Alumni Achievement Award

President Timothy Killeen, Chancellor Susan J. Koch, Kathy Best and Thom Serafin at the 2018 UIS Alumni Gala.Above: (left to right) President Timothy Killeen, Chancellor Susan J. Koch, Kathy Best and Thom Serafin at the 2018 UIS Alumni Gala.


The Alumni Achievement Award, established in 1957, is the highest honor bestowed upon alumni of the University of Illinois by the Alumni Association on behalf of the University. The award is presented to those alumni who have attained outstanding success and national or international distinction in their chosen profession or life’s work, and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on or bring honor to their Alma Mater.

How to Nominate Someone for the  Alumni Achievement Award

Recipients must be nominated for the award. Working from these nominations, the Alumni Association Awards and Recognition Committee will select the recipients from each campus. The awards will be presented at Commencement or an Alumni Association event.

Please be advised: Should the committee determine the nominee would be more appropriately honored by means of a different award, the committee reserves the right to consider each nominee for other, more suitable recognition.


  • Nomination is required. Nominees must be living at the time of their nomination. Nominations will be considered active for five years.
  • Nominee must hold an earned degree from the University of Illinois.
  • Nominee must be an individual who is highly distinguished nationally or internationally for his/her chosen business, profession or life’s work.
  • Nominee must be a person of such stature, demonstrated ability and renown that alumni, students, faculty and staff of the University of Illinois will take pride in and be inspired by his/her recognition.
  • Nominee must be an individual who, in deed or action, reflects the importance of his/her education at the University of Illinois.
  • Previous recipients are not eligible for reconsideration.
  • Current members of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees; the UIAA Board of Directors; the Alumni Association Awards and Recognition Committee; and relatives, employers or employees thereof are not eligible for consideration.
  • Current faculty, staff and other employees of the University of Illinois or the UI Alumni Association are not eligible for consideration.
  • Persons currently holding or running for elected state or federal public office in Illinois are not eligible for consideration.
  • The award may not be conferred in absentia; however, it may be granted posthumously.


Nominations must be complete by August 31 of each year.

2018 Recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award

Kathy Best with AwardTwo-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Kathy Best MA ’90 PAR was the recipient of the 2018 Alumni Achievement Award. She has covered news from the Statehouse to the Capitol, and from the digital domains of Seattle to the big skies of Missoula, Montana. Read her amazing story.  



Previous Recipients

  • 2016
    Darrel Burnett ’78 LAS
    Entrepreneur and broadcaster
  • 2015
    Wenguang Huang MA ’91 LAS
    Writer, journalist, translator
  • 2014
    Ralph S. Blackman MA ’76 PAA
  • 2012
    Fred Parsons ’81 CBM
    Founder, Southern Illinois Railcar Co.
  • 2011
    Don Johnson ’82 CBM
    Retired President, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Aftermarket Technology Corporation
  • 2010
    Lin N. Ezell ’74 LAS
    Director, Marine Corps National Museum
  • 2009
    Gordon Heddell, MA ’75 PAA
    Inspector General of the United States Department of Defense
  • 2008
    Raju L. Indukuri, MA ’92 CMB
    Entrepreneur and founder of Reachnet International
  • 2007
    Cheryl Alters Jamison, MA ’77 PAA
    Author, teacher and entrepreneur
  • 2006
    John D. Blackburn MA ’79 EHS
    Chief Executive Officer; COUNTRY Insurance and
    Financial Services Company
  • 2005
    Donna Sollenberger ’71 LAS, MA ’74 LAS
    President and CEO of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics.
  • 2003
    Phillip T. Zeni Sr. ’72
    Executive Vice President, COO of Orban/CRL, San Leandro, Calif.
  • 2002
    Randy Schilling, MA ’89 CBA
    President, CEO and founder of Quilogy, St. Louis, Mo.
  • 2001
    LeRoy Walker Jr., MA ’81 PAA
    Owner/operator of 15 McDonald’s Restaurants
    Vice President of Events, National Black McDonald’s Operator’s Association
  • 2000
    Linda Renee Baker ’85 EHS, MA ’87 EHS
    Humanitarian, volunteer, public servant
    Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services
  • 1999
    Richard G. Austin ’73 LAS
    Deputy Director of Aeronautics, State of Illinois
    Former Administrator, U.S. General Services Administration
  • Prior to 1999, the UIS campus awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award. Recipients include:
  • 1998
    Philip C. Bradley ’72 CBM
    President and CEO, Family Health Network
  • 1997
    W. Robert Felker ’74 PAA
    Senior Vice President, First National Bank of Chicago
    President and CEO, First Chicago Futures, Inc.
  • 1996
    Richard L. Adorjan ’88 CBM
    Director of Public Affairs, Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Bill Lambrecht MA ’73 LAS
    Washington Bureau Reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Two-time Raymond Clapper Award winner
  • Julie Barrow MA ’81 PAA
    Director, Office of Federal Planning
    U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX
  • Karen Hasara ’72 EHS, MA ’92 EHS
    Mayor, Springfield, IL