Phyllis Albrecht already held a unique spot in the Lake Bluff history books — the first woman to serve as village trustee and village president.
Now others can aspire to her public service heights through the Phyllis Albrecht Award for Distinguished Service to the Village of Lake Bluff.
Village President Kathy O’Hara announced the establishment of the award July 14. The honor, she said, will be “conferred on a person who has made outstanding and exemplary contributions to the welfare of the Lake Bluff community and its residents.”
Albrecht is the first recipient. Her name, and those of future honorees, will be added to a permanent plaque that will be placed in Village Hall.
“You are our ultimate volunteer,” O’Hara told Albrecht during the award presentation. “You have set a very high bar for the rest of us.”
Albrecht, 80, and her husband, Jim, are moving to the Washington D.C. area to be nearer to family at the end of July after 50 years living in Lake Bluff.
A mother of three and 25-year member of the Northwestern University faculty, where she was a senior lecturer in speech and language pathology, Phyllis made giving back to her community a top priority. In particular, she devoted significant time to the Vliet History Museum, now the Lake Bluff History Museum, the League of Women Voters and the village itself. She also served as chairman of the village’s historic Centennial celebration in 1995.
Phyllis recently took time out from packing to speak with The Lake Forester about life in the village that has meant so much to her. The following is an edited version of that interview:
Q: You have a vast history volunteering for the village and its many organizations. Looking back, what role was most important to you?
A: I cannot honestly select one of those experiences. They were all important to me, because they were all linked to the same common cause of the community, good governance in the community and just celebrating what a special community Lake Bluff is. The League of Women Voters, which is very civic-minded, the Village Board, the history museum and the Centennial — I care equally about the wonderful heritage of this little town.
Q: How does it feel to go down in history as the first female village trustee and first female village president?
A: I’ve always been politically active and civically active. Things just kind of evolved. I didn’t set my cap for this or anything, but I was delighted to have the opportunity to do it.
Q: Having volunteered in your community for 50 years, you obviously feel volunteerism is important. Why?
A: Volunteerism creates a climate in a community that makes it a special place for families and children. It has always been my feeling that as much as those of us who are interested in volunteering — as much as we give to the community —I think the community gives us more back. That’s our underlying philosophy. We all gain more from our community than we contribute to it. Everybody wins.
Q: How does it feel to have a village volunteerism award named for you?
A: Kathy O’Hara asked me to come to the Village Board meeting before leaving town. I was anticipating a nice little proclamation, that’s typically what happens. The award being named in my honor was indeed a surprise and a great honor.
Q: After living in Lake Bluff for 50 years, what will you miss most?
A: There’s a long list. Primarily, the people. I think it’s the wonderful people that live in town that make it a place to love — an unpretentious, small town. That’s the essence of Lake Bluff. It’s just been an enchanted place to live and raise a family.
First female village trustee: Elected in 1973. Served two terms, 1973-77 and 1977-81.
First female village president: Elected to serve in village’s top spot in 1981, served 1981-85.
Favorite spot in town: “The bluff, the beach and the 4th of July parade. We were fortunate to live on the parade route. Every year we had legions of people join us to watch the parade on our front lawn. It was special.”