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Alumnus Award Recipients

2015-2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient


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.”

2014-2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient

Parkland is proud to confer its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus title on the Honorable Charles Smith, Mayor of the Village of Rantoul, Illinois. Having served this northern Champaign County community for more than a decade as a village trustee, Mayor Smith took the helm of the village in 2013, where he directs budgetary planning and facilitates economic development for the area. During his 14 years of village leadership, Mr. Smith, himself an Air Force veteran, was a voice of support to U.S. soldiers fighting the Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom campaigns, addressing more than 35,000 military personnel at public speaking events.

Our outstanding alumnus earned Parkland College Associate in Applied Science degrees in Food Distribution and Marketing Mid-Management between 1972 and 1977. A lifelong learner, Mr. Smith went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University in 2007, where he was a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda honor society.

Besides his service in village government, Mr. Smith served seven years as Senior TRICARE Community Representative and Provider Relations liaison for Health Net Federal Services, a contractor for the Department of Defense. In this role, he provided training for physicians, nurses, and office staff regarding medical claims, operational policies, and reimbursement coding procedures. He also worked as a senior account executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois from 1998 to 2004.

Mr. Smith and his wife, Linda Schluter-Smith, have three children, Michael Smith, Christine DeBeau, and Jana Dalton.

My most memorable moment at Parkland was the day that I was asked to join the Parkland College affiliate faculty by the Department chair of Bus-Agriculture.

2013-2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
Local entrepreneur Jeffrey Hettler combines a drive for excellence with the desire to serve. In an unassuming yet generous manner, he has shown longtime dedication not only to producing outstanding work professionally, but also to giving back, both to his community and to Parkland College. It is for this dedication that we proudly name him our 2014 Distinguished Alumnus.

After graduating from Parkland in 1982 with an associate’s degree in business administration, Mr. Hettler went on to earn the 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.

Our Distinguished Alumnus gives back to his community by helping to feed its members in greatest need. Mr. Hettler 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 grades education.

Parkland College and its students also benefit from Mr. Hettler’s support. He has served as past president of the college’s Alumni Association and currently serves as a board member. 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 dedicates a portion of sales at IGA stores to provide scholarships to deserving Parkland students.

Mr. Hettler is a member of the American Marketing Association and Independent Food Broker Associations.

2012-2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
A native of Champaign, Mark Pelafos loved cars at a young age, from the go-karts he used to ride in the neighborhood as a kid to the collector cars he owns today. It was no wonder he would follow his passion and become involved in the automotive industry.

Mark studied Business Administration at Parkland. Upon completing his studies in 1983, he joined the Worden-Martin Automotive team as salesperson. His keen ability to relate to people and his knowledge of the products he was selling made him successful in his career. Over the next 30 years he advanced in the company and now holds the title of Chief Operating Officer for the business that operates seven automotive franchises, (Buick, GMC, Ford, Lincoln, Subaru, and Nissan locally and Chevrolet in Tilton, IL) and employs 240 people.

He is a graduate of the National Automotive Dealer Academy, participated in Dealer 20 Groups, and is versed in all aspects of running automotive dealerships.

In addition to his work schedule, he serves on the board of Bank Champaign, Parkland College Alumni Association and has been on the School Board and Marketing committees for his kids’ school. He and his wife, Diane have two children, Allie and John.
our membership.

2011-2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
With loyalty to his native roots and a commitment to excellence in the medical field, Dr. Stuart King holds an impressive track record of service in east central Illinois and beyond.  A specialist in painful disorders of the spine and back, Dr. King has practiced medicine at Christie Clinic in Champaign since 2006, where he is former head of both the Anesthesiology & Ambulatory Surgery unit and the Department of Spine and Pain Management.  He is also a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine and a past chair of Anesthesiology for Gibson Area Hospital in Gibson City, Illinois.

This outstanding Parkland College alumnus (Associate in Arts, 1987) and Champaign native attended the University of Illinois, earning Bachelor of Science (1990), Doctor of Medicine (1995), and MBA (2010) degrees.  He served a doctoral residency in general surgery at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (1996-1997) and a doctoral residency in anesthesiology and pain at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (1997-1999).  Additionally, he holds a medical license with the state of South Carolina, having practiced at the McLeod Regional Medical Center (Florence, SX) from 1999 to 2005.

Dr. King served in the US Army Medical Corps until March 2012, having obtained the rank of major.  He has a commercial pilot’s license as well as a prolific lecturer on advances in pain intervention, with publications in the Journal of Military Medicine and  the  Annals of Internal Medicine, among others.  He is a Fellow of Intervention Pain Practice; a Diplomate of the  American Board of Pain Medicine and the American Board of Anesthesiology; and an affiliate in several national medical societies for anesthesiology and pain treatment.  Locally, Dr. King serves as a board member of the Christie Cline Board, the Charles W. Christie Foundation Board, the Carle Foundation Board, the Provena Foundation Board, and the University of Illinois MBA Advisory Board.  He is a former board member of the Champaign County Medical Society.  He is an avid Illini fan and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

2010-2011 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
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 and president of Midwest Underground Technology, Inc. (MUTI), recognized by INC Magazine as one of America’s fastest growing private companies for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.  He is also co-founder and CEO of CITCA, LLC; president and CEO of Vertical Tower Partners, LLC; and co-founder and vice president of Sky Enterprise, Inc.

Throughout his professional career, Mr. Peters’s adept service in domestic and international telecommunications has supported numerous Fortune 500 companies.  He developed and authored the premier industry-related site inspection software program being used by major telecommunications companies across the nation, and he pioneered innovative methods and procedures that have improved efficiencies in telecommunication tower construction and maintenance.  He is a strong advocate and practitioner of mandatory company-wide superior safety and health programs for all employees.

Mr. Peters 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.

2009-2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
Taking a county sheriff’s advice to enroll at Parkland College, Kris Fitzpatrick (’75, A.A.s., Criminal Justice) 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.

Now in her third year as director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, Fitzpatrick leads 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), of which she is a member.  Fitzpatrick is 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 is a frequent presenter 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).

2008-2009 Outstanding Alumnus Award Recipient
Community service and volunteerism form the hallmark of Sandra Reifsteck’s stellar career.  An administrator for The Communication Training Group, a healthcare consulting agency, Reifsteck (’70, A.A.S., Nursing) spent 28 years as an administrator with Carle Clinic, including as vice president of Nursing and Professional Services.  She is currently an adjunct clinical associate with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Medicine and serves as regional consultant for the Institute for Healthcare Communication.

Reifsteck’s service within her professional includes roles as chair of the Medical Group Management Association’s board of directors (1996); past president of the American Academy of Ambulatory Nursing; and parish nurse coordinator for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Champaign.  A prolific author in health care journals, Reifsteck is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives.  Other honors include the national Harry A. Hartwick Outstanding Administrator Award and the UIUC College of Nursing Sage Award.

Reifsteck was a member of the first nursing graduating class at Parkland College, going on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively.  A former Parkland College Foundation Board member and Parkland College Alumni Association president, Reifsteck is also a 30-year member of the American Nurses Association.  Carle Clinic and Carle Foundation Hospital established the Sandra W. Reifsteck Nursing Scholarship in 1998 to honor her years of service. 

2007-2008 Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient
Farmer and Sidney small business owner Dennis Riggs (’77, AAS, Engineering Science/Electronics Engineering) is a Parkland College alumnus with impressive civic involvement, business savvy, and community service.  The 2008 News-Gazette Farm Leader of the Year, Riggs serves on the boards of the Champaign County Farm Bureau, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce (past president), and the CU in the Morning Networking Group (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 national Farm Bureau policy supporting yellow gas caps on E-85 vehicles.

Through his illustrious service on the Parkland Foundation Board of Directors in the mid-1990s, Riggs helped develop both a program within the Parkland Electronics curriculum for visually impaired students and the college’s Agricultural Training Institute (1995).  Host of the cable TV program “Champaign County Agriculture Today,” Riggs is a recipient of the Public Relations Society’s Silver Anvil award and is a Heritage FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer.  He volunteers for numerous civic organizations including the Broadlands/Longview Fire Protection District and the Sidney Lions Club and is an on-farm host for Earth Partners, where he provides agriculture informational tours to school children.

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