2007 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of April 2007.

F.R. Geigle Service Award

Donald E. Kieso
Professor Emeritus, Northern Illinois University

Donald E. Kieso has a long record of outstanding service and commitment to Northern Illinois University, both in and out of the classroom.

Kieso has made a profound impact on the lives of thousands of students, many who are now leaders in the business community. Through his leadership in, and dedication to, the Northern Illinois University Accountancy program, the Department of Accountancy has been ranked in the top 15 nationally for the past several years. He played a large role in building a premier program that the university and business community rely on for producing outstanding students, alumni, employees, and leaders in the business community. He is a valued and respected college professor and best-selling textbook author.

In 1963, Kieso joined the accountancy department faculty, and was named department chair in 1972. He was awarded NIU’s first-ever Excellence in Teaching Award in 1967, and subsequently four Golden Apple Teaching Awards. He retired from NIU as the KPMG Peat Marwick Professor of Accountancy in 1992. In 2006, he established the first individually funded professorship in the College of Business, the Kieso Professorship in Accountancy.

Kieso is a prolific writer. He and his co-authors have written about 20 major textbook titles as well as casebooks, practice sets, study guides, and monographs. These books have been translated into a dozen or more languages. Intermediate Accounting, the most successful textbook of its kind, is now in its 11th edition and holds about 70 percent of the college market.

Kieso shares his time and expertise. He has served on numerous professional committees, commissions, and corporate boards, both locally and nationally. He was instrumental in getting legislation passed to require continuing education for accountants in Illinois. Also, Kieso has served on Aurora University’s Board of Trustees, as well as the boards of two hospitals.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Jeffrey M. Yordon
B.S. ’70, Political Science
President, Sagent Pharmaceuticals

Jeffrey M. Yordon has achieved great success and has had many accomplishments in his life and career since graduating from Northern Illinois University in 1970 with a B.S. in political science.

Currently, Yordon is the president, CEO, founder, and chairman of the board of Sagent Pharmaceuticals, which is a start-up injectable pharmaceutical company with a unique business model. He is recognized internationally for his knowledge, experience, and leadership in the pharmaceutical industry and has been involved in negotiations with leaders in China and India to launch this organization. The organization is likely to be the first privately owned firm in China.

Before leading Sagent Pharmaceuticals, Yordon was the chief operating officer with American Pharmaceuticals. Yordon employed another unique business model, as he founded this company as well. Through this venture, Yordon was awarded numerous awards from the industry for innovative results and marketing as well as business development skill.

Yordon shares his expertise with students in the College of Business. He returns to campus annually as a guest speaker in marketing strategy classes. He also shares his time and knowledge with NIU through his commitments to serve on the NIU Foundation Board, as well as the NIU Executive Club Board. He has taken time to mentor students and has served as a panelist during NIU Executive Club meetings. In addition, the generous monetary gift given recently by Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon will provide NIU with a new building: the Yordon Academic and Athletic Center. This facility will make a major difference for NIU students and alumni for years to come and will stand as a testament as to how far an education from Northern Illinois University can take an individual.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Vinay Mullick
B.S. ’00, Industrial Engineering
Teacher, Teach for America Corps

Vinay Mullick is a 2000 graduate of the industrial engineering program and a very energetic and enthusiastic supporter of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. He is well versed on the societal role of engineers and has made some magnificent career choices in the early part of his career.

Leaving a high-paying career as an engineer with Intel, he chose to start a teaching career with inner-city kids in Chicago; preparing them for technical careers. Vinay was accepted into the prestigious two-year teacher certification program at Teach For America. He has established a link between the Chicago Public Schools and NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology to ensure a pipeline of a diverse student body coming into the college. He is involved in establishing pre-engineering curriculum at schools, which is also a top priority for our country at the present time.

Vinay has served on the Engineering and Technology Alumni Society (ETAS) Board of Directors since 2002. This is an elected position which is voted upon by all active members of the ETAS. During his tenure on this board he has spearheaded a marketing committee and the overhaul of the ETAS website.

Last year, Vinay earned a Master of Arts in Education degree while teaching full time in Chicago and also acting as managing director of Monroestar, Inc., a business development firm that he founded. Monroestar specializes in marketing and branding client’s images and communication capacity with innovative graphic design methods, website development and interactive multi-media concepts.

College of Business

Stuart Gaines
M.B.A. ’87, Business Administration

Since receiving his M.B.A. at NIU in 1987, Stuart L. Gaines has become very successful in, and devoted to, the world of dementia care. In fact, Gaines is not only a leader in the state of Illinois in his field, he is also recognized for his expertise in all facets of dementia programming and staff development. Gaines develops profitable comprehensive, state-of-the-art dementia programs for long-term care providers.

In 1989, Gaines co-founded ElderHaus Concepts, Ltd. He led the business to national prominence, serving in a variety of key positions ranging from chief financial officer to chief operating officer. At the time of its sale in 1997, ElderHaus had grown to 29 dementia specific facilities and was one of the largest providers of dementia services in the nation.

Gaines has many years of experience in Wisconsin as administrator of a very successful group of assisted-living facilities providing dementia care. Because of this experience he is familiar with dementia facility licensing, requirements and regulations. Until recently, Illinois was perhaps 20 years behind much of the rest of the country in that it had no such licensing available. By way of his involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association, Gaines was instrumental in the forwarding of this option in the Illinois legislature and in the establishment of applicable regulations.

Gaines was recently invited to be a member of the board of a facility for the developmentally disabled. He accepted enthusiastically, seeing it not just as a way to lend his expertise, but as a unique opportunity to learn.

As one of the longest-serving members of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, he regularly leads retreats for committees, offering his broad and deep knowledge of the field, and his remarkable clarity in dealing with issues.

College of Education

Gary S. Krahenbuhl
B.S.Ed. ’65, Physical Education, M.S.Ed.’66, Physical Education
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of North Texas

Gary S. Krahenbuhl is a native of DeKalb who has taken his Northern Illinois University education to great places.

Krahenbuhl began his professional career at what was then called the North Junior High School in DeKalb where he taught physical education and coached. He completed his doctorate at the University of Northern Colorado in 1969 and spent the rest of his career in higher education, with the majority of his time at Arizona State University where he earned the rank of full professor in 1979 and served for 11 years as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He finished his career as senior vice president of Arizona State University, where he coordinated the activities of its three campuses, downtown center, and research park.

Throughout his esteemed career, Krahenbuhl has held a number of leadership positions in nationally recognized professional organizations, including the position of president for the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences and head of the Council for the Arts and Sciences in Urban Universities. He also served as president of the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education, the most prestigious professional organization in his discipline.

Krahenbuhl’s expertise on topics such as faculty roles and rewards, the impact of technology on higher education, building of public support for universities, leadership and administrative team building, and faculty development through post-tenure review is often called upon for presentations at national meetings and college campuses. Recently, he published a book, Building the Academic Deanship, which provides new deans with access to the wisdom that comes from years of success in that role.

Krahenbuhl has retired from the academic setting, but he has not retired from community service. He was appointed by the Governer of Arizona to serve on the Arizona Disease Control Research Commission. As one of nine commissioners, he reviews proposals from medical researchers to determine the disbursement of biomedical research grants.

Northern Illinois University has been a priority of Krahenbuhl’s as well. He has financially supported Intercollegiate Athletics, Alumni Scholarships, and the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Through his generosity, he has helped to make NIU a better place for those who follow him.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Joseph P. Sener, P.E.
B.S. ’93, Engineering Technology
Vice President of Corporate Quality Systems, Baxter International

Sener began his career by serving three years in the U.S. Army. Afterwards, he joined the workforce as a design engineer and project engineer in nuclear power plant design. From that point, he moved into engineering management in the fluid power industry as director of Engineering and Quality for two different companies. In 1985, he obtained his Professional Engineer license. While working, Sener attended night classes at NIU to complete his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering.

During his career, Sener has served as a member of the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award three times. Sener was also a founding member and lead senior examiner for the State of Illinois’ Lincoln Award for Performance Excellence. Currently, he is the chief judge and chair of the Panel of Judges for that award. Sener joined the Panel of Judges for the U.S. Department of the Army Communities of Excellence Awards in 2004 and continues to serve in this position.

Sener has recently been elected to the Board of Directors of NIU’s Engineering and Technology Alumni Society and is currently serving as vice president.

Sener is also involved in the Boy Scouts of America. In fact, as a youth Sener obtained the rank of Eagle Scout and as an adult has received the Silver Beaver Award for a lifetime of service to youth. His special area of interest in the Scouts is Owasippe Scout Reservation where he has been involved in training new counselors for over 25 years. When the Boy Scouts decided to sell Owasippe, Sener formed the Owasippe Outdoor Education Center, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to raising funds to save Owasippe for conservation and educational use. These efforts are currently ongoing.

Sener has been a student of martial arts for over 30 years and currently holds a 5th degree black belt (GoDan) in Okinawan karate. He teaches at Sharkey’s Karate School in Naperville, Illinois. Another interest of Sener’s is flying, as he has obtained his private pilot’s license. He enjoys “punching holes in the sky” while working on his instrument rating. He is married and has two children.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Linda J. Deering
B.S. ’87, Nursing
M.S. ’92, Nursing
Executive Vice President, Sherman Health System

Having received two degrees in nursing at NIU-a B.S. in 1987 and an M.S. in 1992-Linda J. Deering has used her education to make an impact on the world of health care.

Currently executive vice president, chief operating officer, and chief nursing officer at Sherman Health System in Elgin, Illinois, Deering has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributions in health care. She is responsible for more than 2,300 employees and leads the hospital and nursing operations, which include the planning and tactics for a new $310 million replacement hospital. Sherman Health System is one of the largest networks of medical care facilities in the far Northwest suburbs.

Previously, Deering was the vice president for Patient Services and chief nursing officer at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Illinois. Under Deering’s leadership, Delnor-Community Hospital was awarded Magnet status by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in 2004. This prestigious award recognizes institutional excellence in nursing care. Delnor-Community Hospital was the first non-academic hospital in the Chicago region to attain Magnet status.

An outgrowth of Deering’s goal of attaining Magnet status was Delnor’s leadership in developing an annual nursing research conference, which particularly focused on clinical nursing practice. The third annual conference attracted more than 300 nurses from around the Chicago area and beyond. Northern Illinois University’s School of Nursing is the academic partner in this community nursing research endeavor.

Deering also is a coach for Studergroup, a national consulting firm. Her position in this organization has allowed her to develop health care leadership at multiple health care organizations in the United States. She also consults with other hospitals seeking Magnet status.

Prior to her position with Delnor-Community Hospital in 1998, Deering held leadership positions at Provena St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elgin, Illinois. Currently, she is an active member in key nursing leadership organizations such as the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders, American Organization of Nurse Executives, and Illinois Coalition for Nursing Recruitment and has several professional publications. She continues to volunteer and serve her community through her church and the Girl Scouts of America. She is married and the mother of three.

College of Law

Jeffrey M. Lenkov
J.D. ’91, Law

Jeffrey M. Lenkov received his Juris Doctorate in May 1991 from the Northern Illinois University College of Law and a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in May 1987. Lenkov has extensive experience in civil litigation specializing in defending employment lawsuits, labor matters and tort claims. He has served as lead trial counsel in several class action lawsuits. Lenkov handles complex cases in both State and Federal courts for prominent national and international clients. He has represented professional sports franchises and athletes on litigated and transactional matters.

Lenkov has formerly served as a Judge Pro Tem in the Los Angeles Superior Court and is a past recipient of the Wiley M. Manuel Award for Pro Bono legal services. He has litigated high profile cases and is sought out by prominent clients who request that he personally handle their case. Lenkov regularly serves as supervising counsel to outside counsel.

Lenkov has negotiated and drafted numerous contracts including production, distribution and employment service agreements for entertainment clients. He has litigated copyright, trademark and contract cases. Lenkov has licensed, assigned and obtained rights to computer software and interactive media. Additionally, Lenkov has negotiated directly with guilds and unions on clients’ behalf. He has also drafted comprehensive collective bargaining agreements.

He is a member of the California State Bar, the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, and the Los Angeles Bar Association. Lenkov serves as an adjunct professor at a prominent Los Angeles law school. He also frequently appears as a television legal analyst for a CBS news station. Lenkov is also a volunteer arbitrator in the Los Angeles Superior Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.

In 2005, Lenkov founded a program with the Southern California Big Brothers and Big Sisters, called “Littles in Law” which introduces minority disadvantaged teenagers to the practice of law. The goal is to inspire at-risk youth to pursue a career in law or some other highly regarded profession. This popular program received recognition from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Attorney General.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Robert Katz
B.A. ’87, Communication Studies
Hollywood Producer

Robert Katz is both an advocate and a friend of Northern Illinois University who has been making it big in Hollywood.

Recently, Katz has been involved with a wonderful project that enabled six NIU students to spend six weeks last summer on a film project written and directed by Sir Anthony Hopkins called Slipstream. Through this contribution, the students were given an amazing educational and professional experience and NIU’s media production program was put on the national stage. Katz even subsidized many of the students’ expenses during this program.

Katz’s career hit a high note when Crash was the Academy Award winner for best film in 2006. Katz was the executive-in-charge of production of the Paul Higgins film, which starred, among others, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, and Don Cheadle. At this point in his career, Katz had been working in the same capacity on approximately 20 high-profile Hollywood films over a six-year period. These films include, Ron Howard’s Seabiscuit, One Hour Photo with Robin Williams, the indie hit The Matador, The Illusionist with Edward Norton, Meryl Streep’s Prime, and The Painted Veil with Naomi Watts.

Katz has been a frequent visitor to NIU over the years. He has given inspirational talks to video production classes in the Department of Communication on numerous occasions and has served as a judge for the Reality Bytes student documentary festival. He cites classes he took with Jeffrey Chown back in the 1980s with inspiring his own love of film, as well as a visit from Robert Zemeckis to the Department of Communication to talk to students. Katz also fondly remembers working with the NIU Forensics Program with Judy Santacaterina.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Bruce Alexander Niemi
B.F.A. ’81, Studio Art-Sculptures

Bruce Alexander Niemi is a self-employed sculptor who employs the lessons he learned from his father and while a student at Northern Illinois University as he creates his masterpieces.

Niemi is a second-generation sculptor who started his education under the tutelage of his father, Frank J. Niemi. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Frank Niemi instructed Bruce in the art form that would eventually lead him to Northern Illinois University in 1974. Since graduating in 1981, Niemi has created hundreds of works displayed across the country in collections as diverse as those at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Carlisle Companies, Inc., and Northern Illinois University. His works, displayed in both public and private collections, have been featured in publications, and at his Kenosha, Wisconsin gallery, Niemi Sculpture Gallery and Garden, which represents over 30 diverse artists.

As a full-time sculptor for more than 18 years, Niemi has brought the spiritual into his work and endeavors to infuse each piece with a part of his soul. He has said that he feels art should always be purchased with the intention of moving the soul, not the ego.

Niemi won a commission recently for the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. Living the Dream now stands prominently in front of the center on the corner of Annie Glidden Road and Stadium Drive. He generously gifted his time and talent to show his pride in being selected to display his work at his alma mater. In addition, Niemi facilitated an exhibition of five outdoor sculptures on loan in the Ryan Sculpture Garden at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.