Aaron Grobengieser has made quite a name for himself already, and it’s still early in his career. A stellar student and standout collegiate competitor, Grobengieser was recognized as one of only six Ohio Valley Conference Scholar-Athletes in the 2004-05 season while on his way to earning bachelor and master degrees from Eastern Illinois University. His genuine love for his alma mater has translated to his continued involvement as the Chair Elect of EIU’s School of Family and Consumer Sciences Advisory Board, as well as a leadership role for on the EIU Dietetics Program Advisory Board. Grobengieser shares his wealth of knowledge and EIU pride in other ways, too. He helps write grants and serves as a resource for current EIU dietetic students who are applying for internships, and is a regular presence at departmental events in his current state of Tennessee. Complementing his continued involvement with his alma mater, Grobengieser’s commitment to leadership and career development have translated to a highly visible position as the Chief of Nutrition and Food Services in the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. He also chairs a Veterans Healthcare Committee purchasing group that has been responsible for annual savings of more than $100 million since 2013. Named a Top 30 Under 30 Foodservice Manager by Foodservice Director magazine, Grobengieser is also a member of numerous industry-related local and national committees and workgroups. The EIU community looks forward to seeing him accomplish even more in the future.
Dr. Larry Ankenbrand’s deep and steadfast commitment to Eastern Illinois University is well-known throughout campus and the surrounding communities. That devotion to EIU is also matched by his robust service and volunteerism involvement. After earning a BS in science from EIU, Ankenbrand went on to earn an MS and PhD in Higher Education Administration. In 1977, he returned to EIU as a faculty member in the Physical Education Department, now the Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies. He also served as Chair of Physical Education from 1984 to 1988, Associate Dean of the College of Health and Physical Education and Recreation from 1988 to 1991, and Associate Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies from 1992 to 1997. Ankenbrand returned to the professorial ranks in 1997, teaching classes until his retirement in 2014. Upon retirement, he joined the College of Education and Professional Studies Philanthropy Board. He also has been heavily involved in the EI Club, and sat on the board of directors for EIU’s Panther Club. As the Kinesiology and Sports Studies Chair for the university’s “Total Greatness” campaign, Ankenbrand led his department to a 100% participation rate. Locally, he’s provided 38 years of service to Area 9 Special Olympics, assisted with the Shannon McNamara Memorial Run/Walk, and helped with various local and state high school athletic events. He’s also volunteered at Newman Catholic Center and lent support to other local church functions. Ankenbrand’s tireless dedication to volunteerism has positively shaped EIU’s service culture, setting the stage for his and his wife Maureen’s four grown children to become EIU alumni as well.
Dr. Kenneth Spells has been a leader in education since earning two degrees from Eastern Illinois University in 2001 and 2003. Since then, Spells has been a high school teacher, a middle school assistant principal, an elementary school principal, an assistant superintendent, and a college professor. Currently, Spells serves as Superintendent of Alton Community Unit School District No. 11 in Madison County, Illinois—about 10 miles north of St. Louis. He is a veteran educator with a proven track record of engaging the community, using relevant research and data to drive decisions and policy, and raising overall student achievement rates. In fact, Spells’ leadership has led to district-wide increases in reading scores, math scores, and minority student graduation rates. This was due in part to his “1:1 Initiative,” which provided district students from 3rd to 11th grade with their own laptop. Fostering such a culture of collaboration and digital citizenship also led him to be recognized by and honored by the White House. Spells was one of only 117 national educational leaders invited to attend the National Connected Superintendents Summit in Washington, D.C. for his part in supporting the United States Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready Initiative, which focuses on transforming teaching and learning through technology. Spells is also involved with the Boys and Girls Club, the RiverBend Growth Association, the Madison County Urban League, and the United Way. In every pursuit, Spells remains committed to “taking the world as we find it, but leaving it a better place.”
Dr. Robert “Bob” Collier’s connection with the dairy industry began as a child growing up near family dairy farms in Illinois. Since, he’s committed his life to dairy research and teaching. Collier earned a BS degree in 1969 and an MS degree in 1973 before earning a PhD in 1976. His distinguished career as a renowned environmental physiologist has focused on several areas, including global food security, environmental health, and animal welfare. That focus led to professorships at the University of Florida and the University of Arizona, where he additionally served as Head of the Department of Animal Sciences. He’s also shared his extensive knowledge with EIU as Chair of the College of Science from 1999-2000. Collier’s career in the industry includes roles as the Dairy Research Director for the Monsanto Company in St. Louis, and cofounder of the Amelgo Corporation in Covington, Kentucky. He was named the 2013 Outstanding Dairy Industry Educator/Researcher of the Year by the Western Dairy Management Conference and a Fellow of the American Dairy Science Association on his way to earning nine U.S. patents based on his work in the field. An impressive publication record also supports his lifelong interest in mentoring young and emerging scientists, as does his service on numerous academic and industry boards and committees. These include the American Jersey Cattle Association Research Board, American Institute of Nutrition, American Dairy Science Association, American Society of Animal Sciences, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Endocrine Society, Sigma Xi, Gamma Sigma Delta, and Phi Sigma. He and his wife Jayne reside in Tucson, Arizona, and have two children and six grandchildren.
Habeeb Habeeb exemplifies the true Eastern Illinois University spirit. His passion to motivate and inspire others to greatness through a positive attitude and humanitarianism began in 1973, when Habeeb left Lebanon and traveled to America to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. However, shortly after his arrival in the United States, a civil war erupted in his home country. With no money and no way to contact his family, Habeeb began supporting himself by working at a local fast-food establishment. Drawing newfound inspiration from that opportunity, Habeeb combined his willingness to overcome adversity with his personal integrity and kindness. Those qualities pushed him to follow a full-time career path while earning two degrees from EIU, including an MBA. Today, Habeeb’s efforts have helped him become the CEO and President of BPC, an employee benefits administration firm that was named one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois. He also founded the H-Squared Leadership Institute, an organization focused on helping people take their good lives to higher levels. He is extremely giving of his resources, time, and knowledge, frequently speaking to various organizations on topics like conquering difficulties, ethics, and customer service. He also has taken on several volunteer leadership roles in the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, The Illinois Chamber Healthcare Council, Senator Mark Kirk’s Small Business Advisory Committee, and the Champaign County Republican Central Committee. In addition, Habeeb’s passion for helping others has led to the establishment of two EIU scholarships—a bi-annual scholarship for nontraditional students, and the “Habeeb Family Scholarship” for business students.
Recognized as a Perspective Magazines Unforgettable YMCA Professional, Kent Johnson serves as the Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the YMCA of the USA, where he provides leadership for the national office that oversees 900 facilities nationwide. After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1981 with a degree in Recreational Administration, he began his lifelong affiliation with the YMCA. In 1982, Johnson joined the Sheboygan, Wisconsin YMCA in as the Youth Sports and Day Camp Director. In 1985, he moved to the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, where he continued work in camp settings. In 1996, Johnson was named Group Vice President of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, eventually working his way to President in 2004. In Milwaukee, he expanded services and educational opportunities to low-income communities, developing a 500-student charter school and after-school safe place sites. In 2007, Johnson was named Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for YMCA of the USA before securing his current position. His devotion to the YMCA helped the organization earn the Vision for Milwaukee Award by the Milwaukee Ethnic Council and a Best Places to Work Award from Milwaukee Magazine. EIU also recognized Johnson with the 2013 EIU Recreation Administration Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2014 EIU College of Education and Professional Studies Lifetime Achievement Award. An active community member, Johnson served in further roles for the United Way, Wisconsin State Truancy Task Force, Association of YMCA Professionals, and World Urban Network, and has co-chaired the National Human Services Assembly’s Chief Operating Officer Affinity Group. He and his wife Chris—also an EIU alum—have been married nearly 35 years and have two grown children.
Dr. Alvin M. Maurice enrolled at Eastern Illinois University in 1973 and majored in chemistry. Equally adept in mathematics, Maurice was awarded the Outstanding Freshman Math Award in 1974 and the Kappa Mu Epsilon Calculus Award in 1975—a rare feat for non-math majors. His targeted and continued interest in chemistry led to biochemistry, physical chemistry, and inorganic chemistry research projects with EIU faculty, eventually earning him publication in the Journal of Chemical Education. A 1976 Ann Frommel Memorial Scholarship recipient, Maurice earned his BS in Chemistry degree at EIU in just three and a half years. By 1982, he had also earned an MS and PhD with a concentration in physical chemistry. Afterward, he joined Rohm and Haas Company—now part of The Dow Chemical Company—as a Research Scientist in the Coating Materials Division. Over his 33-year career there, he was promoted several times, before earning the Dow Fellow title—the highest technical level in the company. In addition to the practical and commercial success of Maurice’s career accomplishments, his work has had a significant impact on reducing the negative environmental and health effects of volatile paint vapors—a byproduct of commercial and residential paint applications—reducing emissions by over 260 million pounds compared to paints used 20 years ago. He and his wife Terri, also an EIU graduate, have two daughters. They reside in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, approximately 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Hard work, performance, and perseverance have helped Ross McCullough achieve a 31-year career with United Parcel Service (UPS), where he currently serves as President of Corporate Strategy. McCullough started working for UPS as a local sorter while attending Eastern Illinois University in the mid ‘80s. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology in 1987, he took another position with UPS as industrial engineer. From there, McCullough’s career spanned several facets of the organization, including operations, industrial engineering, marketing and marketing strategy, e-commerce, and merger integration. Through it all, he still played an active role at EIU, including his service on the School of Technology Advisory Board. In fact, McCullough hosted one of the board’s annual spring meetings at UPS Headquarters in Louisville, where he offered a VIP tour for the group’s members and to attending EIU administrators. McCullough also was named Outstanding Industrial Technologist by the National Association of Industrial Technology in 2004, and in 2014 he was the recipient of the EIU School of Technology’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Outstanding Foundation Member Award. McCullough’s character and commitment to EIU was additionally evident when he gifted a room in Klehm Hall in honor of Dr. Tom Waskom, a professor who had a significant impact on McCullough’s life and commitment to EIU. Along with his wife Cindy and two children, McCullough currently resides in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he also serves on various boards and advisory committees across the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Judge Robert L. Schatz has been a lifelong Eastern Illinois University supporter. He enrolled at EIU for a year before being stationed in Germany as an Army private. While overseas, he kept in contact with Dr. Glenn Lefler, then head of the Physics Department and his personal mentor. Lefler encouraged Schatz to return to EIU as soon as he was able. After his Army duties, Schatz did just that, ultimately graduating with a degree in physics in 1956. He then traveled to California to work on rocket engines and missile systems before the creation of the US Space Program. Eventually, Schatz was promoted to Project Test Engineer for the Apollo spacecraft, giving him responsibility for aspects of its final testing. By 1970, Schatz also graduated from a California law school. He established a private firm in Cullerton, California in 1972. By 1979, he was sworn in as California’s North Orange Municipal Court judge. His positive impact inspired him to set his sights even higher, so in 1988, Schatz became a Federal Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration. He celebrated his retirement in 2000. Outstanding career aside, Schatz considers EIU his academic home, fondly reflecting on his love of EIU’s engaging and scenic campus, the intellect of the faculty, the beauty of its cultural offerings, and the compelling physics discussions he shared with his fellow students. Schatz says his years at Eastern were the happiest of his life because of the blessings and education he received here. Schatz currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.