Ms. Dawn Johnson, Vice President
Dawn graduated from EIU in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She is a litigation lawyer at Greensfelder, Hemker, and Gale, PC. – St. Louis, Missouri. As head of the firm’s Franchising and Distribution Industry Group, Dawn leads a team of transactional and litigation attorneys who represent clients nationally and internationally. Her practice focuses on all aspects of the dealer, distributor and franchisee relationship, including termination and non-renewal, claims under state and federal relationship laws and claims such as breach of contract, fraud, tortious interference, antitrust pricing, and trademark infringement.
Dawn has significant appellate experience and is co-leader of the appellate practice within the firm. She handles appeals and works closely with other trial lawyers in the firm to ensure that issues are properly preserved for appeal. Dawn has argued before the Missouri Supreme Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern and Western Districts, the Illinois Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Before attending law school, she was an award-winning reporter for the Herald & Review daily newspaper in Decatur, Illinois. After graduating from Washington University School of Law, she continued her writing experience as a law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge David D. Noce in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, from 1993 to 1997.
She is active within her community, having served on the Board of Directors for Safe Connections from 2015 to the present; College Summit Missouri Site Advisory Board, 2012-present, Chair, 2015-present; Gateway Legal Services, Inc., Board of Directors, 2008 to the present; and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, Board of Governors, 2002-2004.
Dr. Kelvin Lane, Treasurer
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Kelvin graduated from EIU in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in technology education. He was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated while at EIU in the Spring of 1977. In 1988 he obtained a Master of Arts in computer teacher education from Governor State University. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1993 with a Master of Arts in administration and supervision. He obtained his Doctorate from Loyola University in curriculum and instruction.
He started his career in Education teaching industrial arts and then later computer technology in Wheeling, Illinois until 1993. Much of his career was dedicated to high school administration. His most recent role was the Coordinator of Student Discipline for the second largest School District in Illinois, Elgin U46, in 2009 until retirement in 2014. Kelvin has dedicated his career to helping students reach their full potential regardless of learning style in a safe and nurturing environment. He continues to consult with school districts, focusing on student life and discipline.
Mr. Randy Wright, Secretary
Randy graduated from EIU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. After completing a master’s in business administration degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Randy began a career in healthcare administration on the staff of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. In 1979 he moved to Houston to work for The Methodist Hospital. Over a 20-year period at Methodist he held various leadership roles including Administrator for the Institute of Otorhinolaryngology, Vice President over the for-profit programs of the hospital and then Senior Vice President responsible for the Hospital’s Diagnostic and Therapeutic programs. In 2000, Randy moved to Texas Children’s Hospital, the nation’s largest children’s hospital. He served in many different executive roles at TCH including Chief Information Officer, Acting Chief Financial Officer, President of the Texas Children’s Health Plan, and interim Administrator of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. His major responsibility was as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and he retired from TCH in 2016.
Randy and his wife Brenda (Bachelor of Science in Education 1970) have strong ties to EIU particularly the Physics Department. They created endowed scholarships honoring Dr. Glenn Q Lefler who was Department Chaiman from 1950-1970 and for Dr. Bill Butler who was Department Chairman from 1970-1087. Brenda and Randy, along with Dr. P Scott Smith, a long serving faculty member, provided a significant part of the funding for the development of an Observatory to support the Astronomy program.
In 2004 Randy was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service for his support of EIU. In 2016 he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by the EIU Alumni Association. In 2017, Randy and his wife Brenda were honored by the EIU Foundation as Distinguished Philanthropist. Randy currently serves on the Board of the Children's Hospital of San Antonio Foundation and is a member of the M D Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors.
Dr. Judith James
Dr. Judith James, an accomplished EIU retiree professor, began her journey teaching in the Zoology Department on a temporary basis, prior to completing her doctorate in 1987. After earning her Ph. D. in Genetics from Illinois State University, she taught a variety of genetics courses, ranging from “Heredity and Society” through the required genetics courses for majors and an honors and graduate course in Human Genetics. She served as Pre-Medical Studies Chair and University Personnel Committee Chair, as well as on the Faculty Senate, Intercollegiate Athletic Board, Student Health Advisory Board, and Library Advisory Board. Academically, she published various professional articles on developmental genetics, presenting her research at myriad national and professional meetings. In addition, Judith also served on the Board of Directors of the Central Association of Advisors for Health Professions for six years. Judith’s invaluable dedication to the EIU earned her two Faculty Excellence Awards. Her greatest passion was the major support she provided to autistic students and funds for graduate assistants and diagnostic tests for children. After a fulfilling career, including so many memorable and crucial contributions to EIU, she retired from the university in 2001.
Dr. Charles Maris
Chuck earned his BS in Zoology with a Chemistry minor from EIU in 1971 and an MD from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1975. After medical school, he completed full residencies in General Surgery and Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. Chuck entered private practice in 1982 as a Sarah Bush Lincoln Medical Staff Member. During his tenure at Sarah Bush, he served in multiple medical staff positions which included service as Chief of Surgery and three terms as Medical Staff President. In 1996 Chuck became an associate of the Carle Clinic Association based in Urbana, IL. Chuck progressed through multiple medical administrative assignments. He retired from medical administration as Chief of Surgery and Medical Director of Surgical Services in 2014. During his career, he has served on the volunteer medical faculty of the UIUC College of Medicine and most recently with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine as a Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Maris is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. He is a past member of the IL ACS Committee on Trauma and a State Faculty member for the ACS Advanced Trauma Life Support Course for Physicians. He was instrumental in bringing the ATLS Course to downstate IL acting as course director for the first ATLS courses at the Carle Level 1 Trauma Center. He served as a member of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Foundation and served as a physician member of the Carle Foundation Board of Directors.
Dr. Maris and his wife Karen are EIU Alumni Association Members and recently endowed a Scholarship for students enrolled in the new EIU Electrical Engineering Program.
While an EIU undergraduate, Chuck was a founding member of the EIU Eta Mu Chapter of Sigma Chi. In July of this year, he was honored as a Significant Sig at the fraternity’s Grand Chapter meeting in Scottsdale, AZ.
Chuck retired as a Colonel from the US Army Reserve in 2011 after 34 years of combined reserve and active-duty service. His most memorable assignments include mobilization to the Persian Gulf in 1990-91 as Assistant Chief of Surgery for the 159th MASH, four years as Command Surgeon of the 3rd COSCOM in Des Moines, IA, and four years of duty as the Command Surgeon for the 89th Regional Readiness Command in Wichita, KS.
Dr. Jill Nilsen
Jill graduated from EIU in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology and a Master of Science degree in 1975. Jill was an EIU faculty member, Department Chair, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, and Vice President of External Relations before her retirement. Her contributions to EIU have been and continue to be extensive. During her time as Vice President, Jill restructured the EIU Development effort so every college was an integral partner in EIU’s Development activities. She also created an endowment in the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences that provides funding for graduate student research presentations.
Jill was recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Philanthropist award. She is an EIU Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna and a recipient of the Louis V. Hencken Service Award. She also serves as a member of the College of Education and Professional Studies Philanthropy Board. Jill was formerly President of the CASA of East Central Illinois Board of Directors, and her service in other local agencies includes the Boards of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Systems, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, CCAR Industries, and the Charleston Zoning Board. She served as a member of the EIU Presidential Search Committee as well as President of the EIU Annuitant Association and President of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Elmer Pullen
Elmer is a 1970 graduate of EIU with a Bachelor of Science in sociology and a Master of Science in education in 1973. He served as a financial aid counselor at EIU for more than 30 years. Elmer has volunteered on numerous non-profit and university committees. Selected in 1978 as “Big Brother of the Year” by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coles County Organization, he also served on the Big Brother organization’s Board of Directors. Elmer was chosen as “Boss of the Year” by Eastern’s Office Staff Support Group in 1989.
He was a member of the Charleston Rotary Club and served on the Board of Directors of the Central East Alcohol and Drug Council. Since retiring to Brookport, IL, Elmer has continued to serve the local and regional community on several committees and boards. He is a veteran of the US Army.
Mr. John Schmitt
John D. Schmitt, EIU Alumnus. Graduated from EIU with a Bachelor of Arts ('76) and a Master of Arts in Political Science ('78). John served as a Graduate Assistant in the Political Science department during graduate school and assisted Dr. Peter Leigh and Dr. Charles Hollister. John was involved with Greek activities on campus through his involvement with his fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha of which he was a founding and charter member. John has been involved with the EIU Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity all throughout his alumni years having served as Chapter Advisor and as Treasurer and Secretary of the EIU Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni Association. John also served his International Fraternity serving as Chairman of the Alumni Advisory Board. The Lambda Chi Alpha International Fraternity awarded him the Order of Merit for Alumni Service in 1996. John is currently serving as the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Foundations Chairman of the Founders Day of Giving Committee.
John spent 35 years working in Illinois Government, Not-for-Profits, Local Government, and Higher Education (State Senate, Department of Energy and Natural Resources, Department of Conservation, Office of Illinois Governor James R. Thompson). He participated in a trade mission to the former USSR and a mission to France. John also served as Executive Director of the Nature of Illinois Foundation and was the first Executive Director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation which raised over $16 million. His last position of over seven years was with his beloved Alma Mater Eastern Illinois University in which he served as the Director of Development/Philanthropy for the Chicagoland region.
John has been a long-time member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and served as President of the Chicago Chapter in 2012. The Chicago Chapter of AFP at the time was the largest Chapter with over 1,000 members.
John has been a long-standing member of the EIU Alumni Association and served on the Board of Directors from 1983-1986. He was awarded the EIU Alumni Association's Lou Hencken Alumni Service Award in 2004. He established the John D. Schmitt Scholarship which annually awards an officer of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at EIU. John has also been instrumental in leading to the creation of three other EIU scholarships benefiting undergraduate members of Lambda Alpha Chi: the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Founders Scholarship, the Lambda Chi Alpha Scholastic Incentive Scholarship, and the Jack R. Kelly Scholarship. In 2022 John Schmitt was named the EIU Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal. In 2018 the EIU Foundation honored John Schmitt with the Outstanding Member Award.
St. Louis, Missouri
Bonita graduated from Eastern in 1980 with B.A. degrees in both Journalism and Political Science and a teaching certificate. After a brief stint as a substitute teacher, she spent 15 years as an editor and reporter for the Suburban Journals newspaper chain in the Metro-East communities of Granite City, Edwardsville, East St. Louis, and Belleville.
In 1996, she transferred her skills to a public relations position at Nestle’ Purina pet products company in St. Louis where she worked for 22 years. She retired in 2018 as Manager of Corporate Public Relations.
Since that time, Bonita started Aries Communications LLC and contributes regularly as a freelance writer to the St. Louis Business Journal and its affiliates in Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla. She also continues to support the profession via the St. Louis Press Club and the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists where she has been treasurer for 10 years.
At Eastern, Bonita helped initiate the EIU Black Student Reunion celebration and served on the EIU Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2010 to 2019.
Ms. Susan Young
Susan graduated from EIU in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Master of Science degree in taxation in 1990 from DePaul University. Susan serves as Executive Senior Associate Director of Athletics/Chief Financial Officer in the University of Illinois’ Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, where she’s worked for more than ten years. In her role, she oversees the annual financial operations, capital project funding, and human resources for the division.
Additional areas under Susan’s supervision include the State Farm Center, Orange and Blue Golf Course, Atkins Tennis Center, and IT services. Before her tenure with U of I, she spent nearly six years as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust Wealth Management Division in Mattoon. She is an accomplished executive with more than 30 years of tax, financial planning, and investment advisory experience for several firms, including Ernst & Young, Fel-Pro Incorporated, and KKP Group. Susan has been very involved in the Eastern Illinois University Alumni Association, serving as president in 2004-05 and as a board member from 2001 to 2010.