Legacy of goodwill
When the 23-year-old Jean Wilkowski came to work at Barry College for Women in 1941, the University was in its first year of existence with an enrollment of 45 students. Wilkowski soon became an all-purpose staffer; teaching physical education, journalism classes, and running the college’s fledgling public relations office.
It was her first job, and one that would plant the seed for a 35-year diplomatic career. Wilkowski, 89, eventually became the first woman to serve as an acting ambassador to a Latin American country and the first woman ambassador to Africa. In honor of her service to Barry and her country, Wilkowski was recognized May 19 at a luncheon on the Miami Shores campus. As part of the event, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez proclaimed May 19 Ambassador Jean Wilkowski Day. Wilkowski has maintained her relationship with Barry University over the years.
Along with the luncheon, Ambassador Wilkowski formally received the University’s Laudare Medal, which is given as a particular expression of gratitude and appreciation for outstanding community service. Wilkowski was a Laudare Medal recipient at the 2009 Founders’ Ball in January but was unable to attend the event to accept her award.
Wilkowski details her life and memories throughout her diplomatic career in a memoir titled, “Abroad for Her Country: Tales of a Pioneer Woman Ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service,” published in 2008 by the University of Notre Dame Press.