2010 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of May 2010.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Cherilyn G. Murer
J.D. Law, 1978
President and CEO of the Murer Group

Cherilyn G. Murer, J.D., C.R.A., is president and CEO of the Murer Group, a legal-based healthcare consulting group that represents hospitals and health systems, providing strategic planning services and assistance in complying with complex state and federal regulations. She has long been an active voice in the advancement of quality, cost-effective healthcare. She was formerly director of rehabilitation medicine at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and holds an appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine as a clinical assistant professor of law in the Department of Family Medicine.

In May 2005, Cherilyn was appointed to a six-year term on the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. She served as board chair from 2007 to 2009 and is currently the fourth member of the board’s Executive Committee. In addition, she currently serves as a member of the NIU Foundation Board of Directors.

She was appointed to the NIU College of Law Board of Visitors in 2002 and was honored with the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003. In September 2007, Cherilyn was selected to present the university’s first annual Executive Speaker Series presentation, “Conversation with a CEO,” co-sponsored by NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and College of Business.

Cherilyn has developed specialized expertise in proton therapy while serving on the Board of Managers of the Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center. Currently under construction 30 miles west of Chicago, the NIPTRC will be a world-class, state-of-the-art proton cancer treatment and research facility.

Her concern for the future direction of healthcare prompted Cherilyn to accept an appointment by then Vice President George Bush to serve as national co-chair of the Disability Coalition. She was subsequently appointed as President Bush’s national co-chair of the Access to Opportunity Committee and also served as a member of the U.S. International Cultural and Trade Center Commission Advisory Committee on Foreign Language Needs of Business.

Cherilyn and her husband, Michael, have provided a philanthropic gift to NIU to establish the Murer Initiative as a forum for scholarly discussion, policy analysis and cross disciplinary integration of medicine, law, technology and finance.

Cherilyn is a much sought-after lecturer and the co-author of five books: The Case Management Sourcebook, Post Acute Care Reimbursement Manual‒A Financial and Legal Guide, Compliance Audits and Plans for Healthcare, Medical Records Management, and Understanding Provider-Based Status.

F. R. Geigle Service Award

Barbara Cole Peters
First Lady of Northern Illinois University

In her capacity as First Lady of Northern Illinois University, Barbara Peters has represented NIU with dignity, intelligence and compassion. At countless events, many of them held in the president’s residence, she has hosted a wide variety of guests and dignitaries since June 2000 when her husband, John G. Peters, became NIU’s 11th president. Barbara has been an invaluable asset to NIU in the cultivation of alumni leaders and donors. Her capacity to make others feel part of the “NIU Family” has helped to increase the numbers of highly engaged alumni in support of NIU. Those who watched closely as the university responded to the tragic events of February 14, 2008 admired her compassion and grace as she represented NIU in its darkest hours.

Barbara received her B.A. degree with honors in political science and her M.A. degree in labor and industrial relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her extensive resume includes 23 years in professional and executive level positions as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, consultant and human resources professional. She is also an avid collector of vintage clothing, having amassed a private collection of some 1,000 items during the last 30 years.

As a dedicated student of 20th century women’s fashion, her admiration of garments as historical and cultural artifacts has gone beyond the mere collecting. In 2002, Barbara combined her love of fashion with a desire to see cultural artifacts preserved and used for educational purposes by opening the studio and gallery, Studio 513, in Sycamore, Illinois. This was her first attempt to share her extensive collection with a larger audience. Her collection reflects the period of time in which garments were designed by ready-to-wear manufacturers and many of the most famous designers of the 20th century.

Barbara has also organized numerous exhibits featuring items from her collection that focus on central historical themes. These exhibits, most in partnerships with the NIU Art Museum, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Nehring Art Gallery in DeKalb, serve as a venue to offer historical insight through fashion. The important role women played in the development of NIU is also a topic that fascinates Barbara; she is working on a manuscript detailing how women historically shaped much of what we think of today as the culture of the university.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Ryan J. Hayman
B.S. Accountancy, 2003
Vice President with HSBC‒North America

During his time at NIU, Ryan J. Hayman was heavily involved with student organizations. Based on his academic credentials, he was initiated into the Department of Accountancy’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi and was elected president of the chapter during the 2002-2003 academic year.

Ryan started his career at HSBC Finance Corporation during college as an internal audit intern. After graduation, HSBC hired him as a general auditor where he helped to develop and draft the internal audit engagement approach used by HSBC. In four short years, he had attained the title of vice president in the Consumer and Mortgage Lending Division. In this role, he manages quality assurance and control activities for a variety of strategic business initiatives. In addition, Ryan collaborates with business partners to assist in the implementation of progressive products and services.

While employed at HSBC, Ryan has continued to remain connected with NIU. He participates in college recruiting efforts to hire interns and full-time employees at HSBC, facilitating on-campus events, job postings, and interviews. He led the effort at HSBC to maintain the corporation’s funding for a Department of Accountancy professorship. Ryan has also financially supported the Department of Accountancy’s student scholarship program and the Huskie Athletic Scholarship Fund.

In addition to his career endeavors and his continued relationship with his alma mater, Ryan volunteers as Junior Achievement instructor and has been a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors in the Metro Chicago Chapter since graduating from NIU.

College of Business

Sheila G. Talton
B.S. Marketing, 1980
Vice President of Globalization Strategy, Cisco Systems

Sheila Talton is an innovative business leader with more than 25 years of experience in helping companies increase value through technology. She was one of the pioneers in defining the network integration consulting segment. Her career path has paralleled the growth cycle of the network integration business, beginning with the early days of local area networks and continuing through development of sophisticated communications systems for the Euro-Tunnel and today’s demands for optimum efficiencies across all business functions. As vice president of the Office of Globalization Strategy at Cisco Systems, Sheila is part of the company’s aggressive new effort to focus on up-and-coming emerging markets worldwide. In this capacity, she identifies growth opportunities, develops unique solutions based on competencies in the market, establishes global teams to support local sales teams to build the go-to-market strategy, and coordinates all Cisco Services with the other major functional activities in each market.

Sheila’s responsibilities also include reviewing how Cisco’s global development and solution centers should be rationalized for optimization and/or integrated for optimum customer value. She is also responsible for the overall public sector strategy and solutions for all 139 of Cisco’s targeted emerging markets. In this role, she supports the company’s overall globalization strategy of enabling growth, leading innovation and capturing talent, and also sits on the Emerging Country Council and the Emerging Countries Services Board.

Her honors include selection as one of Enterprising Women’s Top 10 Women in Technology, and Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners. Sheila is also a recipient of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award from Working Woman. She was named a 2007 “Woman Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal, received the Egretha Award from the African American Women’s Business and Career Conference, and was named a 2009 Business Leader of Color by Chicago United.

College of Education

Thomas Gullikson, B.S.Ed. Physical Education, 1974
Chair, Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation
Professional Tennis Coach and former Professional Tennis Player

Timothy Gullikson, B.S.Ed. Physical Education, 1974
Professional Tennis Player and Coach

Before establishing themselves in the world of professional tennis, Tim and Tom Gullikson played tennis at NIU from 1969 to 1973 and qualified for the NCAA Championships three straight years. Both were inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.

Left-hander Tom played on the ATP Tour from 1976 to 1986 and won 16 top-level doubles titles, 10 of them as partners with his identical twin, Tim, a right-hander.

Tim’s professional tennis career began in 1977 with three singles titles and accolades as the ATP Newcomer of the Year. Two years later, he toppled John McEnroe at Wimbledon.

Then, in 1983, Tom and Tim partnered in the doubles finals at Wimbledon, losing the title to John McEnroe and Peter Fleming. In 1984, Tom won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship with Manuela Maleeva. His career-high world rankings were No. 34 in singles and No. 9 in doubles (both in 1984). During his professional career, Tim reached a career-best ranking of 18th (1978) and in total won 4 singles and 16 doubles titles.

The Gullikson brothers were ranked in the U.S. top 10 for four consecutive years (1982-85), finishing No. 4 in 1982 and 1983, and climbing to No. 3 in 1985.

Both brothers pursued successful coaching careers after leaving the professional circuit. After his retirement in 1987, Tom became one of the original members of the United States Tennis Association Player Development Program, coaching players such as Jennifer Capriati, Todd Martin and Andy Roddick. During his tenure as the U.S. Davis Cup captain (1994-99), Tom led the United States to its record 31st Davis Cup title (1995), winning against Russia. His coaching career reached another milestone when he was chosen to serve as the coach for the U.S. Olympic men’s tennis team at the 1996 Atlanta games. The team included Andre Agassi, who fulfilled his Olympic dream by winning the gold medal.

Tim retired as a player in 1986 and became a highly regarded coach for leading tennis players, including Aaron Krickstein, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Martina Navratilova. His most notable coaching success was with Pete Sampras, regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time, whom Tim coached to the No. 1 world ranking in 1993.

In 1995 Tim was diagnosed with brain tumors. In battling his cancer, Tim and his family recognized a critical need for helping brain tumor patients and their families in managing the physical, emotional and social challenges of the illness. In order to fulfill that need, Tim and Tom Gullikson, along with their families, founded the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation in 1995.

A year later, Tim lost his battle with brain cancer, but his vision for the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation has flourished. With support from the tennis community, business leaders, and concerned individuals, TTGF has raised more than $5 million over the years to advocate for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Recently, Tim’s widow, Rosemary, established the Tim Gullikson Education Scholarship, which is intended to help NIU students who are studying to be high school teachers and who have a desire to coach young athletes.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Joseph L. Bittorf
M.S. Industrial Engineering, 2005
Professor, College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, Northern Illinois University

Joseph Bittorf joined the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology after spending 25 years building a career in the field of manufacturing, ultimately progressing to the level of senior vice president with National Manufacturing Company, a family business started by his great-grandfather in 1901 that produced home and builders’ hardware, including hundreds of manufacturing processes.

After graduating from NIU with a degree in industrial engineering, Joseph initially worked as an industrial engineer for Weyerhaeuser and Honeywell before joining the family business in Sterling, Illinois.

With years of successful mergers, management initiatives, and reducing cost overhead, Joseph has excelled in both the private and public sectors and is now sharing his expertise in the classroom as a professor in the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

His teaching responsibilities include teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in international management, high performance teaming, industrial systems management, leadership, technology and society, manufacturing systems, and industrial quality control. His research interests include operations engineering, plant management, strategic planning, lean manufacturing, product development, foreign sourcing economics, and organization and development.

Joseph has created the Joseph Bittorf Memorial Expendable Scholarship Fund in Industrial and Systems Engineering in memory of his father, Joseph D. Bittorf, who guided him into his industrial and systems engineering career.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Monique C. Ryan
B.S. Dietetics, Nutrition, and Food Science, 1984
Author, Lecturer, and Founder of Personal Nutrition Designs

Monique Ryan, M.S., R.D., LDN, is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over 25 years of professional experience. She is the founder of Personal Nutrition Designs, a nutrition consulting company based in the Chicago area. Started in 1992, Personal Nutrition Designs provides nutrition programs for diverse groups of people with an emphasis on long-term follow-up and support programming.

In her work, Monique has developed thousands of nutrition plans for clients in the areas of sports nutrition, weight management, women’s health, eating disorder recovery, various medical and health concerns, and disease prevention and wellness. She provides her clients with practical cutting-edge nutrition information based on current scientific research.

Monique received a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition from Finch University’s College of Health Sciences in 2002 and completed her clinical training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Chicago. She is a registered dietitian (R.D.) and licensed in the state of Illinois (LDN). Monique is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and is an ACSM Health Fitness Instructor (HFI).

Leading up to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Monique was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for USA Triathlon, USA Cycling (Women’s Road Team), and Synchro Swimming USA. She has consulted for multiple seasons with the Timex Multisport Team, the Chicago Fire Soccer Team, and was the nutritionist for the Saturn Cycling Team for the 1994 to 2000 racing seasons.

The author of more than 175 published articles on nutrition, Monique has written for VeloNews ‒The Journal of Competitive Cycling, Inside Triathlon, Her Sports, Triathlete, and Women’s Sports and Fitness. She is also a regular contributor to Outside and Oxygen magazines and has appeared on CLTV, FOX TV, WGN, ABC and CBS.

College of Law

Vincent F. Cornelius
J.D. Law, 1989
Attorney at Law, Principal in the Law Office of Vincent F. Cornelius

Vincent F. Cornelius has been a sole practitioner since 1994, with offices in Wheaton and Joliet, Illinois. The Law Office of Vincent F. Cornelius is a general practice with a focus in litigation and represents a wide range of individual and corporate clients.

Vincent began the practice of law in 1989 as an assistant state’s attorney in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office in Wheaton, where he served as a felony prosecutor. He obtained extensive bench and jury trial experience in felony, misdemeanor, DUI, juvenile and domestic violence cases. Prior to establishing his own practice, Vincent was an associate attorney with the Law Firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates in Chicago (now known as Cochran and Montgomery), where he practiced in the areas of civil and criminal litigation, including municipal law, civil rights, personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense.

A frequent speaker at NIU’s College of Law, Vincent currently serves as a member of the College of Law Alumni Council. In 2005, he received the College of Law Outstanding Service Award. Vincent received his BBA in Business Administration from the University of St. Francis in 1986, where he was an Academic All-American Athlete; he also currently serves on the University of St. Francis Board of Trustees. He is a proud graduate of Joliet Catholic High School.

Vincent’s participation in the legal community is extensive, as illustrated by the following affiliations: President, Illinois Bar Foundation; Chancellor, ISBA Academy of Illinois Lawyers; Board of Regents, ISBA Academy of Lawyers; ISBA Special Committee on Capital Punishment; Illinois Bar Foundation Board of Directors; Illinois Bar Foundation Gold Fellow; Illinois State Bar Association Board of Governors; Chicago Bar Association Special Committee on Minority Federal Jury Service; Illinois Legal Needs Study II Committee; Governor’s Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform Commission; Domestic Relations Expedited Matrimonial Fee Arbitrator; Pro Bono Attorney, Court Appointed Special Advocates of DuPage County; ISBA Judicial Evaluations Committee; and DuPage County Bar Association.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Leonard M. Lieberman
B.S. Social Sciences – Teaching, 1969
Associate Vice President of State Government Affairs, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

In his nearly 30-year career with the Jewish Federation, Leonard M. Lieberman served as the lead government affairs representative in the federation’s Springfield office since it was established in May 1981 until his retirement in December 2009.

Leonard led the advocacy effort on behalf of the Jewish Federation in numerous endeavors, notably by: leading the advocacy effort to establish the first state-funded program for the homeless; helping to pass bills on kosher food labeling and mandating Sunday burials where religiously required; and helping to support and shape state government Medicaid reforms that maintain essential funding for Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago, in addition to securing and maintaining $42 million in grants and contracts to other Jewish Federation Agencies in the Chicago area.

Other endeavors have included assisting local Jewish Community Relations Councils in state legislative interests, such as the passage of ethnic intimidation criminal statutes (1982), banning paramilitary training (1987), limiting fund raising for terrorist activities (1998), and exempting Holocaust reparations from state taxation or means testing for programs (1999). More recently, he helped enact state pensions funds Iran divestiture legislation and supported ending discrimination by life insurance companies of travelers to Israel. He has been active in health and human services public policy generally and in issues of concern to non-profit organizations and parochial schools.

Leonard received a master’s degree in public administration from Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois ‒ Springfield) in 1973 and worked for the State of Illinois for over 10 years in a variety of planning and policy positions for the Department of Corrections, the Illinois Law Enforcement Commission and IDOT. He has stayed connected to his alma mater by serving on the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1996 to 2002.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kristina A. Valaitis
B.S.Ed. English, 1967
M.A. English, 1969
Ph.D. English, 1974
Executive Director, Illinois Humanities Council

After receiving three degrees from Northern Illinois University, Kristina Valaitis began her career at Arizona State University where she taught for several years.

Since 1993 Kristina has been the executive director of the Illinois Humanities Council, an educational organization dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. She was first employed as a program officer at the IHC in 1979.

As its executive director, Kristina has built the organization’s budget from approximately a quarter million dollars to $2 million per annum. For more than 30 years, through its programs and grants, the IHC has promoted greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location.

Kristina also lends her expertise by serving on the boards of the Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the Chicago Metro History Education Center, the Donors Forum, and the Clemente Course in the Humanities, Inc. Additionally she served as vice chair of the NIU Foundation Board, providing her expertise on the grants committee.

She is an active scholar as well, having published essays on literature, the humanities, and education, as well as text to accompany two books, Illinois: A Photographic Portrait of the Prairie State and Reflections‒Riflessioni, a book of photographs of Venice.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Ronald J. Keller
B.M. Music Education, 1961
Conductor, Naperville Municipal Band,
Emeritus Coordinator of Music for School District 203

Ronald Keller was introduced to music at the age of eight when he first played the tuba in elementary school. By the time he reached high school, his passion for music was evident as student director in his senior year of high school, he was named the first recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award at Naperville Community High School. His studies in music education at NIU paved the way for a 43-year career in education. He worked as a public school teacher for 32 years, 18 of which were as coordinator of music for Naperville schools. He retired from teaching in 1993 but continues his dedication to music.

As director of the Naperville Municipal Band since 1966, Ronald has poured his energy into developing this band into one of the premier adult musical organizations in the country. In 1991, the Naperville Municipal Band received the prestigious Sudler Silver Scroll Award presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. This award, which recognizes excellence in community bands, was only the fifth such honor bestowed. Additionally, Ron received the President’s Award for Service to the Association of Concert Bands. And in 2000, he was awarded the local Legacy Award (WMB) from the United States Library of Congress.

As a member of Windjammers Unlimited, Ronald has served on its board of directors and as president in 2007. He is a member of the American School Band Directors Association, Masonic Lodge and the Burlington Route Historical Society. He is also the past president of the Association of Concert Bands (life member).