The NIU Alumni Association celebrated outstanding university alumni on April 17 at the association’s annual Alumni Awards Dinner.
Awards were given to outstanding alumni from each of the university’s seven colleges. In addition, the association awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, the F.R. Geigle Service Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the association’s most prestigious honor, and is presented to an alumnus or alumna who has achieved outstanding success and recognition in his or her field. This year’s honor went to John C. Landgraf, executive vice president of nutritional products at Abbott Laboratories. Landgraf said when he was a student, he expected to spend his career in a laboratory, and never anticipated receiving such an honor.
The F.R. Geigle Service Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to the best interests of NIU. The award is not limited to NIU alumni, but the 2015 winner, Nancy M. Castle, holds three degrees from the university. She also works for NIU as the director of the Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development. In her acceptance speech, Castle thanked her friends and mentors, including her husband, John W. Castle, who won the same award in 1995.
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is presented to an individual who has exhibited outstanding accomplishments within 10 years of earning an undergraduate degree at NIU. This year’s recipient, Somya R. Munjal, earned her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and her master’s degree in 2007. She is the founding and managing partner of CPA for the People LLP, a tax and accounting firm, and the founder of Youthful Savings, a social enterprise that teaches personal finance, entrepreneurship and money management to students from middle school through college. Youthful Savings donates 10 cents of every dollar it earns toward scholarships; two of its first four scholarships went to students at NIU.
Retired educator Yvonne Johnson accepted the outstanding alumni award for the College of Education. A noted philanthropist, Johnson is known for her strong involvement in the Sycamore community and in the education community at large.William E. Taylor, a retired partner of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, received the outstanding alumni award from the College of Business.
In accepting his outstanding alumni award from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, Carlos Fulcher made a statement when he did a handstand at the lectern. The former gymnast and 1990 graduate is the executive director of the International Association of Business Communicators. When College of Health and Human Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award winner Jane Lux gave her speech immediately after him, she joked that she had planned to do a cartwheel but changed her mind.
The outstanding alumni award from the College of Law went to Richard F. Bales, assistant regional counsel for the Chicago Title Insurance Company. Bob Kornecki, director of individual giving at the Midtown Educational Foundation, accepted the outstanding alumni award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Roosevelt Griffin III, the outstanding alumni award winner from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, brought his wife and children, his mother, his pastor, and several students and parents from the classes he teaches in the Harvey School District to watch him receive his award. He noted that he has received a number of accolades in the last year, including a Golden Apple Award and his hometown naming a street after him, but said the recognition from his alma mater mattered to him most of all.