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Distinguished Alumni

Gregg Altobella ’88, ’89

Gregg AltobellaGregg Altobella ’88, ’89 (Communication Disorders and Sciences) is the senior administrative director of orthopedic services for Cardinal Health System in Muncie, Ind., as well as the chief operations officer for the affiliate organization Midwest HealthStrategies, a provider of physical rehabilitation therapy services.

In his role, he is responsible for approximately $70 million in revenue annually, and more than 500 employees. He regularly presents his work and strategic planning/leadership models to executives in the industry throughout the country and currently serves as the president of the National Association of Rehabilitation Providers and Agencies (NARA).

Based in Washington, D.C., and Florida, NARA represents physical rehabilitation therapy providers across the nation encompassing more than 10,000 professionals within the industry while working with legislators and related associations on pertinent industry issues and trends.

For 14 of his almost 17-year career he has functioned in management and leadership roles for publicly held organizations within the industry as well as founded and served as president and chief executive officer for a private corporation that delivered rehabilitation therapy services to 70 health care providers in three states. Altobella has also served on the advisory boards of six healthcare agencies. He entered the industry as a speech language pathologist upon graduation from EIU.

Brigadier General Joseph Balskus ’76, ’77

Joseph BalskusBrigadier General Joseph Balskus ’76, ’77 (Communication Disorders and Sciences) currently serves as commander of the Florida Air National Guard. His F-15 fighter wing and nine other units in Florida serve in missions supporting homeland defense and the global war on terrorism.

Balskus joined the Air Force in 1979, graduating from officer training school as a second lieutenant with the honor of distinguished graduate. He was assigned as an air weapons controller, serving tours in Korea and Saudi Arabia, before being assigned as an associate professor of aerospace studies at The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina. He joined the Florida Air National Guard in 1990 and held several positions at the 125th Fighter Wing and state headquarters before being named chief of staff in 2001 and commander in 2004. His Senate confirmation to brigadier general was June 23, 2003.

Prior to returning to full-time military duty in 2001, he was the owner and chief executive officer of BalWink Enterprises, one of the largest home-health nursing agencies in North Florida, and was recognized by inclusion in Who’s Who of American Chief Executive Officers. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern in speech pathology and audiology.

John Currey ’62

John CurreyJohn Currey ’62 (Business Education), a life member of the EIU Alumni Association and Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, served as president of Boreal Laboratories, a division of Science Kit, Inc., from 1981 until retiring in 2005.

The company, which serves the Canadian science education market, dominates the industry with a market share of 85 percent. He also served as president of five subsidiary divisions: Ward’s Natural Science Ltd., Central Scientific Company Limited; Northwest Scientific Supply Company; Sargent Welch Limited and Arbour Scientific Limited while leading Boreal.
Currey was recognized in 2004 by being named the chapter honoree of Eastern’s Beta Gamma Sigma, an honorary fraternity with the University’s School of Business. In 2005 the National Association of Biology Teachers honored him by naming an annual award to be given to an NABT vendor “who has contributed to biology education above and beyond expectations.”
The initial John Currey Award was presented to him at their 2005 national convention. He was also an active participant in the Role and Status of Women in Biology Education (RSWBE), a section of NABT. Currey has remained active in retirement with local charitable organizations.

He is a fundraising volunteer and board member of Hospice Niagara and is involved with his Knights of Columbus Council and Assembly. He and his wife, the former Kathy England ‘64, created a scholarship to benefit business majors at Eastern. They reside in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Gordon Grado, M.D. ’74

Gordon GradoDr. Gordon Grado ’74 (biology) is the founder and medical director of the Southwest Oncology Centers – with two locations in Arizona and two additional treatment facilities in Minnesota – and the Grado Radiation Center of Excellence. He has also helped teach and develop prostate brachytherapy programs worldwide for early stage, advanced and recurrent prostate cancer.

He established a new program for the treatment of prostate cancer in 1989 while he served as chairman of the Radiation Oncology Department at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. He led a team of specialists to develop the first interactive program that would utilize both biplane ultrasound and fluoroscopic imaging with brachytherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer. Grado established and developed this new brachytherapy program for the treatment of prostate cancer after reviewing various techniques and programs that were available and has personally performed the procedure more than 5,000 times.

In addition to his private practice, he has also held academic appointments at several institutions including Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. He was appointed by the Governor of Arizona to serve on the Arizona Prostate Cancer Task Force, has delivered more than 100 presentations throughout the world and has authored many peer-reviewed reference manuscripts. In 2005, he became a Fellow of the American College of Radiation Oncology and also a Fellow of the American College of Radiology.

He was recently honored at the University of Minnesota where he was presented the Wurtele Family Professorship in Therapeutic Radiology and Radiation Oncology. Dr. Grado heads the prostate brachytherapy program at the University of Minnesota Prostate Cancer Center and the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center. He and his wife Mary have also helped support and develop cancer treatment centers in Mexico.

Jerry Van Dyke ex ’55

Jerry Van DykeJerry Van Dyke ex ’55 received four consecutive Emmy nominations for his role as Luther Van Dam on the popular television series Coach. The series was consistently ranked among the top 20 in the Nielsen Ratings and continues to be popular in syndication.

He withdrew from Eastern to join the United States Air Force during the Korean War and chose not to re-enroll after enjoying acting and comedic success, including winning an Air Force talent show.

Van Dyke has starred in numerous television programs during his career – including My Mother the Car and serving as host of the game show Picture This – and has been a regular on series ranging from The Judy Garland Show to Yes, Dear.

Through live shows and appearances on standards such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the successful comedian has entertained audiences throughout the world. When not acting, the Danville native lives on his cattle ranch in Arkansas with his wife Shirley.

Paul Ward ’71, ’74

Paul WardPaul Ward ’71 (history), ’74 (political science) is the vice president for university administration and legal affairs at Arizona State University, an institution that enrolls more than 63,000 students, employs 9,000 faculty and staff and operates four campuses with an annual budget of $1.3 billion. He is responsible for directing administrative services department – human resources, equal opportunity/affirmative action, public safety, insurance services, internal audit, management services and environmental health and safety – as well as the office of the general counsel. Prior to joining ASU he served as chief legal officer at the University of South Carolina from 1979 to 1991.

Ward is a frequent speaker and a well-respected expert in higher education law and has served as an officer and board member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, including a term as its president in 1996-1997. He received the organization’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000. In 2002, he was the recipient of the Thomas B. Biggs Award at the National Conference on Law and Education for dedicated legal service to the university community.

He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University. His wife, Cyndi, is a 1973 graduate of Eastern and teaches art in the Kyrene School District in Phoenix. Paul and Cyndi have two children – Meredyth and Emerson.




Alumni Service Award

Ivan “Ike” Kennard ex ’44

Ike KennardIvan “Ike” Kennard ex ’44 owned and operated the Little Campus, later know as Ike’s, from 1948 to 1988. Unbeknownst to many current students, the Charleston landmark was a well-known restaurant before becoming a popular nightspot in the late ‘60s

His greatest contribution to Eastern, however, was the assistance that he provided to students. Scores of alumni tell stories of how Ike would loan them money or allow them to run a tab for their restaurant charges until they received their next paychecks. Many of those alumni were World War II veterans who enrolled at Eastern after the war and would have struggled financially if not for his assistance.

A veteran himself who left school to serve in the armed forces, Ike was inducted into the University’s athletic hall of fame for his contributions in support of Eastern’s student-athletes. Now retired, he lives in Charleston with his wife, Joan ’45.




Distinguished Educator Award

Linda Kirby ’74, ’82, ’89

Linda KirbyLinda Kirby ’74 (geology/geography), ’82 (educational administration), ’89 (special education) is a learning disability, biology and physical science teacher at Charleston High School, having taught in the district since 1990. Prior to this, she worked with students with special needs at several schools and agencies, including the Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education, Coles County Association for the Retarded and the Vigo County School Corporation in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Linda has delivered numerous presentations to her fellow teaching professionals including the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Illinois State Connections conferences and the 2004, 2005 and 2006 High Schools That Work national conferences.

An adjunct faculty member in the special education department at Eastern, she is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and serves on many district and university committees.




Outstanding Young Alumnus

Captain Gary Kelly ’01

Gary KellyCaptain Gary Kelly ’01 (marketing) is a decorated combat veteran who has served two tours of duty in Iraq. Originally deployed to Iraq in April of 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was awarded the bronze star and combat action badge for his actions under fire while leading a tank platoon in the Third Armored Calvary.

Upon his promotion to captain in April of 2005, he assumed responsibility for the ground and air communications systems for an aviation squadron’s operations in Northwest Iraq.

Kelly is currently stationed at the United States Army Signal Center in Fort Gordon, Ga., while attending the signal captain career course. Upon completion of this training, he will be stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs where he will take a communications position with the Space Missile Defense Command.