The Early Years (1967-1977)

The idea of forming an Illinois JCI Senate group was fostered for sometime in the minds and hearts of many interested Senators. These interested Senators who desired to retain a continuity of contact between individuals further promoted the idea which in turn became a reality.

In 1967, there were three recognized JCI Senate state organizations already formed, Oregon, Pennsylvania and California. The Illinois JCI Senate became the 4th state organization to officially be recognized by the US JCI Senate.

On September 11, 1967, the Illinois JCI Senate was registered as a “not-for-profit” corporation in the State of Illinois. The filing fee was $25.00. The signatures on the original charter were B.J. Jackson #4138 (Rockford), James Davin #6247 (Park Ridge), Chuck Keeling #6438 (Champaign), John “Jack” Kujawa #2552 (Woodridge) and James O’Connell #5046 (Lemont).

Illinois had 54 JCI Senators at the time of their formation. The first organized meeting of the Illinois JCI Senate for the purpose of electing officers and adopting a Constitution and Bylaws was held in Rockton, Illinois at the Wagon Wheel Lodge in conjunction with the Illinois Jaycees State Convention. Nineteen JCI Senators were present at this meeting. The Constitution and Bylaws were adopted in their entirety and consisted of two 81/2 x 11 pages.

James O’Connell #5046 (Lemont) was nominated and elected the Charter President. The only other officer elected was Treasurer, James Davin #6427. This was fitting since he was the Treasurer for Walgreen’s Drug Stores. Dues of $1.00 were collected. All 19 members in attendance paid their dues giving the organization its first treasury. The first bank account was opened at the O’Hare International Bank. Not being enough to cover the $25 fee for filing with the State of Illinois, the Illinois JCI Senate had to wait until they had more members. By September, eleven more members had joined bringing the membership up to 30.

The purpose of the organization was to promote fellowship among Senators in Illinois, to engage in any program or activity which would foster the aims and objectives of the JCI movement and, upon request, lend support to the Illinois Jaycee movement in any capacity that could not be construed as active participation in the Jaycees.

Bernie Storjohann #7902, who was to become the second president of the Illinois JCI Senate, took a job as Chief Landscaper for the University of Illinois in Chicago and needed to secure rental housing. Jim O’Connell, being in the realty business, made arrangements for Bernie to rent a farm. Wanting to show off his farm to the Senators, Bernie proposed to have a Senate Picnic.

This became the first project of the Illinois JCI Senate, and the annual Senate picnic was started on September 29, 1968 on Bernie’s farm in Dundee. It has been an annual event ever since. Until 1973, the picnic was held in the home town of the incoming president.

James O’Connell was inducted into the Illinois Jaycee Hall of Fame in 1993.

Bernie Storjohann #7902 (Dundee) was elected the second President of the Illinois JCI Senate. The election of officers was expanded. The other officers elected were Dean Winder #4940 (Monticello), Executive Vice President; Vito Martinez #7159 (Romeoville), Secretary; Charles Busche #4001 (Naperville), Treasurer and Dick Wagner #3497 (Arlington Heights), Executive Director. The dues were increased to $5 per year which allowed all members to attend the Senator Mixer at the four state meetings and receive a newsletter four times a year. The first newsletter editor was Jack Bitter #5720 (Lombard).

A new Board of Directors and the election process was implemented in 1969. The membership elected a director for every 25 JCI Senators in the state for a two year term. the previous two Presidents and Treasurers were appointed to a one year term on the original Board along with four new directors for the two year term. This enabled only half of the Board members to be replaced each year there after. These eight directors then went into Executive Session and elected a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer form the directors. Vito Martinez #7159, Tom Wallisch #8012 and Leo Briere #7914 were all elected State President under this process.

The first support program to the Jaycees started during the term of Vito Martinez #7159 (Romeoville). The program was called the Speakers’ Bureau and was chaired by Fritz Young #3719. This program made JCI Senators available to speak at local Jaycee meetings, installation banquets and various training sessions.

Under the administration of Tom Wallisch #8012 (Northlake), the Illinois JCI Senate began an International Relations program for the Illinois Jaycees called “Partners in America”. Tom actually became the State Chairman because he was still of active Jaycee age. The Illinois Jaycees first approached the Illinois JCI Senate concerning financial support for an Illinois Jaycee Building and the US Jaycees celebrated their 50th Anniversary at the National Convention in St. Louis, the birthplace of Jaycees. JCI Senator #72 and President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, was the keynote speaker.

The 1971-1972 year, under the leadership of Leo Briere #7914 (Rantoul), was one of great importance for the Illinois JCI Senate as they became the primary force in the formation of the US JCI Senate organization.

On June 4, 1972, the proposed Constitution and Bylaws were completed for the US JCI Senate organization in Bloomington. At the National Convention in Atlanta, a US Senators Conference was held with 23 states represented. Sixteen of these states had already formed a state Senate organization. Due to the efforts of Leo Briere, Jim O’Connell, Dick Hiatt and other Illinois Senators, the US JCI Senate became a reality. The proposed Constitution and Bylaws were adopted, Jim O’Connell was elected the first National President and Leo Briere was elected Secretary. Leo Brier is recognized as the Founder of the US JCI Senate organization.

Back in Illinois, “Project Manpower” was approved. This was a project where the Illinois JCI Senate would place qualified Jaycees to available employment with employing Senators and Jaycees. John Griggs #9533 (Mt. Prospect) was the chairman. In addition to the elected Board of Directors, Nine Ambassadors were appointed by President Leo representing the nine regions of the Illinois Jaycees in order to further strengthen the communication between the Senate and the Jaycees. The Bylaws were also changed to have the Board of Directors revised to include a President, Internal VP, External VP, Secretary-Treasurer and the eight Directors. All offices once again were to be elected by the entire membership.

Dick Hiatt #7811 (Kewanee) was elected President for 1972-1973. The other officers were Jim Madair #13377 (Taylorville), Internal Vice President; Ted Landgraff #8697 (Aurora), External Vice President and Larry Olsen #4563 (Moline), Secretary-Treasurer. Membership reached 100 members during Dick Hiatt’s tenure and the first Illinois Senate pin was designed and make available of sale and trading. H.M. “Tiney” Nix #18321 (Herrin) was the Chairman.

Ted Landgraff #8697 (Aurora) was elected President for 1973-74. Another Board of Directors structure change was implemented in that each of the eight directors on the board were given specific portfolio assignments including: Internal Director, External Director, Ways & Means, Hospitality and Membership. the other three directors were made Region Directors responsible for three Region Ambassadors each. The First Ways & Means project for the Illinois JCI Senate was a raffle for tow all-expense paid trip to the World Congress in Nice, France or $750 cash. 3000 tickets were sold at a cost of $1.00 each. Annual dues increased from $5 to $7.50. Past President, Dick Hiatt #7811, served as National Vice President of the US JCI Senate.

Larry Olsen #4563 (Moline) became the 8th President of the Illinois JCI Senate after serving 2 terms as Secretary-Treasurer. After his year as President, Larry went on to serve four more years a Secretary-Treasurer. The annual golf tournament conducted by the Illinois JCI Senate for the Illinois Jaycee Charitable Foundation to provide the sole means of raising funds for the Illinois Jaycees Scholarship Awards has been named the Larry Olsen Memorial Golf Tournament in memory of his devotion and dedication to the Jaycee and JCI Senate movement. Past President Ted Landgraff #8657 served as National JCI Vice President.

Under Troy Wood #16149 (Tinley Park), the Illinois JCI Senate newsletter was named The Forum, the name it still bears. There was another Board of Director structure change eliminating Region Ambassadors and calling for the election of Region Directors for every 25 Senators. On July 25, 1975 at the Picnic Meeting in Kewanee, the Life Membership program was approved. The cost of a life membership was set at $100 with the total amount going into a special account rather than the general operating fund. Robert Neil #15968 (Wadsworth) became the first paid Life Member of the Illinois JCI Senate on August 2, 1975. A total of 10 paid Life Members existed by the end of the year. Past President, Larry Olson #4563 served as Vice President of the US JCI Senate.

Chuck Fries #18344 (Schaumburg) was elected the 10th Illinois JCI Senate President, thus completing the early years of this organization’s history. The Illinois JCI Senate membership was 156 with 45 paid Life Members. Senators throughout the state assisted local chapters with the Illinois Jaycees “Rose Day” project. The Illinois JCI Senate assisted as a host to Senators from around the world at World Congress in St. Louis. The annual dues were increased from $7.50 to $10.00. the elected directorships were changed from one for every 25 Senators to one for every 50 Senators. The 4th weekend of July was established for the Annual Senate Picnic.