In celebration of Black History Month, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza honored five downstate individuals for their outstanding contributions to the state of Illinois and their communities. She hosted a recognition ceremony Feb. 23 in her Springfield office.
Dr. Shelia Boozer had a long and distinguished career in Springfield public schools as a teacher and administrator before becoming the first Black female superintendent of the Champaign Unit 4 School District in 2021. She is a passionate educator, devoted to improving student achievement and creating a supportive learning environment for both teachers and students. Boozer was the first Black principal at Lanphier High School and Black Hawk and Fairview Elementary Schools and the first Black Director of Teaching and Learning in District 186.
Preston Jackson is a highly acclaimed sculptor and art educator. He owns The Side View Gallery, home of Peoria's Contemporary Art Center. He is professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He creates provocative bronze figurative work and monumental steel and cast bronze sculptures as well as two-dimensional pieces. He is a 1998 Lincoln Laureate. Through his art, Jackson inspires viewers to see things they may not have considered before or examine things from a different point of view. Jackson's "Acts of Intolerance" sculpture, near the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, commemorates the centennial of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot. Jackson grew up in Decatur.
Barbara Montgomery is a track and field coach and P.E. teacher at Springfield's Franklin Middle School. She coached at Springfield Southeast High School for 29 years. In recognition of her outstanding leadership as a coach, she was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2023. She motivates girls to succeed on and off the track. She has coached girls track and field teams to four IHSA State Championships and has coached athletes to 17 individual State Championships. Montgomery competed in track and field at Lanphier High School and SIU-Edwardsville.
Timara Pflug is a police officer with the Springfield Police Department. Pflug grew up in low-income neighborhoods in St. Louis. She lost her father to gun violence in 2013. She became a police officer to help prevent others from suffering such heartache. Pflug founded The Dollhouse Project, giving away dollhouses to girls in low-income communities. As a child, sharing a dollhouse with her sisters sparked her imagination. She hopes to spark this same imagination in girls like her in Springfield and help inspire them to become the best version of themselves. She also serves on the board of Wooden It Be Lovely.
Dean L. Rogan Sr. is a registered pharmacist, owner of Rogan's Country Pharmacy and mayor of the Village of Pulaski. In 1965, Rogan was the first African American honor graduate from Brooke Army Medical Field Service School in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He has over 50 years of practice in retail pharmacy. His local pharmacy in far southern Illinois is a lifeline for people in this rural community. He is known for treating his customers like family. He also benefits the community by serving on the regional board of education and local workforce investment board and helped to establish the village park.
Mendoza credited these individuals for the many ways they have applied their talents and life experiences to help others and serve as role models. She emphasized the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the vast contributions of the African American community to the state every day, not only during Black History Month. She reminded everyone to follow the advice of her mentor, Jesse White – Do something good for someone every single day.