Julius and Carolyn Sklenar valued Catholic education. They sent all five of their children to St. Andrew School in Delavan.

Their legacy lives at the school where middle-schoolers are using math books purchased in the couple’s memory.St. Andrew School, Delavan fifth-grade teacher Janel Karsten helps sixth-grader, John Moses work on a math problem on Tuesday, Jan. 13. They are using one of the math books donated by the Sklenar adult children in memory of their parents, Julius and Carolyn Sklenar. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

“When Mom died, we had asked people to send a donation to St. Andrew School in lieu of flowers, said Elizabeth Sklenar, the couple’s third child. “I mean, flowers are nice, and it is very thoughtful when people send flowers, but do something for the kids. That is what our parents really wanted. Something in education.”

The Sklenars’ adult children contacted St. Andrew School, Delavan, to see how they could best serve the school.

School principal John Chovanec suggested purchasing a computer cart or providing assistance for kids whose parents couldn’t afford tuition.

But when Chovanec mentioned the 48 students in grades six through eight needed new math books, the family knew that is what it wanted to do.

“We wanted something concrete and tangible. So, we chose the math books because it’s something that each child can hold and use. It’s not ephemeral,” Elizabeth said.

In all, the family gave about $4,000 for the math books. The family donated another $5,000 to the parish’s endowment fun.

“The textbooks were a good idea because of that emphasis on doing well in school that was really important to their parents. They wanted to make sure that we had the best resources possible for our kids,” Chovanec said.

Math, the logical donation

“All of us were very interested in math. Our dad was a carpenter, our mom was the vice president at Johanessen-Farrar Insurance in Delavan, so it was always math, math, math,” Elizabeth Sklenar said.

So math was the logical beneficiary for the donation.

“Attending a parochial school, you’d assume the children would receive some religious instruction, but that shouldn’t preclude quality education in other areas,” Elizabeth said.

Plus, the family felt it was important for everyone to learn math.

“No matter what you believe, or who you are, math is good for kids. Everyone needs to know math. So that is what we decided for the money,” Elizabeth said.

Because the school had purchased a math series the previous year for the younger grades, now all 149 students in 5K through eighth grade at St. Andrew have up-to-date learning resources, Chovanec said.

“All of the math curriculum now uses the Common Core Standards. The donation allowed us to keep our curriculum up-to-date and be able to provide the best possible resources and textbooks for our kids,” Chovanec said.

In addition to the math books, the donation covered online teaching materials.

“It’s a lot more than a textbook. It’s a textbook, it’s SMART board lessons, it’s iPad lessons,” Chovanec said. “It’s just a whole lot of great resources to help our kids do the best they can in math.

Solid foundation

The Sklenar children attribute their later successes to the foundation they received at St. Andrew.

“Our parents were always very keen on education,” said Elizabeth, who earned two master’s degrees before earning a doctorate in Latin American studies.

After graduating from St. Andrew School, the children — Barbara Sklenar-Oates, 57; Thomas Sklenar, 56; Elizabeth Sklenar, 52; Laura Took, 49; and Diane Sklenar, 38 — attended public high school and went on to college.

“I loved going to St. Andrew School, and if I still lived in Delavan, I would definitely be sending my children there,” said

Diane, who lives with her husband and three children in Colorado.

Elizabeth’s favorite thing about St. Andrew School was the camaraderie of the classmates.

“All of us still have friends from when we went to school there,” Elizabeth said. “At our mom’s and dad’s funerals, some of our friends that we went to school with came to the funeral. We were all in it together.”

The Sklenars also appreciated their teachers at St. Andrew.

“We all admired our teachers who really did not make a lot of money,” Elizabeth said. “And our peers admired our teachers. Teachers have such an important role in the lives of children.”

Still, much of what the Sklenars learned, they learned from their parents.

“Our parents taught us to respect teachers, and you better learn in school and math is important,” Elizabeth said. “Nobody can ever take your education away from you, ever. That is what our parents always encouraged us.”

Parenting education

Julius and Carolyn Sklenar were the youngest children in their families. Julius was the youngest of seven, and Carolyn was the youngest of 12.

Carolyn was her high school class valedictorian, and Julius was the only one in his family to graduate high school.

“Not because his siblings weren’t intelligent, they were so poor they couldn’t afford the deposit at the beginning of the school year for the books,” Elizabeth said.

Most likely, Julius’ older siblings had to quit school after eighth grade to work and contribute to the family income, Elizabeth said.

Neither Carolyn nor Julius went to college, but it was something they wanted their own children to do.

Julius and Carolyn Sklenar were married in April 1956. Julius was a journeyman carpenter and built the house where they lived their entire married life. Later he worked as an office manager.

In addition to working at an insurance company, Carolyn Sklenar served on St. Andrew’s financial committee.

“Our parents were not wealthy and it was a sacrifice to pay the tuition at St. Andrew School, but it was important to them,” Elizabeth said. “They both loved to read and encouraged us to study.  Both were very good at mathematics.”

Julius died in January 2013 at age 90, and Carolyn Sklenar died 18 months later at age 82.

“They made sacrifices to make sure their kids could go here to St. Andrew because they felt that was so important for the kids’ future, and it really worked out well for them. All of the children are very successful,” Chovanec said.


“I want to give them a very sincere thank you for their donation,” Chovanec said.

Like the Sklenar family, there are others who help out with finances at St. Andrew School.

Some give to a tuition assistance fund called “Friends of St. Andrew’s.”

“Every year we have quite a few people giving to that tuition assistance to allow a family that wouldn’t be able to afford a Catholic education to get that. So we are pretty lucky,” Chovanec said.

St. Andrew School has been serving the Delavan community for 73 years, he said.

“This school has a really great tradition in the community,” Chovanec said. “Because of that, our alumni want to do what they can to help out, so we are very fortunate to have some very generous alumni and very generous parish members that every year seem to come through and do a lot to help the school.”

The support is appreciated.

“Thank you to all alumni of Catholic schools who do that little extra to make sure that the Catholic school that they went to has what they need. And, of course, for the generous parish members that we have here at St. Andrew, we are so thankful. We couldn’t do a lot of what we do without their support,” Chovanec said.