Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) Women’s History Month Committee annually solicits nominations for, selects and awards the Sister Clare Award. The award, presented during Women’s History Month every March, recognizes women of vision who have transformed the world in their time, is presented each year to a deserving recipient by USF in the spirit of our sister, Clare. USF congratulates Kathryn “Kathy” Giegerich on being selected as this year’s award recipient.

Giegerich is the sole owner/operator of Blackburn Giegerich Sonntag Funeral Home in Joliet. She started working at the family funeral home when women were starting in the business, and there were very few female funeral directors. She was mentored by her father, who instilled in her the philosophy that the funeral home is not just a business; it’s a service that provides help for people going through a difficult time. Giegerich accepted the award during a special ceremony at USF on March 22, 2023.

Giegerich is committed to serving the community. Her parents believed in giving back to the community and taught their children to do the same. She joined Childerguild at Silver Cross Hospital in the mid-1980s, volunteering as a sales clerk at the hospital gift shop. She was chairperson for several of the black-tie galas and has served as president of the organization. Additionally, Giegerich has held positions on the Guardian Angel Community Services and Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home boards. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Joliet, Lightways Hospice Guild, and most recently, The Visitation and Aid Society. Zonta International and the recognition of women’s rights have been and continue to be important to Kathy. She has served as president of the Joliet chapter of Zonta.

USF’s inaugural Sister Clare Award was presented in 2013 during Women’s History Month to the university’s founding congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. Other honorees have included Diane Nilan (2014), Cleopatra Pendelton (2015), Bernice Sandler (2016), Mona Purdy (2017), Petra Jamie (2018), Nancy Economu (2019), Roxiana Fuqua (2020), Dr. Ngozi Ezike (2021), and Patricia Alvarez (2022).

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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 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

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