NEIU Distinguished Alumnus Award

The Northeastern Illinois University Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest alumni honor the University bestows. It recognizes a particular achievement of note, a series of such achievements, or a career of outstanding accomplishment. Since the award's inception in 2005, Northeastern has recognized alumni who have distinguished themselves as preeminent in their fields, excelling in their vocations and avocations. 

Distinguished Alumni Award recipients:

2005 - Daniel L. Goodwin (B.A. ’66), chairman and CEO, Inland Real Estate Group, Inc.
2006 - Mirta Ramirez (B.A. ’72), founder, ASPIRA of Illinois
2007 - The Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez (B.A. ’76), 4th Congressional District of Illinois, U.S. House of Representatives
2010 - Jose A. Rico (B.A. ’99), director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
2011 - Rae Lewis Thornton (B.A. ’91), Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist and educational speaker
2011 - Dr. Robert Jordan (M.A. ’94), news anchor and reporter for WGN-TV News; owner, Jordan and Jordan Communications, Inc.
2012 - Dr. Ann P. Kalayil (B.S. ’82), Great Lakes Regional Administrator of U.S. General Services Administration
2014 - Linda Winer (B.A. ’68), chief theatre critic and arts columnist at Newsday
2015 - Bill Pollakov (B.A. ’70), president and CEO, The Pollakov Financial Group Inc.  
2016 - Thomas White (B.A. ’81), global head of human resources, Zurich Financial Services Group
2017 - Alice McGee (B.A. '84), former chief publicist and senior supervising producer, "The Oprah Winfrey Show"

2018 Alumni Awards 

Distinguished Alumnus Award 
Billy Ocasio (B.A. '92 Board of Governors) 
is the chief executive officer at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. Previously he served as the senior advisor to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn appointed to work on social justice issues. He began his appointment on June 1, 2009, after it had been announced on May 12, 2009. Prior to his appointment, Ocasio served as the 26th Ward alderman in the Chicago City Council. Ocasio is a lifelong resident of Humboldt Park where he attended Von Humboldt Elementary School and Roberto Clemente Community Academy.

Alumni Service Award
Richard C. Lindberg (B.A. '74 and M.A. '87 History) 
is an award-winning author, journalist and lecturer who has written and published nineteen books about Chicago history, politics, criminal justice, sports and ethnicity. In 2012, his memoir of growing up, titled "Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family My American Life," was named Non-Fiction Book of the Year by the Chicago Writer’s Association. His institutional history of NEIU, "Northeastern Illinois University: the First 150 Years" and a 2009 biography titled, "The Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C. McDonald and the Rise of Chicago’s Democratic Machine" were both honored by the Illinois State Historical Society. Mr. Lindberg is a past president of the Society of Midland Authors, the Illinois Academy of Criminology and is a member of the Northeastern Illinois University Alumni Advisory Board. 

Community Leader Award
Shawn K. Woods (B.A. '98 Criminal Justice) 
is president and CEO of Shawn K. Woods & Associates, an organization committed to empowering businesses and individuals to unleash their full potential. An international trainer/facilitator, author and executive/life/career coach, he has delivered over 500 conferences including keynote presentations, bullying awareness seminars and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies, small business owners, government and non-profit organizations throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. He has served as a law enforcement officer, decorated detective, assistant director of human resources for the Board of Education, as well as an investigator for the Office of the Executive Inspector General for the State of Illinois. 

Outstanding GOLD Alumni Award
Leslie Dubin (M.B.A. '09 Business Administration) 
teaches business, marketing, management and entrepreneurship courses at Oakton Community College. She is an executive and corporate leader. Along with business consulting, she is involved in academics, teaching and developing team management strategies. Leslie taught for several years in the Chicago Public Schools system. She served as vice president and operations manager for a Chicago-based textile firm, overseeing 200 employees over several locations throughout the United States. In 2014, Leslie was awarded the Ray Hartstein Excellence in Teaching Award for Part Time Faculty. Despite major health issues which surfaced in 2016, Leslie has continued to teach and develop course material for her school.

Future Alumni Award
Yadira Alonzo, current student, 
is a junior majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Linguistics and Biology. She is active in Northeastern’s Student Food Pantry, the University’s Undocumented, Resilient, and Organized Club, and in the Beta Beta Beta Honor Society. She traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, on an Alternative Spring Break Service Trip and Mexico as a member of Dreamers without Borders. Most recently, Yadira attended the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute where she received the Dr. Juan Andrade Jr. Scholarship for Young Hispanic Leaders. She also received a scholarship from the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education. Yadira volunteers at World Relief Chicago, working with a Syrian refugee family.
 

2017 Alumni Awards 

Alumni Service Award
Dr. A. Michael Drachler (B.A. '68 Biology), is a proud graduate of Northeastern Illinois University who earned a B.A. in Biology with a second major in Elementary Education in 1968. Drachler received his medical degree from Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, completing his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Cook County Hospital. Drachler has won numerous teaching awards, serves as the Senior Clinical Educator at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and serves on various boards including as Vice President of the NEIU Alumni Advisory Board.

Community Leadership Award 
Dr. Jerry Watson (B.A. '93 Board of Governors), is currently an Associate Professor of Social Work at Rust College. Watson received a B.A. in the Board of Governors Program from Northeastern Illinois University; M.S.W. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work; M.B.A. from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois; and Ph.D. from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. His research focus continues to be diverse ranging from offender re-entry and African American men’s health to cultural and linguistic competency. Watson taught at DePaul University, Aurora University in Chicago, Jackson State University, and Mississippi Valley State University. Currently, he is a co-founder of Men Healing Men and Communities in Memphis, Tenn.

Outstanding GOLD Alumni Award 
Carlos Jiménez Flores (B.A. '06 Human Resource Development), is a writer, producer and film director. In 2015, he was featured in the NEIU Alumni: All Access Series where he presented and gave a film screening. In his presentation he demonstrated the lifelong value of a Northeastern Illinois University degree from the perspective of some of the University’s most successful and inspirational alumni. Jiménez Flores has been profiled by the Chicago Reader, Michigan Avenue Magazine and ABC7’s “Ñ-Beat.” A former high school and college dropout, Jiménez Flores earned his bachelor’s degree from Northeastern in Human Resource Development in 2006 after transferring from Wilbur Wright College. Jiménez Flores is the first Puerto Rican director to have two films theatrically released in the same year.

Future Alumni Leader Award 
Nicholas Martinez (NEIU student), is a current student at Northeastern Illinois University majoring in biology. He has served as president of the NEIU Student Government Association and has been active with the University’s advocacy issues in Springfield. He has also served on the Executive Board of the University Advisory Council and as the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Representative.
 

2016 Alumni Awards

Alumni Service Award
Gloria Iverson (M.A. ’08 Special Education), special education teacher in Skokie/Evanston School District 60 in Evanston and owner of the Mini Man Monkey Brains candy store and Nixie Events and Gallery in downtown Skokie.

Community Leadership Award
The Honorable William (Willie) Delgado (B.A. ’82 Criminal Justice), Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, representing the 2nd District since 2006. 

Outstanding GOLD Alumni Award
Carrie Horton (B.S. ’14 Accounting), finance and accounting at Granger. 

Future Alumni Leader Award
Terrie Albano, student in the Nontraditional Degree Program and an English major.