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Outstanding Education alumni recognized at special annual event

by Alex Swanson / Apr 21, 2015

Twentieth Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony celebrates inaugural Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient

College of Education at Illinois graduates are equipped to make significant contributions in their fields thanks to the first-rate education they receive.  

Many of those alumni go on to do particularly amazing things, which is what led the Education Alumni Association (EAA) to establish the Distinguished Alumni Awards in 1995. 

This year, six individuals were recognized with a 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award: Dr. Lisa A. Dieker, Ph.D. ’94 Spec.Ed.; Dr. Shelley Hymel, Ph.D. ’82 Ed.Psych.; Dr. Lucinda Lee Katz, Ph.D. ’76 Ed.Adm.; Dr. Kenneth M. Slaw, Ph.D. ’87 Ed.Psych.; Dr. Lawrence L. Smith, Ed.M. ’69 Ed.Adm., Ph.D. ’72 Ed.Adm.; and Betty A. Trummel ’78 C&I.

Additionally, the program included the first-ever Young Alumni Achievement Award, created to recognize alumni who are 40 years or younger as of May 1 of the award year. Neffisatu J.C. Dambo, Ed.M. ’13 EPOL, was the inaugural recipient.

“It was definitely an honor. I was very grateful,” said Dambo, who was raised in Urbana-Champaign and graduated from high school at age 16. “I was recognized by one of my students and the experience itself was just … awesome.”

Dambo founded a nonprofit youth organization called Genuine Intelligent Respectful Ladies Soaring, which offers educational assistance to females in grades seven through 12. She has also volunteered for other nonprofit organizations around the world.

The College formally recognized all awardees during an activity-filled weekend in March. The festivities included a reception, participation in the sixth annual Graduate Student Conference, dinner at the home of Dean Mary Kalantzis and Professor Bill Cope, and an awards brunch at the I-Hotel.

Lisa Denson-Rives, associate director for alumni relations and stewardship, said the College’s awards weekend is a chance for alumni to see that it was still the same vibrant College of Education that they remembered when they were here.

“This is definitely one of the highlight events for our College,” said Denson-Rives. “We bring back distinguished alums from all over the country who have gone on to do great things after being here at the College of Education.”

Current College of Education graduate students, meanwhile, drew on the beneficial and worldly experience of alumni during the Graduate Student Conference, an annual event designed to build professional presentation skills, share research information across departments, and foster networks between faculty members, graduate students, and staff members of the College. The conference is supported through a generous gift from LAS alumna Dr. Patricia Cross.

The theme of this year’s Graduate Student Conference—“From Research to Praxis, Scholarship Today for the Society of Tomorrow”—helped students connect their current studies with alumni who have put their Education degrees into successful career practice.

“Those who participated in the presentations of students’ work and the alumni awards ceremony were uplifted by the unmistakable commitment to scholarship toward the public good, recognizing such efforts as a continuous tradition across generations,” said Dean Kalantzis.

Trummel, who taught at Northern Illinois University for 10 years and now teaches fourth-grade science at Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake, Ill., said the experience of being honored made her feel truly valued.

“I came back to tell my colleagues at my school how honored I felt to be a part of education in general, just be attending that weekend,” she said. “I wish that all teachers would get a chance to feel that honor in the profession.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized by your peers in education.”