The Vatican II Awards were established in 1991 to honor men, women and young adults who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council. These individuals have been selected by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki to be recognized for their service to the Body of Christ in southeastern Wisconsin. While an awards ceremony is typically held annually in October, this year’s festivities are postponed until such a time as it is safe to gather such a large group.
Service in Education — Joan Shafer
Joan Shafer’s resumé includes some compelling corporate roles with titles like executive vice president of human resources and organizational effectiveness, and chief compliance officer. Overall, her professional life has been defined by some high-responsibility positions that required leadership skills and expertise in change management.
So, in comparison, it may seem a little funny that one of the jobs Shafer says has influenced her the most was her job as a waitress at the Big Boy restaurant chain, where she worked off-and-on between her high school and graduate school years.
But it was there, ferrying drinks and food from kitchen to customer, that she learned crucial lessons about the importance of collaboration in the workplace.
“What I learned was the importance of the process of getting things accomplished and serving customers in a business,” said Shafer. “The process included everything from supply, manufacturing — the cooks — and service — which was me. In other words, everything is important to deliver the result to the customer.”
That attitude endures in the role Shafer finds herself filling today — chief executive officer of Seton Catholic Schools. She agreed to tackle this position just a few months after her retirement from the WEC Energy Group in 2018. It was a time when Seton, formed just two years earlier, was still focused on finding its footing as a network of urban archdiocesan schools.
“I have lived a wonderful life, blessed by many things, including my parents and my Catholic education,” said Shafer. “I would like the children of Seton to have the same excellent Catholic education and opportunities that I have had in my life.”
Shafer’s relationship with Catholic education goes back to her childhood in Greendale, where she attended St. Alphonsus Grade School, and continued through her high school years at Pius XI in Milwaukee. She achieved a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a master’s degree in human resources at the University of Cincinnati. She joined WE Energies in 1978 and, throughout the years, took on roles of increasing responsibility in customer service, human resources, operations and administrative services with WE Energies’ holding company, WEC Energy Group.
Alongside her professional accomplishments, Shafer has always made time for participation in the boards of a variety of non-profit organizations, including Milwaukee Montessori School, Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, First Stage, PAVE and Mount Mary University. Prior to serving as CEO of Seton Catholic Schools, Shafer was a secretary for the inaugural SCS Board of Directors.
“All my professional experiences have perfectly led me to my role, so I feel like I am in the right place at the right time,” said Shafer, a parishioner at Queen of Apostles in Pewaukee and the mother of two grown daughters. “I am also fortunate to work with a smart, hard-working and dedicated group of people that daily provide me inspiration to work through any challenge that comes our way.”