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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Jessie Parker Strauss Named Macalester Distinguished Citizen

June 9, 2009 - Jessie Parker Strauss of Seattle, Wash., has been named one of Macalester College’s 2009 Distinguished Citizens. Strauss graduated from Macalester in 1959.

The Distinguished Citizen Citation recognizes alumni who have exercised leadership in civic, social, religious and professional activities. It is given because the Alumni Association, the Board of Trustees and the faculty of Macalester believe that a college education should be the training and inspiration for unselfish and effective service to the community, the nation and the world. Recipients demonstrate a practical acceptance of these obligations in their lives and work.

After Macalester, Strauss earned a master’s degree in Hospital Recreation, preparing her to do recreation therapy in nursing homes and mental hospitals. Thirty years after earning her first master’s degree, Strauss earned a second, this one in engineering from the University of Washington. For the last ten years she was employed, Strauss helped develop King County’s Commute Trip Reduction Program, working with large downtown firms to support commuting by bus, van, carpool, bicycle, and foot.

For 12 years she has been the consummate volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and its affiliates across the world.  Strauss plans and organizes the trips, working with Habitat affiliates in the destination countries. In March she went to Zambia and in August will make two trips to Guatemala, bringing her to a total of 24 trips.

Her classmate Kathleen Osborne Vellenga nominated her for this award, writing, “Families in Bolivia, Costa Rice, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, India, South Africa, Zambia, Mongolia, Georgia, and South Dakota now live in simple, decent houses thanks to Jessie’s work leading Habitat for Humanity builds.”

Strauss has been married to John for 46 years. They have three children, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She is also a member of the Northwest Rubber Chicken Society and entertains as Hokey Pokey the clown. Hokey Pokey and her Habitat friends always take time from cement blocks and concrete to organize a children’s carnival with face painting, balloon animals and magic.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,858 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.