Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) is pleased to announce that senior biology major Jonathan Wolf from Kalamazoo, Mich., has been selected as this year’s Student Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Through this special program, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois honors Student Laureates from each of the participating Illinois colleges and universities for their leadership and service in the pursuit of the betterment of humanity and for overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.

This year’s honorees have been invited to watch an online program that will include a congratulatory statement from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and words of encouragement from past Lincoln Laureates. Honorees will also receive a letter of congratulations from the Academy, a certificate signed by Governor Pritzker, a challenge coin, and a monetary grant.

Wolf, who was nominated for the honor by USF baseball head coach Brian Michalak and USF Academic Resource Center assistant director Joanna Kourtidis, was humbled when he was notified of the honor.

“I was speechless. I was humbled and honored by it. I know that the only reason I am able to be considered for this award is because God has given me the opportunities He has. He’s given me the blessings He has and, through His strength and trusting in His plans, I have been able to fulfill the requirements of this nomination. For Him to give me those opportunities and for me to then be able to praise Him through them is huge for me,” Wolf said.

Following his graduation in the spring, Wolf aspires to enroll in a cardiovascular perfusionist program to obtain either a related certificate or master’s degree. Professionals in this line of work are responsible for operating circulatory equipment during an open-heart surgery or any other medical procedure in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient’s circulatory or respiratory function.

“Early on during my high school career, I had a general interest in becoming a doctor or surgeon. When I was in my second year of biology at Portage Northern High School in Portage, Michigan, I learned that my teacher’s (Mrs. Jessica Clark) husband was a cardiovascular perfusionist, which drew my interest. I continued to research the profession through the remainder of my high school career and became very interested in it,” Wolf said.

Wolf added that he has also been able to shadow Clark’s husband for a small number surgeries to gain first-hand observational experience.

“What I like most about this profession is that it will provide me with an opportunity to have a career in an operating room while also affording me plenty of time to devote to my family and my community,” Wolf added.

Once his career path has begun, Wolf plans to use his faith as a way to connect with and serve his community.

“I’d love to get more involved with the church community at home. The Diocese of Kalamazoo is experiencing some shortages with priests, so to be able to provide some help in that community would be meaningful,” Wolf said.

“Through a family lens, I also hope to help coach little league baseball or other teams. My philosophy is to work to be able to live, not to live to be able to work. This would allow me to work to get my professional goals in while also having plenty of time for a personal life that includes service to my community,” he added.

Wolf’s service-minded approach to life sources from his family.

“My parents (Todd and Kristen Wolf) have always been ones to inspire me in terms of leadership and service and doing things that are focused on addressing the needs of those around me and in my community. They strongly encourage me to take on leadership opportunities as they arise,” Wolf said.

“I am from a large family and have three older brothers and four younger sisters. My brothers have always set a good example for me, and now I am trying to do the same for my sisters. I’m certainly not perfect, but it is really important to me to model for them what it means to be a good and faithful person in today’s culture,” he added.

While he had opportunities through baseball to attend other universities, Wolf chose USF because of the campus atmosphere and the school’s Franciscan approach to service.

“My experience at USF has been great. I had opportunities to go to other universities, but I chose USF because of the campus community and the service opportunities that are available here. Being in a smaller setting allows me to take on leadership opportunities that might not have presented themselves at larger schools. Being able to work with my professors and getting to know them is something that larger schools can’t always offer. USF’s ability to listen to and interact with the student body reinforces that sense of community,” Wolf said.

“I also appreciate how USF interacts with and supports the local community. Being able to volunteer at Daybreak Center and with the Miracle League of Joliet have been valuable experiences for me,” he added.

With graduation only six months away, Wolf offered advice for high school seniors who are applying for and enrolling at colleges and universities this fall.

“Keep yourself open to opportunities. Focusing on academics and other commitments is certainly important, but keep time open for other opportunities. It’s funny, the busier you are, the more time you have. Make time to study and meet your deadlines, but also make time to serve others. When you make time to answer that call to serve your community, it is very rewarding and very fulfilling,” he concluded.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate Jonathan Wolf