“This month’s featured member is Alan Jilka. His diverse life experiences and talents are intriguing. May is the ‘month of merriment’. Bloom where you are by inviting someone you know to join or “come back” to Rotary! Brenda O’Gorman, Membership Chair
I was born and raised in Salina. My most influential mentor at Sacred Heart High School was Jo Reed, my English teacher who turned me into a voracious reader, a habit I have carried with me throughout life. Following high school graduation I spent two years at the University of Kansas and then transferred to the University of Notre Dame where I sang in the Glee Club and graduated with a BA in history.
As a college senior I took beginning Spanish and nearly flunked it. Simultaneously I was taking an Introduction to Latin America class. The class so fired my imagination that I persisted with my Spanish and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico upon graduation. There I spent one of the best years of my life as I became fluent in Spanish and made lifelong friends. Following that year I moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and spent a year learning Portuguese. Later on I returned to Latin America for two years while in grad school and studied at both Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro and the University of Buenos Aires in the capital of Argentina.
After fifteen years away I returned to Salina around Christmas of 1995 and joined my parents in the family furniture store, Jilka Furniture. In 1997 I ran for and won a seat on the Salina City Commission. I spent the following twelve years on the commission and served three terms as mayor of Salina.
During my first campaign for the commission I met the then-superintendent of St. John’s Military School, Skip McAlexander. During lunch with Skip we discovered that in our past lives we had both studied at the same university in Rio de Janeiro. Skip invited me to Rotary saying that he particularly enjoyed the international focus of the organization. I was immediately hooked and joined shortly thereafter. In my early years I assisted with many Group Study Exchange groups, exchange students and the State Department-funded visit of a group of Russian businessmen in the late 1990s.
In 2013 I changed careers and became an investment advisor at United Capital Management here in Salina. Along the way I have finished a second Master’s degree, in Personal Financial Planning and achieved my Certified Financial Planner (C.F.P.) designation. In 2015 my language skills came in handy when I took in a Honduran foster son who ended up living with me for four years. Nowadays, Luis lives in Valencia, Spain and we stay in touch.
I have made a lot of life-long friends in Rotary. In addition to serving as program chair I have enjoyed participating in the musical activities of the club ranging from being a frequent member of the weekly quartet, to song leader and playing the guitar and singing for our annual Christmas programs. I have also had the opportunity over the years to attend Rotary Meetings in both Peru and Namibia. Organizations with the international breadth of Rotary are crucial to solving so many of the societal challenges we face.