After serving as an intern for The Wall Street Journal as an undergraduate, Timothy Martin was offered a position with the newspaper upon graduating from EIU but turned it down to teach English in South Korea. A Korean native who was adopted by his Crescent City, Illinois, family as an infant, he took the position to learn more about his heritage and homeland. While there he completed more than 1,000 hours of Korean language instruction and finished a six-level program before returning to the United States after two years and accepting an offer from The Wall Street Journal to work as a staff writer in their Chicago bureau--an extraordinary achievement for someone at that age. In 2010 he moved to the paper's Atlanta bureau with assignments including U.S. public health and the airline industry before being promoted to the New York City office in 2014 to cover pension funds, endowments, credit-rating agencies and the world's largest investors. It was during this time that he broke numerous stories about the unprecedented $5 billion lawsuit between the U.S. Justice Department and Standard and Poor's Ratings Services. In 2017 he accepted an assignment in Seoul, where he now lives, handling coverage of Samsung and global tech trends.
Dr. Kevin Settle, a native of Charleston, served K-12 education in an exemplary manner for more than 40 years. Raised as a lifelong learner, he excelled as a math teacher, principal, assistant regional superintendent and, for the last 18 years of his career, served as the assistant superintendent and superintendent for the Mount Vernon City Schools district. He has been a leader within the community's school system, enthusiastically demonstrating his collaborative approach to educating all children and guiding the development of numerous educational opportunities for students which resulted in the enhancement of his district's academic performances. Settle was selected as the 2007 Illinois Superintendent of the Year--the highest statewide honor conferred in the field--and has also been recognized by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce as its Citizen of the Year. He served on the EIU Advisory Committee to Educational Administration and currently serves as a member of the Illinois State Board of Education. Now retired, Settle continues to be active in his community, having served as president of the local school foundation, president of the Mount Vernon Rotary Club, chairman of the Board for Crossroads Community Hospital, a vice-president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and chair for many other diverse community endeavors.
Brigadier General Roscoe “Dan” Cougill taught math in Byron before being commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Air Force in 1964 and his military career took him from the Vietnam conflict through Operation Desert Storm, where he served as General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s communications branch chief at U.S. Central Command. In that position he organized the largest “from-scratch” communications buildup in history, an accomplishment which successfully integrated the communications networks of all the U.S. military branches for the first time. During his years of military service he also had assignments as a member of the international military staff at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and served as commander of the communications group responsible for tracking NASA’s space shuttle along the eastern seaboard. While serving his country, Cougill furthered his education by earning a master’s degree from Troy State University and attending the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Upon his retirement from the Air Force, he returned to Charleston, where he served as the city’s mayor for 12 years beginning in 1993.
John Craft made university history as the first alumnus to compete in the Olympics, finishing fifth in the triple jump in Munich in 1972. The top-ranked United States athlete in the event between 1969 and 1975, he won nine AAU titles during this time period while setting the American record of 55 feet, five inches in 1972. He surpassed that distance with a wind-aided jump of 56 feet, two inches later that year in winning the US Olympic Trials. In addition, he won the event at the prestigious and highly-competitive USA-USSR indoor dual meets in 1972 and 1973. Although dedicated to his training regimen, Craft believed relying on his physical abilities alone would limit his potential so he also spent countless hours studying film of the world's best triple jumpers to improve his technique. After winning the 1974 AAU event and beating the three-time Olympic champion from Russia twice on American soil, Track and Field News proclaimed him "King John" for his domination of the sport. After stepping away from international competition John taught, coached and served as an administrator at EIU, retiring in 2002 after 33 years of service.
Major Charles Hall's posthumous selection is reflective of the accomplishments and recognition he brought to EIU and his role in American history. A football and track star at EIU from 1938-41, he left college to join the U.S. Army Air Corps in November 1941, just weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor drew America into World War II. He was one of the first 43 pilots assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, more commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen, and was deployed to North Africa in 1943, where saw his first combat action in June of that year. While escorting allied bombers on July 2nd, his squadron was intercepted by Nazi fighters and in the ensuing dogfight then-Lt. Hall became the first African-American pilot in United States military history to bring down an enemy aircraft. After downing two more in 1944, he became the first African-American to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross--one of our nation' highest military honors--and was personally congratulated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then-commander of Allied forces in Europe who later served as President of the United States. At the completion of his combat tour Hall had flown 198 missions. Although he passed away in 1971, the U.S. Air Force recognized his achievements by renaming the Charles B. Hall Airpark at Tinker Air Base in Oklahoma City in his honor in 2002. A civilian employee at Tinker before taking a position with the Federal Aviation Administration in 1967, a bronze statue in his image was added to the entrance of the airpark in 2007.
After 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.
Larry Morton is a leader in the music industry who currently serves as president of Hal Leonard Music Corporation, the world's largest music print publisher and distributor. Under his leadership, Hal Leonard has grown from a $20 million company to $200 million in annual revenues and changed the face of music delivery, accessibility and instruction, including a global digital distribution network of more than twenty websites, dozens of mobile apps and thousands of eBooks. What's more, an 18-year tenure as president of a major music company is a remarkable standalone achievement and a testament to his unique gifts as both an industry leader and confident visionary. Having held positions in retail sales, marketing, distribution and musical instrument manufacturing, his background in the music business spans three decades, having recently concluded an eight-year term as chairman of the National Association of Music Merchants' executive committee, a group that seeks to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of music. An accomplished musician, educator and composer himself, Morton also completed his graduate music studies at the University of North Texas. He has previously served on the boards of the Music Publishers Association, the American Music Conference and the Retail Print Music Dealers Association. Beyond his lifetime passion for music, Morton is an active triathlete, having completed his first full-distance Ironman Triathlon last year.
Having joined the company in 1987 following his graduation from EIU, Alan Nielsen now serves as senior vice president and chief financial officer for Walgreen Co. Operating 8,100 retail pharmacy locations in all fifty states and Puerto Rico under the Walgreens and Duane Reade banners, Walgreen Co. is the largest business within Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). In recent years, he held leadership roles contributing to expansion through mergers and alliances including the merger of Walgreens with Alliance Boots to form WBA, the first global pharmacy-led health and wellbeing enterprise and parent company of Walgreen Co.; a 24 percent equity stake in Amerisource Bergen; and the combination of specialty and mail service pharmacy operations with Prime Therapeutics, which formed Walgreens Prime Strategic Alliance. He also currently serves on the boards of directors for Walgreens Prime Strategic Alliance and OptionCare, an infusion pharmacy product distributor and services provider. In previous positions at Walgreens, Alan created an expanded finance organization embedded in the business and led development of data warehouse systems to improve enterprise decision making. His commitment to the development of youth is demonstrated at the corporate, collegiate and high school levels, as well.
Jenifer Wyss is a supervising project manager for the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a Connecticut-based organization that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards for public and private companies and not-for-profit organizations that follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. In her role with FASB, she is responsible for managing numerous projects from their inception to the issuance of final standards which have a high-level of impact on financial accounting and result in decision-useful information for users of financial statements. Her current research projects include monitoring federal tax reform for corporations, simplifying the balance sheet classification of debt, simplification of income tax accounting and targeted improvements to the statement of cash flows. Prior to her role with FASB, Wyss was a partner at both RSM--the fifth-largest accounting firm in the United States--where she helped grow and establish a new location for the firm, and BKD in St. Louis, one of the top 15 public accounting firms in the country. She holds active CPA licenses in Illinois and Missouri. In addition to her work, Wyss is highly connected to the industry through a variety of professional affiliations and also has been very active in the communities where she has resided.