NORMAL - Connie J. Link, lifelong educator, mentor, speech coach, and theater director, died Wednesday (Jan. 23, 2008) in Normal.
Connie was a graduate of Farmington High School and later received bachelor's and master's degrees from Eastern Illinois University.
Connie began her teaching career in 1969 at Tuscola before moving to Heyworth High School in 1971, where she taught, served as English Department Chair, directed theater and coached the speech team for 35 years. In 2004, she received the Marcella E. Oberle Award for Outstanding Teaching in Grades K-12 from the National Communication Association. In 2005, she was the Illinois recipient of the National Federation of High School's Outstanding Speech/Theatre/Debate Educator Award. In November 2005, Heyworth High School dedicated their new theater in her honor.
For more than 10 years, Connie served on the regional Heartland Tech Prep Leadership Committee, providing opportunities for all McLean County students to succeed in their education, careers and personal life. She received numerous "Connection" awards from the Illinois State Board of Education for the innovative programs that she designed.
Connie served as President of the Heyworth Education Association and numerous Illinois State Board of Education committees.
During her tenure, she maintained a highly successful speech program that produced numerous individual state champions and a third place team award at the Illinois High School Association State Speech Championships in 1995. She served as the IHSA State Chair for Individual Events; and for her long service to the association and the profession, Connie was honored with one of the inaugural IHSA Distinguished Service Awards in 2007.
Connie coached 80 students to the National Forensic League Tournament and had a national champion in Expository Speaking in 1990. In the National Forensics League, Connie was a three-diamond coach, served as the Chairperson of Supplemental Events and organized an NFL workshop in Illinois for new coaches. She also served as the District Chair for the Greater Illinois District, and in 1996, was the recipient of the Ralph E. Carey award for distinguished career service.
Connie taught as an adjunct at Illinois State University for five years and worked in their summer speech institute for over 25 years.
As a champion of speech and theater educators at the secondary, community college and university level, she was a lifetime member of the Illinois Speech and Theater Association, serving as President in 1990. She also held a variety of executive offices in ISTA.
As a convention planner for the organization, Connie was instrumental in establishing the Great Ideas for Teaching Speech. She also served as the Special Commission on Tournament Individual Events (S.C.O.T.I.E.) Chairperson. She received the organization's highest honors, the Edith Harrod Outstanding Teacher Award and the W.P. Sandford Presidential Award for excellence in speech, theater and education.
Ms. Link was a creative force behind the Normal Parks and Recreation Summer Theater Program for 32 years, teaching creative dramatics to children and serving in multiple capacities.
She was born Sept. 8, 1946, at Canton, the daughter of Les and June Conner Link.
Her father, Les Link; and her mother and stepfather, June and John Kauzlarich of Farmington, preceded Connie in death. Her brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Sharon Kauzlarich, and niece, Katie Kauzlarich, survive her.
A celebration of life service will be held at Heyworth High School, Heyworth, on Feb. 3rd at 1 p.m.
In lieu on flowers, donations may be made to the Connie J. Link Memorial Scholarship at Heyworth High School or the Normal Parks and Recreation Summer Theatre Program. Calvert & Metzler Memorial Home Bloomington is in charge of arrangements.