Carolyn Bogott: A contributor to the community

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Peggy Benzkofer’s calm demeanor, wisdom, and sense of humor have contributed to many areas of our community in her 57 years in Austin. Good communication and education have been strong themes in her work and volunteer activities.

When her children were young, Benzkofer worked for St. Edward’s Catholic Church with the CCD program, providing religious education for Catholic children attending secular schools. In that job, she also prepared parents for their children’s baptism and prepared the children for their first communion. She then worked in public relations for Woodvale, an agency that supports disabled adults and children, and for the Austin Public Schools.

Her work for Austin Public Schools included working with students in communications at the technical college (then a part of the school district) to produce the KSMQ show called “Out and About in the Austin Public Schools.”  She wrote newspaper columns for three APS superintendents, and for many years (before the internet!) she put together the paper district calendar which went out to the homes of all the students and employees. Her work on several school referendum efforts was done outside of her paid hours.

Email newsletter signup

Thirty years ago, when the statewide Math Masters competition for fifth and sixth graders originated right here in Austin, Peggy was hired as the state coordinator.  She gave many hours beyond those which were required during her years in that capacity. That job drew on her skills for attention to detail and organization. Getting the right materials to all the competition sites around the state was a huge task.  Watching her oversee the Austin site competitions over the years, with the Ove Berven gym floor full of nervous young math students and with their coaches and parents in the stands, was a sight to behold!

In 1990, the Austin Public Education Foundation was established, and Peggy was hired as the executive director and her administrative talents helped get that entity off to a solid start.  In that job, she worked closely with the establishment of Austin High School Alumni and Friends. This job included organizing golf event fundraisers and dinners with outstanding speakers, as well as working with the board to review grant applications, alongside other less glamorous work.

Throughout her years in Austin, she has been an active member of the American Association of University Women. (AAUW). She has held many leadership roles in AAUW including president, secretary, and for many years was the newsletter editor. When AAUW helped with the establishment of the Science Fair Mentoring Program, Peggy was there to volunteer.

She has been a stalwart in the planning and carrying out of the yearly assembly sponsored by AAUW at Austin High School celebrating Women’s History Month each March for the last 18 years. She chairs the project to support AAUW Riverland scholarship recipients with monthly notes of cheer and support. And she organizes the Great Decisions Study group which uses the Foreign Policy Association materials.

Another long-term commitment has been her work with the Page Turners, the organization that every year chooses a book for the City Wide Read and brings the author for a speaking engagement. Her co- chair, Bonnie Rietz, said “Peggy and I have worked together on Austin Page Turners for almost 20 years. Working with Peggy on this project is such a joy!  She is very efficient, has great ideas and volunteers for whatever tasks need to be done.  And she is fun!”

Two other contributions she is currently making to our community are board membership on the Austin Area Foundation and the Pillars of the City committee.

Austin has benefitted in many ways from the contributions to our community by Peggy Benzkofer!  Thank you, Peggy!