FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  Date:  May 3, 2001

                                                                        Contact:  Lezli Austen

Former UIS student to receive degree posthumously

SPRINGFIELD – The University of Illinois at Springfield will grant a posthumous bachelor’s degree in criminal justice to Dennis O’Brien, who died August 19, 2000, of natural causes after just a few weeks in his new position as chief of police in Bloomington. O’Brien’s wife, Dawn, will accept the degree in his honor at UIS’ afternoon commencement ceremony, beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12.

“Dennis O’Brien returned to college because of the value he placed on education and learning,” said Dr. Bev Rivera, assistant professor of criminal justice and O’Brien’s academic adviser. “We are pleased to be able to recognize and honor that commitment with this degree.”

O’Brien began his studies in the social justice professions program in 1976. He initially took courses through 1978. In 1999, he returned to UIS to complete his B.A. At the time of his death, he had earned 126 credit hours and had only three courses left to complete all degree requirements. He would have completed his degree this spring.

“Dennis O’Brien exemplified life-long learning,” said Barbara Hayler, chair of the criminal justice department. “He applied what he learned in the classroom to his professional life, and he shared insights from his wealth of practical experience with students and faculty.”

O’Brien, 50, was a 29-year veteran of the Bloomington Police force whose duties included traffic, patrol, investigations and administration. O’Brien was promoted to sergeant in 1984, lieutenant in 1994, captain in 1996, and assistant chief in 1997.

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