2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Christine AdrianChristine Adrian ’92 C&I, Ed.M. ’93 C&I, Ed.M. ’06 EOL
Social Studies Building Leader, Jefferson Middle School

Christine’s passion for social studies and preparing students to become citizens is evident in her role at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. In this position, she organizes schoolwide activities and constructs personal learning plans for the social studies department. Christine also facilitates professional development for the Champaign Unit 4 School District and works to align the district’s curriculum to the new College, Career and Civic Life framework. She won the Lincoln Lesson Plan contest from the History Channel in 2009 and was the 2009 Outstanding Mock Election Project recipient. In 2010 Christine was named the Illinois History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History; in 2011 she received the Outstanding Middle School Teacher of the Year award from the National Council for the Social Studies; and in 2012 she won the Award of Teaching Excellence in Illinois. Nominated by Kimberly Seobhan.

Elise DarwishElise Darwish ’88 C&I
Chief Academic Officer, Aspire Public Schools

Elise began as a kindergarten teacher in the inner city of Chicago and later relocated to California to work as an instructional coordinator at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, California’s first charter school. Elise later collaborated with mentor Don Shalvey and Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings to start Aspire Public Schools, one of the nation’s first charter management organizations. Serving more than 14,600 students in 38 schools, Aspire’s model utilizes expanded learning time and small class sizes to optimize learning. During the last five years, 100 percent of Aspire graduates have secured admission to a four-year college or university.  As chief academic officer, Elise supports principals, oversees research pertaining to curriculum and assessment, and manages internal professional development programs. Nominated by Lizbeth Katsinas.

Gary SwansonGary Swanson ’74 Ed.
CEO and President, Dimage Studios LLC and former Professor

Gary is an internationally recognized and highly acclaimed educator, photojournalist, documentary and news producer, director, editor, speaker, and consultant. He has given numerous keynote speeches, served as organizer and chair at conferences, and presented workshops and lectured at embassies, festivals, and universities worldwide. Prior to his work in academe, Gary compiled a distinguished professional broadcast career spanning 13 years at NBC News, producing award-winning documentaries, prime-time news magazine stories, and covering breaking news in 26 states and Canada for the network. He has earned more than 76 awards for broadcast excellence and photojournalism, including three national EMMYs. His photography has won numerous awards and his works have been published in magazines, books, and displayed in art galleries worldwide. Nominated by Thomas G. Endres.

2016 Young Alumni Achievement Award Recipient

Brandon WrightBrandon Wright, Ed.M. ’04 EOL
Partner, Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller Ltd.

Brandon’s current position as an attorney combines his belief in civic responsibility with an understanding of the laws that drive the functionality of schools. He was the youngest person to be elected to a school board in Illinois, as he was completing his undergraduate degree at Southern Illinois University. He has developed a particular specialty in the field of special education law and assists superintendents and directors statewide, helping them navigate the legal waters of the decisions under the purview of their leadership. Brandon regularly provides administrator academies and school in-services, and he has spoken at a variety of roundtables, division meetings, school board workshops, and conferences. Nominated by Donna M. Davis.

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient and Keynote Speaker 

Kevin FavorKevin Favor, Ph.D. ’87 Ed. Psych.
Psychology and Human Services Professor, Lincoln University

Kevin has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to facilitating mental health outcomes for people of color and enjoyed a stellar career at Lincoln University, providing extraordinary service to students, faculty, and staff. At Lincoln University he has served in the roles of dean of Campus Life, department chair of the psychology department, and as a tenured professor. Kevin is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Maryland and maintains certification in the treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance use disorders from the APA College of Professional Psychology. He has served on committees and review panels for the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control. Kevin was named a People to People Ambassador for Mental Health and participated in the delegation to China and Tibet, investigating mental health systems within this cultural context. He also taught psychology as a visiting professor at Addis Ababa University. Nominated by Denice Ward Hood.