COD Honors 2016 Class of Distinguished Alumni
By Brian Kleemann
The College of DuPage Foundation recently honored 10 alumni for their outstanding achievements during the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception.
Honored for their accomplishments are Matthew Bonnan, Jimmy Ray Elliott, Linda C. Feltman, Hashem Helmi, Janice Dacanay Miller, Andrew Ouderkirk, Laz Perez, Mark Pfefferman and Dr. Roy Karl Werner. A new designation, the Outstanding Recent Alumna, honors alumni from the past 15 years, and the inaugural recipient is Margaret Yancey. Click here for photos from the reception and click here to watch the ceremony.
As part of the award, each honoree meets with and nurtures the educational growth of students. For more information about the awards or to nominate someone for the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award, visit alumni.cod.edu/distinguished-alumni.
Matthew Bonnan, Earth Science, 1993
Since the age of 5, Matthew Bonnan has been fascinated by dinosaurs and animal anatomy. This passion for science led Bonnan to pursue an Associate in Science in Earth Science at College of DuPage, a bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University. After earning his Ph.D., he was appointed assistant professor of biological sciences at Western Illinois University and later promoted to associate professor. In 2012, Bonnan joined the faculty at Stockton University in New Jersey as associate professor of biology. He has mentored nine master’s students and has overseen nearly 40 undergraduates in a variety of research projects. As part of a team of scientists, Bonnan discovered and published on three new sauropodomorph dinosaurs that document the transition from small bipeds to larger quadrupeds during the Early Jurassic period. He has published 20 peer-reviewed articles on dinosaurs, reptiles, mammals and sharks, and most recently authored “The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton.” He maintains a website, The Evolving Paleontologist, that highlights research and science education.
“I attended College of DuPage for the same reasons that many students do – the cost. It turned out to be the most worthwhile investment of my life,” Bonnan said. “COD was a welcoming and nurturing environment where I had access to some of the finest professors who taught me during my academic career.”
Jimmy Ray Elliott, Journalism, 1977
Jimmy Ray Elliott left a lucrative career in media to launch a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization called Diveheart. His vision was to build confidence and independence in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the sport of scuba diving. Elliott was inspired to create Diveheart after teaching his blind daughter how to downhill ski. Elliott works full-time at the organization as president and does not draw a salary. He has worked with people with disabilities throughout the world, including China, Australia, Israel and the U.K., and has trained thousands of volunteers how to dive with individuals with disabilities. Elliott is a Rotary Club member and has been honored as the West Suburban Philanthropic Network Humanitarian of the Year and as a TED talks featured speaker.
“I learned how to scuba dive from Al Zamsky at College of DuPage, and I worked on the student newspaper. I never knew I’d end up joining my skills from journalism and scuba diving,” he said. “I view this award as a beginning because I want to work with COD students so they can have incredible experiences.”
Linda C. Feltman, Business and Languages, 1972
Linda Feltman has been recognized for her work with small businesses and service to the community. In 1979, three years after completing her bachelor’s degree in advertising at Penn State, Feltman was asked to be a principal in a manufacturing startup. That experience became the catalyst for nearly 40 years of involvement with small businesses and entrepreneurship. In 1982, Feltman started her own small business. After writing several books related to that experience, she sold her business in 2000, a year after she accepted a position at the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC). In 2005, Feltman began teaching a class in entrepreneurship for the Penn State College of Communications, receiving the Deans Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Affiliate in 2009 and 2016. Feltman helped Penn State grow its participation in Global Entrepreneurship Week, going from four events and 50 attendees to the No. 1 ranked partner in the U.S. In 2015, she engaged more than 5,000 faculty, staff, students and community members to be a part of the largest Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)in the history of Penn State.
“All of the people at COD made such a difference in my life,” she said. “If I had gone to a four-year college, I would have been buried. This place is exactly what I needed. I learned how to be a leader and to give back. If it had not been for COD, I’m not sure what I would have ended up doing.”
Hashem Helmi, Computer Science, 1983
Hashem Helmi came to College of DuPage to study computer science but returned to build his career. Helmi started as a lab supervisor in 1987 after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While working at COD, he continued to take classes, received his second associate’s degree and earned his master’s degree from Elmhurst College in Computer Networking Science. Helmi has served in the Classified Personnel Association, HAY Job Evaluation, Affirmative Action Committee and Community College Initiative Program. He has been a social host for the Community College Initiative (CCI) program for international students and is a point of contact on the multilingual employee list for many COD departments, helping students with the Persian/Farsi language. Outside COD, Helmi taught Persian language classes, served as a host for exchange students through Share America and helped at Irshad Learning Center, a nonprofit organization for religious and cultural activities.
“I’ve spent 38 years of my life at COD,” he said. “I especially thank (former College of DuPage President) Dr. Harold McAninch who helped me as a lonely international student. He stepped in and put me first because he always put students first. We are all here for that same reason: the students.”
Janice Dacanay Miller, Nursing, 1980
Janice Miller earned her doctorate degree in Adult Education from Northern Illinois University as well as her BSN and MSN degrees from St. Xavier University. Her dissertation focused on the use of preceptors in acute care nursing, and she uses her research to facilitate the transition into professional practice for COD graduates. She has worked as a maternal-child and hospice nurse – experiences and expertise that have served her students well in the classroom. As a young widow, Miller coordinated a support group for individuals who suffered the loss of a spouse. Miller has done mission work with Kenyan AIDS patients, assisted women needing help with their pregnancies and is an active leader in her church.
“I’ve been walking around this campus since I was 18,” she said. “My family moved to this area because College of DuPage has a great Nursing program, and I was never disappointed with my education here. I’ve been mentored in my career by wonderful nurse educators, and I’ve learned so much from my students as we’ve laughed and cried together.”
Andrew Ouderkirk, Chemistry, 1978
Earning his doctorate in Physical Chemistry from Northwestern University in 1983 and joining the 3M Corporation in 1999, Andrew Ouderkirk led the team that developed 3M’s Multiplayer Optical Film (MOF) used in smart phones, computer displays and more. Ouderkirk is one of the lead developers of the new Business Platform Architecture series taught to 3M technical employees and currently serves as a 3M advisor for Northwestern University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Research Experience for Undergraduates program. He has served on the advisory board of the Singapore National Research Foundation and the University of Southern California Center for Global Innovation. In 2005, he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering. In 2013, Andrew received the R&D Magazine Innovator of the Year Award. He has more than 95 U.S. patents and has completed more than 35 publications and presentations.
“When I came to College of DuPage, I took Organic Chemistry my first semester and got a ‘C.’ The more classes I took, the better my grades became,” he said. “I had a professor set up a project in synthetic chemistry for me, so I was doing high-level chemistry in a lab at COD because he knew I loved chemistry.”
Laz Perez, Criminal Justice, 1988
Laz Perez served 25 years in law enforcement and returned to COD in 2014 to teach police officers how to be successful. After Perez attended COD as a student, he went on to graduate from the Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command. Perez served as the program manager for the SLEA Basic Police Academy at COD until October 2016 and now serves as deputy chief in North Chicago. Prior to joining SLEA in 2014, Perez retired as chief of police of the West Chicago Police Department. Throughout his law enforcement career, he has served on several not-for-profit boards throughout DuPage County. He is a founding member of the DuPage Major Crimes Task Force, serving as an investigator, team leader, investigation commander and assistant task force commander. He uses his experience to guide and mentor police recruits as they begin their careers to protect and serve others.
“This award should go to the people who stood behind me,” he said. “My career really came from my family, the educators who gave me the foundation I received at College of DuPage and the great mentors that I had.”
Mark Pfefferman, Journalism, 1984
Mark Pfefferman’s career at TransUnion LLC includes being promoted 12 times in 24-plus years to his current role leading TU’s sales content and management strategy. He previously held positions in customer experience, change management, financial services, business intelligence and national accounts. Prior to TransUnion, Pfefferman worked at Marshall Fields where he advanced from running a small Bear’s Super Bowl boutique to managing a $20 million store in six years. He is active with civic activities, including leadership in the Village of Glen Ellyn, a former College of DuPage trustee, a current co-president of the Glenbard South High School Boosters with his wife, Martha, and board member for Anima/The Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus and the Glen Ellyn Historical Society. Pfefferman earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois and his Master of Business Administration from DePaul University.
“I learned about the College as a student, an employee and as a reporter, and then I was a Board member,” he said. “This award is uncomfortable for me in many ways, mostly because I’m always trying to promote COD in any way possible rather than the other way around.”
Dr. Roy Karl Werner, Biology, 1992
Dr. Roy Karl Werner serves as medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine and as EMS medical director for Community First Medical Center in Chicago. A member of COD’s 1987 NJCAA National Championship Ice Hockey team, Werner is an active volunteer in the sports community as both a medical professional and a coach. Werner provides volunteer concussion care and education to youth athletes and their families. He is developing an elite community rehabilitation clinic for mild traumatic brain injury, concussion care and recovery. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from Benedictine University, his Master of Science degree in Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry from Southern Illinois University and his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine. He helped to establish paramedical education in Saudi Arabia to improve pre-hospital care while he was at the University of Iowa.
“I came to COD to play hockey. I didn’t care about school,” he said. “In the end, I found there was a lot more to life than playing hockey, and the steps that I took here turned out to change my life.”
Margaret Yancey, Journalism, 2006
One of a select few to receive the prestigious 2015 Presidential Management Fellowship, Margaret Yancey works for the Department of Energy in its Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. Her focus on public service and interest in social issues, especially environmental issues, have led to career opportunities, including legislative assistant for a member of the Texas House of Representatives; legislative aide at McWilliams & Associates, the top grossing lobby firm in Texas; and water resources campaign coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. Known for her positive spirit and leadership, the former COD Forensics Team competitor made such an impression on her coaches they created The Maggie Award, named in her honor to recognize others who best exemplify team leadership. Yancey holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska. She serves on the COD Forensics Alumni Board and helped to create a mentoring program for speech team members.
“Coming to College of DuPage was a transformative part of my life,” she said. “I was surrounded by amazing friends, teachers and mentors who helped me grow. I am grateful to be part of the COD legacy.”
Caption: (Front, from left) Roy Karl Werner, Laz Perez, Matthew Bonnan, Andrew Ouderkirk, Hashem Helmi; (back) Mark Pfefferman, Janice Miller, Jimmy Ray Elliott, Linda Feltman, Margaret Yancey (Photo by Press Photography Network/Special to College of DuPage)
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