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‘He was just an outstanding kid’: BBCHS alumnus’ influence continues three decades later

More than three decades have passed since Adam Karr turned his tassel and walked across the stage of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School District 307. But Karr’s influence continues to this day within his old stomping grounds in multiple ways.

Karr, a member of the Class of 1989, was recently named to BBCHS’ 2020 outstanding achievement program through an initiative within the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School District Academic Foundation.

Ken Goodwin, a retired BBCHS guidance counselor, nominated Karr for the annual award.

“There are certain students that just make an impact on you — not just for a little while, but forever,” Goodwin said. “Adam was one of those kids who left a lasting impression on me.”

Since leaving the hallways of BBCHS, Karr has notched multiple achievements. He currently serves as managing director of Orbis Investment Management. He and wife Tonia have also endowed a number of scholarships at such universities as Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford, as well as at Karr’s alma mater.

Goodwin has kept in touch with Karr’s parents over the years and said he is not surprised Karr achieved success post-graduation. However, Goodwin said he only recently gained a deep understanding of Karr’s achievements as he completed the award nomination.

“My jaw just fell open. This guy didn’t slow down. He sped up,” Goodwin said. “For someone who does what he’s done, Adam needs a ‘thank you.’ Thank you for being a Boiler.”

Karr, who was unable to be reached for this article, has been considered a person who works quietly, behind the scenes, but has made a marked difference through his actions. Goodwin said those quiet works were noted during his high school years.

“He was a very quiet achiever,” Goodwin said. “He did what he needed to do, and he did it to the best of his ability. He was just an outstanding kid.”

Goodwin further elaborated on Karr’s attributes: “He was an excellent wrestler. But he was excellent at everything he did. He was a buddy. He was a regular kid. If I was with him in high school, I would want Adam as my friend.”

Karr’s mom, Vicki Olenjack, said she and her husband (Karr’s stepfather), Stan Olenjack, have been gratified by the recognition their son has received.

“It feels good,” Vicki said when reached by phone recently. “We are quite proud of him.”

Karr’s most recent influence on BBCHS was noted earlier in January when he and his wife pledged funds to create a First Generation of Students of Color scholarship program through the academic foundation.

The endowment provides a $1,000 scholarship to students of color who are the first person in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree. It is available to current BBCHS seniors and is one of 20 scholarships offered at BBCHS through the academic foundation.

If tentative plans proceed amid a still-uncertain environment, the goal is to formally recognize the Karrs for their continued influence on BBCHS at the academic foundation’s annual dinner in November.

In an email, BBCHS Foundation President Linda Klette said the Karrs will be invited to the dinner if it takes place.

“(Adam) and his wife are so generous to many organizations, and we are very grateful for the donation he has made to the high school,” Klette said. “We will be inviting Adam to attend our annual dinner in November, if restrictions ease, and if his schedule would allow him to attend.”

Adam Karr

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