2015 Alumni Awards

alumni awards

Click the image to see photos from the 2015 Alumni Awards dinner.

Distinguished Alumni Award

John C. Landgraf
Executive Vice President, Nutritional Products, Abbott Laboratories
B.S. Biology, 1974
M.S. Microbiology, 1975

John Landgraf is executive vice president, nutritional products, at Abbott Laboratories. Previously, Landgraf was senior vice president, global pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply, for more than six years. Prior to that, Landgraf was vice president, quality assurance and compliance, for Abbott’s medical products group.

Landgraf joined Abbott in 1977 and worked in key positions in plant quality assurance, manufacturing, and marketing in Abbott’s Diagnostics Division. He also held various management positions in manufacturing, quality, commercial, and engineering with Abbott Chemical and Agricultural Products Division, Abbott International, Abbott Corporate Engineering Division, and Abbott Diagnostics Division.

Prior to joining Abbott, Landgraf worked in research and development for Inolex Corporation in Glenwood, Illinois.

Landgraf serves on the boards for the Northeast Illinois Council – Boy Scouts of America, the Mailisita Foundation and Education Center, and Crealta Pharmaceuticals LLC. In the past he served on the board of the NIU Foundation and several other not-for-profit organizations. He and his wife, Anne, established an endowed fund to support student engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at NIU.

Landgraf has consistently made time to meet with students and present to classes at NIU. He was instrumental in developing a relationship between NIU and Abbott, which employs about 500 NIU alumni.

John earned a bachelor’s degree in biology (1974) and a master’s degree in microbiology (1975) from Northern Illinois University and a master’s degree in business administration (1992) from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.

F.R. Geigle Service Award

Nancy M. Castle
Director, NIU Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development
B.A. Psychology, 1977
M.A. Psychology, 1980
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, 1986

Nancy Castle has served on the faculty of her alma mater since 1991, first in the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders, then at the Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD). She became acting director of NGOLD in 2012, then director in 2013, and has built it into a program of excellence.

Service to others has always been a focus of Castle’s career. In her early work, she focused on services to benefit people with disabilities. Today, NGOLD has partnerships with local nonprofit agencies, benefiting both students and not-for-profits. Her long list of academic articles, presentations, and successful grant applications include a $3 million Department of Education grant and a $350,000 grant to aid retention and success of students with disabilities.

Her service record at NIU includes appointments to two presidential commissions – the Persons with Disabilities Commission and the Status of Women Commission – University Faculty Senate, Graduate Council, the Task Force on Curricular Innovation, and interim director of the University Honors Program. She served for six years on the City of DeKalb Landmarks Commission and served for over 10 years on the board of ReNew DeKalb, formerly DeKalb Main Street.

Castle has been honored with the NIU University Honors Program Great Professor Award, the NIU Student Affairs Recognition Award, the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences’ Fisher Award for Outstanding Service, the Eugene Peterson Award from the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, the Outstanding Research in Rehabilitation Award from the National Rehabilitation Association of Job Placement and Development, the 2011 Distinguished Alumni award from William Rainey Harper College, NIU Outstanding Young Alumni Award of 1992, and was named one of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ 50 Outstanding Alumni in 2009.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Somya R. Munjal
CEO, Youthful Savings
Managing Partner, CPA for the People LLP
B.S. Accountancy, 2006
M.A.S. Accountancy, 2007

Somya R. Munjal is passionate about money management, which she sees as a tool to help people live their lives more fully. She is a certified public accountant and a certified financial educator committed to teaching people about their finances. She hopes to empower people of all ages with the financial knowledge needed to live the life they always imagined.

After starting her career at Ernst and Young, LLP, Munjal worked for large corporations, financial institutions, small businesses, and startups in both the United States and abroad. She is the founder and managing partner of CPA for the People LLP, where she concentrates on tax consulting and outsourced accounting services. She is also the founder of Youthful Savings, an education technology social enterprise which seeks to empower the next generation with financial education products and entrepreneurship training. Youthful Savings has two components: My Own Business Challenge, which teaches middle and high school students about personal finance and entrepreneurship, and Financial Freedom, which helps college students learn to manage their money, avoid debt, and understand their student loans. For every dollar it earns, Youthful Savings donates 10 cents to scholarships. Two of the first four scholarships it awarded went to students at NIU.

Munjal received the Tech Cocktail Reader’s Choice Award for NYC’s Hottest Education Startup in 2013, the Ernst and Young Scholarship of Achievement, and the Randall H. Beck Outstanding Achievement Award in the Department of Accountancy. She is a board member of BitCoin India and an NPR Community Ambassador. Her articles have been published in The CPA Journal, The Freelancer, and Rio Grande Family Magazine.

College of Business Outstanding Alumni Award

William E. Taylor
Retired Partner, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP
B.S. Accountancy, 1967

William E. Taylor has had a rich career with global experience in governance, finance, and management. Taylor is a retired partner of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, where he served on the board of directors. He also served on the board of Deloitte’s global organization, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. During his time with the firm, he was a principal advisor in some of the largest corporate buyouts in history, including those of RJR Nabisco, Borden, and Duracell. He led Deloitte’s Special Acquisition Services Group and was the lead partner for more than fifteen years to one of Deloitte’s most significant clients, a leading private equity firm with portfolios in North America and Europe.

Previously, Taylor led the Chicago Tax Practice for Deloitte for ten years. He served on a number of U.S. and global committees and task forces addressing professional matters and strategy for the firm.

Taylor has supported NIU with both his time and financial resources since graduating in 1967. He sat on the College of Business Board of Executive Advisors and the Accountancy Executive Advisory Council. He is a member of the NIU Foundation Board, and provided exemplary leadership as treasurer during difficult financial times. In 2000, he was named the Outstanding Alumni of the Accountancy Department, and in 2010, he was awarded the NIU Foundation Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services.

Before coming to NIU, Taylor received a degree from LaSalle-Peru-Oglesby Junior College, the predecessor of Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC). Through his generosity, eleven IVCC students received full scholarships to attend NIU for their junior and senior years.

Bill and his wife, Dian, have two grown sons and divide their time between residences in Winnetka and Florida.

College of Education Outstanding Alumni Award

Yvonne A. Johnson
Retired Educator, Sycamore School District 427
B.S.Ed. Home Economics Education, 1951
M.S.Ed. Elementary Education, 1960

Yvonne A. Johnson is an accomplished community leader who has dedicated her life to serving her community.

Johnson began her teaching career in 1951 in the one-room Love School in DeKalb, where she taught first through eighth grades. In 1953, she took a job at West Elementary School in Sycamore, where she remained until her retirement in 2002. She continued to volunteer at the school until 2011.

Johnson has been frequently recognized for her excellence as a science teacher. She participated in a series of NASA programs for elementary teachers and presented at conventions for the National and Illinois Science Teachers Associations. Her awards include Outstanding Ag in the Classroom Teacher, Governor’s Master Teaching Program Master Teacher, and a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching. She is a three-time Illinois State Honors Science Teacher. She has conducted more than 250 elementary teacher science workshops.

Johnson’s community involvement includes sitting on the boards of her local public library and the Midwest Museum of Natural History, both of which also benefitted from her generous financial contributions; volunteering and serving on the boards of the Family Service Agency, Kishwaukee Hospital, and Senior Services Triad; and financially supporting Brookfield Zoo and Kishwaukee College.

Johnson has been included in Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in American Teachers, Who’s Who in American Education, and Who’s Who in Women Executives. Her numerous awards include the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Women of Accomplishment, Sycamore High School Distinguished Alumni, Boy Scouts Tribute to Heroes, and the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce Clifford Danielson Outstanding Citizen Award.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Outstanding Alumni Award

Carlos Fulcher
Executive Director, International Association of Business Communicators
B.S. Industrial Technology, 1990

Carlos Fulcher is the executive director of the International Association of Business Communicators, the leading and largest global association of business communicators. His strategic plan is launching a new global certification for business communicators, rebranding the association and expanding its educational offerings.

Fulcher is a strategic leader who has led both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Before joining the IABC, he was worldwide deputy executive director at the Drug Information Association, a life science organization with 18,000 members worldwide. Previously, he was chief information officer for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

From 1999 until 2006, Fulcher was vice president of information technology for Meadows Credit Union, and transformed the credit union into a technology innovator by creating an infrastructure that lowered operating costs, improved customer services, and supported multiple e-commerce sites. Before that, he was IT director for Quality Fabricators and a project manager at Ingersoll International.

Fulcher has presented on globalization at a number of meetings and conferences. He has served on a number of volunteer councils for the American Society of Association Executives. He holds an MBA from Rockford University.

College of Health and Human Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award

Jane Lux
Public Health Administrator, DeKalb County Health Department
B.S. Nursing, 1978
M.P.H. 2000

Since 1980, Jane Lux has been making a difference in the lives of individuals and families in DeKalb County through her work with the DeKalb County Health Department. As public health administrator, she oversees the department, which has forty employees, a $3.7 million budget, and serves approximately 105,000 residents.

Lux has been instrumental in developing and funding maternal and child health programs, HIV programs, STD prevention programs, and family planning programs for low-income populations. Since she became the department’s administrator in 2011, the department was selected as one of twenty-one organizations in Illinois to receive a federal grant to reduce the incidence of chronic disease through such initiatives as reducing tobacco use, promoting healthy weight and physical activity, and promoting breastfeeding. Also during her tenure, the health department has developed emergency response plans to prevent the potential spread of contagious disease, implemented a program to help people enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and convened the Zero Waste Task Force that resulted in DeKalb County adopting guiding principles to divert waste from landfills.

Lux is a member of the Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators, the Illinois Public Health Association, and the IPHA nominating committee. In her community, she is also a member of the Kishwaukee Family YMCA board, and is part of the core leadership team of the Live Healthy DeKalb County coalition. She is an elected member of Delta Omega, an honorary public health society.

College of Law Outstanding Alumni Award

Richard F. Bales
Assistant Regional Counsel, Chicago Title Insurance Company
J.D. Law, 1983

Richard F. Bales is employed by Chicago Title Insurance Company as assistant regional counsel and assistant vice president. He is the author of numerous articles, has published two books, and is scheduled to complete a third book by the end of 2015.

Bales is a long-standing member of the Real Estate Committee of the DuPage County Bar Association. As a member of the Education Committee of the Illinois Land Title Association, he has lectured on title insurance throughout the state. He has written articles for the Chicago Bar Association, DuPage County Bar Association, and Illinois State Bar Association. Some of his articles were reprinted in the book Land Surveys: A Guide for Lawyers and Other Professionals, which was published by the American Bar Association in 2012. Bales published A Guide to Residential and Commercial Surveys in Illinois in 2004; it was updated and reissued in 2011.

Bales is also the author of The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, a book wherein he claims to have solved the mystery of who started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. His research was the subject of a Discovery Channel Unsolved History episode and an episode of the Weather Channel’s When Weather Changed History. Bales is scheduled to complete another book, The Forgotten Literature of Nelson Algren, by the end of 2015, and is working on a biography of George Wellington “Cap” Streeter.

Bales is a member of an American Land Title Association and American Congress on Surveying and Mapping liaison committee, and has helped draft several versions of the ALTA/ACSM land title survey standards.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award

Bob Kornecki
Director of Individual Giving, Midtown Educational Foundation
B.S. Journalism, 1972

Bob Kornecki is a seasoned public relations veteran with 35 years experience at two of the world’s top public relations firms. He retired in 2007 and has since dedicated himself to the nonprofit world.

Kornecki is the director of individual giving at the Midtown Educational Foundation, which has served thousands of at-risk children from low-income families in Chicago. He actively seeks support for after-school and summer programs that develop character and promote academic excellence. He has also chaired the communication committee for the Chicago Metropolitan Division of The Salvation Army and served on the Restore and Renew Capital Campaign for Holy Name Cathedral. He has reached out to support college students and young professionals in the PR world with his self-help book, “How to Thrive in the Public Relations Business,” – published by Kornucopia Press – and by teaching courses in public relations and organizational communications at Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, and NIU.

At Edelman, Kornecki led the Chicago office through a period of unprecedented growth in the late 1990s, establishing specialized practices in business marketing, employee engagement, health care, reputation management, and technology for the world’s leading independent PR firm. At Burson-Marsteller, office revenues grew by more than 10 percent at a time when U.S. revenues were essentially flat. Employee satisfaction scores were the highest among U.S. offices.

Kornecki remains closely connected to his alma mater, cheering from the stands of Huskie Stadium, serving on the board of the NIU Executive Leadership Forum, chairing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, providing financial support for the annual Albert Walker lecture in public relations, and participating in the NIU Alumni Mentoring Program.

Kornecki lives with his wife, Carol, in Evanston.

College of Visual and Performing Arts Outstanding Alumni Award

Roosevelt Griffin III
Band Director, Harvey School District 152
B.M. Music Performance, 2001

Though Roosevelt Griffin’s background is in classical music performance, he has found his greatest success as a jazz educator. Students of Griffin, the district band director for Harvey School District 152, have received international acclaim, including an endorsement from Jody Jazz Mouthpieces.

Before becoming a full-time teacher, Griffin worked with some of the world’s greatest musicians, including Luciano Pavarotti, Diana Ross, and Jimmy Heath. He is often invited to present at conferences and workshops for music educators, including the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinics, The Jazz Institute of Chicago, The Jazz Educators Network, The Missouri Music Educators Association, Illinois Music Educators Association, The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Northern Illinois University, Columbia College, and Prairie State College. He has been featured in Downbeat and JazzEd magazines.

Griffin manages all instrumental music programs over seven locations for District 152’s more than 250 students. He is also the elementary jazz band director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic; an instructor with Blues Kids of America, an interdisciplinary artist-in-residence program that helps students improve literacy through music; and the band director at Upper Room Ministries.

In 2014, Griffin received the Golden Apple Award. Later that same year, his hometown of Harvey, Illinois, honored him by renaming the street where he grew up Roosevelt Griffin III Avenue. The Harvey Grade School Foundation awarded him an Excellence in Education Award, and Upper Room Ministries named him the 2013 Man of the Year. He was also named Rookie of the Year at Harvey School District 152 in 2004, and Brother of the Year by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in 2000.

Griffin earned his bachelor of music degree from NIU in 2001 and his master’s degree in school leadership from Concordia University in 2011.