoco and then worked out of his home as a free-lance writer until 2019. During those 15 years as a free-lancer, he edited quarterly newsletters for the Will County and Cook County 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone Systems and wrote human-interest stories for British Petroleum Corporation.
In addition to Owen’s District 204 experience, education has always played an important part in his family life. His mother, Frances Owen Wavrinek, taught third and fourth grades in south suburban Matteson, Ill., for more than 20 years; his father, Clifford, served on the Rich Township High School Board of Education in Park Forest; and his Aunt Genevieve (Jenny) Owen, taught elementary school students in or near North Salem, Ind., for 53 years.
Also, as a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, he mentored his Little Brother Josh Barton, who lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Eleven years old when he was first “matched” with Owen, Josh is now 57 and has his own business in Bangalore, India.
Upon learning that the district’s 21st elementary school was going to be named after him, Wavrinek asked the School Board to use his first name rather than his Czechoslovakian last name. “While I am very proud of that name, it's often misspelled and/or mispronounced,” he said. “Going with Owen will be a lot easier for the kids.” Further, he indicated that calling the school Owen also would honor the educators from the Owen side of his family (Owen was his mother’s maiden name).
He is the second School Board member in District 204's history to be honored by having a school named after him. (The other was the late Gordon Gregory, who was a neighbor of Owen’s.)
Owen and his wife, Luz (a native of Colombia, S.A.), now live in a townhouse in Aurora (not far from Waubonsie Valley High School and just down the road from Metea Valley High School). However, he resided in unincorporated south Naperville for nearly 34 years (1973-2007). He and others have often referred to his Naperville and Aurora homes as the "museum" – because of all the artwork, masks, collections of many artistic owls and turtles, and other artifacts that are displayed there. His home decor reflects his travels to Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Jakarta, and Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur), Canada, Mexico, and South America (including Colombia; Ecuador; the Galapagos Islands; and, Peru). Owen also was one of the founders and a past president of the North Wheatland Township Homeowners Association, which he helped create in 1974.
Obviously a big believer in volunteerism, Owen has made a personal commitment to giving back to the community in which he lives. “Whatever I do and wherever I go in the future,” he says, “the Owen Owls always will be Number One -- on my mind and in my heart. Once an Owen Owl, always an Owen Owl.”