Remembering Jennifer Knauss, Fierce Leader and Advocate

by Yamani Hernandez 06/18/12

Jenny Knauss (1937-2012)- adovocate for reproductive rights, women's health, and improving the health and welfare of the disenfranchised

Jennifer Knauss, who was the Founding Executive Director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health(ICAH), and was most recently the President of Alzheimer's Spoken Here, a Chicago-based advocacy organization, died of Alzheimer's Disease last week on Monday, June 11, 2012, at Catonsville Commons Nursing Home in Catonsville, Maryland.

ICAH is truly saddened by this loss of a leader and tireless advocate, and we would like to honor her memory and give tribute to her legacy at a fall ICAH 35th anniversary celebration and reunion gathering. More details regarding this event will follow this summer.

In my first year as the fourth Executive Director in ICAH's history, I am stopped *ALL* time by colleagues who have nothing but raving reviews about Jenny and the impact she made on the field. Most recently, a former colleague wrote on Facebook in her honor, "Jenny Knauss is the reason I am who I am. Please make a toast to the mother of women's liberation in Chicago."

I feel lucky to have met her 12 years ago through my work at Girls' Best Friend Foundation, where she served on the Board of Directors. Jenny laid a powerful foundation for ICAH, and we intend to amplify her legacy and increase the impact of this organization by transforming public consciousness about youth sexuality and sexual decision-making and building capacity of systems to support the sexual health, identity and rights of youth in Illinois.

Ms. Knauss, who was known as Jenny, was 75 years old and lived in Chicago for much of her life before she became ill. Shewas a teacher and advocate, working at the University of Illinois Medical School and for several public health organizations throughout her career. Her area of expertise was women's health and reproductive rights. She was a founding member of the Chicago Women's Liberation Organization. She later became the first executive director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, a nonprofit with an emphasis on marginalized populations and training young people to advocate for themselves and their communities.

When Ms. Knauss learned she had Alzheimer's in 2002, she decided to use her remaining productive years as an advocate for Alzheimer's patients, testifying before congress to garner research dollars for the disease and working with University of Illinois gerontology researchers.

Ms. Knauss was born in Melbourn, England, a small village near Cambridge. She received her undergraduate and master's degrees in history from Oxford. She moved to Nigeria in 1960, where she worked at the University of Ibadan. In 1964 she began teaching at the University of Ghana in Accra. In Ghana she met and married her first husband, the late Peter R. Knauss, and moved with him to the States.

Ms. Knauss is survived by her second husband, Don F. Moyer of Chicago; a son and daughter from her first marriage, Orlando Knauss, of Larchmont, New York, and Olivia Bukosky of Owings Mills, Maryland; and three grandchildren, Jacob Bukosky, and Theodore and Louisa Knauss.

Please stay tuned for more details this summer regarding ICAH's upcoming 35th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion Gathering in the fall.

Yamani Hernandez
ICAH Executive Director