The University of Illinois Springfield honored seven alumnae for their achievement, service and loyalty during the annual Alumni Gala on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, at the UIS Student Union.
The 2020 Alumni Achievement Award for outstanding success and national or international distinction in one’s business, profession or life’s work was presented to Nina Burleigh of New York, New York. A 1984 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting program, Burleigh has covered stories on six continents and has achieved critical acclaim as an award-winning author, journalist and feminist cultural critic. She is a New York Times best-selling author of six lively, acclaimed works of creative nonfiction and has written hundreds of works on topics ranging from culture and politics to gender issues, science and the environment.
The 2020 Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to Springfield resident Janice Spears. She has earned three degrees from the university, and had a remarkable career as a school administrator, which included national recognition for environmentally friendly school buildings. Upon retirement, Spears has focused her time and energy on UIS and has become an invaluable, “go –to” alumni volunteer leader whose actions have made significant, notable impact on the institution’s overall welfare and the advancement of its mission.
Five Loyalty Awards for Exceptional Alumni Service were presented to Carolyn Berning, Karen Fifer, Carol Kerins, Marilyn Lawler and Lois Strom (posthumously). Established in 1957, the award honors alumni who have consistently demonstrated notable loyalty, commitment, dedication and service in support of UIS, the Alumni Association and/or related organizations. The five have donated countless hours of time via the UIS Alumni SAGE Society, which offers opportunities for enrichment to alumni and friends aged 50 and better.
Berning of Springfield earned her master’s degree from the university. She worked in consumer services for the Illinois Commerce Commission, retiring in 2002. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, she has served on the Friends of Brookens Library Board, assisted with the Springfield Marathon, volunteered for fundraisers for the public radio station and assisted with the planning of UIS’ 40th anniversary celebrations. She also was a member of the team that offered a series of technology lecture programs open to alumni of any UI campus. She and her husband, Richard, often attend public programs and lectures on campus, as well as athletic events and performances at the Sangamon Auditorium. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.
Fifer of Springfield earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. She spent much of her career working at UIS, including in the budget and planning office. She retired in 2009. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, Fifer frequently attends performances at the Sangamon Auditorium and UIS Prairie Stars athletics events. She is a past member of the Friends of Sangamon Auditorium Board and as a former university employee, she also volunteered for the UIS Faculty and Staff Campaign. She has financially contributed to important UIS priorities through charitable giving.
Kerins of Springfield holds two degrees and her teaching certificate from the university. She spent years with Springfield School District 186, teaching mainly second grade at Laketown Elementary School before retiring in 2006. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, on campus she has volunteered to assist at the Springfield Marathon and UIS graduation. Carol and her husband, Tom, often attend performances at Sangamon Auditorium as well as many of the public programs and lectures on campus. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.
Lawler of Springfield holds a master’s degree from the university. After teaching for 5 years in the Springfield School District as a homebound teacher, she taught in the Williamsville school district for 13 years and was a principal at the Waverly Elementary School for 12 years. She retired in 2006. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, her volunteer service on campus includes helping out at UIS graduation and the Springfield Marathon. Marilyn and her husband, Dennis, attend the many public programs and lectures on campus, as well as frequent many Sangamon Auditorium performances. They financially contribute to important UIS priorities through their charitable giving.
Strom of Springfield, who passed away in January, was honored posthumously. She earned a master’s degree from the university. She spent many years working at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, retiring in 2009 as the administrator for the chairman of the Department of Surgery. In addition to her involvement with SAGE, her volunteer work on campus included volunteering at UIS commencement, the Springfield Marathon and with the public radio station. She and her husband, Bruce, attended many Sangamon Auditorium Performances, as well as public programs and lectures on campus. The couple also gave to important UIS priorities through charitable giving.