John “Jack” Cygan has serviced his community in many ways.
His work as a coach at St. Paul School in Highland and his volunteer service as Catholic Youth Minister at St. Paul from 1976-2011 is legendary.
Cygan was the high school basketball coach at St. Paul for 15 years, and also served as the fifth- and sixth-grade boys basketball coach.
Cygan, a graduate of Central Catholic High School in East St. Louis, started the annual high school Girls Basketball Tournament at St. Paul High School in 1986. The following year, the tournament was moved to HHS and continues to this day at Highland High School. It has expanded to become one of the most prestigious 16-team events in southern Illinois. The tournament has featured many state championship teams and dozens of all-state players over the last 30-plus years.
Cygan was also the first girls high school soccer coach in the state of Illinois, starting in 1994. Since there were no other high schools to compete against, Cygan persuaded an adult women’s league in Belleville to let the high school girls play in their league, even though the girls didn’t meet the age requirement.
He also coached several women’s softball teams for many years in the VFW and KC leagues.
Cygan was a loving, giving, faithful individual, giving his time freely and always willing to help anyone or champion a good cause for St. Paul School and Parish and the Highland community.
Besides athletics, Cygan coordinated projects where high school students prepared yearly Easter baskets and Christmas gifts to underprivileged youth in East St. Louis; packed small bags of rice ingredients to be sent to people in Africa; and worked at senior citizen facilities to clean up the facilities and help with repairs. Cygan led many high school students to World Youth Day in Rome, Italy; Sydney, Australia; Cologne, Germany; New Zealand; Canada; and Denver, Colo. Cygan was recognized by Pope John Paul II for Young Ministry Work in 2013.
He was the Highland Police Board Commissioner for 30 years and awarded Citizen of the Year by the Highland Rotary Club in 2016, posthumously.
Other awards included the Pauline Award at St. Paul for Ministry in Faith Formation in 2013 from St. Paul School; the Father Tamulis Award for Family and Youth Ministry in 1999, presented by the Springfield Diocese for service to St. Paul School.
Cygan, who started Cygan Catering Service in 1963 (now Cygan-Delaney Catering), passed away in 2015.
Other Public Service category nominees are Missions International founder Len Daiber and Jim Burgett, former superintendent of the Highland School District.
HIASAA Hall of Fame Voting Procedures
When is voting? Voting will take place from May 1-31. All ballots must by in the hands of Highland Illinois Area Schools Alumni Association (HIASAA) by May 31.
Who can vote? Any alumni of any school within the boundaries of the Highland School District or any employees of these schools. Need not have graduated from school, just attended. To be able to vote, alumni or employees must be a paid member of HIASAA.
How do I become a member? Go to the association website highlandilalumni.com. There is a place to register online and an option to use PayPal to pay your dues. Or, you can send the application and a check to HIASAA, 400 Broadway, Highland, IL 62249. Membership dues are $10 per year, $40 for a five-year membership, or $100 for a lifetime membership. All memberships are for the calendar year, starting Jan. 1.
How do I vote? From May 1-31, you can obtain a downloadable ballot on the website. Ballots must be completed and mailed to HIASAA, 400 Broadway, Highland, IL 62249. All ballots must be received by May 31. he Board of Directors will count the ballots in early June and letters will be sent informing all nominees of the results. If anyone needs a ballot or wants to join the association but does not have computer access, they should contact Sherry Fletcher, HIASAA board secretary, at 618-654-6266 for a ballot or membership application. If you have any questions, contact Fletcher at the above phone number.