SAVOY — People who knew Champaign school board member Greg Novak say he will be remembered as a former educator with a big heart who sought election to the school board to better serve the needs of the young people of the Unit 4 school district.
Champaign school district Community Relations Coordinator Lynn Peisker said that Mr. Novak, 61, of Savoy, died on Wednesday.
"We are deeply saddened, and our thoughts are with his family," Peisker said on Wednesday night. "Greg always put the kids first when he made decisions, and he will be remembered for that."
Champaign school board President Sue Grey described Mr. Novak as "a big guy with a big heart."
"Greg was a big guy in so many ways, and he had such a big heart for what he did," Grey said. "We are all pretty devastated. He loved Unit 4, and words cannot describe how deeply committed he was to Unit 4 being the best district it could possibly be."
Grey said Mr. Novak was a kind person, and she said she will miss his leadership.
"Greg wasn't afraid to ask all the difficult questions," Grey said. "He was the one who looked at situations our district faced from different angles to make sure we fleshed out all the ideas."
Champaign schools Superintendent Judy Wiegand said she will remember Mr. Novak for his devotion to the students of the school district as well as to his family.
"He was someone very dedicated to the students, faculty and staff and the whole Champaign Unit 4 community," Wiegand said on Wednesday night. "He was very passionate about his work with public education."
Wiegand said she will always hold Mr. Novak in high regard.
"In addition to his dedication as a board member, he was also a very loving husband, father and grandfather. He is going to be missed by many."
Former Unit 4 school board member Phil Van Ness said he will remember Mr. Novak's pursuit of excellence as an educator.
"He worked in the library at Jefferson Middle School for a long time before he got elected to the school board," Van Ness said.
Van Ness said he remembers Mr. Novak's efforts as president of the Champaign Federation of Teachers when Van Ness served on the school board.
"He was energetic and conscientious representing the union, and I believe it drove him to becoming interested in being a member of the school board," Van Ness said. "He cared a great deal about all the schools and brought a perspective he thought was missing on the school board as far as the rights and needs of the teachers were concerned."