2011 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of April 2011.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Linda A. Smerge
B.S.Ed. Elementary Education, 1972
M.S.Ed. Early Childhood Education, 1973
J.D. Law, 1980
Educator and 2008-2009 Illinois Teacher of the Year

Illinois’ 2008–2009 Teacher of the Year, Linda Smerge holds three NIU degrees and exemplifies the power of education — in her own achievements and in the success she enables her students to achieve. She has achieved prominence in her field, and has represented that field, and our state, on the national level. Though Linda taught briefly following her graduation in 1973, she spent over a decade practicing law in Chicago. Prompted by a desire to make a real difference in children’s lives, Linda returned to teaching in 1993.

In 2001, Linda accepted a position at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Cicero, and has taught in one of the Cicero district schools since. A dedicated educator, Linda is willing to put in extra time and effort for her students, often persuading parents to allow their children to attend extra tutoring sessions with her. Linda’s enthusiasm and commitment net results — her students have posted the highest ISAT scores the school has ever seen.

Linda also has brought her expertise into a larger educational community, serving on the Wilson School Professional Development Team and sharing her insights on recent developments in education with her fellow educators. She has also represented the approximately 1,000 teachers in the district in regards to educational issues, and has instructed the faculty in another district as well.

In the fall of 2008, Linda was named Illinois’ Teacher of the Year, and spent 2009 as an ambassador for Illinois teachers — sharing stories and strategies with fellow educators, representing Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and meeting with officials of the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. A sought-after presenter, Linda made time to return to her alma mater to share “Ten Things I Wish I’d Known about Teaching” with students.

In October of 2009, Linda and a number of former Illinois Teachers of the Year met with the attorneys for the Illinois State Board of Education. She presently sits on the Advance Illinois Educator Advisory Council as a teacher voice on various issues, and is a candidate for her fourth NIU degree, a master’s in educational administration.

F. R. Geigle Service Award

Carla W. Montgomery
Associate Professor Emeritus and former Associate Dean of the Graduate School

Carla Montgomery, associate professor emerita and former associate dean of the Graduate School, has demonstrated service and dedication to NIU in several capacities. In addition to accomplishments as a faculty member and administrator, Carla has a long history of philanthropy to Northern, and has worked to enhance NIU’s visibility and credibility outside of the university.

After earning degrees from Wellesley College, Dartmouth College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carla came to Northern in 1978 as an assistant professor. She taught a variety of geology courses to thousands of students, from the freshman to the graduate level. Carla was often recognized for her accomplishments and teaching ability, receiving awards at the department, college, and university levels, including the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2007.

Seven years into her tenure as a faculty member, Carla joined the university administration as associate dean of the Graduate School. She served in that capacity for 19 years, and was instrumental in building the research and graduate profile of the university, promoting minority student success in graduate education, and in shielding the university from severe programmatic cuts that took place statewide in the 1990s. From 2005 to 2008, Carla held the role of acting associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Throughout each semester of her administrative appointments, Carla continued to teach. Her dedication to her students is also illustrated by her authorship of several textbooks to better meet their needs. One textbook, Environmental Geology, has been in print for over 20 years, and has had a vast influence on an important topic. Its consistent use in general education geology courses has brought NIU’s name into classrooms across the country.

Carla’s involvement in professional organizations has also enhanced NIU’s reputation. She has served many such organizations, including elected terms as president of the Illinois Association of Graduate Schools, chair of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, and ex officio member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Brian F. Gillet
B.S. Marketing, 2001
M.S. Management Information Systems, 2002
Managing Editor for TMT Group at OTR Global

Brian Gillet is a dedicated — and busy — young alumnus. Less than 10 years after his graduation from NIU, he has given back to his alma mater in numerous ways, including helping fund a scholarship for business students and creating a network for business alumni — while rapidly ascending the corporate ladder.

While a graduate student at Northern, Brian started his career at OTR Global, a provider of investment research, as a project manager. Over the next few years, Brian completed his master’s degree and quickly established himself as a major contributor and leader within the company. In his current role as managing editor for the Tech, Media, and Telecom Group at OTR Global, Brian oversees the budget and research production for a team of workers spread throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Despite a busy work schedule, Brian finds time to support his alma mater. Immediately following his graduation, he and fellow alumni established a scholarship for outstanding business students. An active mentor, Brian reviews resumes, gives advice, and provides job shadowing opportunities for current students. He has also brought his expertise directly into the classroom, teaching two semesters of the marketing strategy capstone course in the College of Business.

In 2006, Brian worked with the College of Business to establish the Young Professionals Network (YPN), an alumni group for graduates of the last 10 years, and was named the college’s Outstanding Young Alumnus in 2008. Currently an advisor to the board of the YPN, Brian has also served on the NIU Executive Club Board of Directors, and is a member of the Executive Club scholarship committee. He has also been a participant in the club’s small group and fundraising committees.

College of Business

William “Bill” LeRoy
B.S. Accountancy, 1965
Retired Partner, Ernst & Young LLP and Retired Partner, BDO LLP

A retired partner from two widely recognized global public accounting firms, Bill LeRoy has achieved great success in his professional career, and has consistently and generously given back to his alma mater. Following his graduation in 1965, Bill became a staff auditor at Ernst & Ernst in Chicago. One year later, Bill entered the U.S. Army, and went through Officer Candidate School in Virginia. The Army sent Bill to California, and, after finishing his tour, he rejoined E&E in San Francisco, where he was promoted to partner in 1980.

In 1994, Bill retired from the then Ernst & Young, and started a firm specializing in auditing pension plans. After significant success with his practice, he merged his firm into BDO Seidman, and became BDO’s technical partner in charge of services to the pension industry. More recently, Bill specialized in auditing venture capital funds and helped develop a practice of over 100 funds in the Bay Area.

Bill makes giving back to his alma mater a priority. He was the first to recognize and support the strategic initiative of creating an entrepreneur emphasis in the College of Business, and, in 2007, established the Paula M. and William M. LeRoy Entrepreneurship Fund. Recently, Bill has been involved in providing advice to the Department of Accountancy regarding the development of its Master of Accounting Science capstone course, and plans to discuss the venture capital market with the capstone students.

Retired since 2010, Bill is able to spend more time with his family, and contribute to charities, including Rotary and Rotaplast. He is an avid sailor, having raced to Hawaii three times and having competed in the Newport to Bermuda race. Bill is also an active member of the Alumni Association, and attends various alumni, athletics, and NIU Foundation events.

College of Education

Michael P. Hooks
M.S.Ed. Special Educationā€’Visual Impairments, 1998
Founder and President of Next Level Assistive Technology, Inc.

Michael Hooks is president and founder of Next Level Assistive Technology, Inc., a company specializing in technology solutions for those with visual impairments and learning disabilities. A certified teacher of the visually impaired, Michael has over 10 years of experience teaching and working in the field of blindness and low vision, and describes his time in the Visual Impairments program at Northern as “intense, demanding, and comprehensive — and it changed my life.”

While a student at Northern, Michael conceived the idea of a company that would enable those who are visually impaired to function in the world on a level playing field through the use of assistive technology, education, training, and awareness. He spent the next several years developing Next Level while employed as an assistive technology specialist and teacher at the Washington State School for the Blind. In 2005, he left his teaching job to concentrate on growing his business.

Michael’s efforts paid off—Next Level has achieved considerable growth, expanding from corporate headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, to offices in Arizona and Hawaii. With annual sales now measured in the millions, Michael’s company is able to reach an increasing number of clients, ranging from those in medical fields to universities and governmental agencies.

Michael brings dedication and passion to his business. On a typical workday, the phone calls begin at 6 a.m. and continue until 8 or 9 p.m. He spends his days speaking with “vendors, manufacturers, teachers, parents, doctors, sales reps, accountants, and end users all day long.” Michael’s commitment to his field and his clients is clear — he is a powerful and empowering force to countless individuals, enabling them to greatly improve their daily lives.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Joan Gluth Welty
B.S. Electrical Engineering Technology, 1978
Director of Marketing at AutomationDirect

Joan Welty, director of marketing at AutomationDirect, has spent over 30 years in the field of industrial automation, from applying early microprocessor-based controllers to directing the global marketing strategy for a rapidly growing industrial controls supplier. After her graduation in 1978, Welty was employed at Bendix Corp., where she was awarded a patent for an “optical digitizer for measuring spirometer output” and as a result was named Co-Engineer of the Year in 1979 for that division.

After similar positions at Eagle Signal Corp. and GE Fanuc introduced her to industrial automation, Joan became a partner and engineering manager in a small systems integration firm, Automated Industrial Control Systems Inc., specializing in the pulp and paper industry. She would travel extensively for the next 10 years, commissioning automation projects for clients such as Stone Container, Union Camp, and GE.

In 1997, Joan joined AutomationDirect, a direct supplier of industrial control products in Cumming, Georgia, as a product manager. She became marketing director in 1999, when the company expanded rapidly with the advent of Internet sales. She now directs all aspects of marketing and marketing communications, including advertising, editorial, direct mail, online activities, and educational partnerships.

Dedicated to giving back to her alma mater and to encouraging future technologists, Joan has worked with the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology to donate equipment and funds to support the named AutomationDirect lab and professorship. Her interest in inspiring the next generation has also led to her involvement in FIRST, a robotics competition program for high school students.

Joan serves her community as a board member on both the Georgia FIRST Regional Advisory Board and the Forsyth Alliance, the county school support organization funded by AutomationDirect. Joan is also a board member for AgeWell Forsyth, the non-profit arm of the Forsyth County Senior Center, and a longtime member of IEEE.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Ross J. Roeser
M.A. Audiology, 1967
Professor and Executive Director Emeritus, UTDallas/Callier Center for Communication Disorders

Described by the American Audiology Association as “the consummate audiologist,” Ross Roeser has enjoyed a career highlighted by excellence in teaching, pertinent research, and the administration of a world-renowned center for audiology. Ross began his educational career with a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University, and went on to receive a master’s degree from Northern in 1967.

After receiving his Ph.D. in audiology from Florida State University in 1972, Ross was appointed chief of audiology at the Callier Hearing and Speech Center in Dallas, Texas. Ross currently is a chaired professor at UTD/Callier. He held the position of executive director of the UTDallas/Callier Center for Communication Disorders from 1988 to 2006, when he was appointed, and is now executive director emeritus.

Ross’s distinguished career has been celebrated numerous times; he was the recipient of the 1988 Outstanding Clinical Achievement Award of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for Texas, the 1990 Joel Wernick Award of the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists, and the Jack L. Bangs Award of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Institute in 1994. In 2009, he was chosen as a recipient of the American Academy of Audiology Distinguished Achievement Award.

A fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, Ross is one of the founders of the American Auditory Society and the American Academy of Audiology. He is also the founder and first editor-in-chief of the journal Ear and Hearing, and, since 2003, the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Audiology.

Ross holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology awarded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and is licensed to practice audiology in Texas.

College of Law

Robert C. Meltzer
J.D. Law, 1985
Chief Executive Officer, VISANOW

As chief executive officer of VISANOW, a global mobility services provider, Bob Meltzer leads his company in its pursuit of revolutionizing immigration and employment compliance process management, and improving the legal services experience. A graduate of the University of Colorado–Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Bob received his J.D. from NIU in 1985. He then furthered his international legal education by receiving certificates and diplomas from several European institutions. He has experience in all appellate processes in the practice of immigration law, and has represented clients before the United States Supreme Court on immigration law issues.

Bob began his career at the legal office of the United Nations World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, concentrating on public international law, international contracts, and international copyright. In 1986, he returned to the U.S. and entered into private practice, continuing to focus on international law, and then expanding his practice to include immigration law, representing clients on a broad range of immigration issues.

After practicing law for 15 years, Bob realized the potential technology held to streamline the management of the immigration process, and founded VISANOW. For over a decade, VISANOW has helped guide thousands of clients through the complicated immigration process in the U.S. and abroad. Today, VISANOW processes applications into 95 different countries. Bob has employed numerous NIU students from the colleges of Law, Business, and Engineering and Engineering Technology to work as attorneys, managers, associates, sales executives, and technology developers.

Bob has been an active member of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors since 2005, and is an avid financial supporter of the college’s Moot Court Society, a student-run organization with a purpose to further the advancement of appellate advocacy. Bob is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; has been a member of and chaired the International and Immigration Law Section of the Illinois State Bar Association; an adjunct professor of international law at Chicago-Kent College of Law; and an author and lecturer.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

James W. Huguelet
B.S. Computer Science, 1993
M.S. Computer Science, 1995
President, The Huguelet Group LLC

Jim Huguelet is president of The Huguelet Group LLC, a provider of strategic information technology consulting and project management services. An information technology consultant with expertise in developing practical technology strategies and managing complex IT projects for start-up, middle-market, and Fortune 500 clients, Jim is also an experienced enterprise architect with an understanding of the technologies necessary to design and construct advanced enterprise-wide business solutions. Jim also holds certification as a Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute.

Prior to his work with The Huguelet Group LLC, Jim was the chief information officer of Aquascape, Inc., the largest manufacturer and distributor of products used in the construction of residential water gardens and water features in North America. Before this role, Jim held a variety of director-level positions in sales, product development, and consulting management at IntegrationWare (later Practicity) — a venture capital-backed software products and consulting company whose clients included Abbott Laboratories, GE Capital, McDonald’s Corporation, and the Walgreen Company.

A well-respected voice in the field of electronic payments security, Jim speaks regularly at industry conferences, including the SIGMA Executive Leadership Conference & Annual Meeting, the VeriFone Retail Payments Conference, and the National Association of Convenience Stores Annual Conference. His insights on the information technology industry have appeared frequently in national publications such as CIO, Computerworld, and the Chicago Tribune.

A second-generation NIU alumnus, Jim is a founding member of NIU’s Computer Science Alumni Council (CSAC) — the first departmental affinity group under the auspices of the NIU Alumni Association. Currently president of CSAC, Jim helps guide the group in its mission to serve alumni of — and current students in — the Department of Computer Science, and all alumni in the information technology field. He is also a member of the Association of Information Technology Professionals and the Project Management Institute, and a past member of the International Ecometry User Group’s Executive Board.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Lisa Frost
B.S.Ed. Art Education, 1993
Artist and Owner of Lisa Frost Studio

Nationally recognized artist Lisa Frost’s mission is “to spread cheer throughout the land.” With her whimsical artwork internationally distributed and her sunny creativity broadcast through regular appearances on radio and TV programs, she is well on her way toward completing her mission. Lisa is the owner of Lisa Frost Studio, which is located in Rockford, Illinois. As a Rockford native and current resident, she is dedicated to her art and to giving back to her community.

Following her graduation in 1993, Lisa was employed as an art teacher in Oswego and Rockford, Illinois. An enthusiastic educator and advocate of community arts partnerships and district-wide enrichment programming, Lisa’s dedication was recognized when she was named an Educator of the Year by 21st Century Magazine in 1999.

In the summer of 2001, Lisa joined the staff of NIU’s Visual Arts Camp for high school students as a painting instructor. Her involvement that summer led her to create a new way to support both young artists and her alma mater. In 2004, Lisa held the inaugural Frost & Friends holiday shopping event in Rockford. She used the proceeds from the event to fund scholarships for Rockford-area high school students to attend the summer camp. Over the years, the proceeds from this highly celebrated and attended community event have been used to fully fund more than 30 scholarships.

With community involvement that includes membership in the Rockford Public Library’s Board of Trustees and her past involvement with the Discovery Center Museum’s Board of Directors, Lisa is in turn celebrated by her community. She is a member of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce’s “Forty Leaders Under Forty,” and in 2010, was one of five finalists for Rockford’s Woman of the Year award.

In 2008, Lisa entered a partnership with national gift company, Silvestri by Demdaco, to develop a colorful line of products for children, the holidays, and the home that are sold and distributed all over the world.