Almarie Wagner has a long history with University Church, both as a member and as a leader.
Almarie met Jim Wagner in 1968 at the University of Chicago during graduate school, and were married in 1972 at University Church. The Wagners didn’t really attend church until Christmas of 1975, after their twin daughters Cecily and Cynthia, were born in April 1975, when they showed up during the Christmas Eve service, two girls in tow, and the rest is history.
Jim began the attending to Black Culture Committee along with Harvey Lord back in the 1980s, which led to the Soul Food potluck dinners. Both Jim and Almarie took turns serving as Moderator of the church board and Almarie will retire as of December 31, 2016 as moderator. When Jim died of lung cancer in January 2009, his memorial service was held at University Church. Jim’s ashes, along with his mother’s and his step-mother’s, are buried in the church’s memorial garden. Almarie sees University Church as an anchor, and the heart of her family.
Almarie’s professional life is impressive, with more than forty years experience in all phases of nonprofit management, including fundraising, financial management, strategic planning, program development, board relations, human resources, and marketing and communications. She also has significant experience in leading organizational change, coaching executives to higher performance, and managing successful mergers.
Almarie began her career as a social worker in Chicago’s inner city, first with United Charities and then with Youth Guidance where she rose to Assistant Director. During a twelve-year career with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, her notable achievements included: securing the first MacArthur Foundation grant ever awarded in the area of youth services, being part of the team that led the creation of the organization’s first strategic plan, and providing significant leadership in establishing a highly successful South Side YMCA Center. Later, as Executive Vice President of the American Heart Association’s Greater Midwest Affiliate, her responsibilities encompassed seven states and an annual budget of more than $65 million.
Since retiring in 2007, Almarie has worked through the Executive Service Corps Interim Executive Director program as an Interim ED for three organizations, where she was instrumental in restoring financial health and in transitioning to permanent Executive Directors. In addition to her work with ESC, Almarie runs her own consulting and executive coaching practice. Currently she is providing executive coaching to two chapter executives with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Almarie holds a B.A. in Psychology from Wheaton College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She is currently Vice Chair of the Hyde Park Jazz Society in Chicago, a member of the Mary Herrick Scholarship Fund Board of Directors, a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, and a member of the Chicago Network, an association of women professional leaders in the Metropolitan Chicago area. At the end of 2016, she will complete her service as Moderator of the Board of University Church.