2014 Distinguished Alumna: Sarah Bornstein '69

2014 Distinguished Alumna: Sarah Bornstein '69

Empowered by her Chatham education, Distinguished Alumna Award winner Sarah Bornstein '69 gives others the tools to lead. As the Director of Human Resources at Neumann Family Services, Bornstein handles everything from training to labor relations. She builds the support network for Neumann's employees, creating the framework for them to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. An accomplished businesswoman and committed volunteer, she continues to embody the values of a Chatham education.

Bornstein followed a friend to Chatham: Natalie Dingle Bazzell '67. That influence - along with the short drive to Philadelphia - gave Bornstein confidence in her college choice. "I loved the environment and the emphasis on academic excellence and intellectual challenge," she says of her decision to attend Chatham. Bornstein's coursework challenged her to embrace learning. "More significant memories include so many wonderful classroom moments: listening to Dr. Borsody talk about the events leading up to World War I, learning about 17th century England from Art Smith, arguing with Will Arnett about knowledge theory." Along the way, she discovered her own power. "By the time I was a senior I knew I was smart, that I could research and solve problems, and that what I had to say was important." That knowledge carried her through a master's degree in American History at Rutgers University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and an additional master's degree in Human Resource Management from Loyola University of Chicago. Her career as a human resource executive took her to Dart & Kraft, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Roosevelt University, and the Department of Public Health for the City of Chicago. Bornstein even competed on JEOPARDY! in 1995. In the midst of an extraordinary career, she built a family. Her son, Kevin O'Reilly, is now a multi-award-winning journalist with a boy of his own, Lucas Alexander.

Chatham prepared Bornstein well for her life as a leader, as she was involved as President of the Chatham Community Government and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Now, she consults often with organizations committed to helping other women. She worked as the Board Chair for the Health Evaluation and Referral Service (HERS). As a leader of Women Employed, she focused on advocating for women's financial independence and economic equity. She held leadership positions and acted as Administrative Director for the Junior League of Chicago. And Bornstein's stewardship is well-recognized: she won the Mercedes Mentor Award, and Today's Chicago Woman named her one of "100 Women Making a Difference".

Years after earning her degree at Chatham, Bornstein reflects on the internal strength Chatham gave her. "That sense of self has remained with me and enabled me to meet challenges with courage and confidence." Bornstein found her voice and her self-esteem at Chatham, but she also found a home. "I have always known that my Chatham education and all that it encompassed - the classes, the community, the city, the friendships - was a seminal experience for me and my future."