A warrior in the battle for equal education for all students, Francine Chakolis passed away Jan. 15 at the age of 73.
Chakolis came from a family of sharecroppers that suffered from discriminatory practices in Mississippi. Her background served as a catalyst that fueled her passion for education and social justice.
At the age of 15, she dropped out of school to take care of two younger siblings and two nephews. After moving to Minneapolis in 1969, she got her GED and graduated from Augsburg College in three years, while raising four children. She received a master's degree from the University of Minnesota and served as president of Pillsbury United Neighborhood Services.
Chakolis became a professor of social work at Augsburg College, where she taught for 28 years. While at Augsburg, she spearheaded a campaign that resulted in the first accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) in the United States offered in a weekend college format. While working as a professor, Chakolis worked in the community, serving as the president of the Minnesota Alliance of Black School Educators and as the co-founder of Inter-Race.
After retirement, she lent her expertise to numerous projects and remained dedicated to her community.
Chakolis was wife to her husband of 46 years, Richard Chakolis, Sr., and mother to her four children, Tonda Chakolis, Ronda Swilling (Robert Swilling), Richard Chakolis, Jr. (Desma), and Fawnda Burt (Glenn Burt). She was grandmother to seven and great grandmother to two.
Chakolis was preceded in death by her mother, Fannie Chakolis, father, Edmund Chakolis, sisters, Marie Dixon and Josephine Moore and brother, Ed Byrd. Her surviving siblings are Irene Muldrow, Elizabeth Vaughn, Betty Liddell, and Jimmie Byrd.
A memorial service was held Jan. 26 at Speak the Word International Church in Minneapolis The family is requesting monetary memorials to the Francine Chakolis Scholarship. Donations can be mailed to 927 Vincent Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN 55411.