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Notable Alumni Stories

Jodi Adams
Photographer, Yoga Teacher, and Skydiving Instructor
Major: Fine and Applied Arts
Classes at Parkland 2002-2004

Working professionally as a photographer, yoga teacher, and skydiving instructor, Jodi is passionate about living life to its fullest. Through her art and teaching, she hopes to inspire others to do the same. She believes that when we live an authentic life of creation, we are able to overcome fear and achieve our greatest truths.

Though an Illinois native, Jodi spent most of her childhood summers with her grandmother in Maine.  It is here where she truly began to develop a deep respect for the pristine beauty of nature.  Her photography is inspired by an appreciation for the natural landscape.  As an artist as well as an advocate of the arts, Jodi has worked on both sides of the equation.  As a student, she was awarded a Purchase award for her photography at Parkland College.  

This ultimately inspired Jodi to return to school to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in photography at Columbia College, Chicago, in 2008.  While employed at Columbia College, Jodi created exhibition opportunities for students, staff, and faculty that are still in place today. Through personal experience, she has come to understand the profound impact that recognition can have on an artist.

Though Jodi has been practicing yoga since 1991, it wasn’t until the loss of her mother that she began to appreciate the power of the practice to heal.  The many tools that yoga provides to cope with grief and loss have inspired Jodi to receive yoga teacher certification in 2012.  It is through teaching that she is able to give the gift of yoga to others who are in need of its ability to strengthen and to heal.
Jodi’s most memorable moment at Parkland: “I was taking photo classes at Parkland when I was floundering. Peggy Shaw and Craig McMonigal were inspirational. Peggy was the one who encourage me to enter some of my images for juried exhibitions. At the Annual Fine Arts Juried Exhibition in 2003, Parkland awarded me a Purchase Award.
Derrick Aikman
Co-Owner, The Bread Company, Urbana, Illinois
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Management
Class of 1999

Derrick grew up in Champaign, graduating from Unit 4 schools and serving in the Navy before earning his degree at Parkland College. He says “There is so much pressure to incur a lot of debt and pursue an impractical major at a big university. Instead, what worked best for me was getting a practical degree in business management that could partner with the real world experience I had growing up in a family business. I was better prepared.”

Derrick earned an additional degree at the Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle, Washington in 2001, where he quickly earned a leadership position as class president.

In his subsequent ten-year career as an inland commercial diver, he worked on projects that involved underwater welding, pouring cement, reverse currents and electricity, nuclear power plants, fish barriers, and fast moving river currents and low visibility. He worked on high profile jobs such as repairing the levies after they broke in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and an arts installation beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York Harbor. In Chicago, he was employed by Lindahl Marine and in New York City he was employed by Seaway Diving Company.

After his incredibly risky and high pressure career in underwater construction, he and his wife are back in Urbana and continuing the business Derrick’s parents started, The Bread Company, which has served the community for over 35 years. Since taking the reins, Derrick has revitalized the restaurant and makes a concerted effort to hire local Parkland students and graduates. Because of his leadership and emphasis on teaching and learning, many employees with no prior training in the culinary arts or exposure to a working kitchen go on to pursue careers in this field.

Derrick also participates in Champaign’s Unit 4 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The mission of the program is to build bridges to meaningful employment for Champaign’s youth. The Bread Company became an active partner in the program in the summer of 2015, employing six Champaign youth and hiring one permanently to the staff.

Derrick’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “coming back to Parkland as an adult student I enrolled in a speech class where the instructor had such a great attitude. Something clicked in me during that class and I finally understood what college was all about. Parkland is great for both the young traditional student as well as the older returning student – I know because I was both of those at Parkland.”
Peter B. Alexander
Owner, Peter B’s Automotive, Urbana, Illinois
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Automotive Technology
Class: 1979

In 1979, Peter Alexander graduated from Parkland College with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology as well as a certificate in Farm Power and Equipment Service. Several years later, in 1984, he started his own full service automotive business, Peter B’s Automotive in Urbana, IL.

“Steady but unstoppable” is how Peter Alexander describes his success in auto repair. From his first auto mechanics class at Parkland in 1977, to national recognition as the NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year in 1990, he has worked hard to create one of the largest, most respected auto repair shops in east central Illinois.

In addition to his Parkland degrees, Peter is also a master ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Automotive Technician since 1980, a master ASE Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, has received 66 credits toward accredited Automotive Management Designation, and has factory automotive training by Subaru, Jeep, Renault, and Robert Bosch Corporation along with many aftermarket company certifications.

Peter joined the Parkland College Alumni Association board as a member in 2000. He was Vice President of the board from 2001 to 2002 and President from 2002 to 2004. He continues to volunteer for the Alumni Advisory Committee and serves on the Parkland College automotive advisory board. Peter is also Parkland’s 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient.

Peter’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…taking the Parkland Engine Rebuilding class and at the end of the semester the engine that I put together ran great! What a fantastic experience.”
Julie Allen
Co-Founder & Marketing Director – Informed Athlete
Degree:Associate in Applied Science
Major: Medical Secretarial Sciences
Class: 1975
Database Programming, Business Classes and Seminars at Parkland: 1988-1997

In 2008, Parkland College alum, Julie Allen, combined her 20+ years of direct and online marketing experience with her husband’s 25+ years NCAA rules expertise and they started InformedAthlete.com, an online based company that helps high school and college athletes and their families navigate the complex NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA rules on issues related to recruiting, eligibility, scholarships, and transfers.  Initially started as a part-time venture, Informed Athlete has grown into a viable full-time company that has helped thousands of athletes and their families throughout the U.S. and internationally including Australia, Canada, Spain, Japan, France, England, and Italy.    

Julie attributes her success to the encouragement and inspiration from Parkland instructors Shirley Mahaffey, Betty Riggins, and Kelly Sellers and the many database programming, business courses, and “starting your own business” seminars she attended at Parkland College back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  

In 1995, she started Data Management Services, a small direct marketing company that provided targeted direct mail lists, mapping analysis and development of customer loyalty databases.  Shortly after her launch, she joined MarketShare, a consortium of marketing professionals here in Champaign.  

Julie moved with her family to Oklahoma in 1997 and after completing her bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma Wesleyan, she took additional graduate hours in database development and data mining techniques with a world-renowned database and analyst expert and professor at Oklahoma State University.  

She then moved into a business development incubator in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and rapidly expanded her client base by adding tech schools, museums, and non-profit organizations.  Her client list also included a 13-year-stint managing targeted direct mail campaigns for Carlos O’Kelly’s 45 restaurant locations.  

After living in Oklahoma and Kansas City for over 16 years, Julie and her husband, Rick, moved back to Champaign in January 2014 to be closer to family and friends.  

Julie’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…when Shirley Mahaffey and Betty Riggins, (two Parkland faculty members) took our class up to Chicago and we toured Standard Oil, Northern Trust Bank, the Chicago Post Office, and stayed in the Palmer House. That trip opened up a whole new world for me.”
Josh Bane
Director of Photography
Sticks and Stones Productions, LLC, Denver, Colorado
Major: General Studies
Class: 1993-1994

Currently Josh is a freelance Director of Photography and lighting camera operator for both national and international broadcast television shows. He has focused most recently specifically on culinary, cultural, adventure, and travel genres where multiple, cross shooting cameras are a necessary.

Recent credits for Josh include Travel Channel’s season one-three of the new series “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations” and he is currently filming season four. In addition, he is coming up on his fifth year on the road with the Food Network’s hit series “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives” as well as recently completing filming for “BBQ Pitmasters” season six for Destination American. Some other credits include Food Network’s Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin, Seasons 1 and 2 (2009); Giada’s Weekend Getaway, Seasons 1 and 2 (2008); Cooking Channel’s FoodCrafter’s, Season 1 (2010).

He has received four Heartland Emmy awards – 2003, Videography, Non—news composite; 2004, Photography, General Feature; 2005, Videography, Documentary: Cultural/Artistic; 2005, Photographer, Educational Programming. He is also a two-time Telly Award winner.

Josh’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “walking the halls of Parkland, I happened passed the university brochures featuring all of the schools of study at different schools and my eye went straight to Radio/Television Production at SIU-Carbondale. After that, I explored the studio at Parkland where I saw students working with cameras and equipment and I was sold!”
Bonnie Blair Cruikshank
Motivational Speaker
Major: General Studies
Classes at Parkland 1982 to 1987

Bonnie Blair Cruikshank grew up in Champaign, Illinois and started skating when she was just two years old, following in the footsteps of her five older brothers and sisters.

As a speed skater, Bonnie is the most decorated Winter Olympian in U.S. Olympic history and the winningest American woman in Winter Olympics history. She won gold medals in the 500 and 1,000 meter races at Lillehammer, Norway in 1994; in the 500 and 1,000 meter race, in Albertville, France in 1992; and in the 500 meter race in Calgary, Canada in 1988. She also won a bronze medal in the 1,000 meter race in Calgary.

In addition to her numerous gold medals, Bonnie has been bestowed with many awards including 1994 Female Athlete of the Year from the Associated Press, 1994 Sportswoman of the Year from Sports Illustrated, inducted in to USOC Olympic Hall of Fame 2004, and winner of the 2000 ESPY Award for American Female Olympian. Bonnie is also the recipient of the Sullivan Award, given to the top amateur, American athlete; named one of the Century’s Five Best Female Athletes by Sports Magazine; and was the recipient of the 2003 American Association of Community Colleges Outstanding Alumni Award.

Bonnie’s athletic achievements also include 11 gold medals in the World Sprint Championships and she is also a 10-time U.S. National Sprint Champion. She won the World Sprint Speed Skating Championship in overall points in 1994 and 1989 and twice in 1992.

Her achievements and national recognition have led her to her current role as a successful motivational speaker. Her dedication, hard work, and humbleness are an inspiration to those who meet her.

Bonnie’s most memorable moments at Parkland were “…being nervous (at first) but I seemed to fit in and class sizes were similar to my high school, so once I was there a bit, it just felt like a ‘small step up,’ which was good for me.”
Carter Boyce
3D Artist, Shatterglass Studios, Champaign, Illinois
Associates in Applied Arts
Major: Digital Media
Class of 2010

Carter Boyce said that “Parkland helped me open the door to my ability to tell a story through film, and opened up my desire to explore different techniques and mediums to tell those stories.”

A 2010 graduate of Parkland in the Digital Media program, Carter continued his education at DePaul University and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Animation in 2015.

Carter also earned a lot more while at DePaul. His senior thesis film, “Die Flucht” – of which Carter was Director, Writer, Animator, and in charge of content development and creation – earned the top three awards at the 2015 DePaul Premiere Film Festival: Premiere Jury Award, Faculty Award, and Best Animation Award. And just a few weeks ago, Carter received the Student Academy Award, Animation Category, from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for that same film, “Die Flucht.”

While Carter was in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards ceremony, he met Bonni Lee, Senior VP of Village Roadshow Pictures (franchise for the Mad Max and Lego movies), who was responsible for getting Tim Burton his first three films. She told Carter that she is willing to find projects for him and help him get his next film started. He also met producer John Carls who mentioned that he is eager to start a studio in the Midwest to produce high-end animated films.

Carter’s most memorable moment at Parkland was actually before he enrolled as a student. “During the end of my senior year of high school, I attended three Parkland sample courses, one of which was a 3D modeling course. It was during that half hour period that I finally found something that I truly felt like I wanted to do with my life; a feeling I had never felt before. When I went home that day, I walked in the door and immediately told my mother, “Mom, I know what I want to do with life!”
LaTasha Brize  

CEO, Extending Hearts Healthcare Staffing Agency; Author
Degree:  Associate in Applied Science
Major: General Studies; Medical Assistant 

Class: 2006
From academically struggling college student to medical assistant and now business owner, LaTasha recently chronicled the challenges and triumphs of her scholastic and career journey in a new book, titled Armed with Persistence: The Business Plan. In her self-help guide, LaTasha points to parental inspiration and her community college's numerous support systems as crucial factors in her success.
Despite being underprepared for college, LaTasha went on to earn two degrees from Parkland, an Associate in Science degree in 2004 and a Medical Assistant degree in 2006. LaTasha then took Eastern Illinois University classes at the Parkland campus, graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Studies from EIU.
"Through Parkland, I gained the education and knowledge to be able to work in any healthcare practice," LaTasha says. "Parkland provided me with so much help, from tutoring programs, the Career Center, and computer labs. The classrooms were small, which was good for me because I needed a close-fit environment to help me with my studies, and all my instructors motivated me by telling me I can do it, even when I had my doubts."

LaTasha also gives major credit for her success to her mother, who raised her singlehandedly and whose hard work provided for her family and gave LaTasha the inspiration she needed to pursue higher education and a rewarding career. 

Armed with her Parkland training and a clinical externship, LaTasha landed her first job in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Christie Clinic in Champaign. She later moved to Florida to become a medical assistant instructor at Concorde Career Institute. "Because of the love and opportunity Parkland gave to me, I carried that same passion towards my students." 
LaTasha started her company, Extending Hearts Healthcare Staffing, in 2014 to help healthcare graduates embark on their professional careers. She also considers the agency an extension of the assistance she received from Parkland. 

"I believe you can't be a great leader if you haven’t walked in the path you set for others," LaTasha remarked. "I don't think I could have made it if I hadn't attended Parkland."

Her most memorable moment at Parkland was "all the times Parkland College provided services for me, including computer labs and the math tutoring center." 
Brad Busboom
Brand Executive Manager for Chevrolet
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Automotive Technology
Class: 2006

A Unity High School (Tolono, Illinois) graduate, Brad Busboom took automotive courses as dual credit through Parkland's Automotive Youth Education System (AYES) before enrolling at Parkland in 2004 to study Automotive Technology. While at Parkland, he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International honor society; was named to the dean's list both years; and was an active member of the Parkland Motorsports Club, working on and driving the Malibu drag car.

Busboom went on to earn a BS in Automotive Technology from Southern Illinois University in 2008 and completed the MBA program at the University of Michigan in 2014.

"Parkland College is where it all started, where I discovered who I am and where I wanted to go," Busboom said. "My time there built the foundation for the skills I have needed in my journey so far, which are at the core of everything I do today."

In June 2013, Busboom was honored during the Illinois Community College Trustees Association's annual convention in Chicago, where he received the ICCTA Distinguished Alumnus Award for Parkland College. He was also the keynote speaker at the Illinois College Automotive Instructors Association conference, when it was hosted by Parkland College in October 2014.

Brad has been working at General Motors since 2008; launching the Chevy Volt in 2011, Cadillac ELR in 2014, and Next Gen Chevy Volt in 2015; and was co-president for the Revitalization and Business Detroit Group at the University of Michigan. Currently he is brand execution manager for Chevrolet globally at General Motors in Detroit, Michigan.

Brad's most memorable Parkland moment: "I will never forget the first time I drove the Parkland drag car; what a rush! At that point, I had been working on and learning about the car for over a year, and it was so satisfying to get behind the wheel and take the car down the track. I remember thinking to myself, 'Where else can you get a quality education while at the same time have the opportunity to drive a 500+ horsepower drag car?' Parkland's Automotive program is truly something special."

Collin Carlier
Chief Operating Officer, Royse & Brinkmeyer Apartment, Champaign, Illinois
Associate in Arts
Major: Business Administration
Class: 2003

Collin attended Western Illinois University for one year before returning and enrolling at Parkland College. He did not know where his education would take him, however he knew that Parkland had a great reputation.

He was surprised by the quality of context in the education at Parkland. And his nominator said that “Parkland was a very important step in preparing Collin to enter the University of Illinois. It gave him the guidance and education he needed with full-time instructors and smaller class sizes. This experience set the foundation for him to be successful in the university and his employment.”

Collin received his Master’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is an EPA Certified Renovator and has been featured in several national publications and case studies; including: “Tips on Landlord Relationships” with Tyler Deitz of Cazoodle, Inc; “Royse & Brinkeyer Saves $17,000 on Corporate Website” with Entrata Software, Inc; and “Multifamily Student Housing Company Finds Speed & Simplicity in HappyCo’s Inspections Apps” with Cory Zimmerman of HappyCo.

Collin said that “my interest in calculus started with her (Vicki Beitler, Collin’s calculus professor at Parkland) but led me to finance, to the University of Illinois, to get my MBA, and to have the confidence and expertise to handle the complex financial, economic, social, and regulatory challenges of running Royse & Brinkmeyer Apartments. I attribute the commencement of that “hunger” to Parkland College.”
Mark Carlson
Major League Baseball Umpire
Major: Liberal Arts & Sciences
Attended Parkland: 1987-1989

Mr. Carlson was a graduate of Joliet West High in Joliet, Illinois, where he was a baseball standout. He enrolled at Parkland in the fall of 1987 and played baseball with the Cobras for two years. After leaving Parkland, Mark enrolled in the Joe Brinkman and Bruce Froemming’s Umpire School.

Usually there are about 450 students enrolled in the three largest umpiring schools in the country. There are 68 umpires in major league baseball. The odds are long, but that didn’t stop Mark. He quickly went to the top in his class and consequently, he was selected to attend the Umpire Development Program. An honor considering he was the only one chosen to attend out of 45 students from three umpiring schools.

Mr. Carlson finished the Umpire Development Program sixth in his class and that guaranteed him a job in the minor leagues. For six years Mr. Carlson worked for the Pioneer League, the Midwest League, the Florida State League, the Southern League, and finally the International League, when he got his first break. And that was to fill in for a Cubs-White Sox series at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois. “I lucked out there. I couldn’t imagine any better way to start. You can’t beat that.” After that, he got the call informing him that he had been made a full-time major league umpire.

As a Major League Baseball umpire in his 17th season, Mark was named the Chicago Hit & Pitch Club’s Umpire of the Year in 2003; and he has umpired the Division series in 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2015; League Championship Series in 2013 and 2014; and his first Major League Baseball World Series in 2015.

In 2004 Mr. Carlson established Mark Carlson’s Care. It is a non-profit organization designed to help children in need. Mark and his wife Marie have two daughters.

Mark’s most memorable Parkland moment is “being selected into the Parkland College Athletic Hall of Fame. It was such an honor to receive the recognition from the school. I will always remember that day. I would also like to say that when I first came to Parkland and toured the school, I knew it would be a perfect fit for me. Parkland allowed me to take on many responsibilities and give me the skills that would develop me into a confident, self-sufficient young man. I believe because of those experience, it allowed me to learn valuable life lessons that I still use today.”
Stacey Cole
Director of Development, University of Illinois, College of ACES, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
Degree: Associate in Arts
Major: General Studies
Class: 2000

Stacey was working full-time with two part-time jobs when she decided to go back to college as a teenage single mother. She said that “The odds of earning a college degree were certainly stacked against me, especially in the 90s before online classes became what they are today. From the very beginning, I was set up to succeed by everyone I encountered at Parkland.”

And succeed she did, in a variety of roles and endeavors.

After graduating with an Associate’s degree in General Studies at Parkland, Stacey graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2004 from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Before getting her UI degree, she started working at the university in 1999 and has continued to pursue her career there, now serving as Director of Development in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).
Stacey has won several awards, is an active volunteer, and continues to be a motivational speaker, in addition to being a mother to three children.

In 2015, Stacey was named Central Illinois Business Magazine 2015 Forty Under 40 “Woman of the Year;” was part of the 2016 “That’s What She Said Project;” was a Chambana Mom to Know in 2016; and was the “brainchild” behind the “I Pay It Forward: Students Helping Students Scholarship Campaign” at the University of Illinois - a month-long campaign that in its first year raised over $17,000 - that was awarded the “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award” from the East Central Illinois Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2015.

Stacey is a campaign co-chair for the United Way of Champaign County;, volunteers for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and has been since 2005; member of Cunningham Children’s Home Advancement Committee; is an active community advocate for children’s mental and behavioral health; a member of the Executive Club of Champaign County; is on the Board of Directors for “Hear My Voice,” a registered organization for the College of Media at UI; and served as Grand Marshall in 2015 and 2016 for the Parade of Lights and Labor Day Parades.

Stacey’s most memorable moment at Parkland was having “…a professor that I will absolutely never forget: Donna Giertz. In her business class, I learned skills that no textbook could teach; skills that would be applicable – and important – in the real world. I am deeply indebted and forever grateful for the amazing people I met and the experience and skill set I acquired during my time there.”
Alyssa Combs
Assistant Vice President, Internal Auditor, First Busey Corporation, Urbana, Illinois
Associates in Science
Major: Business Administration
Class: 2005

Alyssa initially enrolled at Parkland to become a Certified Nurse’s Assistant, “And Parkland gave me the opportunity. This was important because through the practical courses and lectures I realized I was not as interested in nursing as a career path as I had originally thought,” she said. So she turned to accounting instead and after graduating from Parkland with a degree in Business Administration in 2005, she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Accountancy in 2007 and a Master’s of Accounting Science in 2008 both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In 2008, Alyssa joined the United States Department of Defense Office of Inspector General as an Auditor for Readiness and Operations Support. A year later she transitioned to the Acquisition and Contract Management Directorate and then Joint and Southwest Asia Operations Directorate in 2011.

After working five years in the Defense Office of Inspector General, Alyssa returned to the Champaign-Urbana area and now has a career at First Busey Corporation as Assistant Vice President, Internal Auditor.

Alyssa is a recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Global War on Terror in 2012; named Auditor of the Year for Joint and Southwest Asia Operations Directorate in 2012; and with her team received the United Way Employee Campaign Coordinator Team of the Year in 2015.

Skilled in Sign Language, Alyssa volunteers an Interpreter for the Deaf, translating songs, conversations, and sermons in Sign Language. Her nominator remarked “She not only works in these amazing jobs, she volunteers her time wherever she goes, from serving her peers during college at the Baptist Housing Ministry to now volunteering through the United Way with several projects around town.”

Alyssa’s most memorable moment “was really a memorable class rather than just a moment. (After changing her mind about a nursing career) the next semester I took a variety of classes to see what else I could do. One of those classes was my Financial Accounting class. As I listened to lectures on T-accounts, debits, and credits, I realized that I loved all the rules that I was learning about. Parkland’s variety of classes and experiences and the ease with which I could try new areas of study allowed me to find a career path that gave me a fun and adventurous first job as well as a career that I truly enjoy.”
Sharon Conatser
National President, The American Legion Auxiliary, National Headquarters,
   Indianapolis, IN
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Business Administration
Class: 1974

Sharon attended Parkland College from 1972 to 1974, graduating in May of 1974 with her associate’s degree in Business Administration, and has used her Parkland experience and education to grow in her personal and professional life.  

Retired from the University of Illinois where she served as an Administrative Assistant for 25 years, Sharon was awarded the Chancellor's Distinguished Staff Award in 2000 and the College of ACES Distinguished Staff Award in 1997.
Sharon is a lifelong member of The American Legion Auxiliary, the largest women's patriotic organization in America that is focused on helping Veterans and the youth of our nation.  She initially joined through her father, an Army veteran who served in World War II and the Korean War. She is also eligible through her son, a Desert Storm veteran, and her husband, a Vietnam-era veteran and past national commander of The American Legion.

Holding many leadership positions with The American Legion Auxiliary, such as National Chairman 2000-2014 and National Vice-President 2014-2015, she served as the elected National President from 2015-2016, of the over 700,000 members.  This year she is serving as chairman of the Future Focus committee, which is looking at ways to move the organization forward with continued success. She has represented the needs of veterans, active duty service men and women, and their families throughout the United States and while traveling to Europe and the Far East – visiting 8 countries and 48 states. She has met with the President of Republic of China {Taiwan}, the US Ambassador to Korea and France to highlight the needs of our soldiers and their families serving overseas. While she had the honor to lay many wreaths, the most memorable ones to her were at The Arizona and at the Normandy American Cemetery on D-day.

Sharon’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…moving to the new campus. It was such a great opportunity for all the students. I loved being part of the history! The friendships made last a lifetime when you are in quality classes that allow you to get to know each other.”
Steve Eisenmann
Lighting Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks, Vancouver, Canada
Studied Art and Computer Science
Classes at Parkland from 2001 to 2007

The list of accomplishments for Steve Eisenmann is long and illustrious. Steve has worked on the following films: Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2012-2013); Life of Pi (2011-2012), which won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011); Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011); and Hop (2010-2011). In addition, he has worked on the television project “Cosmos: The Immortals” that received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special and Visual Effects in 2014.
After graduating from Centennial High School in Champaign, Illinois, Steve studied at Parkland College from 2001 to 2007 and then received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Visual Effects from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010.
Currently a Lighting Technical Director at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Vancouver, Steve has been a 3D Generalist at Zoic Studios, Lead Lighting Artist at Nitrogen Studios Canada, Inc., and Lighting Supervisor at Mokko Studio.
His most memorable at Parkland “happened while waiting to take some placement exams. I was planning on taking the collision repair degree at the time. While waiting to take the tests I picked up a course catalog laying on a table. I thumbed through and landed on a page that had 3D animation courses. I immediately decided this was what I wanted to do. The rest is history.”
Ronald Endsley
Resident Director, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management a Bank of America Corporation, Champaign, Illinois
Major: Business Administration
Classes: 1975 to 1976

After graduating from Unity High School in 1964, Ron worked at Eisner Warehouse until he was drafted.  He became a US Army Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division.  When he returned home, he worked at Illinois Power Company and then as a lineman with the Eastern Illinois Electric Cooperative.  He studied nights and weekends to obtain his insurance licenses in property, life and health.

In 1972, Ron decided to quit his job and continue his education at Parkland College.  He attended Parkland College on the GI Bill and was therefore required to take a full load of coursework.  This limited his time for insurance sales and was a bold move considering he had a new house, new car and a family, which included three children under the age of three, to support.

Nonetheless, Ron graduated from Parkland College.  He opened his own real estate and insurance agency which he maintained for ten years.  In 1984, a friend of Ron’s convinced him to start a different career as an Investment Representative.  He began his new career at Edward Jones and Company before moving on to A.G. Edwards and Stifel Nicolaus.   In 2012, Ron joined the local Merrill Lynch Wealth Management branch as a Financial Advisor and currently serves as the Resident Director of the branch as well as Vice President.

Ron has been a member of the Champaign West Rotary Club since 1989 and is a Paul Harris Fellow.  He served as Campaign Chairman for the United Way of Champaign in 1999, during which he and his team achieved a record breaking year. He currently serves on the United Way’s Planned Giving Committee. Ron credits his work ethic and his disciplined “never-quit” attitude to the values that were instilled in him by both his parents and his proud service in the United States military.

Ron is grateful to Parkland College for the wonderful education he received. Parkland College was a life changing opportunity that allowed him to achieve beyond his dreams.
Michelle Gross-Panico
Dental Clinical Practice Consultant with United Healthcare
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Dental Hygiene
Class: 2000

After receiving her degree at Parkland, Michelle continued on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene from Northern Arizona University; a Master of Administration with Emphasis in Health Promotion from Northern Arizona University, and a Doctorate of Health Sciences with Emphasis in Global Health from Nova Southeastern University.

Michelle’s achievements include establishing a school-based dental care clinic in partnership with the local hospital, contribution to the development of legislation that increased access to oral health care in Arizona; development of a pathway for direct reimbursement for dental hygienists in Arizona; and teaching public health concepts and facilitating dental and dental hygiene students serving the community through the development of service-learning programs.

Michelle was a faculty member with ATSU ASDOH from 2006 to 2016 and is currently employed by United Healthcare Community Plan.  She is the first Dental Clinical Practice Consultant that United Healthcare has ever employed.  Michelle works with medical and dental offices to increase utilization of oral health services in Arizona through interprofessional collaboration, innovative workforce models, and incentive payments.  She is dedicated to administering programs that meet the oral health needs of underserved populations. In September of 2011, the Arizona Public Health Association presented Michelle with the Commitment to Underserved People award.

Michelle’s most memorable moment as a student at Parkland College was when her Community Dental Health instructor, Ms. Peg Boyce, took the class to a local elementary school.  The purpose of the visit was to observe a school-based portable dental program provide dental sealants to schoolchildren.  This experience introduced Michelle to non-traditional methods of delivering dental services and sparked her desire to increase access to oral health care in public health settings.
Seth Fein
Founder, The Pygmalion Festival + Smile Politely, Champaign, Illinois
Associates in Arts
Major: Liberal Arts and Science
Class of 2000
Seth Fein grew up in Urbana, Illinois and is the founder of The Pygmalion Festival, which started in 2005 as a music festival, and now spans five different components, including Tech, Literature, Food, and Media.
Additionally, Seth is the founder and publisher of Smile Politely, which is Champaign-Urbana’s longest running online magazine, with its first story published in 2007. To date, the magazine has published over 12,000 articles.
After attending Parkland College, he transferred to the University of Illinois where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric in 2002. He lives in Champaign with his wife, Justine Bursoni, a professional photographer, and their son, Ellis. They are expecting another boy in February.
Seth’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “Of all the amazing writing professors I had at University of Illinois, the most profound piece of advice I got was from Parkland writing instructor Neil Archer who told us on the first day of class in 2000: ‘A story is a war; get your fighters fighting.”

(Photo credit: Justine Bursoni)
Krystal Fitzpatrick
Retired from University of Illinois Police Training Institute
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Criminal Justice
Class: 1975
Taking a county sheriff's advice to enroll at Parkland College, Kris Fitzpatrick made the most of the degree she earned. She was hired at the University of Illinois as a police officer in 1977, one of the first female officers in Champaign County. She advanced over an illustrious 30+ years in law enforcement, serving as assistant chief of police in 2002 and executive director of public safety and interim chief from 2005 through 2007. Fitzpatrick also earned a master's degree from Eastern Illinois University and was selected for training in the FBI National Academy.

As director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute from 2007 to 2010, Fitzpatrick led the state's largest certified academy responsible for training Illinois police and correctional officers. She has co-authored various articles for professional journals including Campus Law Enforcement Journal, a publication of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). During her career, Fitzpatrick was also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, FBI National Academy Associates and a statutory member of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.  She frequently presented on law enforcement topics within the state.

Among her numerous honors are University of Illinois Division of Public Safety Commendations (1989, 1997, 2002); the Eastern Illinois University School of Technology's Distinguished Graduate Award (2001); the University of Illinois Mother's Association Medallion of Honor (2000); the University of Illinois Chancellor Distinguished Staff Award (1999)’ the University of Illinois Division of Public Safety Director's Award (1997); University of Illinois Division of Public Safety Merit Awards (1984, 1987); and the University of Illinois Division of Public Safety Officer of the Year Award (1978). Kris is a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

Kris's most memorable moment at Parkland "was the first day of the class Introduction to Law Enforcement, taught by Jim Whetstone. I can clearly  remember how I just knew I was in the right place and that my future would be in law enforcement regardless of the challenges."
Eric Helfer
Department of Urology, Christie Clinic, Champaign, Illinois
Classes: 1992-1993

After graduating from Central High School, Eric was unsure of what career he wanted to pursue. With encouragement from his family, he took the aptitude test offered in Parkland’s Career Center and much to his surprise the test indicated he should be in a medical field.

Eric enrolled at Parkland that following spring and went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in 1996 and his Doctor of Medicine in 2000, both at the University of Illinois. From 2000-2006, he was at the University of Missouri for his Urology residency, and in 2008 he became a Diplomat of the American Board of Urology.

In Eric’s undergraduate studies, he was on the Dean’s List for all six semesters and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta – the Premedical Honor Society - serving as President in 1994-1995. He is also the founding President of the Carbondale chapter of the American Medical Association and created a student-to-student tutoring program. While in Medical school, he received academic honors in Urology, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Psychiatry, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Since 2006, Eric has been in the Department of Urology at Christie Clinic. A current member of the Christie Clinic Board of Directors, he has also served on numerous committees for Christie Clinic, Presence Hospital, and Carle Foundation Hospital. Professionally, Eric is affiliated with the American Medical Association and the American Urological Association.

Eric’s memory of Parkland is that “(It) was a great foundation for my core curriculum of pre-med before attending the University of Illinois. I had a very good understanding of biology, chemistry, and physics and the ratio of teachers to students for classes and labs allowed for attentive instruction from the faculty. Parkland was a great transition for me between high school and the University of Illinois that allowed me to mature and prepare for the UI.”
Jeffrey B. Hettler
Owner, Five Star Trading, Champaign, Illinois
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Business Administration
Class: 1982

After graduating from Parkland in 1982 with an Associate’s degree in Business Administration, local entrepreneur Jeff Hettler went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1984. He would ultimately use his Parkland business degree to become an entrepreneur in the merchant wholesale food brokerage industry, selling a wide range of grocery items to retailers and independent wholesalers. He would put his SIU marketing skills to work as well, earning numerous awards for national merchandising displays that he developed.

Jeff gives back to his community by helping to feed its members in greatest need. He is a regular contributor both to local food banks in Illinois and to a local senior assisted living facility. In addition, he is involved in fundraising statewide for the educational not-for-profit sector and has organized local golf outings in support of middle grade school education.

Parkland College and its students also benefit from Jeff’s support. He has served as president of the college’s Alumni Association in the past and currently serves as a member of the Alumni Advisory Committee. In 2008, he established the Frank and Priscilla Hettler Scholarship in honor of his parents; this award has since helped many students from large families improve their lives through higher education. Finally, he is a charter member of the Parkland Proud/IGA Program, which dedicated a portion of sales at IGA stores to provide scholarships to deserving Parkland students.

In 2014 Jeff received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Parkland College. And he is also a member of the American Marketing Association and Independent Food Broker Associations.

Jeff’s most memorable experience at Parkland was that “Parkland College and its instructors change lives. It certainly changed mine. In the final year of obtaining my Associate Degree at Parkland College, I happened across a Marketing 101 class. It was taught by Ed Zilewicz. Mr. Zilewicz's knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and his students was infectious. At the end of this class, I knew that sales and marketing would be my career direction.”
Cheryl Horvath
Fire Chief, Mountain Vista Fire, Tucson, Arizona
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Fire Service Technology
Class: 2000
Chief Cheryl Horvath has been in the fire service since 1992, working as a full-time firefighter in Illinois where she served as union president for four years and as a field instructor for the Illinois Fire Service Institute. Chief Horvath is the past President of the Board of Trustees for the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services (www.i-women.org) and a frequent speaker at the conference in leadership and fireground tactics.

For the past seven summers, Chief Horvath worked with other local women firefighters and police officers to coordinate a public safety camp in Tucson for high school girls. The camp is designed to encourage girls and young women to consider non-traditional occupations. Camp Fury, initially funded through a grant from the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, is sponsored by local fire and law enforcement agencies and the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. Camp Fury is a national program available through local Girl Scout councils.

Chief Horvath serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and as treasurer on the Board of Directors for the January 8th Memorial Foundation. Chief Horvath was the recipient of the 2010 YWCA Women on the Move Award, for her service to the greater Tucson community.

Chief Horvath also holds a Master’s in Public Administration degree from Anna Maria College and a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Illinois.

Cheryl said "The one thing I remember most about Parkland College was the convenience of the overall experience. The Parkland College campus was easy to negotiate and the classes I needed to complete my degree work were accessible and convenient. The counsellors were great at helping me to plan coursework that was relevant to my career in fire and emergency services. I felt very supported by all the Parkland staff given that I am in a non-traditional career for women."

Annette Huss
Office Support Associate, University of Illinois Staff-Human Resources
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Office Professional
Class: 2015
Annette Huss enrolled at Parkland at the age of 48 after her children were grown and out of the house and after a 30-year hiatus from academics. She wanted to complete the degree that she attempted to earn after graduating from high school. She didn't know how well she would do, she just knew that she was going to give her all.

She did better than she imagined, making the dean's list three out of the four semesters at Parkland; being invited and joining the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society; obtaining certification in Microsoft Office 2013 Word, Access, and Excel applications; and graduating with honors with both a certificate as an Office Specialist and a certificate as a Bookkeeping Assistant.

Now an office support associate with the University of Illinois Staff-Human Resources, she feels lucky to have had a position as student assistant in Parkland's office of Admissions and Records.

She has been married to her husband, Tim, for 30 years, and they are the proud parents of two girls, Taylor and Heather, and have two grandsons, Jalen and Blaine.

Annette's most memorable Parkland moment was when "Parkland helped me to realize that I am capable of anything I set my mind to do! I loved everything about my experience at Parkland!"
Susan Jepsen
CFO, Reynolds Towing Service, Inc. Urbana, Illinois
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Accounting
Class of 1980

After graduating from Urbana High School in 1977, Susan entered Parkland College that fall and graduated in 1980 with a degree in Accounting. She returned to Parkland over the years and picked up a few additional business classes. “It was always a rewarding experience.  I love that I worked my way into my CFO position today from a start at Parkland College.”

Susan started as a retail accountant for JM Jones (SuperValu) immediately after graduating from Parkland, then moved on to staff accountant for American Oil Chemist Society, and has been the CFO for Reynolds Towing Service for the last 17 years. She and her brother, Greg Reynolds who also attended Parkland, have worked together to build a small towing business into one of the largest in central Illinois.

She is part of many committees and organizations including serving on the Board of Directors for Professional Towing and Recovery Illinois; Champaign Chamber of Commerce; Central Illinois Rental Property Professionals; accountant for the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon; and is a member of the Champaign West Rotary, which named her Rotarian of the Year in 2013.

Susan’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “actually enjoying speech class! It was one of my most dreaded classes required to get an accounting degree and in the end it has helped me become more comfortable with public speaking.  In addition to enjoying my classes, I made many great friendships that I still maintain.”
Carolina Jimenez
Studying for Doctorate, Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois
Associate in Science
Major: General
Class: 2013

Carolina always knew she wanted to one day become a veterinarian, but did not know the way she would get there. “Deciding to attend Parkland College was one of the best decisions I made because not only did it provide an affordable and great education, but also a sense of community and support,” Carolina said.  

Carolina enrolled in the Parkland Pathway to Illinois program in which qualified students begin college at Parkland and seamlessly transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While preparing to transfer, participating students are able to integrate their experience as full-time Parkland College students while utilizing resources and classes at Illinois.  

While at Parkland, Carolina was vice president of the Parkland Student Government and focused on creating events and activities to enhance the student experience such as originating the first Valentine’s Day dance and finding a food provider for the opening of the Student Union. She was also a mentor for the Parkland Academy Team where she helped guide and provide extra support for Hispanic students in their first year of college and was a member of the college’s Grievance Committee that provided students with the chance for their appeals to be heard with an unbiased view.

After Parkland, she received a fellowship with National Science Foundation and conducted, or was part of, research projects every semester at the University of Illinois. She graduated from the UI in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Animal Sciences and minor Chemistry under the James Scholar Program (the undergraduate honors program). And this fall, Carolina will begin her second year of her doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois.

Her most memorable moment at Parkland is “of the people I met throughout Parkland, two that made a large impact on me was my counselor, that always made sure I was on the right track that would lead me toward veterinary school, and my chemistry professor, whose class was the reason I decided to pursue a minor in Chemistry at the University of Illinois. The professors, classmates, and counselor I had were the main factors I decided to find a way to give back to the Parkland community.
David Jimenez
Co-owner, Michaels’ Catering LLC, Champaign Illinois
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Business Administration
Class: 1999

Born in Bogota, Colombia, David dreamed as a child of becoming a business man and running his own company.  He came to Champaign in 1995 and enrolled in the English as a Second Language program (ESL) at Parkland with the intent of following his dream. A year later, he decided to pursue an associate degree in Business Administration and graduated in 1999.
In 1996, while studying at Parkland, David started working at the Champaign Country Club as a dishwasher and worked his way up, eventually becoming the Champaign Country Club house manager. In 2006 he joined Michaels’ Catering as event manager and in 2010 became one of the co-owners of the catering business. David has been involved in different aspects of customers and food service in Champaign for more than 20 years.

Through Michaels’ Catering, David has been able to give back to the community supporting charitable events for the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Multicultural Community Center in Rantoul, Parkland’s Gala event, and the YMCA in Champaign, among others.

David has been married for 23 years to Martha Gonzalez and they have three children - Rafael, Daniel and Juliana.

David’s most memorable moment at Parkland “…is when I had the opportunity to practice my English skills with other students. Some students wanted to learn Spanish and I wanted to learn English. So we met at the library or cafeteria to chat and practice our language skills. I made many friends this way!”
Justin Kirby
Wealth Management Advisor, Northwestern Mutual, Champaign,       Illinois
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Business
Class: 1994

Justin Kirby came to Parkland on a golf scholarship and graduated with an associate’s degree in Business. He transferred to Illinois State University, which he said was “very efficient” thanks to his degree at Parkland, and double majored in Marketing and Business Administration, graduating with a BS in 1996.  

He has since earned designations from the American College, CLU and from the college of Financial Planning, CRPS (Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist). His team at Northwestern Mutual includes six full-time employees with advanced designations such as CFP (Certified Financial Planner), CFA (chartered Financial Analysts), and ChFc (Chartered Financial Consultant).

Justin previously served on the Regional Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters, The High School of St. Thomas More, and as president and board member of Lincolnshire Fields Country Club. Currently he is a Trustee for St. Matthew Parish. In addition he coaches fifth grade boy’s basketball and has completed nine marathons, including four Boston Marathons.

Justin has been married for 19 years to Bobbie Jo Kirby and they have four children; Maeve 15, Mia 14, Wilson 11, and Wyatt 9.

Justin’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “Euchre tournaments between classes.”
Christine Kohler
Degree: Associate in Arts
Major: Education and English
Class: 1981
Christine had two dreams in high school: to become a professional writer and to travel. Of the colleges she attended, which include Kent State University, Angelo State University, Parkland College, University of Hawaii, Southwest Texas State University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio, she said that Parkland "was wonderful for tying together credits from two different universities for an AA in Secondary Ed with an English emphasis. Nearly all of it transferred to the U of Hawaii for a bachelor's degree in journalism. Both degrees have been essential in my career as a journalist, teacher, and author in education, mass market, and trade market books."
One of her favorite jobs was as a political reporter and foreign correspondent for a Gannett paper, covering politics in the West Pacific. In addition to other newspapers, she worked as a copy editor for the San Antonio Express News, a Hearst daily. She has authored 17 books, fiction and nonfiction, in the education mass, and trade markets. No Surrender Soldier (Merit Press, 2014) is her debut novel.

Christine's most memorable moment at Parkland: "I had an English professor who came in the first day and drew a slanted line on the board and said one word, 'Juxtaposition.' Throughout the semester he would repeat this. One day it hit me, I understood what juxtaposition meant in literature. This same professor also introduced me to a work by Graham Greene, who became a favorite author of mine."
Joseph R. Lex, Jr., M.D.
Giant Steps, Act 3, LLC, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania
Retired, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Nursing
Class: 1979
Dr. Lex has a very impressive list of professional accomplishments, awards, honors, publications, speaking engagements, and volunteer services considering his only other degree, aside from his Associate’s in Nursing at Parkland – which he attended as a Viet Nam veteran on the GI Bill - was receiving an MD from the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1986.

He also took Premedical courses at Richland Community College in 1982, and had an Internship (1986-1987) and Emergency Medicine Residency (1987-1989) at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Among his most recent appointments at Temple University School of Medicine were Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine (2013-2016) and Director of the Department CME (2003-2016).

Just a very few of the many awards and honors he received are the Ky Niem Chuong Vi Suc Khoe Nhan Dan (“A Medal for People’s Health”) from the Health Minister of Viet Nam (first American to receive this award) in 2016; the “A Nuestro Maestro” (“Our Teacher”) from La Sociedad Argentina de Emergencias in 2016; the Fellow of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine from the International Federation for Emergency Medicine in 2016; the EEM Lifetime Achievement Award from HIPPO Education/Essential of Emergency Medicine in 2016; and the GEMA Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in 2014.

He has been associated with many professional organizations throughout his career, including Board of Directors for American Academy of Emergency Medicine (2015-2016); Editorial Board of the Polish Journal of Emergency Medicine (2008-2016); Founder and Chair, Oral Board Review Course for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (1994-present); Member and Fellow for life of the American College of Emergency Physicians (2007-present); Member of European Society for Emergency Medicine (2006-present); and Charter Member of African Federation of Emergency Medicine (2009-present) among many others.

In addition his publications list – both peer reviewed, non-peer reviewed, author, commentator, and editor – is extremely extensive.
Kelly Duitsman Loschen, CPA
Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Farm Credit Illinois, Mahomet, Illinois
Associate in Business Administration
Class: 1998

Kelly attended Parkland College on the Parkland College Presidential Scholarship (now the Board of Trustees Scholarship) awarded to the top 10% of high school graduates from each district high school. She said, “Parkland College is one of the greatest assets in our community.  The quality of education and facilities that Parkland offers is invaluable. There are so many opportunities available to students both inside and outside the classroom.”

She continued her education after Parkland earning a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000 and subsequently passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination.

Prior to her role with Farm Credit Illinois, Kelly was with Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates for over 15 years and provided audit, tax, and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries.

Kelly’s community involvement includes being a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; Illinois CPA Society, Eastern Chapter; Executive Club of Champaign County; Treasurer of the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation and member of Windsor Road Christian Church. She received the Central Illinois Business Magazine 2013 40 Under 40 Award and was the August 2013 chambanamoms.com Mom-to-Know.

Kelly says she “has a passion for improving the financial literacy of our youth through college and career readiness programs.  This involvement has allowed me to stay connected to Parkland College.”
James Luecking
Retired Champaign Chief of Police, Champaign, Illinois
Associates in Applied Science
Major: Criminal Justice
Class of 1976

Shortly after Jim graduated with high honors from the University of Illinois in 1973, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Psychology, he was offered a position as a Patrol Officer with the Champaign Police Department.

While he worked full-time as a Police Officer, Jim enrolled at Parkland College in order to earn an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. Through the combination of both degrees from UI and Parkland, in addition to his course work at the University of Minnesota Juvenile Officer’s Institute, graduate courses in Public Administration from Sangamon State and Northern Illinois University, as well as Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command, Jim was able to rise through the ranks of the Champaign Police Department. He was promoted from Patrol Office to Detective/Juvenile Officer, Sergeant of the Patrol and Investigation Divisions, Lieutenant of the Patrol Unit, Deputy Chief of Operations, and finally Chief of Police.

Jim retired in 2003 after 30 years of service from the Champaign Police Department. He still had a desire to make a difference in central Illinois and began working for Illinois CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Later he was offered a position with ILEAS which works with law enforcement agencies throughout the State of Illinois in matters of mutual aid, emergency response and combining of resources for public safety and terrorism prevention. He continues to work there now.

Some of Jim’s professional memberships and community activities over the years include: Champaign County Domestic Violence Steering Committee, Rape Crisis Center Community Advisory Board, Board of Directors Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society, Mental Health Center Homeless Shelter Advisory Board, City of Champaign Human Relations Commission, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Executive Research Forum, University of Illinois Police Training Institute Advisory Board, and Champaign County Crime Stoppers Board.

Jim’s most memorable experience at Parkland was that “I truly appreciated that the instructors were all experienced people who in addition to their academic credentials had actually worked in law enforcement or the legal field. Since I was an active duty police officer while attending Parkland, the direct application of the courses to the police work I was doing every day made the course of study all the more meaningful.”
Ashley L. Morgan
Donor Relations Consultant, Community Blood Services of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
Associate of Arts
Major: Mass Communications
Class: 2007

After attending Parkland College, Ashley went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Media Studies, College of Media, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010.

Shortly after that, she worked at Q96 (96.1), a Stevie Jay Broadcasting radio station in Urbana, Illinois first as an intern and then 4 months later as a Morning Show Co-Host. While there, she helped to manage social media and interactivity with the audience as well as interviews of special guests, public personalities, and community leaders. In 2015, Ashley became an Associate Donor Relations Consultant at Community Blood Services of Illinois, and just recently was appointed as Donor Relations Consultant - responsible for all aspects of coordinating mobile drive operations.  

Her community involvement began in 2012 and includes volunteering for the 2013 Eastern Illinois Food Bank Prom Court committee, a charity benefit for hunger relief in east central Illinois; current volunteer for the Champaign County Humane Society “Fur Ball” Auction Committee; active in the Junior League of Champaign Urbana, where she is the current Vice President of Communications; Auction Committee Chair for the American Heart Association “Go Red for Women;” and founding Board Member of Girls Go For It, also serving as Director of School Panels.  Ashley was recently selected as a recipient of Central Illinois Business Magazine's ninth annual Forty Under 40 Awards.  

Ashley’s most memorable moment at Parkland is “My very first broadcast over the airwaves was at Parkland College.   In class, we had to read a report that the Associated Press (AP) sent over. It was really nerve racking because I knew other students in the class could hear me! I was so concerned with reading everything so perfectly and not making a mistake – even though I knew no one would actually see me!  Little did I know, that I would really enjoy being on the radio, and go on to be a broadcaster for my first career. It all started with a communications class at Parkland College.”
Juanita Nesbitt
Retired Nursing Professional
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Nursing
Class: 1972

When Juanita began attending Parkland College full-time, it was her first time away from her home in Danville, Illinois. She said “attending Parkland was truly a time of personal growth and maturity for me. I appreciated the care and support by the instructors – this encouraged me to succeed.” She completed her degree in Nursing from Parkland in 1972 and in 1975 she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from St. Xavier University, Chicago, Illinois, where she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau, International Honor Society of Nursing.

After working in Billings Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, Juanita returned to east central Illinois. After a year as a staff RN on the Surgical Floor of Mercy Hospital, she started her 28-year career as a staff RN for McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois in 1978, retiring in 2006.

In 1984, Juanita completed the AMEDD (Army Medical Department of the U.S. Army) Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas, and went on to complete in that same year the Junior Officer Leadership Training Phase II. In 1986, she completed the U.S. Army’s Officer Advance Course Phase I.

Juanita volunteered for the Parish Nurse program serving from 2001 to 2006 at the Center of Hope Church and from 2005 to 2008 at the Glory Center International Church both in Champaign. And she was inducted into The American National Red Cross in 1975.

Juanita’s most memorable moment “…was when I had the opportunity to follow my assigned Obstetrics patient into the labor room to witness the birth of a live, healthy baby boy! Unforgettable – even though it was early in the morning at Carle Hospital!”
William Patterson, Ph.D
Professor in College of Engineering in the Technology Entrepreneurship Center and School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
Major: Communications
Classes: 1985-1986

William Patterson said that “My goal was to attend Parkland to reset my academic experience and to learn how to write proficiently at the higher education level. I knew if I could learn that skill, it would be a passport to more opportunity.” Dr. Patterson received a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Illinois State University in 1994.  Prior to attending Illinois State, Dr. Patterson lived in Chicago and completed a degree in Radio Broadcast/Communications from Columbia College in 1990. Dr. Patterson and another Champaign-Urbana native, Darrell Roberts, launched the first Hip Hop Show at Columbia College in 1986 called “The Serious Jam Attack.”  “Our idea to do the radio show was based on the Hip Hop shows we heard on Parkland’s Radio Station, WPCD.”  During his time at Columbia, he interviewed ICE T, NWA, Gangstarr, Big Daddy Kane, Sir Mix A lot, 2 Live Crew, and Luke Skywalker,  

Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Dr. Patterson was a Traffic Reporter at Shadow Traffic in Chicago, a producer of the Joe Bohannon Show on WBBM, and a Sales Intern at WGCI.  “When I look back on my career I recall a lesson of my communications professor at Parkland, Ed Kelly. He said; if you want to make money in radio or television, go into sales.  At the time I thought that was boring, however, when I was at WGCI, they were grooming me to be a sales rep.  I didn’t have the confidence at the time to do sales, plus I enjoyed being a broadcaster.   In the sales department at WGCI, I was writing commercial scripts that were on the air, and learned how to conduct recording sessions for jingles.  If I had applied the wisdom of Ed Kelly during those early years, there is no doubt I would own radio stations at this stage of my life.  Parkland had the connection.”

As a professor at the University of Illinois his current focus is build engineering scholarship with a foundation in Hip Hop culture. The courses William has developed include Decoding Dr. Dre, Hip Hop Entrepreneurship, and Hip Hop Informatics. Students from a multitude of disciplines take his courses to learn how to build technology and marketing strategies that utilize the ingenuity that is practiced in urban communities around the country.  “Dr. Dre built his company and sold it for 3 billion dollars to Apple based on his lived and professional experiences in Hip Hop, there is much to learn about how that happened.”

Recently William partnered with several colleagues to launch Ghetto Genius, an innovative STEM engineering project development company that focuses on creating processes and products by connecting engineering with culture. The philosophy that drives the company is “How do we make it Hip Hop?” In partnership with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, TEN80 Education, and Hobbico, they teach young people engineering principles to solve problems. “We’ve been fortunate to work with Hobbico, TEN80 Education, and the local school districts to build projects that use audio and RC technology to teach STEM in a fun and exciting way.”  To become a Project Engineer or volunteer, please email Dr. Patterson at wmpatter@gmail.com.

William is married to Lori Patterson, Parkland’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year, and together they have three children.

The most memorable part of Parkland for William was the radio station and Writing Lab. “It was an exceptional space and my tutor, Gretchen Grove was the best. She showed and taught me how smart I was. I owe so much of my success to Parkland.”
Donna McGuire Pepper
Owner/Operator, One Week Boutique, Inc., Champaign, Illinois
Associate in Arts
Major: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Class: 1990

Donna Pepper said that she never planned on being an entrepreneur, but the skills she learned at Parkland College gave her the basis of what she uses daily as owner and operator of One Week Boutique.

A graduate of Urbana High School, Donna started taking classes at Parkland in the evenings after work. Eventually she became a full-time student during the day and after graduating from Parkland, she transferred to the University of Illinois eventually earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Park & Recreation Management.

After college, Donna worked for the Peoria Park District and University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, Illinois, and then started her own business, “Rooms Renewed,” in Oklahoma from 2002 to 2006. In 2004 she started another company, One Week Boutique, Inc. in Champaign, Illinois. The One Week Boutique is the largest children’s consignment sale of its kind in the state of Illinois and just completed its 29th sale at the end of September. During a one week period, twice a year, the sales event has 400 consignors and 3,000 shopping customers. In 2005, Donna also started a similar sales event, Just Between Friends, Inc., as owner and operator in Oklahoma. She sold Just Between Friends when she and her family relocated to Michigan.

Donna’s most memorable moment was “My favorite class at Parkland was Interpersonal Communication taught by Kent Redmon. This class was invaluable during college but especially valuable as a business owner in dealing with staff, customers, media, and other business associates.”
Jason Pethtel
Matte Painting Compositor
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Digital Media
Class: 2012

Originally from Robinson, Illinois, Jason works as a matte painting compositor at DreamWorks. He enjoys creating believable environments for film, TV, and games through the use of paint, 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and compositing.

Jason is most proud of seeing his name in the credits for movies; working on a World of Warcraft cinematic; and matte painting for the popular Game of Thrones television series. In fact, Jason worked on the visual effects team that won a 2015 Emmy for the Game of Thrones episode, "The Dance of Dragons."

"I planned to go to Chicago for training in 3D art and design until I learned that Parkland offered a Digital Media Program—and one that was pretty good at that," Jason explains. "Parkland gave me an affordable boost into 3D art without life-altering debt, and the energized environment of a small, adaptable program. I made good friends and developed important skills." In addition to lower tuition and class size, Jason says he appreciated the friendliness of the Parkland staff.

After Parkland, Jason earned a position as matte painting technical director with LA's Rhythm & Hues Studios. He has since worked with several additional studios, including Blizzard Entertainment, Blur Studio, Mirada Studios, and Method Studios, and he has performed freelance TV and commercial work.

Jason's most memorable moment at Parkland "was any one of the random conversations and critiques in Alex Jerez's rendering class. We had great camaraderie in the Digital Media program."

(photo credit: Beth A. Pethtel)
Darrin Peters
Founder and President, Midwest Underground Technology, Inc. (MUTI)
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Agricultural Business Management
Class: 1996

Putting more than a decade of talent and hard work into the wireless telecommunications industry, Darrin Peters has seen the fruit of his creative, energetic, and entrepreneurial labor, making him a well-deserved recipient of Parkland's 2011 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Mr. Peters is founder of Midwest Underground Technology, Inc. (MUTI) of which he sold to Sabre Industries in June of 2013, he remains employed by Sabre/MUTI as President of Business Development of the Telecom Group. Mr. Peters and MUTI have been recognized by INC Magazine as one of America's Fastest Growing private companies from 2007 through 2013. He is also co-founder and CEO of Illini Fire Service, LLC; President and CEO of Vertical Tower Partners, LLC; CEO of DLTT, LLC; and President of Mid-Central Ag, LLC.

Mr. Peters has worked the past 15 years to aid the telecommunications industry as a whole thru his support of NATE, TIA, OSHA, ANSI, and the TIRAP program. TIRAP (Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program) is a highlight of this support, working to forge a joint venture apprenticeship program between the US DOL and the telecommunications industry. In addition, Mr. Peters developed and authored a specialized industry related site inspection software program. "SITE" is currently utilized by several major telecommunications companies across the United States to manage their assets and to mitigate the risk associated with the management of these assets. Throughout his professional career, Mr. Peters has worked both domestically and internationally, supporting many Fortune 500 companies.  

Mr. Peters is a graduate of Gibson City Melvin Sibley High School and earned a degree in agricultural business management from Parkland College in 1996. He and his family presently live in Mahomet, Illinois, where they are active in outdoor sports and in civic and community volunteer service organizations.

Darrin most memorable moment at Parkland was "being taught by and working with the professors in the Agri-business program, high quality program that instilled great values."
Julie Pioletti
Office Administrator, Division of Intercollegiate Athletics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
General Studies
Classes between 1985 – 2003

Hundreds of University of Illinois student-athletes’ lives have been touched by Julie Pioletti. A 32-year UIUC employee, Julie has spent the latter half of those years devotedly mentoring and guiding students as an office administrator in the school’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Julie works primarily with the university’s Basketball coaching staff, providing administrative supervision of its daily activities and serving as the campus and community liaison for its head coach. Along with the director of basketball operations, she also coordinates the administration of Summer Camp employees, including corresponding with prospective coaches and officials.

She uses her organizational talents as a volunteer for the Coaches vs. Cancer/American Cancer Society dinner and auction. During this major fundraiser, Julie handles such arrangements as securing sponsors, selling advance tickets, working out the venue details, and assisting at the event.

Julie appreciates the important role Parkland College has played in her rewarding career.

“When I graduated from high school, I had a job in sales but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” she says. “After taking some general education courses at Parkland, I started working at the University of Illinois. I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to take classes and go back at different times for more classes that have helped me along the way. Getting an education is so important. Parkland is affordable and has options for financial aid so that everyone should be able to get an education!”
Sandra Reifsteck
Retired from Institute for Healthcare Communication
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Nursing
Class: 1970

Sandy came to Parkland in 1968 to begin what would become a total of 35 years in the nursing profession. Sandy began her career at Carle Clinic shortly after graduating from Parkland College's Nursing department's first class in 1970. This start allowed her to complete a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Illinois over the next 10 years.

She served as the Parkland class's first president and she became the first director of nursing at Carle Clinic in Champaign, enabling her to be an associate administrator of the Carle Clinic Association. In this role, she led the inclusion of nursing services throughout the clinic to a previously unmatched level, from 240 employees to more than 1,200. Her leadership was also instrumental in initially developing the Advanced Practice Nursing role at Carle, the Community Parish Nurse Program sponsored by Carle Foundation, and the Branch System for the Carle organization.

She is a founding member, past president, and lifetime member of the 41-year-old American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing; was a fellow in the American College of Medical Group Practice Executives; served as president of the Midwest Section Medical Group Management Association; and chairman of the National Board of Directors of the MGMA in 1995 and 1996. She received the Harry J. Harwick Outstanding Administrator Award from the American College of Medical Practice Executives and was a 1999 Illinois Community College Trustees Association Distinguished Alumnus Award nominee. She served and was past president of the Alumni Association Board at Parkland and is a Parkland College Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient.

The last 17 years she has been with the Institute for Healthcare Communication as director of outreach and development and is a Master Trainer though out the U.S. and Canada. She retired in April 2016.

Sandy's most memorable moment at Parkland is “waiting in line to register at the makeshift Parkland College situated across downtown Champaign in 1968 and realizing how fortunate to be able to go to college and fulfill my goal of being a nurse with three young children. I now compare that to walking into the current Parkland College facilities…who would have thought in 50 years a community would be so blessed?”
Dennis Riggs
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Engineering Science/Electronics Engineering
Class: 1977

A fourth-generation Champaign County farmer, Dennis is the first recipient of the Parkland College Distinguished Alumnus Award.  As a student, Dennis helped develop a program within the Parkland Electronics curriculum for visually impaired students. After graduation, he taught computer classes and helped start Parkland's Agricultural Training Institute in 1995.   

The 2007 News-Gazette Farm Leader of the Year, Dennis has served on the board of the Champaign County Farm Bureau. He currently serves on the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and the CU in the Morning Networking Group (past president), among others. He is co-founder of the Prairie iNet wireless broadband internet company, helped implement the Rural House Numbering System for Champaign County, and helped develop a Farm Bureau policy that initiated yellow gas caps on E-85 vehicles nationwide. He also served on the Parkland College Foundation Board of Directors in the mid-1990s.

Former host of a local cable TV program "Champaign County Agriculture Today," Dennis is a recipient of the Public Relations Society's Silver Anvil award for his role during the first Farm Aid program in Champaign. Locally, he is a Heritage High School FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer.
Dennis's most memorable moment at Parkland was "when I was honored and nominated for the Distinguished Alumnus Award. I was on stage and asked to say a few words to the graduates. I remembered thinking of this great opportunity to share my years of successful life experiences, and how could I get across that the Parkland education these students had received, could guide and direct them for the rest of their lives."
Philip Russell, Ph.D.
Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, California
Major: Business Administration
Classes at Parkland 1972 to 1981

A 1971 graduate of Champaign Central High School, Dr. Russell worked for a few years at Capital Record Club before enrolling in the summer of 1973 at Parkland College in downtown Champaign. That fall, he became a full-time student attending classes on the new Parkland College campus that had been completed.

While he attended Parkland, he worked part-time at the American National Bank and Kraft Foods. In 1975, Dr. Russell secured a full-time position in quality control at Kraft where he worked until 1979 when he moved to San Diego.

In 1987 Dr. Russell left San Diego and went to work in Yosemite National Park in hotel guest services. He spends his free time hiking, reading, taking photographs, traveling, taking courses online, and working on his second book – a coffee table picture book of Yosemite. His first book, Yosemite Memoirs, was published in 2010.

Dr. Russell has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, a Master’s degree in Management, and a Doctorate in Business, all through distance learning from Pacific Western University while living and working in Yosemite,

He says “The Ed2go program, offered through Parkland and many schools, is a very important part of my lifelong learning program. There, I can complete courses that I truly enjoy, in writing, editing, publishing, photography, social media, etc.”

Dr. Russell’s most memorable moment is “when I learned that I could apply what I was learning in my business and accounting areas to banking. My courses at Parkland, along with the Ed2go online program, are the most utilized courses that I’ve ever taken.”
Todd Short
Police Lieutenant/Emergency Management Bureau, U of I Police Department
Degree: Associate in Arts and Applied Science
Major: Liberal Arts & Sciences and Criminal Justice
Class: 1993 and 1999
Although Todd Short has been a sworn police officer since 2000 and has instructed on many topics since 1995 while affiliated with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, he has spent the last 12 years specializing in emergency management- and terrorism-related topics. He is currently teaching courses addressing campus response to critical incidents as well as awareness and operational-level performance for various disciplines who may respond to a weapon of mass destruction incident.

Currently, Todd is a police lieutenant, leading the Emergency Management Bureau for the University of Illinois Police Department. In addition, he is an adjunct faculty member at Louisiana State University's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, where he teaches emergency management and response to first responders throughout the world. As of 2016, he has trained over 2,500 faculty, staff, students and other interagency partners in emergency preparedness and incident management so the campus community and Champaign County would be better prepared to mitigate the effects of any emergency.

Some of the awards and recognition Todd has received include Police Chief's Award (Terrorism Training), 2004; Crisis Intervention Team Officer/Outstanding Citizen Award, 2004; Police Officer of the Year Nominee, 2005; and Chancellor's Distinguished Staff Award, 2008. Todd also assisted with writing Module #6 (Recovery) for the Louisiana State University course, Executive Seminar, Prevention Of, Response To, and Recovery From Campus Emergencies, a course certified by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium in 2008.

Todd's most memorable moment at Parkland was "my professors who deeply cared about my academic progress and taught me to prepare myself academically and professionally for my interests after I graduated."
Audra Thomas
Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine, Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, Illinois
Associate in Applied Science
Major: General Studies
Class: 1989

After graduating from Parkland in 1989, Audra attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology in 1991 as well as an M.D. in 1996. She completed her residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and remarked, “Being at Harbor gave me an experience that one gets only at a county hospital in one of the biggest urban centers in the country. The Spanish I learned from my Lithuanian Spanish teacher at Parkland served me well as 75% of the patients spoke Spanish only.”

Since medical school, she and her husband Joe – also a Parkland Notable Alumni – lived in different locations while he finished his PhD and started his career as a professor of Christian History. During that time, Audra was the EMS Co-Director and Attending Physician at Infinity Health Care in Wisconsin; Attending Physician at EmCare, Inc. in Pennsylvania; Attending Physician at Grandview Hospital in Pennsylvania; Attending Physician at Heartland Emergency Specialist, LLC in Bloomington, Illinois; and is currently the Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine at Carle Foundation Hospital as well as a Clinical Instructor for the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Urbana. At Carle, Audra is actively involved in maintaining excellence in stroke care, recruiting new physicians to Carle, and quality review and teaching medical students at the bedside.

Audra is a volunteer at Judah Christian School in a variety of roles and is active in her church, including a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic to serve the Haitians living in the Batey area.  She is also involved with CU at Home, a mission to the homeless.

Audra’s recalls her time at Parkland as “…one of significant growth both in scholarship and personally.  I had no idea how significantly my life would change in the future as I moved from LA to Philadelphia and back again.  Parkland was a great first step in preparing me for the challenges that were ahead.”
Joseph L. Thomas, PhD
Assistant Professor of History of Christianity, Urbana Theological Seminary,
           Champaign, Illinois
Degree: Associate in Applied Science
Major: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Class: 1985

Joseph Thomas said he was “completely directionless” when he came to Parkland College in 1982. At the end of his first year, he switched his educational emphasis from business to the study of history, philosophy, and literature. He remarked that it was the start of his journey to become a professional historian and teacher and he graduated from Parkland in 1985 with an Associate in Arts.

Joe continued his education earning a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1988 from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois; a Master of Arts in Theology in 1999 from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California; and finally a PhD in Christian History and Historical Theology in 2005 from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Joe is currently an Assistant Professor of History of Christianity at Urbana Theological Seminary in Champaign, Illinois.

Other notable accomplishments for Joe include being author of a Perfect Harmony: Interracial Churches in Early Holiness-Pentecostalism, 1880-1909, Emeth Press, 2014; history consultant for The Torchlighters Series, a children’s history animation series that is the winner of 25 film awards and produced by the Christian History Institute; history consultant for the creation of a Christian History Tour in Switzerland for American travelers in 2007; and Executive Director for the New Judah Christian School Project – helping to raise $5 million dollars for the “Gene A. Salmon Field of Dreams,” the new Judah Christian School athletic complex in Champaign, Illinois.

Joe’s most memorable moment at Parkland, “…occurred the first semester of my second year. Parkland’s openness to the marketplace of ideas allowed Christian ministry groups to operate freely on campus. It was at Parkland that I read the New Testament for the first time and eventually affirmed the Christian faith. For over 30 years I have been researching, writing, teaching, and creating stories about the men and women who make up the story of Christianity. I am forever grateful that Parkland provided the space for me to find my educational and life footing.”
Jennifer R. Tobeck
Human Resources Manager, SUPERVALU, Champaign, Illinois
Degree:  Associate of Applied Science
Major: Business
Class: 1991

After graduating from Parkland College in 1991, Jenny Tobeck continued her education at Franklin University in Ohio, earning a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration in 2003.  

During her professional career, both after Parkland and after Franklin University, she has worked for The Downey Group; Rantoul City Schools, District #137; Provena Covenant Medical Center; and Vesuvius USA. She started her Human Resources career, first with Vesuvius in 2003, and then as an HR Generalist with SUPERVALU in 2004. Since 2010 Jenny has been the Manager of the Human Resources department at SUPERVALU.

She and her husband, Paul – also a Parkland Alumni – grew up in the Champaign area and have lived and been involved with Parkland, either with furthering their education or connecting through their jobs, their entire adult lives. They will be married 25 years this spring and have two children.

Over the years, Jenny has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters;  Fellowship of Christian Athletes; the Girl Scouts; a member of the local Toastmasters group; and Chirg, a local Human Resources organization.
Jenny’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…learning that I was actually quite good at math and finding that the instructors brought out that knowledge in such a constructive and supportive manner. It was a huge push for me to get more advanced knowledge within as many math classes as I could. Parkland instructors took an average math student in high school to a college student who took statistics, linear algebra, business calculus, and anything else I could because I loved it.”
Thomas H. Tracy
President and Chief Executive Officer, Farm Credit Illinois, Mahomet, Illinois
Coursework in preparation for MBA
Classes at Parkland from 1997 to 1999

Tom actually first came to Parkland as an elementary student enrolled in the summer College for Kids program at Parkland. However it would be after earning his Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management at Southern Illinois University in 1992 that he came back to Parkland looking for assistance in entering the MBA program at Eastern Illinois University. The staff at Parkland helped Tom, who was working full-time, to identify undergraduate course work that he still needed. He enrolled in those courses at Parkland around his work schedule and completed his Master in Business Administration from Eastern Illinois University in 2001.

After earning his degrees, Tom was President and Founder of Tracy Real Estate 1997-2000; President and Co-Founder of Schmidt-Tracy Inc. 2000-2007; Vice President, Commercial/Correspondent Banking at Busey Bank 2000-2007; Chief Credit Officer and Senior Lender, in addition to being a member of the Board of Directors, at First Bank and Trust 2007 to 2009; and Senior Vice President and finally President and Chief Executive Officer at Farm Credit Illinois from 2009 to present.
Tom is a member of the University of Illinois College of ACES Advisory board; was a member of the Board of Directors of Champaign County YMCA from 2005-2009, a member of the Board of Directors of Champaign County Community Development Corp from 1995 to 1998 and served as President from 1999-2000; and is affiliated with United Way and CU Habitat for Humanity.

Tom’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…how helpful the Parkland administrative staff were in helping me to prepare a plan to obtain an MBA. We were able to come up with a plan that met my needs working full-time and prepared me to enter the MBA program (at EIU) in a little over a year.”
Joshua M. Trout, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Chico, California
Major: Physical Education
Classes at Parkland 1994-1997

To help with college expenses, Josh served in the Army National Guard from 1992 to 1998, reaching the rank of Sergeant. After attending Parkland where Josh studied Physical Education, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois in 1998, a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Illinois in 2001, and a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois in 2004.

Josh’s professional experience includes being an Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Illinois from 2001 to 2003; an instructor at Parkland College from 2000 to 2003; a Personal Trainer, In Motion Fitness, Chico, CA, from 2009 to 2011; director of the Chico Bodybuilding Contest from 2007 to 2014; a professor at California State University, Chico, CA, from 2003 to the present; and as Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Chico, CA, from 2014 to the present.

In 2011, Josh received the Exemplary Online Instruction Award from the President and Provost at California State University.  His scholarship focuses on promoting health through lifetime physical activity with an emphasis on the use of technology in physical education settings. He has an impressive list of publications and presentations across the country as well as overseas. In addition, he is a member of the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; and is a member of the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

Josh’s most memorable moment at Parkland is “enrolling in a 7 a.m. Algebra course and being committed to never being late! I also fondly remember working in the fitness center and helping people learn about exercise. This likely sparked my interest in exercise and fitness. I’m so grateful for Brooke Estabrooke, Connie Richardson, and Tim Wulf (faculty at the time) who gave me a chance to work there and helped me so much along the way.”
Judy Weber-Jones
Retired, teacher and coach, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley School District (GCMS CUSD#5), Gibson City, Illinois
Associate in Science
Major: Physical Education

Judy said her Parkland instructor, “Lynette Trout had such a passion for women’s sports. She is the reason I went to Parkland College and into teaching/coaching. She inspired me to start high school fast pitch softball programs at Melvin-Sibley and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.”

After completing her degree at Parkland in 1981, Judy continued her education getting a both a Bachelor of Science, 1983, and Master of Science, 1990, from Eastern Illinois University.

Now, after 31 years teaching Health, Driver Education, elementary and high school Physical Education, and high school coaching in varsity volleyball, basketball, softball, and golf with the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley School District, Judy retired this past May.

She earned many, many awards and recognition during her teaching career, the most recent include receiving the highest award a driver education teacher can receive, the 2016 ADTSEA (American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association) Teacher Excellence Award - only teacher in Illinois to ever receive this award; 2016 IEA (Illinois Education Association) Friends and Advocate Award for GCMS CUSD#5; 2016 IHSCDEA (Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association) Teacher of the Year Award; 2012 General Motors National Safety Council Teen Driving Safety Leadership Award; and IHSCDEA Hall of Fame in 2007.

Under her leadership in Driver’s Education for the Gibson City School District, (www.gcmsprojectignition.weebly.com) the program received numerous awards including 2014 and 2015 Operation Teen Safe Driving 1st Place in Springfield, IL (which no Illinois school has received twice); 2011 National Leader School in Traffic Safety Project Ignition; 2010 National Leader for Best Impact on Teen Driver Safety Award; 2008 Rural Youth Traffic Safety 1st Place in country presentation and awards ceremony at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C; and 2006 Project Ignition National Champion “Best of Best” in Philadelphia, PA (GCMS teen safe driving program received $10,000 for 1st place in the country.) These are just a few among a multitude of others throughout the years.

Judy’s most memorable moment at Parkland was “…being selected Most Valuable Player and First Team All-Conference in 1981 for Mike Marlow’s softball team. Attending Parkland College was the best decision I ever made.”
Jennipher Wilson
President, Vital Education and Supply, Inc., Champaign, Illinois
Associate in Arts
Major: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Class: 2008

Jennipher enrolled at Parkland for three reasons: no one in her family had graduated from any college, she wanted to be a college role model for her daughter, and she was still trying to figure out what to do with her life. “Taking classes at Parkland opened me up to a world that was somewhat closed to me before. Succeeding at Parkland gave me confidence to try new things and spread my wings to explore new and exotic places; in and out of the United States,” she said.

While at Parkland, Jennipher was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, winner of the 2007 Parkland College Illinois Community College Trustees Association Paul Simon Essay Contest, and Graduated with Honors in 2007.

With almost 20 years in the healthcare industry, she has had many responsibilities including emergency and clinical patient care, teaching of emergency and clinical patient care, social work, sales, and marketing.

Since 2006, Jennipher has been President and owner of Vital Education and Supply, Inc., which is a distribution house for Philips Resuscitation products, such as defibrillators and monitors, and one of the area’s leading resources for CPR and First Aid training. Her company now carries equipment to support the area’s emergency response teams and first aid supplies for occupational health and industrial response.

Some of her specialties include Pre-hospital, emergency medicine; Pre-hospital defibrillation (professional and layperson); American Heart Association CPR and First Aid Instructor and Training Center faculty; OSHA Standard 1910.1030, Bloodborne Pathogens; OSHA Standard 1910.151, Medical First Aid; and Pet Tech CPR/First Aid Instructor. In addition, she has a very long list of skills and expertise, most of which she has over twenty years of experience.

In addition to her work with her company, Jennipher is a board member at Illinois EMT Association since March 2012; she is a past board member of the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce from 2012 to 2014; a past client consultant for maternal child and health at Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department from 2001 to 2006; and a former EMT at PRO Ambulance from 1996 to 2002.

Jennipher’s most memorable moment at Parkland is “cherishing the day I got to walk across the stage to receive my diploma. All that hard work paid off! And, I’ve found purpose in my life. I am President of my own company, a business that I’m passionate about, providing training and equipment to help save lives.”
Yusak Desyanto
Segment Producer at CBN Indonesia
Associate in Applied Science
Major: Mass Communication/Media Studies
Class: 2011
Yusak started at CBN Indonesia in July 2011 as a Researcher and became Segment Producer in 2012. At CBN, he works with a large team of people and collaborates with influential people in Indonesia such as ministers, government officials, intellects, athletes, and artists. He has six years’ of experience working at a TV station, including his Internship at WILL-TV at the University of Illinois.

 In 2014, Yusak received the CBN International Award for Excellence in recognition of outstanding performance, demonstrating innovation, integrity, and excellence, from CBN International.

Yusak came to Parkland College through The Community College Initiative Program that equips students with technical proficiency in their field of study, employable skills, and leadership expertise to advance their country’s development and promote mutual understanding between cultures. While studying at Parkland, Yusak was named to the Parkland College Dean's List in the spring semester of 2011 and was a member of the International Student Association, the Parkland College Fellowship Club, International Friendship Link, the Champaign County Church Sports League in softball, and Gamelan Community of World Music. Yusak also volunteered for the Champaign Park District, Parkland College Asian American Association, University YMCA, Vineyard Church, Holt International, Christie Clinic Marathon, and Roger Ebert’s Film Festival.

His most memorable moment at Parkland “was joining communities, clubs and organizations that encouraged me to learn a lot about other cultures and ideas. I really enjoyed the time and loved the friendly campus environment and helpful staff at Parkland. I also worked with a great Project Coordinator, Susan Short, who assisted me in adjusting to a new culture and educational system. Parkland College truly equipped me with skills I use in my career and I look forward to visiting the Parkland campus again.”

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