Professor Maria Rafac has been named the 2016 winner of the Will County Land Use Department’s Amicus Terrae – Friends of the Land Award. She is an architect, educator, and the sustainability coordinator at Joliet Junior College.
The Will County Land Use Department created the Amicus Terrae, or Friends of the Land, award in 2009 to recognize public servants of Will County who go above and beyond to effectively protect the local ecosystems of plants, animals, soils, waterways and mankind.
“Professor Rafac is a true example of good citizenship,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh, whose office oversees the Land Use Department. “Her dedication to protecting our natural resources exemplifies the purpose of this award.”
Rafac was chosen for exceptional leadership in sustainability. Since 1997, Rafac has led faculty, staff and students of Joliet Junior College in efforts to increase recycling, improve energy efficiency, and enhance awareness of environmental issues. She became the first sustainability coordinator at JJC, taking on the role of community advocate and participating in many local efforts.
“This award means a lot to me personally and professionally,” Rafac said. “It is an external validation that I am doing something right.”
Rafac began teaching a transferable credit course in sustainability in 2016 and established a campus observance of America Recycles Day. She said she involves her students in imaginative and creative coursework and extracurricular activities to promote sustainability. In addition, Rafac, her husband and five children are also involved with local environmental groups.
“This is the highest honor for me to receive this award from Will County Executive Walsh and the Land Use Department,” she said. “This award denotes a crossroads of my work academically, professionally, and personally, how it all comes together.”
Land Use Department Director Curt Paddock said Rafac embodies the ideals of Aldo Leopld, the 20th century philosopher who developed the concept of land ethics and is the inspiration for this award.
“Professor Rafac is committed to preserving, protecting, and defending the health, harmony, and integrity of our community,” Paddock said. “That is the true impetus of this award and Professor Rafac is an excellent example of commitment to these ideals.”