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2011 Alumni Awards

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2011 Guests of Honor

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Jake Byrne '07, '09

Jake ByrneJake completed an internship at the Merrill Lynch Global Headquarters in New York City after earning his undergraduate degree and was offered a full-time position with the firm upon completion of his MBA. After beginning as a convertible bonds sales-trader, he has moved up the ranks quickly and has been promoted to associate in the firm with responsibilities as a convertible bonds trader. In this position, he is solely responsible for 50+ names on a daily basis while managing the daily profit and loss for their desk and the macro hedges on the proprietary books. He periodically assumes duties for more than 300 convertible bonds while his supervisors are off the trading desk and last year they were ranked first on Wall Street for convertible bond trading.




Louis V. Hencken Alumni Service Award

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

Tim & Vickie BurkeWhile both Tim and Vickie serve as members of the university's current capital campaign external steering committee, their involvement has continued to grow in the years since graduating from EIU. Tim, chief financial officer at William Blair & Company, a global investment firm which manages more than $54 billion in assets, currently serves on the accounting advisory board and as secretary of the EIU Foundation while Vickie is also a member of the Foundation and a very active volunteer in their community. Longtime contributors to Eastern, they have generously donated more than $180,000 in the last four years to create the Louis V. Hencken Housing Service Scholarship.




Distinguished Educator Award

Craig Lindvahl '79

Craig LindvahlAlthough his background is in music education, Craig's diverse career in education has seen him collaborate with his students in multimedia classes to produce award-winning short films on a variety of subject matter. His students have been invited to prestigious film festivals such as the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and assisted in the planning of a very successful film festival in Effingham, and as a filmmaker he has received 12 Mid-America Emmy awards for his work. As the teacher for the Effingham County CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) class, Craig has been lauded by parents and community leaders for his work with students and is active in expanding the class to other parts of the country. He has also received the Milken National Educator Award and the Studs Terkel Award for contributions to the humanities.




Distinguished Alumnus Award

Larry Closson '74

Larry ClossonLarry spent a rewarding career with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, serving in the position of Chief of Conservation Law Enforcement longer than anyone in Illinois history. During his career he served as president of the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs; the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers; and the Midwest Boating Law Administrators Association, as well as on the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Law Enforcement Committee. A graduate of the FBI National Academy and life member of the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association, the decorated U.S. Army Airborne Ranger served 20 years in the Illinois National Guard after returning home from the Vietnam War before retiring as a sergeant major. The Illinois Times newspaper recognized him in 1991with the Best of Springfield: Best Neighbor Award while in 1986 he received EIU's Department of Recreation Administration Distinguished Alumni Award and earlier this year he was honored as a recipient of the College of Education and Professional Studies' 2011Lifetime Achievement Award.

Will Keiper '72

Will KeiperWill is the founder and chairman of FirstGlobal Partners, working boards, investors and individuals in situations where his brand of leadership for rapid, disruptive change is required. He has served on the boards of directors of six U.S. public companies, as well as private companies in the U.S. and internationally, and previously held positions as chairman and CEO of Hypercom Corporation; chairman and CEO of Artisoft; and president and COO of MicroAge (all U.S. public companies). On behalf of FirstGlobal, he currently serves as president of Communication Intelligence Corporation, a leader in electronic signature technology, while his new book, Life Expectancy: Self-Reliance for the Rest of Your Life, will be available through Amazon this fall. In addition to his bachelor's degree in business from Eastern, he earned a master's from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a law degree from Arizona State University. He has also served as chairman of the Arizona Technology Association and was nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Will attended Eastern on an athletic scholarship where he was a nationally-ranked track and field athlete.

Gregg Kirkland '83

Gregg KirklandAs chief executive officer of the Alton-based Simmons Law Firm, Gregg manages a staff of 200 while overseeing the firm's daily operations. He works closely with the managing partner and assisted the firm in expanding from eight attorneys in one location to more than 50 with additional offices in St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles. He began his career as an accountant at Farmers and Merchants Bank in Carlinville before assuming responsibility as its chief financial officer and also served as chief financial officer for various Bank One and Chase Bank affiliates throughout the country. Prior to joining the Simmons Firm, he served as chief operating officer for Partners Bank, an initial start-up bank. He currently serves as secretary of the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation and is active in several other local charitable organizations.

Keith Kohanzo '69, '71

Keith KohanzoRecognized for his outstanding service to numerous youth organizations, Keith has been active with the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Marine Navigation and Training Association for many years. Serving as a lieutenant commander while continuing to teach seagoing skills, patriotism and self-reliance, he is the NSCC's longest-serving member (having served since 1961) and earlier this summer became only the seventh person inducted into the Corps' hall of fame. He is also currently the chairman of the local Boy Scout troop and his dedication over the years has earned him the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed by the local council. His service to the BBBS organization led to his being named a local Volunteer of the Year and featured in a video distributed by the Utah branch of the organization along with an individual whom Keith began mentoring as a ten-year old following his parents' divorce. Now retired after a 34-year career at Eastern, he and his father endowed a scholarship to provide opportunities for future generations of Eastern students.

Ron Woods '86

Ron WoodsRon is a well-respected pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who earlier this year accepted an appointment at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Herma Heart Center and The Medical College of Wisconsin after previously having served as division chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, Wash.A graduate of the University of Illinois Medical College who completed his residency at the University of Washington, he has received numerous personal accolades while recently working at two of the nation's top children's hospitals. Last year he and his two partners performed more than 700 surgeries, including microsurgeries and heart transplants, and he continues to share the knowledge he has gained by teaching medical students and residents. A renowned researcher who has had a number of scholarly papers published, he also believes in using his time and talents to help others. In addition to his efforts assisting in the United States, in 2004 he spent two months as a volunteer physician in South Africa and between 2007 and 2010 he helped develop a pediatric cardiac unit in a 1,000-bed children's hospital in Vietnam.