2009 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of May 2009.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Thomas R. Karl
B.S. Meteorology 1973
Director, NOAA’s National Climate Data Center and Climate Services Lead

Thomas R. Karl was born and raised in Evergreen Park, Illinois. He received his B.S. degree in Meteorology from Northern in 1973, his Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1974, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from North Carolina State University in 2002.

Dr. Karl is the Director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, and is NOAA’s Program Manager for Climate Observations and Analysis. He was recently named Director of NOAA’s Climate Services. He has served and continues to serve on a variety of National Research Council Committees. Dr. Karl is a frequent contributor to various news outlets. He has briefed members of Congress and provided testimony on issues related to climate change. He has also briefed various members of the Executive Branch including past Presidents. Dr. Karl is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, currently serving as President. He is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a National Associate of the National Research Council.

Dr. Karl is author of many climatic atlases and technical reports, and has published over 150 articles in various scientific journals. He was identified as one of the most frequently cited Earth Scientist of the 1990s. His articles address climate, climate variability, and climate change. He has also served as Editor of the Journal of Climate (1997-2000) and Lead Author, Coordinating Lead Author, and Review Editor of several IPCC reports, Co-Chair of the US National Assessment of Climate Change and Variability and recently completed the first Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Report on Temperature Trends. He was part of the IPCC process that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Karl has also served as Editor or Contributor to a number of commercial textbooks on topics ranging from the 1988 U.S. drought to climate and biodiversity.

F.R. Geigle Service Award

DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department
DeKalb Fire Department
DeKalb Police Department
Kishwaukee Community Hospital
Northern Illinois University Police
Sycamore Fire Department
Sycamore Police Department

February 14, 2008. The date is seared into our memories as a day of tragedy for the NIU community.

But it also was a day that underscored the courageous work of people who are prepared and ready to come to our aid every day. Dozens and dozens of emergency responders rushed to Cole Hall. Without fear for their own safety, they secured the scene, provided First Aid, performed triage and transported the wounded into the caring and capable hands of hospital professionals.

Our first responders—from police officers and firefighters to emergency medical technicians, doctors and nurses—saved lives that day.

The NIU Alumni Association each year presents the F.R. Geigle Service Award to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to the best interests of Northern Illinois University. This year we present the award to a collection of individuals.

We salute all of the first responders who came to the university’s aid on February 14, 2008, and who serve, protect, heal and sustain members of the NIU community each and every day.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Lanea Marie Marcelle Keller, M.D.
B.S. Chemistry 2002
B.S. Biological Sciences 2002
M.S. Chemistry 2003

Resident Physician, Department of Radiation Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Lanea Marie Marcelle Keller has always had a passion for science. Her thrill for discovery led her to the chemistry and biology labs at Northern Illinois University and later to Rush Medical College in Chicago. In 2005-2006 Dr. Keller took a fellowship position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-National Institutes of Health Research Scholar where she discovered the field of Radiation Oncology and developed a passion for the treatment of cancer patients and interest in cancer research. In 2008 Dr. Keller graduated from Rush Medical College in the top five percent of her class and she is currently completing her intern year at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. In July of 2009 she will begin her categorical training in Radiation Oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

While at Northern Illinois, on a Faculty Funded academic scholarship, Dr. Keller was involved in the Sigma Kappa Sorority, Lambda Sigma National Honor Society, Mortar Board Senior Honor/Service Society, Chemistry Club, Pre-Professional Association, Peer Connections Program, Golden Key International Honour Society , Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, and Campus Activities Board. Dr. Keller continued to volunteer throughout medical school at the Rush Community Health Clinic and the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph homeless shelters.

Dr. Keller is a member of the Radiological Society of North America and has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2008 James G. Clark, MD and Ruth E. Schmidt, RN, Endowment Fund for Medical Education Scholarship given to the Rush Medical College student who has demonstrated clinical and academic excellence, the Nathan M. Freer Prize, awarded to the outstanding senior Rush Medical College student, and the Isabella Coler Herb, MD Award for Outstanding Achievement, presented to women of Rush Medical College who graduate in the top ten percent of their class and have demonstrated promise to impact the field of medicine.

Outstanding College Alumni Awards

College of Business

John L. Shigley
B.S. Accountancy 1978
Executive Vice President of Operations, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

John L. Shigley is currently Executive Vice President of Operations at MGM Grand Hotel-Las Vegas. In this role he is responsible for strategic direction and operation of the Hotel, Food & Beverage, Entertainment, Arena, Facilities and Security divisions of the MGM Grand. He is also responsible for The Mansion at MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand (a Mobil 4 Star Property) and The Skylofts at MGM Grand (a Mobil 5 Star property). MGM Grand Las Vegas boasts more AAA Diamonds under one roof than any hotel in the world, and the only 3 Star Michelin restaurant in southern Nevada; Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand.

John has over 22 years in the gaming industry and has held various positions in finance and general management including president of Primm Valley Resorts and Caesars Palace. John is a CPA in the state of Nevada. John is the sponsor of the John and Winifred Shigley scholarship awarded to one NIU graduate accountancy student per year based on financial need and outstanding academic performance. John has been a featured speaker at several universities including NIU, Harvard, Boston College and Boston University.

College of Education

Anna Marie Weselak
B.S. Ed. Elementary Education 1971
M.S.Ed. Early Childhood Education 1974
CEO, Weselak & Associates

Anna Weselak brings to the training field her experience from education, business, and non-profits. Her love of teaching has offered her the opportunity of teaching the very young, as well as the young at heart. Doing sales and marketing for a small business in a very highly competitive market allowed Anna to become acquainted with the business community. Through leading an active life in community and volunteer organizations for over thirty years, Anna has strengthened her leadership skills and knows the importance of interpersonal relationships, teamwork and effective communication.

Ms. Weselak runs her own consulting business, Weselak & Associates, while serving as a consultant for Center for Teacher Effectiveness and instructor for Pearson Academic Solutions. She has held seminars, classes, and workshops for a variety of businesses, agencies, and organizations. She has served on the faculty of several Chicagoland colleges and universities. Professional memberships include the Lombard Chamber of Commerce, the Glendale Heights Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the board of directors of the Oak Brook Area Association of Commerce and Industry. Weselak held an appointment on the McDonald’s Global Mom’s Advisory Panel. She is a former board member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Chicago Chapter and also holds membership in the American Society for Training and Development, Association for Supervision and Curriculum and Development, and the National Association of Parliamentarians.

Weselak has been recognized for many of her accomplishments including: a National PTA Honorary Life Membership, Lombard Woman of the Year, an Illinois School Board Association Those Who Excel Merit Award, the International Communication Award of Excellence, Illinois Association of School Administrators DuPage Citizen of the Year, and Most Influential Woman in Business Award from the Business Ledger. For six years, she served on the state board the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs and was a member of the Board of Directors of the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL). Weselak has been a member of the PTA for over 25 years as a teacher and as a parent. She is a past president of the Illinois PTA and National PTA.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Kurt J. Paquin
B.S. Technology 1985
MBA 2008
Vice President of Engineering, Precision Wind, Inc.

For over 20 years, Kurt Paquin has been a leader in the field of electrical engineering, operations, and business management working for industry leaders such as Cision AB, and telecommunications powerhouses like SBC/Ameritech, and Motorola. At Cision AB, Paquin was responsible for directing and managing all of the company’s print, internet, analysis, and distribution operations for North America. In March of 2009, Kurt joined Precision Wind, Inc., a leader in wind energy consulting and wind resource assessment and forecasting services.

Kurt is a Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 Candidate and also holds a Six Sigma Quality Blackbelt Certification. In 2008, he served as a session chairman and speaker for the International Quality and Productivity Center annual symposium in Chicago. Mr. Paquin’s leadership and professional experience transfers into his community involvement as well.

Kurt is a member of the College of Business Executive’s Club and the College of Engineering Advisory Board. He has previously served as a board member for the Engineering and Technology Alumni Society. In 2007, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology recognized Mr. Paquin with an Outstanding Alumni Award for his services to the College. Besides his service to his alma mater, Kurt has been a volunteer recreational athletics coach for the Elgin Park District since 2002.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Laura Ferrio
B.S. Nursing 1986
Vice President, Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Laura Leigh Ferrio began her career as a summer nurse extern at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), hoping to gain practical experience and hone her clinical skills. More than twenty years later, Laura is Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive for RIC, with a broad range of responsibilities that reflect the depth and breadth of her clinical, managerial and executive experience. From ensuring the quality of patient care across the entire organization and directing all aspects of nursing services to the development of professional and consumer education programs, Laura’s passion for her profession is evident at every turn.

As a result of Laura’s hard work and dedication, RIC was named the first Magnet rehabilitation hospital in the country has been ranked the “Best Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report, every year since 1991.

Laura takes great pride as a champion for the profession by providing an environment that supports nurses in decision making, empowers autonomous clinical practice, and mentoring colleagues with the hope they may also have long, rewarding careers. Her belief in excellence through education is demonstrated by her academic credentials, including her nursing degree from NIU, certification in the specialty field of rehabilitation nursing, the first dual-degree graduate from Loyola University of Chicago MBA-MSN program, and completion of the Johnson & Johnson Wharton Fellowship for Nurse Executives.

She has been a champion of nurses everywhere as the past president of the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders and the Illinois Coalition for Nursing Resources. Laura was also selected as the Illinois Nurse Leader of the Year by the University of Illinois College of Nursing Institute of Healthcare Innovation in 2004. Most recently, Laura has received a governor appointment as a member of the new Illinois State Board of Nursing.

College of Law

David H. Keay
J.D. Law 1980
Attorney and founding Partner, Keay & Costello, P.C.

David H. Keay is the founding member of the law firm Keay & Costello, P.C., with its principal offices in Wheaton, Illinois. He was previously the principal in the Law Offices of David H. Keay, a general practice law firm, which was established in 1980. The firm employs 7 attorneys, serving the community in areas of real property, corporate, transactional, and civil litigation. He has developed the firm’s family law practice, which has integrated traditional family law issues with such related issues as corporate, real estate, and estate planning. As an experienced trial attorney, Mr. Keay has represented a full range of clients in all aspects of family law practice. Those areas include divorce, legal separation, post decree matters, child support and custody, visitation, paternity, property division, as well as Christian mediation.

Mr. Keay is a member of the DuPage County Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association. He is currently involved with the Northern Illinois University – College of Law Board of Visitors, and is a past president of the College of Law Alumni Council. Mr. Keay has also previously served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian conciliation service of Northern Illinois. He is currently a chair-qualified arbitrator for the 18th judicial circuit, DuPage County, Illinois, by appointment of the Chief Judge. He is also qualified as a family law mediator, as certified by the Academy of Family Mediators.

Mr. Keay was licensed to practice law by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1980, the Northern District of Illinois in 1981, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1981, and admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1985. He currently resides in Wheaton, Illinois with his wife Susan. They have two children, Katie, J.D. ’08, and Andrew.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The Sereno Family

All six Sereno siblings are alumni of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where they studied a wide variety of fields, from geology and biological sciences to psychology, philosophy and mathematical sciences. Each went on to earn his or her Ph.D., studying at some of the nation’s elite universities, including Harvard, Brown, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Their degrees have taken them to the highest reaches of academia and nearly all corners of the planet. Rena Sereno, the matriarch of the family, blazed the trail to NIU earning her Masters in Art Education degree in 1976.

For their many accomplishments, the NIU Alumni Association has named The Sereno Family as the recipient of the 2009 Outstanding College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Award.

Rena B. Sereno
M.S.Ed. Art Education 1976
Retired, Art Teacher, Naperville Unit School District #203

Rena taught Art at the elementary, junior high, and special education levels for 35 years in Naperville. She also taught Art at the university level. Rena is involved with NIU’s ALPHA (Art, Literature, Philosophy, History, and Archeology): Friends of Antiquity, and has previously served on the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Martin I. Sereno
B.S. Geology 1978
Professor and Chair of Cognitive Neuroimaging, University College London and Birkbeck College

Martin earned his masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago and completed post-doctoral training at the California Institute of Technology. Martin’s research is focused on brain mapping using neuroimaging methodologies, and the evolution of vision and the brain.

Paul C. Sereno
B.S. Biological Sciences 1979
Professor, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, University of Chicago

Paul completed his masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Perhaps best known for his remarkable dinosaur discoveries, Paul is the Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society and the Co-founder and President of Project Exploration – a nonprofit science education organization supporting underrepresented groups and public dissemination.

Joan A. Sereno
B.S. Psychology 1982
B.A. Philosophy 1982
Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Kansas

Joan earned her masters and doctoral degrees from Brown University. She continued post-doctoral training at the Central Institute for the Deaf and held a research position at the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She received an internationally recognized Humboldt Research Fellowship for research collaborations at the University of Muenster, Germany. Joan’s research is focused on psycholinguistic investigations of language structure and bilingualism.

Margaret E. Sereno
B.A. Psychology 1983
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon

Margaret completed her doctoral degree at Brown University. She obtained post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute. During her tenure at Oregon, she received an internationally recognized Humboldt Research Fellowship for research collaborations at the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany. Margaret’s research is focused on neural-based computational modeling, and the neuroscience of vision and spatial abilities.

Anne B. Sereno
B.S. Biological Sciences 1985
B.S. Mathematical Sciences 1985
Associate Professor, Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Anne earned her masters and doctoral degrees at Harvard University. She continued post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine. She recently received a Visiting Scholar Award from the Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. Anne is a leading expert in the field of neuroscience, cortical physiology, and brain mechanisms of attention and other complex behaviors.

Sara C. Sereno
B.S. Psychology 1986
Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow

Sara earned her masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Massachusetts. She obtained post-doctoral training at the University of Oregon. Sara’s research areas include cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and psycholinguistics, and she is an internationally recognized expert in the psychology of reading.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Justin Mentell
B.F.A. Theatre Arts – Acting 2005
Actor and Performer of Television, Film, and Theatre

When Justin Mentell was a boy in Austin, Texas, his love for acting was fostered when he had the opportunity to perform in several children’s plays. He made his stage debut at three years of age as an orphan in “Miss Liberty,” and went on to appear in local theater productions, among them the musical “Peter Pan,” in which he portrayed one of the Lost Boys.

After the family moved to Waukegan, Illinois, Mentell joined the Northbrook Children’s Theater, where he continued to perform on stage. His interest in acting would continue through high school, but he also took up speed skating as a youngster — placing third at the Junior Olympics and eventually becoming a member of the U.S. Speedskating’s junior national long track team.

While at Northern, Justin appeared in several plays including “Balm in Gilead,” The Play’s the Thing” and “Never the Sinner.” During his sophomore year, he trained at the Moscow Art Theatre as part of a summer exchange program sponsored by NIU’s School of Theater and Dance.

Justin has appeared in several independent films, including “At the Stillpoint,” for which he received the Golden Reel Award for Best Actor at its 2005 Film Festival. He also appeared in the feature film “Roll Bounce,” where he played a skater. In the summer of 2005, Justin joined the cast of the hit ABC Drama “Boston Legal”, where he portrayed Junior Associate Garrett Wells for ten episodes in the show’s 2nd season, garnering him his first Screen Actors Guild Award® Nomination (“Best Ensemble Cast in a Comedy Series”) in January 2006. His next project, “Palo Alto” premiered at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in 2007 and he recently wrapped filming of the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “G-Force” for Disney. Future releases currently include “Death Walks the Streets” and the long-awaited Star Wars tribute, “5-25-77.”

When not acting, Justin spends a great deal of time painting – a love he’s embraced for over two years. His abstract style has been likened to that of legendary painter Jackson Pollack, and he feels that abstract works depend on the viewer to interpret and see what they want – not what they’re told. His heavily-textured works often feature vibrant stand-out colors amidst a dark contrast, with signature paint, specks and streaks of black & white.

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