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The EIU Alumni Association is proud to announce the recipients of the 2016 Alumni Awards. Scroll down to read more about these extraordinary alumni!

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Established in 1973, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious award which is bestowed by the Alumni Association. This award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves in either academic or literary fields, business, public service and/or service to the University and who, through their accomplishments and service, have brought prestige to their alma mater.

Alumni nominated for this award must have celebrated at least their sixth class reunion. In the case of an alumna/us who has not graduated, class year would be determined by the year he or she would have graduated.

Past recipients have included an Illinois Governor, Oscar-nominated actors, a nuclear physicist, educators at all levels, CEOs, athletes and many others.

Louis V. Hencken Alumni Service Award

First presented in 1988, the Alumni Service Award is presented to alumni who have repeatedly displayed outstanding voluntary service to the University. In 2007 the name was changed to the Louis V. Hencken Alumni Service Award in honor of Eastern's outgoing president. Lou Hencken served Eastern in a variety of administrative positions for over 40 years and was named University president on August 1, 2001. He retired from the presidency on June 30, 2007.

Outstanding Young Alumnus

First presented in 1988, the Outstanding Young Alumna/us is presented to an alumna/us who is 35 years of age or younger and has excelled in a new career and/or public service.

Distinguished Educator Award

Established in 2004, the Distinguished Educator Award is presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in the field of K-12 education.

2016 Award Recipients

Congratulations to EIU's 2016 Alumni Award recipients!
Those being recognized this year include:

Louis V. Hencken Alumni Service Award

Matt Davidson '82 '84

DavidsonEIU is known for its strong tradition of service, and Matt Davidson serves as a living tribute to that cause. Paraphrasing one of his nominating letters, “Matt has done many things throughout his career which have resulted in not just a better EIU, but a better Illinois.” He is a steadfast community volunteer representing and supporting numerous organizations—EIU included. His advocacy for the university is well-known throughout the state, and he is often referred to by others as one of EIU’s most influential cheerleaders. From there, his roles as both a volunteer and EIU activist flourished. He is a member of EIU’s School of Technology advisory board as well as a member of the Panther Club. In addition to starting an alumni chapter in Springfield and coordinating the university’s first alumni golf outing in that area to raise money for scholarships, he also has served as president of the EIU Alumni Association, of which he is a lifetime member. Throughout his career as a legislative director and in the private sector, the Champaign resident, has earned widespread commendation for his steadfast dedication to the EIU community and its stakeholders.  Davidson, who also received the Outstanding Service Award from the Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation (7,000 employees were eligible) for his service to the department, legislators and the citizens of Illinois, is currently a business development manager for the Farnsworth Group.

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Maurice Cheeks '07

CheeksMaurice Cheeks has blazed his own path to success, which began by earning a bachelor’s degree in career and organizational studies from EIU in 2007. After being recruited to Madison, Wisconsin, to work for Apple, Cheeks continued his education through executive courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business. Today he serves as the vice president of business development for MIOsoft, the industry-leading big data quality and analytics company. He is also a locally-elected official, currently serving in his second term as a member of the Madison City Council. Since moving to Madison, Cheeks has lent his expertise and leadership to several non-profit organizations. He is a board member of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, a founding board member of the Wisconsin chapter of the New Leaders Council and serves as a member of the steering committee for ScaleUpMilwaukee, a planning agency for boosting economic development in Wisconsin's largest city. Cheeks says the driving force behind his public service is to ensure Madison is a national example for other cities on innovating in order to eliminate opportunity gaps, increase citizen engagement and purposefully design infrastructure to support future population growth. These efforts have all seen his name added to In Business Magazine’s list of the 25 Most Influential People in Greater Madison and Madison365's list of the 28 Most Influential African-Americans in Wisconsin.

Distinguished Educator Award

PJ Caposey '04

CaposeyPJ Caposey has moved up quickly since beginning his career as a teacher in Chicago in 2005. He was named assistant principal at Rockford’s Auburn High School and began serving as principal at Oregon High School in 2009, helping it earn recognition as one of the nation’s best high schools by US News & World Report and Newsweek. At 35, he is the now one of the state’s youngest superintendents, representing the Meridian Community Unit School District in Stillman Valley since 2013. Along the way, Caposey’s contributions have been praised at every level. In addition to being a recipient of the Illinois Principals Association’ Horace Mann Partners in Education award, Caposey was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Those Who Excel” program and by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development as an Emerging Leader and a Top Educator Under 40 through its Outstanding Young Educator Program. The districts where he has served have also received numerous awards under his leadership. Caposey has published two books on school and teacher improvement and his writing has been featured by the Huffington Post and Edutopia. He is an energetic speaker and sought-after presenter whose passion for education will continue to drive his success in the field for years to come.

Harry Cavanaugh '69

CavanaughWith a career in education spanning six decades, Harry Cavanaugh has proven time and again his commitment to education and the students and communities he’s served. After graduating from EIU in 1969, Cavanaugh spent three decades as a business education teacher, guidance counselor and principal at Bunker Hill High School. From there, he used his skills as an educational leader to serve as principal at Gillespie High School – the school where he earned his high school diploma – before continuing his career as superintendent of Lebanon Community Unit School District 9 in until his retirement in 2010. Retirement didn’t last long, however. His passion for education brought him to Peter and Paul Catholic School in Alton, where he currently serves as principal. His true dedication may be best revealed through his decision to also teach English there—with no additional compensation—ultimately helping the school to continue serving students in the highest manner possible without having to fund additional salaries. Cavanaugh also created a Wall of Honor at Gillespie High School and initiated the distinguished alumni awards at Ss. Peter and Paul to recognize the successes of the schools’ former students. In each position he’s held and at every school, he’s been known to greet the students with a smile each morning, helping to start their day on a positive note and to create within its walls an unmatched culture of cheerfulness and caring.

Distinguished Alumna/us Awards

Kathy Bollinger '77, '78

BollingerKathy Bollinger, who has served as the executive vice president of Banner Health’s University Medical Division in Phoenix since 2015, has spent more than three decades in leadership positions with the organization including president of the Arizona West Region, CEO of Banner Estrella Medical Center and CEO of Banner Heart Hospital. Banner, a not-for-profit tasked with operating 23 hospitals and specialized facilities, is one of the nation’s largest employers with 39,000 staff members and also the largest private employer in Arizona. In her current role she is responsible for oversight of the University of Arizona Medical School’s relationship with Banner Health and co-chairs the newly-formed Academic Management Council, a governance structure for Banner Academics. In addition, in 2015 she was named one of Arizona’s 12 most influential women in commercial real estate for her role in negotiating the acquisition of the University of Arizona Health Network and affiliation with the University of Arizona. A certified Hudson Coach, Bollinger is also involved in a number of community and volunteer groups including Athena Powerlink, Prehab of Arizona and the Provost’s Leadership Council for Arizona’s School of Health Sciences.

Steve Corbin '13

CorbinSteve Corbin has enjoyed an incredibly successful career of nearly 40 years in the music industry while working with and promoting some of the world’s biggest acts.  Currently senior vice president of sales, counsel and culture with Warner Music Group in New York City and chief executive officer of Lupo Entertainment, he has also held executive-level positions with Universal Music Group, Motown, Sony Music, Mercury, MCA, Def Jam and Polygram. While under his leadership, MCA rebuilt its reputation as one of the top R&B labels in the music business and while at Motown he led the label’s 40th anniversary marketing efforts, including a Super Bowl halftime show and worldwide catalog sale. Along the way, he’s also had the opportunity to work with renowned artists ranging from Stevie Wonder and The O’Jays to Mary J Blige, Boyz II Men and The Roots. As CEO at Lupo, he oversees an emerging artist management and consulting organization offering a wide range of services to its clients and two of his artists have appeared on American Idol and The Voice. Corbin first came to EIU in 1974, arriving to play football for the Panthers, but left the university early before re-enrolling to complete his degree through the School of Continuing Education more than three decades later. Earlier this summer he began pursuing his graduate degree when he enrolled in EIU’s online MBA program.   

Joe Fatheree '89, '05

FathereeJoe Fatheree, an award-winning author, educator, and filmmaker, exemplifies how EIU can help students follow their passions to find and create their own success. He has received numerous educational awards, including being named Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007 and a recipient of the National Education Association’s National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009. He was also recently named one of the Top 10 Teachers in the World by the Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world. Currently, Fatheree serves as the instructor of creativity and innovation at Effingham High School and is a past president of the Illinois Teacher of the Year Association, a founding board member of Advance Illinois, and currently serves as the National Network of State Teachers of the Year’s Director of Strategic Projects. A past committee member for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ITVS/Independent Lens, his television work has aired nationally on PBS, The Documentary Channel, Hulu, and the MLB Network. As a producer he has received three Mid-America Emmy awards, and he is also the former president and chief education officer of Mutasia Entertainment.

Nancie King Mertz '79

King_MertzAfter she began painting and selling work as a teenager, Nancie King Mertz further unleashed her inner passion in college, eventually earning a master of arts degree from EIU in 1979. Twice named Chicago Artist of the Year as a studio artist and business owner in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Mertz and her work are being recognized on a more global scale thanks to her paintings catching the eye of producers and being featured on the set of the popular CBS prime-time drama “The Good Wife” and numerous other Chicago-based TV shows. Through her active involvement in professional art organizations, she has contributed her time, talents and leadership to the betterment of the arts community. She has also been the recipient of awards and Master designation from several arts organizations, including the Pastel Society of America, the International Association of Pastel Societies, Plein Air Easton, and the Pastel Journal. A highly regarded instructor who teaches workshops worldwide, her talent for art combined with her proclivity for business has earned Mertz honors as the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year and Small Business of the Year as well as the Network of Women Entrepreneurs’ Woman of the Year. Mertz’s oils and pastels are Impressionistic in style and she paints more than 100 pieces annually, having travelled to more than 20 countries for inspiration to paint on-site. She is a charter member of the Arcola High School Hall of Fame and was also honored as a 2009 recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Alumni award by the EIU Graduate School.

Lawrence Tucker '89 '91

TuckerLawrence Tucker has demonstrated his interest in personal relationships and public service throughout his entire life. During his time as an EIU undergraduate, that commitment was revealed through the pride he exhibited in connecting to other students, including helping them prepare for life in college. It’s those same qualities that put him on a trajectory for a position with the Department of Homeland Security as a special agent in the United States Secret Service (USSS). With more than 20 years of experience as a federal law enforcement official, he has held key positions including resident agent in charge of a USSS field office and serving as the deputy special agent in charge of the agency’s security clearance division, where he led a staff tasked with managing multiple top-level security programs. Tucker has also worked as a supervisory protective agent in the presidential protective division, providing leadership and establishing robust operations for a complex unit tasked with providing round-the-clock protection to the President of the United States and the First Family. He was recently promoted and appointed the deputy special agent in charge of the Obama protective detail, which gives him the responsibility to create and staff the unit as President Obama transitions from office. Having previously served as a military intelligence officer, Tucker has received numerous commendations including a Distinguished Service Award from the USSS for his service on 9/11.

Randy Wright '70

WrightRandy Wright’s life has revolved around helping other people. It’s a commitment he shared as a student at EIU and one that he’s exhibited throughout his 40-plus year career as a hospital administrator. He spent the majority of that time at Methodist Hospital in Houston, where he worked from 1979 to 2000, climbing the organizational ranks quickly and ultimately serving as senior vice president. Wright retired in January of this year after serving as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital—the largest children’s hospital in the nation—where he had overall responsibility for a major portion of the facility’s clinical operations. In addition to demonstrating his continued compassion for helping people through his leadership in healthcare, Wright has also been a significant contributor of his time and philanthropic support to EIU. He was a member of the College of Sciences Advisory Board for several years and his philanthropic efforts have helped the university fund a variety of scholarships as well as supported the creation and maintenance of a high-powered telescope and observatory project on campus.  The observatory has become the cornerstone of the university’s astronomy concentration and even resulted in helping EIU students discover new asteroids. Wright was also fundamental in creating a link between EIU and the Astronomical Research Institute, a private research observatory for NASA that scans the skies for potentially hazardous near earth objects.



Past Award Recipients


Louis V. Hencken Alumni Service Award
Outstanding Young Alumni
Distinguished Educator

Dr. Robert Collier '69, '73
Habeeb Habeeb ’97, ‘99
Kent Johnson ‘81
Dr. Alvin M. Maurice ‘76
Ross McCullough ’87
Judge Robert L. Schatz '56

Dr. Larry Ankenbrand '59

Aaron Grobengieser '05, '06

Dr. Kenneth Spells '01, '03

Dr. Suzanne Barchers ‘67
Chuck Bell ’67, ‘69
Dr. Nancy Elwess ‘76
Dr. Michelle Hanlon ‘93
Dr. Mary Anne Hanner ’72, ‘74

Jerry Zachary '61, '88

Kristofer Howard '00

Eric Bright ’12

Barbara Baurer '75, '76
Harry Frost '60
Jonathan Gosse '74
Dennis Muchmore '68
Robert Sinkler '83

R. Scott Smith '88, '93

David Cesar '08

Corey Duzan '03

Jack Dadam '65
Christopher Desmond '94, '96
Jaime Martinez '86
William McNulty '96
Jill Nilsen '74, '75
Julie Nimmons '77
Kevin Seitzer '85

Carl Mito '72

Richard Keaton '99

Tim McCollum '73, '77

Larry Closson '74
Will Keiper '72
Gregg Kirkland '83
Keith Kohanzo '69, '71
Ron Woods '86

Tim '71, '72 and Vickie Burke '72, '75

Jake Byrne ‘07, ‘09

Craig Lindvahl ‘79

Michael Cunningham '70
Roseann Drew '70
Julie Lupien '81
Sean Payton '87
Bob Provost '70
Chuck Witters '68

Carl Dolson '76

Jennifer Ketchmark Brehm '06

Roy Fenton '65, '66

James Allen '79
Robert Corn-Revere '77
Ed Escalante '74
Lou Hencken '66, '67
Tim Manning '93

Tom McDaniel '69

Ryan Bailey '99
Ellen Eardley '99

Cheryl Crates '70

Roger Claar '67, '68
Kenneth Damann '66
Daryll D. Fletcher '75, '76
Ted Gregory '81
Barbara Hundley '65, '69
Robert C. Manion '66

Jim Erdmann '59

Anthony Pleasant '06

John Marsaglia '76
Dorothy Bennett '74, '80

Joni Comstock '79
Don Gher '73
Marty Hickman '80
Kevin Savoree '81
Jim Schnorf '76

Betty Smithson '63

Tony Romo ex '03

Joe Fatheree '89, '05

Gregg Altobella '88
Brigadier General Joseph Balskus '76, '77
John Currey '62
Gordon Grado, M.D. '74
Jerry Van Dyke ex '55
Paul Ward '71, '74

Ivan “Ike” Kennard ex '44

Captain Gary Kelly '01

Linda Kirby '74, '82, '89

Rita Bleser '77
Robert Glover '82
Mark Grier '74, '75
Barbara Hill '58, '63, '70
Craig Titley '89
Bill Weir '69
Therese Supple Kinkade '80

Therese Supple Kinkade '80

Luke Ryan '01

Cathy Ruwe Anderson '74, '83

Rudy Hlavek '64
Jimmy Liautaud ex '88
Carlos Ogden ex '40
Sue Payton '72
Matthew Polenzani '91
Gail Richard '77

John Schmitt '76, '78

Karla Porch '99

Barbara McLaughlin '71

Joseph Dively '81
Stephen Gosselin '79
Col. Joseph Kelly '38
William Robinson '76
Sen. Dale Righter '88

Mike Lester '66

Erin Weed '99

William Thiel '50

James Evans '68
Dr. H. Ray Hoops '62
Captain Howard Skidmore, USN (ret) ex '42
Larry Smith ex '91

Judy Ethell '82

Sarah Livesay '98


Frank Blum '76 '77
Brent Manning '75 '76
Pat Sullivan '75

Joe Strohm '86 '87

Cheryl Warner '96 '00


Bob Jachino '59
Dr. Lyle Jensen '70
Rep. Joe Knollenberg '55
Karen Meyer '76

Dennis Spice '78

Susan Gerling '95


Dr. Sharon LeDuc '65
Dr. Gail Richardson '60 '63
Dr. Stephen Wilson '68 '74

Greg Gardner '78 '80
Ken Hesler '51

Amelia Heape '94


Joan Allen ex '78
Vicki Freimuth '66
Allen Grosboll '73
Mike Shanahan '74 '75


Michelle Koehler '93


Jerry Gilomen, '66
Robert Knollenberg '61
Stephen K. Woodland '70, '81

Louis V. Hencken '66, '67

Michael R. Gagliardo


Janet M. Treichel, '64, '71

Dick Cain '64

Thomas P. Wiesenmayer '92


Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy '65,'67
Craig Peyton Gaumer '84,'85
Emma Chenault Kelly '25
Jeffrey G. Scott '68


Gregory A. Curl, '92


J. Allen Brent '43
Glen Owens Gabbard '72
Roger Roberson '64

Nancy W. Owen '72

Thomas M. Faulkner, '90, '91
Sherry L. McCoy, '90


Stephen B. Schnorf '66,'73

Jill Fulton Nilsen '74, '75

Craig Titley, '89


Jan Spivey Gilchrist '73
John Malkovich ex '75

Eulalee Anderson '63,'84

Robert Haycock, '87


Juan F. Rojas '58
Randall Arney '78

Roger Roberson '64

Cathy Berns Rund, '86


Michael W. Conlin '70
Robert A. Ingram '65
John G. Wargo, Jr. '50

Gary Rogers '61,'65
Roger Dettro '53



Margaret "Peggy" Allan '71
Robert A. Bain '54
John A. Dively '54
Marvin E. Edwards '67
Joan Embery-Pillsbury '86
Violet Podesta Meyer '39

Mike Weaver '73,'74,'82

Jennifer Schulze, '80


Arthur L. Aikman '50
Theodore P. Cavins '26
James F. Giffin '46

Margaret Campbell Hollowell '68
Eli Sidwell '58
J. W. Oglesby '58

Rex Rund, '84


Burl Ives, ex'31
Carolyn A. Fischer '55
Rex D. Cooley '59
James L. Hanks '47
Raymond L. Fischer '54
K. Wayne Ratts '54




James L. Breen '48
Charles O. Austin '36
Donald L. Calvin '54
Norm Endsley '53
Margaret D. Podesta '58
William L. Podesta '76




Gerald D. Fines '65
Joe P. Meyer '58
C. John Tolch '49




Eugene Aikman '54
Alden Cutshall '32
Ronald W. Davis '64
John L. Heath '58
Elizabeth Podesta Hickman '43




John W. Voigt '42
Robert L. Hill '44
Jack Payan '52
George Woodyard '54




Jim Edgar '68
Roger F. Hibbs '43




H Ogden Brainard '25
Hal Middlesworth '31
John H. Keiser '58




Tressa Bennett '58
James R. Galloway '58
Donald L. Shawver '47
Philip W. Smith '44




Helen F. Daringer '14
Dario A. Covi '43
Claibourne I. Dungy '62
Robert Millis '63




Leallyn B. Clapp '35
C. Nelson Grote
James H. Roberts '46
Roy K. Wilson '36




John S. Redden '26
Allyn A. Cook '48
Donald K. Neal '40
L. Lou Stanek '54




Don Grantham '37
R. Gene Gresham '51
Author Hughes '51
Darrell Judge '56
James Phipps '42




Gladys Campbell '14
D. F. Fleming '12
Stella Craft Tremble '22
E. Errett Warner '25
Stanley Elam '38




Harry Fitzhugh '34
James Gindler '50
Dorothy Leggitt '23
Carlos Talbott '40
Ralph Wickiser '34




Arthur Glen Hesler '25
Frederick Earl Newman '59
M. Alice Phillips '33
Newton E. Tarble '08
Aubert North '33