SXU Alum Serves Community with Work on Alumni Board
Saint Xavier University (SXU) education alum Rich Zaremba '04, a current member of the SXU National Alumni Board, believes that the ongoing mission of the Board is to represent and serve its alumni by cultivating and fostering positive and lasting relationships between the alumni and the University community.
"Education, combined with a host of varied service, athletic and cultural opportunities, provide a cornerstone of faith grounded in diversity and acceptance for all who enter SXU. SXU offers the pathway for success to those who may be the first in their family to enter higher education, and the Alumni Board is working to support those students," said Zaremba.
Zaremba, also a first-generation student, was the first in his family to pursue undergraduate and graduate education. His father was a South Side Chicago patrolman and his mother was a local office manager, and neither could afford to pursue a college degree. Zaremba is local, a product of Mount Greenwood and Brother Rice High School. He began studying at St. Leo University in Florida and came home to Northern Illinois University to finish his bachelor's degree in business, with an emphasis on marketing and economics.
Zaremba enjoyed success with a 40+ business career traveling domestically and internationally for various companies in sales and marketing roles including contract manager, purchasing manager, sales manager, social media director, sales director and vice president. Amidst his success, Zaremba felt the draw, impact and vital need that today's youth has for teachers. As a teacher and coach of various sports and activities his children were involved in, he spent time reflecting and growing, ultimately realizing his real purpose in life was to make a difference and impact the lives of others who were beginning to make their way into the world.
"I wanted to be a positive influence on today's youth and help them build the necessary skills to maneuver through life successfully, both in and out of the classroom or on the field of life. To me, teachers have always had a tremendous platform to engage in meaningful conversations with students that go beyond curriculum and textbooks," said Zaremba. "Teaching has always been about making connections with students, regardless of the grade level. You're never too young or too old to feel as though you mean something to someone."
Saint Xavier's graduate cohort program in education provided the opportunity for Zaremba to go back to school as a non-traditional student and still maintain his role in the business world. He found the University was very accommodating and welcoming to non-traditional students.
"The professors, the campus and the cohort students all complemented each other in their own way. We were all from various backgrounds, but felt a common bond. SXU offered me the opportunity to achieve academic excellence while reinforcing my Catholic values, honed through high school and elementary Catholic school education. My stepsister also graduated from Saint Xavier in the '70s as a nursing student, and we've come to truly value and appreciate our experiences at SXU," said Zaremba.
Zaremba found the opportunities at a small university such as SXU for a student to grow and learn were incredible. The support and guidance he received during student teaching was unmatched. His professors were there with him hand-in-hand, especially for weekly meetings, lesson plans, and addressing teaching challenges for a non-traditional student.
Zaremba knows how difficult it can be for students to thrive when they don't have the support they need.
"SXU is a gem that sits as a foundation of service. It's an amazing place that produces citizens who can make a difference. The education and support I received while attending SXU provided me with the foundation necessary to be more successful in my professional life, especially in the education field. The faculty always went the extra mile to ensure that I was able to achieve my educational and personal goals, often even working around my schedule," said Zaremba.
"What's beautiful about education is we truly don't know the effect that we as educators have on our students, but reflecting on our own academic careers provides us with a unique perspective on how influential every educator is in our lives," Zaremba continued.
Zaremba strives to be that person for his students, the person that makes sure they know their worth, the teacher who students know cares for them and is invested in their success, both in the classroom and in life.
Zaremba can be found most days teaching in either elementary or secondary classrooms in Chicago's South Suburbs during the school year, giving back to students what SXU provided him - a quality education.
Zaremba takes the Saint Xavier mission and core values to heart and greatly enjoys serving the community. He lends his time and talent to his local HOA Board and local church as eucharistic minister, lector, usher, worship committee member, and summer Vacation Bible School (VBS) rec leader. Zaremba was awarded Kiwanis Club of the Year in 2022 for his work with the club and recently lead the 'Share the Care' drive with the local Lion's Club collecting personal hygiene items for donation out to local agencies, such as the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. He can also be found at various special needs events throughout the year.
As an Alumni Board member, he's loved getting to meet the next generation of students, discuss their professional goals and learn from them how SXU can better embody the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the community and curriculum. He believes it is critical that all alumni contribute to scholarship programs so that students who want to attend their alma mater can do so without causing their family financial hardship.
"I feel I get back more than what I give, working with the Alumni Board. We have and continue to make a difference. Wherever you are in your time after SXU, I truly hope you'll stay engaged. Remember…we are Saint Xavier proud!"