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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences announces winners of annual alumni, faculty, staff awards

June 1, 2012

Photo illustration of climbing the career ladderThe College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has selected 11 recipients for the 2012 Distinguished Alumni, Faculty and Staff Awards, which celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding individuals in each category.

After the college’s 50th anniversary in 2009, these awards became an annual event.

Dean Christopher McCord will present the awards Friday, Oct. 12, at a reception, dinner and program held in Altgeld Auditorium.

The 2012 honorees are:


  • Rita Reagan Athas. M.A. Public Administration, Urban Management and Development (1978). President of World Business Chicago, a city organization that fosters private sector growth in Chicago and its region by advancing a business-friendly climate.  Athas formerly served as Mayor Richard Daley’s chief of staff, has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Illinois by Crain’s Chicago Business.
  • Howard Blietz. B.A. Computer Science (1980). Co-founder, former CFO and co-CEO of Greenbrier & Russel, Inc., an IT services company. Blietz is founder and CEO of Motus Digital, a pioneer motion capture and animation studio providing services to the entertainment and gaming industries.
  • John Brandon. M.A. Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies (1985). Director of International Programs and associate director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Asia Foundation, which has been a leader in promoting peace and prosperity in Asia for nearly 60 years. A recognized expert in Southeast Asian politics, Brandon served as a member of the Council of Foreign Relations Task Force study on U.S. relations with Southeast Asia and was a member of The Stanley Foundation’s project on United States policy in Southeast Asia.
  • Barry Rozner. B.A. Journalism (1984). Featured columnist for the Daily Herald for more than 28 years (15 as a sports columnist) and recipient of four Peter Lisagor Awards and seven Associated Press Awards. Twice was named Top Sports Columnist by the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association.
  • Anne Barrett Swanson. B.S. Chemistry (1970). Cancer researcher, professor and department chair at Edgewood College, Wis., program director for the National Science Foundation and former associate academic dean at the College of St. Catherine, Minn. She continues to serve as a consultant for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Mary Wirth. B.S. Chemistry (1974). W. Brooks Fortune Professor of Chemistry, Purdue University, and recipient of numerous awards for her research, including the ANACHEM Award, which is the Gold Medal Award in analytical spectroscopy. Wirth is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is founder and chairman of bioVidria, Inc., which develops and manufactures labware used in genetics research in corporate and academic laboratories.


  • Richard Johannesen. Professor emeritus, Communication. Former chair of the Department of Communication, Johannesen is the author of one of the top communication ethics textbooks in the country, and is credited with bringing NIU’s Department of Communication into national prominence, based in part on its reputation for researching and teaching communication ethics.
  • Wallace McAllister. Presidential Research Professor Emeritus, Psychology. One of the inaugural class of Presidential Research Professors at NIU, McAllister built the first animal colony in the department, which remains a centerpiece for the department’s neuroscience program to this day. He maintained funding from the National Science Foundation for his entire tenure at NIU, and led his department in rigorous scholarship and research, which has contributed to its continuing reputation for excellence.
  • Clark Neher. Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus, Political Science. Internationally recognized scholar in Southeast Asian politics, with particular expertise in Thailand, Neher has served as a former chair of the Department of Political Science as well as the former director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He has received two Fulbright fellowships and has published scores of journal articles, book chapters and books.
  • Robert Self. Professor emeritus, English. Former director of graduate studies and director of first-year composition, Self coordinated the complete integration of computer-assisted instruction into the department’s writing courses, which made NIU a national leader in bringing technology into the humanities classroom. Self served as a senior Fulbright scholar and helped develop many programs. He is the author of three books and 20 scholarly articles, and is a nationally recognized authority on the filmmaking career of director Robert Altman.


  • June Kubasiak. Office manager, Public Administration. Kubasiak has provided 33 years of loyal service to the university, 31 of those years in the Division of Public Administration. She has been a leader and role model in establishing and nurturing the division’s relationship with current students and alumni. Kubasiak received the NIU Outstanding Service Award in 1990, served on the board of the NIU Employees Federal Credit and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America.