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Eugene T. ’80 and Lucy M. ’82 Wyka

Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service

Alumni Gene and Lucy Wyka didn’t meet each other until the summer of 1982, after Gene Wyka had already graduated. That the two would eventually start an organization — Gift of Adoption Fund — that would support over 1,700 adoptions of vulnerable children to families who desperately wanted them, is the last thing either of them would have expected.

Lucy Wyka, who graduated with a BBA in general business, initially worked in mortgages at a savings and loan and then earned a master’s degree in library sciences. Not long after Gene Wyka graduated with a B.S. in psychology, he became legally blind as a result of Type 1 diabetes and unable to drive. He went on to found the Crisis Prevention Institute, an organization that specializes in nonviolent crisis intervention.

When the two sought to start a family through adoption in 1989, they found few agencies willing to work with them because their health issues. When they finally did succeed in being matched with their first son, Joseph, they flew to Peru for what was supposed to be two weeks and ended up languishing for four months as the adoption process dragged on.

The couple felt fortunate to have the financial ability and professional flexibility to do so. Knowing few would have such resources, the couple founded the Gift of Adoption Fund in 1996 so that others seeking to adopt could find the financial and logistical support they needed. The organization makes awards of up to $7,500 to families regardless of race, religion, age or marital status.

The couple later adopted Nathaniel, 23, in the U.S. and Liana, 18, in Guatemala. Gene Wyka, who passed away from complications from diabetes in the fall of 2015, and Lucy Wyka shared the wish that the fund continue to grow and bring children home to parents who want families.

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