The Chessmen Club would like to thank all who supported our 2019 Community Service Award Dinner & Benefit. Thanks to you, we exceeded our goal, raising $160,000. Your generosity will enable us to award scholarships to high achieving students of color, provide meals for our most worthy residents during the holiday season, and partner with other nonprofits to provide needed services for local youth.
Couldn’t make the gala?
2019 Community Service Honorees
Charles Lewis & Oliver Ruff
Oliver A. Ruff was born in Warrenton, Georgia, and moved to Evanston to live with his mother at the age of ten. He attended Foster and Dewey Elementary Schools, and graduated from ETHS
He later earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education at Baker University. His first job was teaching 3rd/4th graders at Switzer Elementary School, in Kansas City, Missouri. While teaching, he was enrolled in graduate school working on his master's degree, at the University of Missouri. Bro. Oliver, was set on a path where he spent the next 36 years as an educator
The path eventually led him back to Evanston where he became a substitute/teacher at Noyes Elementary School. His talents were quickly noticed, and he was promoted to a position as the Building Assistant for Student Affairs/Assistant Principal, at Skiles Jr. High School. He also served as Assistant Principal for Oakton Elementary, Chute Middle School, and King Lab Magnet School. He then returned to Kansas City, Missouri to become a Principal, only to be called back to Chicago, where he worked at Northeastern Illinois University.
He was employed in Chicago Public Schools, where he was a transformative leader in some of the most challenging inner city schools. From there he was assigned to serve as the principal of the lowest performing elementary school in Waukegan. Under his leadership at Carman Buckner Elementary School, they made the greatest academic progress of any school in Waukegan during his last year of service. He retired in 2005, finishing his career as the principal.
Today, Bro. Oliver continues to serve through education as a substitute principal, mentor, and as an educational consultant. With his retirement funds he and three friends began the Oliver A. Ruff Educational and Mentoring Scholarship.
The fund has awarded over 100 scholarships since it began in 2006. He takes pride in mentoring his recipients and keeping in close touch with them.
Bro. Oliver also serves on numerous boards and participates in many local activities. He is one of the founding members of The Justin Wynn Scholarship Fund, the Warren "Billy" Cherry Fund, and directed a citywide tutoring service called "Get In The Know Tutoring Program." He is currently the Vice President of OPAL (Organization for Positive Action and Leadership), a member of the Evanston Action Team (Medical Aid in Dying-Compassion and Choices), and a member of the NAACP Education Committee. Mr. Ruff has volunteered at Springfield Missionary Baptist Church, in a variety of leadership roles.
Bro. Oliver prides himself as being a family man, and a person who loves humanity. He is married to his lovely wife, Emma L. Ruff. He is a proud father and grandfather.
Charles “Chuck” Ashby Lewis
Charles Ashby (Chuck) Lewis is Chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation and Managing Partner of Coach House Capital, his family office. He is a retired Vice Chairman, Investment Banking, of Merrill Lynch & Co. Chuck was Assistant to the President and CEO of Computer Technology, Inc., and served in the US Army, attaining the rank of Captain.
Chuck was educated at Amherst College and he received his M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Amherst and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Grinnell College.
Chuck was a Trustee of the University of Chicago serving in numerous capacities including the UChicago Urban Education Institute (UEI). He is also a Life Trustee of Amherst and a member of its Loeb Center Advisory Council. He is a Life Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a member of the OneGoal national board of directors; a Trustee of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; and a Life Director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Illinois Chapter. He is on the Leadership Council of the Chicago Public Education Fund.
Chuck was a member of the National Finance Committee for both Obama presidential campaigns and has authored numerous commentaries he calls "Obamagrams." He was a member of the Board of Directors of Independent Maps of Illinois and a trustee of the Ravinia Festival.
Chuck is married to Penny Bender Sebring, Ph.D., a Senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago and the Co-Founder of the UChicago Consortium on School Research, a principal component of UEI. They have three children and five grandchildren. Chuck and Penny have jointly received the key to the City of Evanston (IL) and awards from the McGaw YMCA; the Second Baptist Church of Evanston; the Golden Apple Foundation; and OneGoal. Chuck also received an award from The People's Music School of Chicago.
Jillian Collins is a graduating senior from ETHS. She has gotten involved in major ways both inside and outside of the school. At ETHS she is the president of the Community Service Club. She helps organize 250 members, 26 student leaders, and 8 committees. She has taken on the role of president and steered the club in a new direction, helping to change the way the volunteers think about service. As a group, they’ve become more mindful of the people they sought to help. Instead of imposing solutions, they made sure that initiatives came from within the communities they partnered with. As a club, they are doing equity workshops and analyzing their outreach. Before presidency, Collins was the leader of the International Committee inside the club. Where she focused on creating volunteer events to raise awareness and solve issues around the world. Through hands-on partnerships in the Chicago area and fundraising events for international organizations, she hoped to contribute to independence in communities and create global citizens. With her committee, she created an Evanston Community Cookbook. Where they collected over one hundred recipes from local restaurants, families, and community members. All the proceeds went to benefit the White Helmets in Syria. To date, they’ve raised over $4,000. She is also on the Swim Team and Badminton Team at ETHS. During the winter she volunteers with Girl’s Play Sports to give elementary school girls the opportunity to learn badminton. Helping break the gender and socioeconomic walls that could limit girls from having the chance to learn sports.
Outside of school, she volunteers weekly at Family Focus as a tutor. Family Focus is a non-profit in Evanston that works towards giving low-income students after school opportunities. She also volunteers at District 65 Childcare Center in a special education classroom. She is also working on the District 65 PTA Equity Project. Where she’s working towards making sure all elementary schools are getting equal funding. Additionally, she has done lots of work with the McGaw YMCA Camp Echo. During the summers she’s an overnight camp counselor there. During the school year, she’s on the Echo Advisory Board. Where they discuss ways to implement restorative justice to ensure an inclusive camp environment for all families and campers regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Currently, she is unclear of where she is going to college, but she is planning on going to a 4-year college institution and majoring in Public Health. After college, she hopes to volunteer in the Peace Corp. Her long term goal is to fix racial disparities in healthcare.
Darius Johnson is a charismatic, innovative, and influential leader in the Evanston community. Through his academic excellence and unparalleled service, Darius has had a positive impact on everyone he interacts with. Since his middle school ages, he has given back to those who have supported him. He served as a mentor, counselor, and tutor in the Mcgaw YMCA S.W.I.M.S mentorship program working with second graders. Throughout his 4 years in high school, he has continued to look for ways to serve his community. As a freshman, Darius helped to design and build the free after-school program for middle schoolers, MetaMedia, at the Mcgaw YMCA. His countless ideas, time spent at board meetings and drive to support others helped him contribute to a $1 million dollar interactive space. Darius was awarded the Mcgaw YMCA volunteer of the year award for his efforts and involvement with the non-profit organization. Growing up through the YMCA’s youth programs, Darius felt it was his duty to help those who had a hand in shaping the exploratory man he is today. Johnson is also involved in an asset-based community development program, Emerge, that promotes leadership through service. He is currently apart of the senior outreach board. As a sophomore in the program, he developed a summer learning program in collaboration and partnership with Cradle to Career, an umbrella organization, that contains over 40 outreach and community development sub-organizations, targeted at youth threatened by the academic achievement gap. He noticed a lack of diversity in his AP and honors classes and wanted to take action. Through research, Johnson discovered the root of the problem, elementary youth who fall behind the learning curve during the summer. Johnson set out with a goal of making learning more accessible and enjoyable for youth. Through his partnership, he created an environment with various skill and academic workshops targeted at k-3rd graders curriculums, with educators who support, encourage, and make learning a fun experience in order to take the first step in alleviating the academic achievement gap in the Evanston community. He hopes efforts such as these will make a change, and bring more awareness to this issue. Johnson has also volunteered at the race against hate annually and has volunteered his time as a speaker at initiation dinners, galas, workshops, sporting events, and most notably, speaking at Moran Center for Youth Advocacy.
Along with his service to his community, Johnson excels in and outside the classroom. Being honored for his academics and leadership with awards such as The African American achievement award, National Honor Society, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and more. He currently works as a leasing specialist for Homeeasy Chicago, showing clients to luxury highrise apartments, primarily in the downtown Chicago area. He also works as a Social Media Intern for Logan Consulting Services and looks to use the knowledge he learns to grow LCS, other businesses and eventually his own business. He is involved in D.E.C.A, Evanston Scholars. AVID leadership board, Kellog connections, Investment club, podcast club, Track and Field, and is the top scholar in the Boule scholars mentorship program. Darius has applied to around 20, 4-year institutions and plans on studying Business Technology. He plans to become an entrepreneur and innovator in the business world with a goal of solving everyday issues with technology and connecting people to solutions through Artifical Intelligence.