2003 Alumni Awards
Please note that the following profile information is current as of April 2003.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. John P. McKearn
B.S. ’75, Biology
Graduating in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Dr. John P. McKearn is a renowned scientist whose research and expertise in immunology, inflammation, and oncology has made him an unsung hero to the general public. As a scientist with the Pharmacia Company (formerly Searle/Monsanto), McKearn established the groundwork for new studies that drove the company’s entry into arthritis and oncology research. He was directly responsible for the development of comprehensive programs that resulted in the commercialization of several major products, including DayPro, Arthrotec, and most notably, Celebrex, one of the leading pharmaceuticals to treat arthritis. In August 2000, McKearn accepted a position as senior vice president of Pharmacia Discover Research, where he is responsible for more than 1600 scientists worldwide and the strategic planning for six therapeutic areas and three major technical areas. The company honored McKearn with its highest recognition, selecting him to its prestigious, peer-reviewed “Pharmacia Fellow Program.” This selection recognized McKearn’s contributions by regarding him as a premier innovator, leader, and a scientific and technological “agent for change.” He also holds more than 40 patents and numerous patent applications in the area of blood cell development, cancer and inflammation treatment. Additionally, he had co-authored more than 70 published, peer-reviewed scientific papers.
F.R. Geigle Award
Richard J. Fink
B.S. ’70, Finance
After graduating from NIU with a finance degree in 1970, Richard Fink accepted a position in the tax department at Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago. Thirty-three years later, Fink retired from the company as its senior vice president and group executive, where he oversaw the bank’s personal trust group. Fink also utilized his financial background to provide invaluable guidance to the NIU Alumni Association and NIU Foundation, resulting in significant economic growth for both organizations. As treasurer of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, Fink was part of the team responsible for signing the first alumni affinity credit card agreement that brought $1.7 million to NIU, which helped establish the largest merit scholarship endowment at the university. During his time on the Foundation Board, Fink’s contributions on the executive and finance committees led to investment policy revisions, new asset allocations, and an investment manager search.
Outstanding Alumni Award
Since graduating from NIU with an MBA in 1991, Rege Eisaman has held positions of steadily increasing responsibility within the financial services industry in Chicago. Today he is a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley where he advises high net-worth clients with respect to portfolio management, investment planning, and concentrated equity positions. Eisaman’s previous financial experiences include vice president in the Private Client Services group at Bank of America Securities, senior vice president of finance for Horizon Group Properties, Inc., and vice president in the Capital Markets group at Bank of America, where he helped launch an over-the-counter derivative desk serving high net-worth individuals. At NIU, Eisaman has served on the Foundation Board of Directors since 1999, and is currently the treasurer and chair of the finance committee.
College of Business
Born and raised in South Korea, Lloyd Shin has the distinction of being crowned the Korean National Debate Champion during his college years at Chung Ang University, where he graduated summa cum laude. After graduating from NIU with an MBA in 1972, Shin accepted a position as group controller for American Machine and Science, Inc. In 1980, he was promoted to division president with Hinz Lithographing Company in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Shin later acquired the company, and oversees the medium-sized commercial printing company as its CEO. His clients include Hewlett Packard, BlueCross BlueShield, and the City of Chicago. Shin also actively supports various charitable organizations and public interests. He serves as director for various organizations, including the Methodist Hospital of Chicago, the Chicago Minority Business Development Council, and the Master Printers Association. Back in DeKalb, Shin chairs the College of Business Board of Executive Advisors, and has funded private scholarships for NIU business students.
College of Education
Dr. Janet Hart Heinicke
’76 Ed.D., Curriculum and Instruction
’77 M.F.A., Art
Dr. Janet Hart Heinicke concurrently pursued two degrees at NIU: a doctoral degree in educational administration in 1976 a master of fine arts degree in painting in 1977. A few years after graduating, she accepted a position as an associate professor and chair of the art department at Simpson College, a private liberal arts school near Des Moines. There she was promoted to chair of the Fine Arts Division, a position she held for 13 years, and honored with awards for service, leadership. and research. Under her guidance, enrollment in the college’s art program increased two-fold. Although Heinicke retired in 2001, she continues to teach at Simpson, with a special emphasis on non-western art, and more specifically, “Women as Artists in a Global Society.” In addition to her notable career in art and education, Heinicke is strongly committed to volunteer work, which has extended overseas to such countries as the Soviet Union, China, Malaysia, and Tanzania.
College of Engineering and Engineering Technology
M.S. ’87, Electrical Engineering
After graduating from Northern with a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1987, Giri Nirkondar headed west to California, where he worked in the medical engineering field developing software for radiation treatment planning, 3D imaging, and ultrasonic imaging. Nirkondar transitioned into the Internet business, and co-founded CCnet in 1993. He fulfilled the role of CEO as well as architect for the design and implementation of the entire service, which initially catered to one city and eventually expanded to provide Internet connections throughout Northern California. During that time, he also completed an MBA from Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkley. After selling CCnet in 1997, Nirkondar established Cydent Inc., an Internet consulting company, which grew from two employees to 120 within four years. Headquartered in California, Nirkondar recently opened an office in Connecticut to provide services to the East Coast. He is now working on a plan for a new startup.
College of Health and Human Sciences
Dr. Daniel J. Pesut
B.S. ’75, Nursing
A leader in the nursing profession, Daniel J. Pesut has held both academic and service positions, ranging from staff nurse to associate dean to consultant. His nursing career began at NIU when he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1975. Pesut continued his education, earning a master’s degree at the University of Texas Health Science Center and a doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. Early in his career, Pesut served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, where his work with burn patients lead to an interest in learning about how people cope with recovery from illness. He has conducted extensive research in patient self-regulation, and developed specific strategies patients can use during recovery. This research led Pesut to explore the creative thinking process of nurses, and in 1999 he co-authored Clinical Reasoning: The Art and Science of Creative Thinking. Today he is a professor and department chair of the Department of Environments for Health at the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Pesut also made nursing history as the first male president-elect of the world’s largest nursing organization, Sigma Theta Tau International, which boasts 423 chapters worldwide. The organization honored Pesut with the Edith Moore Copeland Award for Excellence in Creativity, one of its highest honors.
College of Law
J.D. ’78, Law
Combining her background in rehabilitation medicine with an NIU law degree, Cherilyn Murer is renowned internationally as an advocate for the advancement of quality, cost-effective health care. The 1978 honors graduate is president and CEO of Murer Consultants, Inc., a legal-based healthcare management consulting firm in Joliet, Illinois. Above and beyond her company, Murer lends her expertise to academic institutions, professional organizations, publications, and the U.S government. In the academic arena, she is an associate professor of law at the University of Illinois, College of Medicine, and has co-authored four books on health care management. At NIU, Murer remains active with the College of Law, serving on its prestigious Board of Visitors. She also is a founding member of the college’s steering committee to develop and establish a health law institute. In addition, Murer serves as chairman, development committee, with the NIU Foundation.
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Lorene K. Steffes
B.S. ’68, Mathematical Sciences
M.S. ’82, Computer Science
From her parents’ farm fields in Elburn, Illinois, to her Pittsburgh corporate office as CEO of Transarc Corp. to her VP office in White Plains, New York, at IBM Corp., Lorene Steffes exemplifies the NIU dream. After earning a degree in mathematics in 1968, Steffes taught 9th grade for several years in West Aurora. She left teaching to pursue a position as a programmer analyst for DeKalb AgResearch, and went on to earn a master’s degree in computer science from NIU in 1982. Today Steffes is vice president of global electronics industry, business growth and on demand solutions for IBM. In this role, she provides leadership across IBM to deliver solutions, products and services that address the business needs of her company’s largest electronics-industry customers. Her industry experience also includes serving as vice president of technology development and planning at Ameritech and 13 years with AT&T Bell Laboratories and AT&T Network Systems. In 1997, she was appointed president and chief executive officer of Transarc Corporation, Inc., a wholly-owned IBM subsidiary, which developed and sold distributed computing middleware and file sharing systems to large enterprise customers worldwide.
College of Visual and Performing Arts
B.M. ’95, Music Performance
Trey Devey’s passion for music resonates with his work as the new executive director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, the largest performing arts organization in the state. A 1995 graduate with a music degree, gained invaluable experience with various orchestras, including the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. He received a fellowship with the American Symphony Orchestra League before settling into a 7-year tenure with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra in New York. Starting out as the director of development, Devey balanced the orchestra’s budget and increased contributed income by one-third. He was later appointed to president and executive director, where he raised $3.4 million in endowment funds, spearheaded the symphony’s first recording projects in 20 years, and arranged for a return engagement to Carnegie Hall after a 15-year hiatus. Devey joined the Florida Philharmonic in February 2003, which was heralded by the philharmonic’s chairperson as being the beginning of an exciting period of growth and accomplishment for the orchestra.