2002 Alumni Awards

Please note that the following profile information is current as of April 2002.

F.R. Geigle Award

Thomas Rosenow
B.S. ’68, Business Education

Thomas Rosenow is an unsung hero of Northern Illinois University. Few people realize the significant contributions that Tom has made behind-the-scenes here at NIU. Since graduating from NIU in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in business education, Tom has stepped forward time and time again to meet the challenges of a growing university. He has been a problem-solver, planner, facilitator, and contractor of numerous campus construction projects. Among those are facilities for the School of Nursing, the Center for Black Studies, the Human Resources Building, and most recently, Barsema Hall. In each case, Tom was able to complete the project on time and below cost. As Eddie Williams, executive vice president and chief of operations, points out, Tom’s silent contributions to this university exceed more than $5,000,000.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Joan M. Allen
B.A. ’89, Theatre Arts

Actress and NIU alumna Joan Allen has captivated audiences worldwide both on-stage and on the big screen. She was among the founding members of Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and gained esteem as an actress when she won a Tony Award for her performance in Burn This. Joan also is a three-time Oscar nominee for her roles in Nixon, The Crucible, and The Contender. Among Joan’s film credits are: The Mists of Avalon, Pleasantville, Face/Off, Searching for Bobby Fischer, and Peggy Sue Got Married. Despite the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood scene, Joan has remained true to her Chicago and NIU roots. She has returned to her alma mater as a guest of honor at a gala to benefit the “SummerNITE Program,” and hosted NIU’s Centennial Convocation in 1995.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Christine J. Sobek
Ed.D. ’96, Adult Continuing Education

Christine Sobek has enjoyed a prolific career since earning her doctoral degree in education from NIU in 1996. With almost 25 years of community college administrative experience under her belt, Christine rose to the ranks as president of Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Christine has held the gamut of administrative positions, from dean of student development, to executive vice president for education affairs, and finally as provost before being installed as president in November 2001. She is very active within her profession, as well as her community. Christine currently serves on the board of directors of the Geneva Lions Club and is co-chair of the Greater Aurora Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee. In 1998, Christine received the LUCI award for outstanding contributions to public service and outstanding leadership among Kane County businesswomen.

College of Business

Joseph J. Locke
B.S. ’68, Management

Joseph Locke earned a bachelor of science degree in management from NIU in 1968. Today he oversees his own investment advisory business, Joseph J. Locke & Company, Ltd., based out of Forest Park, Illinois. Joe has honed his skills in numerous business functions, ranging from strategic planning and development to marketing and sales. Among his successes was building a start-up division from scratch to more than $13 million in sales within 3 years. Joe also is devoted to volunteerism and giving back to his community and alma mater. Recently, Joe and his wife, Lauren, helped refurnish a business classroom in Wirtz Hall to provide a more professional atmosphere for the students.

College of Education

Connie R. Curran
Ed.D. ’74, Educational Psychology

Connie R. Curran completed a doctorate of education from NIU in 1974, and has been recognized as one of the most prolific educators and consultants in the healthcare industry. Connie was the founder, president and chief executive officer of CurranCare, LLC, a healthcare management and consulting services organization, which was later acquired by Cardinal Health Consulting Services. Connie oversaw this organization as its president until this year, and she continues to provide management and consulting services through her new company, Your Virtual Executive. She also has held a variety of positions in academia and healthcare organizations, including as a vice president of the American Hospital Association, and as dean at the Medical College of Wisconsin. As an industry scholar, Connie has published more than 200 publications and has several research programs to her credit. She also is an avid speaker, presenting more than 100 speeches annually. She also has served as editor of Nursing Economic$ for the past 10 years.

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

Ashish Kumar
B.S. ’95, Technology

In just a few years since graduating from NIU in 1995 with a degree in technology, Ashish Kumar has quickly established his expertise with Accenture, one of the world’s leading management and technology services organizations. From the entry-level position as an analyst, Ashish has been twice promoted and now serves as a manager. Specializing in information technology technical architecture and infrastructure, Ashish implements cutting-edge solutions to improve business productivity for such companies as Federal Express, Motorola, and Sprint PCS. He has worked on several U.S. and European projects, which included assisting companies with Y2K transformations, creating Internet banking capabilities, and establishing a customized package tracking system.

College of Health and Human Sciences

Diane Hillard-Sembell
B.S. ’82, Physical Therapy

An NIU Athletics Hall of Famer for her performance on the basketball court, and a member of NIU’s physical therapy inaugural class in 1982, Diane Hillard-Sembell, M.D., has married her love of sports and human science as an orthopedic surgeon in Springfield. Diane also helps operate AthletiCare, a sports-medicine clinic at St. John’s Hospital. In 2000, Springfield Magazine named Diane the area’s Top Orthopedic Surgeon. When she’s not repairing a torn knee ligament or sitting on the sidelines of a school athletic event, Diane dedicates additional time as an educator. She is a clinical associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Southern Illinois University and recently contributed to a medical textbook in her field.

College of Law

Hon. John Wasilewski
J.D. ’78, Law

After earning his law degree from NIU in 1978, John Wasilewski began his career with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where he served as the deputy supervisor for Chicago and as a felony trial assistant. He currently serves as an associate judge in the Criminal Division of the Chicago Felony Trial Courts, Bridgeview Branch. John is active within the Chicago Bar Association, as well as the Illinois State Bar Association, where he serves as an assembly representative and as a member of the Criminal Justice Section Council. He has been a commentator for the ISBA on criminal law for various television programs and is a speaker for the Criminal Law Update Programs in Chicago and Springfield.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Tim Bennett
B.S. ’71, Journalism

When Tim Bennett graduated from NIU in 1971 with a journalism degree, he was not certain where his career path would lead him. He became involved with the television industry, where as a program director, he came across a then-unknown Oprah Winfrey. When Oprah departed from the station to begin her own studio, she called upon Tim for business guidance. As president of Oprah’s media enterprise, Harpo Productions, Inc., Tim oversees the daily business operations of her television/film studios, O magazine, and oprah.com.

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Gary T. Chiappetta
B.F.A. ’86, Studio Art

Gary Chiappetta has taken the art of brand marketing and design to entirely new levels. With a couple of years since earning a degree in studio art in 1986, Gary transformed his passion for design into a business venture. Recognizing a need for product design implementation and prototypes, Gary began providing such services to the brand packaging industry. He later merged his company with a similar agency called Kaleidoscope, which he today oversees as its president and CEO. Kaleidoscope recently expanded its services to include Brandscope, creating a full-service product development and design agency. The business provides integrated brand marketing services from product conception through completion, including prototyping, package design, and brand identity. With offices in Chicago and New York, Kaliedoscope/Brandscope is at the forefront of the industry, and has worked with such clients as Radio Flyer, McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Maybeline.