Gail Grabowski Scholarship Established at Illinois Valley Community College


A Scholarship has been created to honor the memory of Language Arts Instructor and prolific crossword puzzle constructor, Gail Grabowski of Peru, at Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC). The former Gail Cimaroli, a 1968 IVCC graduate, died Dec. 24, 2020, at age 72. Grabowski’s husband Gary, a retired business representative for Carpenters Local Union 195, donated $20,000 to endow the scholarship for students from La Salle and Bureau counties pursuing teaching careers in Language Arts/English at the junior high or high school level.

Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded annually to incoming freshmen from La Salle-Peru High School or St. Bede Academy. Grabowski attended IVCC before it moved across the river to Oglesby. Following IVCC, she graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1970 with an education degree and earned a master’s in education in 1972. Gail taught language arts at Lincoln Junior High in La Salle from 1970 to 1977. She taught again at Lincoln from 1986 to 1989. She also taught in IVCC’s Adult Education Center and later as a resource teacher and aide at JFK Elementary School in Spring Valley.

By the time she left the workforce in 2003, Gail had discovered a passion that would carry her the rest of her life: crossword puzzle construction. She had more than 1,700 crosswords published in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, The Crossword Club, Random House Casual Crosswords and elsewhere. A voracious reader of 3-to-4 books per week, Gail called Peru Public Library her “home away from home.” She was a library board member for 18 years and volunteered with another trustee to keep the book sale room stocked and in order.

“Gail’s life is another example of an IVCC graduate making a significant difference in their community and beyond,” said IVCC President Jerry Corcoran. The “Gail Cimaroli Grabowski Memorial Scholarship” will be awarded for the first time this fall. Corcoran said of his longtime friend Gary Grabowski, “By supporting students who are blessed with talents and interests similar to Gail’s, Gary has chosen a beautiful way to allow her legacy to endure.”

PHOTO: Gary Grabowski, second from left, worked with IVCC President Jerry Corcoran and Executive Director of Community Relations and Development Fran Brolley to create the Gail Cimaroli Grabowski Memorial Scholarship. Also pictured is IVCC Dean of Humanities, Fine Arts and Social Sciences Lirim Neziroski, left.

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