2004 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of April 2004.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.
Ed.S., ’95
Ed.D. ’98, Leadership and Educational Policy Studies

President, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute

Toiling away in the fields under the Texas sun, Juan Andrade, Jr., learned the virtue of hard work and the value of an education at an early age. The son of migrant farm workers, Andrade worked alongside his family at the tender age of four. A self-described quintessential learner, Andrade has earned five college degrees, including an educational specialist certificate from NIU in 1995 and a doctorate in 1998.

Today, Andrade is respected as one of the nation’s most influential Hispanic leaders. He is co-founder and president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute based in Chicago. Under his guidance, the Institute has trained more than 200,000 present and future leaders, registered two million voters, published 425 studies on Hispanic demographics, and sponsors the largest Latino leadership conference in the nation. In recognition for his work in promoting education and leadership development for high school and college students, Omni Youth Services inducted Andrade into its Society of Life Models.

Andrade’s leadership also has an international reach. He has worked and participated in the democratization of ten Latin American nations, including Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Bolivia. He also is a weekly columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, and previously served as a political commentator on Chicago’s ABC-7 television for six years.

Andrade’s long list of accolades includes the prestigious Presidential Medal, which he received from President Bill Clinton in 2000 for his accomplishments promoting civic participation and leadership development.Andrade has four children and five grandchildren. He resides in Griffith, Indiana, with his wife, Lena.

Outstanding Alumni Award

Melissa Barrington
B.S. ’93, Meteorology
On-Camera Meteorologist, The Weather Channel

Melissa Barrington honed her on-camera meteorology skills delivering nightly weather forecasts to the NIU community via the student-run TV-8 newscast. Less than ten years after earning a meteorology degree in 1993, Barrington landed her dream job as an on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

In May 2001, Barrington received the Americas’ Award for Best Weather Presentation in North and South America at the 11th annual International Weather Festival. She also holds both the American Meteorological Society’s Television Seal of Approval and the National Weather Association’s Seal of Approval. In addition, she volunteers in local classrooms teaching the weather to children.

Barrington is married to fellow NIU Huskie James Noel, ’92, who is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. They welcomed their first child, David, in December.

College of Business

James R. Grabek
B.S. ’68, Marketing
M.S.Ed. ’69, Business Education
Chairman & CEO, Comedicus, Inc.

When you ask Jim Grabek about his career, he’ll humbly tell you that it’s been an interesting adventure. After earning a bachelor degree in marketing from NIU in 1968 and a master’s degree in business education the following year, Grabek launched an impressive business career. His professional path began with sales, lead into entrepreneurial ventures, and branched off into academia, politics, and community development. In 1992, Grabek embarked on an entrepreneurial endeavor, forming Comedicus Incorporated, a cardiovascular device company whose technological advances benefit more than 2 million patients and doctors each year. He is the author of five U.S. patents for cardiovascular devices involving the pericardial space, which is a membrane that surrounds the heart. A known leader in the medical device industry, Grabek also is often called upon to lecture on technological advances in the field.M

In addition to serving as chairman and CEO of Comedicus, Grabek is an adjunct faculty member for undergraduate-and MBA-level entrepreneurship courses at the University of St. Thomas, where he received its 1999 Excellence in Teaching Award in the Graduate School of Business.

Grabek also remains active in local politics, having served as council member and mayor for the City of Orono, Minnesota, for eight years. Today he chairs the Warehouse District North Loop Association, a non-profit neighborhood association he founded in 2001.

Grabek resides in Minneapolis with his wife, Penny. They have four children.

Kathy L. Halloran
M.B.A., ’79, Business Administration
Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration, Nicor Inc. and Nicor Gas

Kathy Halloran began her 30-year career with Nicor, Inc. and Nicor Gas in Naperville, Illinois, as an accountant. After earning an MBA from NIU in 1979, Halloran continued to advance up the corporate ladder to her current position as vice president of finance and administration. She gained valuable company experience serving as its corporate secretary, treasurer, controller, vice president and senior vice president. Professionally and personally, Halloran’s peers look up to her as a leader in the company and community.

Beyond the boardroom, Halloran makes significant contributions to several not-for-profit organizations, as well as NIU’s College of Business. Halloran has volunteered her time and talent to Voices for Illinois Children, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, and is an active participant in Nicor’s annual Volunteer Day in the Community event. In addition, she serves on the boards of Castle Banc Group, Central DuPage Health, National Association of Child Advocates, and until recently, the Board of Executive Advisors for NIU’s College of Business. And with her remaining free-time, Halloran continues to expand and share her business expertise as a member of the American Gas Association, The Chicago Network, The Economic Club of Chicago, and The Executives’ Club of Chicago.

College of Education

Robert J. English
Ed.D. ’74, Leadership and Educational Policy Studies
President (retired), PMA Financial Network, Inc

Throughout his professional career, Robert English has worked “behind-the-scenes” to support educational interests. English began his career teaching data processing and accounting at Triton College, and served as its comptroller at the age of 23. While working as a professor and administrator at Triton, English pursued a doctorate of education degree at NIU, which he completed in 1974. Upon graduation, English accepted a deanship at Morton Junior College, and then went on to become treasurer and vice president at Joliet Junior College. While at JCC, English realized a need for analysis of depository relationships for public bodies, such as schools and municipalities. He created a bank credit report called the “Prudent Man Analysis,” which launched PMA Financial, Inc. in 1980. English’s credit knowledge and public funds background moved PMA to become a full-service investment and advisory firm. Today, PMA is responsible for more than $4 billion in public funds, and provides service programs to its clients in the areas of cash flow analysis and bond proceeds management. English also is active in higher education as a volunteer and philanthropist. He has served on the Illinois State Board of Higher Education and is well known for his work on an Illinois Job Workforce Preparation Initiative and Prairie State 2000. Additionally, he was instrumental in helping NIU secure a $150,000 grant to the College of Education from the State of Illinois Board of Higher Education. Also, for the past four years, English and his wife, Mary, provide financially disadvantaged NIU students with computers, equipment, and training through the Mary F. English Technology Award, an endowment.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Kent M. Foster
B.S. ’92, Mechanical Engineering
Engineering Manager, Caterpillar Inc.

Dedication and hard work are “linchpins” in Kent Foster’s life and career. Foster began working for Caterpillar Inc. in 1988 as a contract employee in the second-shift detailing group. The following year, he became a direct employee at the company and began pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at NIU. While attending class full-time during the day and working second-shift at Caterpillar, Foster completed his bachelor’s degree in 1992.

That summer, he returned to a “normal life,” working first-shift in the vehicle systems group of large wheel loaders at Caterpillar’s Aurora, Illinois, facility. Foster advanced to various positions and today is the engineering supervisor responsible for all linkage and structures design and development for large wheel loaders. He oversees a 30-member team whose developments in the area of linkage pin design have lead to innovative concepts that have advanced Caterpillar’s products.

Although his career and family responsibilities have increased, Foster still remains loyal to his alma mater. In 1996, he began recruiting at NIU and is now the primary engineering recruiter for the Caterpillar/NIU partnership. Through his guidance and mentorship, Foster has been instrumental in helping NIU students understand engineering design and participate in international competitions.

Foster lives in St. Charles, Illinois, with his wife, Becky, and their children, Paige and Collin.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Glenn R. Janicki
B.S. ’84, Allied Health Professions
Assistant Vice President of Professional Services, Palos Community Hospital

Glenn Janicki may be Palos Community Hospital’s youngest administrator, but his professional achievements are those of a seasoned veteran in medical technology and hospital management. As the assistant vice president of professional services for the 436-registered bed hospital in Palos Heights, Illinois, Janicki is responsible for the strategic direction, financial oversight, and program development for Cardiology, Electroencephalography, Pathology and Laboratory Services, and Respiratory Care. He is the first person to serve in this position.

Janicki’s medical career began when he earned a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from NIU in 1984. He entered the job market as a medical technologist at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, where he met his wife, Ann. Just a year later, Janicki accepted a position with Palos Community Hospital, and his career took off from there. At age 26, Janicki was promoted to section supervisor of the Hematology and Coagulation Department–his first step on his way up the management ladder. Janicki was again promoted to manager of Pathology and Laboratory Sciences, where he was responsible for the financial management activities of a full-service laboratory, as well as its 130 employees. In 1991, he acquired a master’s degree in business administration with a specialty in health care management from Illinois Benedictine College. He also began an affiliation with the Clinical Laboratory Management Association, and served as president of its Chicago chapter president from 1997 to 2000.

Finally, in 2000, Janicki was promoted into his latest role as assistant vice president of professional services. His current projects include co-founding the Performance Improvement Council, serving on the Facility Master Planning Steering Committee, and providing leadership in the development of a comprehensive Heart Program. Most recently, the American College of Healthcare Executives commended Janicki for his achievements and awarded him Diplomate status, an honor that recognizes premier credentials in healthcare management.

When Janicki is not making strides at work, he is dedicating time to his family. A father of four-Elizabeth, Nicholas, Kristin, and Adam-Janicki is very much involved with his children’s activities. He is on the board of directors and is a team manager for the Lyons Township Soccer Club, coaches youth sports, belongs to the Richport YMCA, and serves as a Tribal Chief for his children’s Indian Princesses and Indian Guides program.

College of Law

Diann Marsalek
J.D. ’89, Law
Chief Legal Counsel, Illinois Department of Corrections

As a law student at NIU, Diann Marsalek was actively involved in various organizations and a mentor to her peers. She was president of the Student Bar Association, active in the women’s Law Caucus and Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity, and a member of the college’s prestigious National Moot Court Team, where she performed with distinction at the national competition. Since earning her law degree in 1989, Marsalek has maintained that same level of commitment and involvement within her profession and to the greater community. Marsalek began her career with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, where she tried more than 50 federal jury trials, and numerous other cases in the Illinois Court of Claims. Last February, Marsalek accepted the position as the chief legal counsel for the Illinois Department of Corrections. She is responsible for reviewing all litigation for an agency of 13,000 employees and 44,000 inmates. Presently, her office has 7,000 cases pending in all levels of the judicial system.

Despite her demanding schedule, Marsalek still makes time for her alma mater. She was a member of the NIU College of Law’s Alumni Council, where she also served as its secretary. In addition, Marsalek has volunteered her time as a judge in the intramural Moot Court competition, and has been an active voice for the College of Law in Springfield.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

James B. Pick
M.S.Ed. ’69, Biological Sciences
Professor, School of Business, University of Redlands

Although Jim Pick focused on biological sciences when he earned a master of science degree in education from NIU in 1969, his doctorate degree from the University of California, Irvine, concentrated on population and environmental biology. He has demonstrated versatility as a scholar by developing an additional academic and teaching area in management information systems. A professor in the School of Business at University of Redlands in California, Pick conducts research on urban studies, population, and information systems. He teaches classes on management information systems, decision support systems, geographic information systems, systems analysis, telecommunications, and computer ethics. He has published seven books, with two currently in-press, and more than a hundred articles, book chapters, and refereed research papers.

Pick also is a well-traveled scholar. He participated in his university’s Cambridge University Exchange Program and was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer/Researcher in Mexico. As a visiting professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Pick was honored with a student recognition award for teaching. His peers and students have recognized Pick as an exceptional teacher and lecturer on numerous occasions. Pick has received the University Faculty Honors Award for Outstanding Research twice, as well a University Faculty Honors Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Pick’s academic repertoire began with his love for books. At NIU, he spent many productive hours at the university’s library. He respects libraries as a “treasured resource to develop lifelong education,” adding, “I regard a public university library as a resource not only for the talented professors and students privileged to be near it, but also as a community resource.” To ensure that future NIU students and community members can reap its benefits, Pick has generously supported Northern’s University Libraries for nearly two decades.

Pick resides in Corona del Mar, California, with his wife, Roselyn Laudati.

Raymond G. Smerge
B.S. ’67, Political Science
Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer, Centex Corporation

Ray Smerge epitomizes the classic NIU college success story. Through perseverance and old-fashioned hard work, Smerge has enjoyed success as a leader in both the corporate and civic worlds. Shortly after graduating from NIU in 1967 with a political science degree, Smerge joined Centex Corporation as a closing officer. While working full-time, Smerge attended law school at DePaul University and also wrote for the Law Review. Upon earning his law degree in 1971, Smerge was promoted to vice president and general counsel at Centex. He continued to move up the ranks of the company to his current position as its executive vice president and chief legal officer. Centex is one of the nation’s premier companies in building and related services, such as home building, home services, financial services, construction services, and investment real estate. With annual revenues approaching $10 billion, Centex is a Fortune 250 company that is often ranked among “America’s Most Admired Companies” in its industry, according to FORTUNE magazine.

Smerge also is licensed to practice law in Illinois and Texas and is a member of the Dallas Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He is a supporter of the Legal Services of North Texas, an organization that, “ensures equal justice for people living in poverty and through the provision of high quality legal representation and to improve the lives of poor people through the rule of law.” In addition, Smerge was a panelist at the 2002 Dallas Bar Association “Client Service Summit” held to educate lawyers about client services, and serves on the U.S. Advisory Board for International and Comparative Law.

In 2002, Smerge joined the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advisory Board, and travels from Texas to the Chicago region to participate in meetings. He was so impressed with the CLAS Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program and the Freshman Interest Groups, that he provided significant financial support to “jump-start” a fundraising effort to expand those initiatives.

Smerge resides in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Patricia, and their children, Mark and Morgan. He also has a son, Paul, in Florida.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Dean Michael Auriemma
B.S. ’90, Art Education
M.A. ’94, Studio Art
Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Development, Homewood-Flossmoor High School

As a high school art teacher, Dean Auriemma makes it his mission to help students not only excel academically, but to develop their own identities through artistic expression. Auriemma has taught art concentration, two-dimensional studio and advanced placement studio art at Homewood-Flossmoor High School (Illinois) for the past ten years. More recently, he accepted a position as the school district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and professional development. He is responsible for the implementation and review of district curriculum goals, as well as creating and sustaining all district professional development goals, which includes student supervision and teacher evaluation.

Auriemma has been teaching art since earning a bachelor’s degree in education from NIU in 1990. He continued his education at Northern and earned a master’s degree in studio art in 1994. To round-out his NIU experience, Auriemma now is working on a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction. In addition, he recently completed his National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification and is anxiously awaiting its results this fall.

Working mainly with wax batik, drawing and embroidery, Auriemma has served as a guest artist-in-residence at the Northern Illinois Summer High School Visual Arts Experience, West Aurora High School and the Park Forest Youth Athletic and Activities Center. His work has been displayed at the NIU Graduate Gallery in DeKalb, the Roberta Campbell House in Geneva, Illinois, and the Sharp/Danka Gallery at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He also is active in several professional organizations, including the Tall Grass Arts Association, South Inter Conference Association, Visual Arts Organization, and the Illinois Art Education Association. Additionally, Auriemma serves on the advisory panels with the Art Institute of Chicago, The Terra Museum, and the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts Alumni Advisory Board.

Auriemma’s contributions as an educator have not gone unnoticed by his students and colleagues. In 2001, he was honored with the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence and an Illinois State Board of Education “Those Who Excel” Award of Recognition in 1996/97, as well as its Team Award of Merit in 2003. In addition, he received the Illinois Art Education Association Best School of Art Program Award in 2003.

When he’s not in the classroom or hanging out with his wife, Cristy, and their two daughters, Madelyne and Samantha, Auriemma can be found singing in an all-teacher rock band named Staff Infection.