The Eastern Illinois University Alumni Association is pleased to announce the 2004 recipients of its annual alumni awards. In conjunction with this weekend's Homecoming activities, these alumni will be honored on Saturday at a dinner held in recognition of their accomplishments.
"We are quite proud of these individuals and how they have represented their alma mater in their respective professions," said Steve Rich, executive director of the Alumni Association. "While it was through their own hard work and determination that these individuals were able to excel, we would certainly like to commend the outstanding faculty and staff on our campus who contributed to the development and education of these alumni."
Established in 1973, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious award which is bestowed by the Alumni Association. This award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves in either academic or literary fields, business, public service and/or service to the university and who, through their accomplishments and service, have brought prestige to their alma mater.
Past recipients have included an Illinois governor, Oscar-nominated actors, an NFL head coach, a nuclear physicist, CEOs, educators at all levels and many others.
This year's six Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are as follows:
|Rudy Hlavek enrolled at Eastern after serving two years in the United States Army, and entered the financial services industry in 1964 after graduating with a degree in marketing. In 1971, he joined what is now Smith Barney and served as a branch manager and regional director for the firm in Florida before being promoted to midwest divisional director in 1995. He assumed responsibility for the southern division of the firm in 1999, and retired in 2001 as a senior executive vice president and divisional director of the southern division. A strong supporter of the university, he is a member of the Eastern Illinois University Foundation board of directors and previously served on the School of Business Advisory Board .|
|Eastern's only Medal of Honor recipient, Major Carlos Ogden, earned the nation's highest award for military valor for his actions in World War II. While commanding an infantry company near Cherbourg , France , on the morning of June 25, 1944 , Ogden single-handedly eliminated one heavy enemy gun and two machine gun emplacements which were wreaking havoc on his command. Even though he was seriously wounded in the process, he did not stop until he accomplished his mission. The Presidential Citation awarded to him in conjunction with the award noted "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity involving risk of life above and beyond the call of duty." Appointed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to serve as California 's director of the Selective Service, Ogden turned down numerous requests to run for Congress. A standout on the university's football and basketball teams in the late 1930s, Ogden died in 2001. He will be represented at the awards ceremony by his wife, Louise.|
|After a ten-year teaching and coaching career in three states, Sue Payton embarked on a career change following a move to California . She earned a graduate degree in systems management/systems technology from the University of Southern California while substitute teaching and shortly thereafter began her "second" career. Payton held positions at Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin and ImageLinks in the aerospace and defense industry while also serving as director of the National Center for Applied Technology. In 2001, she was appointed to her current position as U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts, with responsibility for more than $320 million annually in science and technology programs. She oversees more than 50 war fighting demonstrations/prototypes that support U.S. troops in Iraq , Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism. Payton graduated in 1972 with a degree in physical education.|
|The chair of the communications disorders and sciences department at Eastern, Gail Richard is a nationally recognized educator and researcher who has completed more than 100 presentations since 2000. She is the author of six books, three diagnostic assessment instruments and multiple articles specializing in childhood developmental disorders. While being actively involved on the national level in her field, Richard has received numerous awards for her achievements. The 2000 recipient of the university's Distinguished Faculty Award, she has also been named a fellow of the Illinois Speech Language Hearing Association and the American Speech Language Hearing Association. She has served as the university's NCAA faculty athletic representative for 10 years, and was recently appointed to the NCAA Division I Management Council. Richard earned a master's degree in speech pathology from Eastern in 1977, and later obtained a doctorate from Southern Illinois University.|
|Recognized as one of the most gifted and emerging tenors of his generation, Matthew Polenzani has performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York since 1997. He has performed with world-renowned conductors in venues throughout the United States and Europe , including performances on all three stages at Carnegie Hall. In 2004, he was presented the prestigious Richard Tucker Award after having been honored previously with both the George London Foundation and Licia Albanese Foundation awards. He earned a master's degree from Yale University and performed with the Lyric Opera Center for Young American Artists before moving to New York . Polenzani graduated from Eastern in 1991 with a degree in music.|
|Jimmy Liataud, the founder of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops, opened his first store in Charleston in 1983. In just 20 years, what began as a one-man operation has grown to nearly 250 restaurants located in six countries with annual revenues of $75 million. There are also more than 200 new franchise units under development at this time. Earlier this year, the former marketing major was named a 2004 recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Illinois .|
|First presented in 1988, the Alumni Service Award is presented to those alumni who have repeatedly displayed outstanding voluntary service to the university. This year's recipient is John Schmitt, who has been actively involved with Greek activities on the campus through his involvement with his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, of which he was a founding member. He has held various leadership positions within the international fraternity, including tenure as chairman of the Alumni Advisory Committee, and was recognized in 1996 with the International Order of Merit award. In recent years, he has assisted in the creation of three scholarships that benefit members of Lambda Chi Alpha, including two through the EIU Foundation. Schmitt retired from state government after 21 years, having worked in several positions including a three-year period as an advisor to Gov. James R. Thompson and serving as the first executive director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation. He currently serves as the grant, legislative and development administrator for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Notably, Schmitt has also returned to campus for Homecoming each year since his graduation in 1976 with a degree in political science. He earned his master's degree in the same field in 1978.|
Established in 2004 and being presented for the first time this year, the Distinguished Educator Award is presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in the field of K-12 education. This year's recipients are Barbara McLaughlin and Bill Thiel.
|Barbara McLaughlin, an elementary special education teacher in Chebanse, is a 2002-2003 recipient of the Disney American Teacher Award. Out of more than 185,000 nominations, only 32 honorees from across the United States were selected to receive this honor. She was previously honored with the First of America Competitive Educational Grant for motivating students to write, the Target Scholarship for advanced education and the Cognis/Rohm & Haas Competitive Grant. An active volunteer in her community, she has been involved in Special Olympics, 4-H, little league sports and her church. Barbara graduated from Eastern in 1971 with a degree in special education.|
|Before retiring in 1986 from Illinois public schools, William Thiel held numerous teaching and administrative appointments in the greater Chicagoland area. A former superintendent and principal, he has presented lectures and seminars at more than 100 conferences and has published more than 50 journal articles and papers. Since retiring, Thiel has been available as a full-time and adjunct instructor to 10 graduate schools of business and education. He currently provides services to Marquette University , Silver Lake College and Marion College. Thiel graduated from Eastern in 1950 with a degree in physical education, and also holds a doctorate from Loyola University .|
First presented in 1988, the Outstanding Young Alumna/us is presented to an alumna/us who has graduated from Eastern within the last five years and who has excelled in a new career and/or public service. This year's recipient is Karla Porch. A captain in the United States Army, Porch was named a company commander in the 327th Signal Battalion in July of this year. The Bronze Star recipient has been deployed to numerous posts around the world including service in Germany , Israel , Poland , Saudi Arabia and Iraq . She is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and preparing her company of 144 soldiers to deploy to Iraq in support of the ongoing war on terrorism. Porch received a degree in physical education from Eastern in 1999.