2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
- December 1, 2013
Congratulations to the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Engineering and Science Manager, Lockheed Martin
For David Coles, coming to Harper College marked the pivotal point in his education where he focused his goals and launched the beginning of what would become a successful 20-year career in electronics and engineering.
Coles enrolled at Harper for two semesters in 1983 and 1984 and took courses while he actively trained for the military. He credits a Harper electronics course as one of the contributing factors that enabled him to receive a position in Space Systems Maintenance with the United States Air Force.
"I remember sitting in front of a oscilloscope measuring amplitude on a waveform and exploring different circuit designs and just really loving every minute of the class. That course helped me achieve a very high score on the military entrance exam and begin with a higher rank starting out," he says, "Being able to train on Harper's track was also a big part of my preparedness for the physical test."
Coles is a 14-year veteran of the United States Air Force, where his engineering skills took him as a team lead across countries in six continents, including South America, South Africa, Australia and Alaska.
Coles later received his Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in manufacturing from Southern Illinois University and his MBA from University of Phoenix in Technology Management.
Since 2005, Coles has served as the Multifunctional Engineering and Science Manager for Lockheed Martin, where he has led the company in creating career development and mentorship opportunities. In the role, he manages projects valued up to $10 million and oversees a diverse team of engineers, support professionals, customer program managers and senior leadership. He also helped establish a Veteran's employee resource group to support charitable causes and recognize military holidays.
In 2009, he received the Lockheed Martin Full Spectrum Leadership Award, an honor given to managers who epitomize five standards of excellence: Shape the Future, Build Effective Relationships, Energize the Team, Deliver Results and Model Personal Excellence, Integrity and Accountability.
As an avid participant in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) activities, Coles attends Engineers Week, Space Day and other events at local schools. He says he enjoys the moment he watches the "light bulb" go off in a young student's head.
"Through sharing my lessons from higher education, I can influence them in a positive way and talk to them about what the sciences can help them attain both professionally and personally," he says.
Director of Special Events, Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago
In May 2013, Gayle Deja-Schulz received her bachelor's degree from Northern Illinois University in with a 4.0 GPA and list of accolades under her belt. It was a success she could trace back to Harper College.
The Certified Meeting Planner earned her Associate of Arts degree from Harper in 1993 and cites the school as giving her the confidence to continue her education when she needed a four-year degree to match her 20-years of business development experience.
"When the job market changed, I found it increasingly difficult to even get an interview, regardless of my years of experience. I decided to turn things to my advantage," she says. "At Harper, I had been successful in difficult courses, like Dr. Mary Lou Mulvihill's human anatomy class, and I knew if I could succeed there, I could do it anywhere. That knowledge gave me the confidence to go forward and now I am the proud recipient of the Dean's Award, Outstanding Woman Award and the Phi Kappa Phi Jack Villmow Scholar Award."
While at Northern, Deja-Schultz fostered an interest in the political system and found her place as a community activist. She interned with State Representative Kay Hatcher and the experience led Deja-Schultz to initiate state legislature. In 2011, she helped write and create the Illinois State House Bill 180 "Let Them Rest in Peace," which addresses the acts of offensive protest at military funerals. Since then she has developed a passion for public service and has even run for public office.
Deja-Schultz currently serves as the Director of Special Events for the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago where she helps facilitates their fundraising efforts. In this role, she has seen success leading the development department and planning events to increase awareness and support for epilepsy.
In her community, Deja-Schultz has served as President of the Kaneland WINS, a group that provides leadership and support for women in business, and as a board member with Kane County Senior Resources. She was invited to serve as a keynote speaker at the Illinois Math and Science Academy EnAct Program 2011, where she taught students how to achieve social justice by drafting bills.
"By coming back to school, I expanded my perspective and I realized that an every-day citizen can make a difference in the community. Now I have the tools to come to the table and step forward to stop injustice for those who are unable," she says.
Thomas Mullin, M.D.
Physician, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital
Though Dr. Thomas Mullin wasn't sure of his plans when he enrolled in Harper College in the fall of 1970, during his time on campus he explored an interest in chemistry and built the foundation of skills he later parlayed into a successful career as a physician.
Mullin credits a Harper chemistry class taught by Joe Clouser as the catalyst to exploring his passion for the sciences. Clouser's engaging manner and simplistic yet concise explanations, he says, helped the subject come together and inspired him to keep learning more.
"As one of eight kids, money was tight and I originally came to Harper for its affordability. However, being successful in those chemistry classes laid the foundation for the handful of science classes I took to become a doctor," says Mullin. "Staying at home and being able to work proved to be ideal, especially when considering the cost of an advanced degree."
He achieved his bachelor's degree from Loyola University of Chicago and continued his education at Chicago Medical School, where he earned his doctor or medicine in 1978.
Since starting at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in 1982, Mullin has helped thousands of northwest suburban residents seeking emergency care. His compassionate nature and quick thinking led him to be a standout physician and in 1996, a patient donated $20,000 to the hospital in Mullin's name after receiving exemplary care.
Recently, ABC Channel 7 chose him to serve as an expert on the flu epidemic. The footage was borrowed by other local news stations and played nationally on Good Morning America.
"As a general doctor in emergency medicine, anything can walk through the door and often does. I wanted to be a jack-of-all trades who could help a lot of people and know how to treat anyone," he says. "It is an honor be recognized for it."
At Good Samaritan, Mullin has taken on a variety of leadership roles including serving as the Vice Chairman of the entire Emergency Department, Chairman of the Disaster Committee, a role that had him mapping out an emergency preparedness plan, and the Chairman of the Continuing Medical Education Committee, where he aided in the continued training of doctors at the hospital.
Mullin's volunteer activities in the community include serving meals to the elderly in Naperville at Christmas, serving more than 2000 meals to the homeless at Thanksgiving and serving meals at Hesed House Homeless Shelter.
Consultant and Retired Director of Student Activities, Harper College
Michael Nejman experienced Harper College from two different perspectives: as a 19-year-old student, the first in his family to go to college, and as a leader of the College's Department of Student Activities.
During his first stint, Nejman sat on the student Campus Activities Board and brought Journey to Harper. The sold-out concert event blew out the lights in the parking lot. From there, he was hooked.
"I can pinpoint exactly how Harper College affected me in three very important ways. First, it gave me the opportunity to achieve a college education and advanced degree. Next, it was my passion for 30 years as I helped develop the northwest suburbs into a cultural center then lastly, it connected me with my wife," he says. "Harper has been a common thread throughout my life."
Nejman holds a journalism degree from Northern Illinois University and a master's in multicultural affairs and student services from DePaul University, a degree he designed himself.
As the retired Director of Special Events at Harper College, Nejman oversaw more than 200 events each year, drawing 25,000 Illinois residents for performers including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Wilco Muddy Waters and Dr. Reza Aslan.
In addition, he connected with student leaders and was a champion for some of the College's most successful programs, including the Harbinger, the student-run radio station, the Speech/ Debate Team, Student Senate and Harper Leadership Challenge.
He notes his more than thirty-year success can be attributed to his former Harper bosses, who honored his creativity and encouraged him to take the lead.
"Jeanne Pankanin and Ashley Knight were two wonderful role models who offered me great support and taught me how to deal with success and failure," he says. "Getting to pay it forward and pass on messages of resiliency to some of Harper's student leaders is one of the most rewarding memories of my career."
Nejman has won numerous awards for the creation of programs and events in higher education, including the National Association of Campus Activities' "Outstanding Program of the Year" and "Outstanding Series of the Year Award." For his many years of service, the Illinois Community College Student Activities Association (ICCSAA) honored him with the Michael Nejman Excellence in Programming Award, one of only two association awards named for a former member.
In the community, Nejman serves as commissioner for the Prairie Arts Center Cultural Commission and sits on their Foundation board.
CEO and Founder, That's Caring
In the few years since Jamie Pritscher obtained her associate degree from Harper College, she has successfully launched two companies and landed her name in entrepreneurship articles nation-wide.
While at Harper, Pritscher connected with instructors and counselors who encouraged her and gave her confidence that she could be successful in her goal to start her own business. One of her instructors, psychology professor Charles Johnston, taught her the real world examples she still puts into play today.
"As an entrepreneur and manager, everyday I call on concepts, like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, to understand what people need from me to be successful," she says. "His class made me fascinated by the field of psychology and helped me see it as the basis that works well with business."
Pritscher holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Psychology from Illinois State University and master's degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University.
While serving as the Director of Logistics for Tasty Catering in 2008, Pritscher pitched an idea for a spin-off company and her bosses immediately handed her a check to start-up funding for the business.
Today, she serves as the co-founder of two companies: That's Caring, a socially conscious, eco-friendly solution to gift baskets, and nuphoriq, a full-service marketing, branding and advertising agency, specializing in the catering industry.
Pritscher has been recognized nationally for her leadership efforts and strong moral and ethical drive. She was listed in Diversity MBA Magazine as a "Top 100 Under 50 Emerging Leader," and wrote a New York Times Preoccupations Column, "Yes, I'm 26 and Yes, I do the Hiring." She also was a Daily Green Heart of Green Nominee, an "Ecovers 30 under 30 Semi-Finalist," and a Newprenuer of the Year Semifinalist.
"I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have been fortunate to be around others who have fostered my ideas," she says. "Having people you can talk to puts you light-years ahead. I try to give back by sharing my story with young students. If I can help speak to them, I can help accelerate their own ideas and careers."
Pritscher makes a positive impact in the community through organizing several philanthropic drives, including a letter writing campaign and an old cell phone and phone card collection for servicemen and women. Additionally, she sits on the boards of the Community Character Coalition and Friends of Busse Woods.
Public Relations and Marketing Manager, Buffalo Grove Park District
Since receiving his Associate of Arts degree from Harper College in 1993, Michael Terson has enjoyed a celebrated career in the field of communications. Now as a Harper College Distinguished Alumni, he hopes to use his talents to make a positive impact on students' lives.
While at Harper, Terson was involved in the campus radio station, where he became News Director, and the competitive speech team, where he was mentored and encouraged by his coach, Marsha Litrenta.
"Mrs. Litrenta had a casual and relaxed nature and she always told us it was most important to do our best and have fun, without worrying about the outcome," Terson says, "Still to this day, I subscribe to her theory of trying to stay conversational and engaging and it's served me very well."
On the last day before the winter holiday break at Harper College, Terson answered a call from a Harper alum from Walter Payton's Night Clubs looking to hire new talent. He interviewed for the job and launched his career immediately.
His professional career includes fifteen years of DJ experience in radio, nightclubs and private parties, thirteen seasons and over 500 career games as the public address announcer for the Chicago Wolves, four seasons as the weekend public address announcer with the Chicago Cubs and several speaking engagements for high schools.
During his nine-year tenure as the Public Relations and Marketing Manger for the Buffalo Grove Park District, Terson has won many awards, including the 2006 National Recreation and Park Association KUDOS Award for Best Overall Marketing and several honors from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association. In addition, the sponsorship program he created has helped garner more than $300,000 in sponsorship revenue.
Terson went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Northern Illinois University.
"Harper was the place I explored my interests, tried different things and was the most involved out of every institution I attended. The activities I tried and things I learned at Harper pertain more to my career now than anything else," says Terson.
In the community, he is involved in the Lake County After School Coalition and the Link Together Coalition, which works to prevent youth drug and alcohol use. He also co-founded a group aimed to end bullying by bringing together leaders in the community called Beyond Bullying. Terson is currently serving as Trustee with the Village of Buffalo Grove.
Director of Market Development, Pirch Kitchen and Bath Fixtures and Former NFL Player
Tim Tyrrell's seven-year career in the National Football League got its start in 1980, when he walked onto the Harper College football team and not long after, became star quarterback.
After receiving his associate of arts degree, Tyrrell transferred to Northern Illinois University, one of the 13 four-year schools that extended him a scholarship. During his senior year at Northern, he led the Huskies to win the California Bowl, was voted Most Valuable Player and earned Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. His efforts landed him in the NIU Hall of Fame.
Tyrrell launched his football career as an undrafted free agent in 1984 and played professionally for the Atlanta Flacons, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Harper was a huge part of my NFL dream coming true. It fueled my adrenaline and instilled in me a desire to never stop learning and to keep trying to do my best," he says. "It was a phenomenal stepping stone for me to take it to the next level."
Currently, Tyrrell serves as the Vice President of the Chicago Chapter of the NFL Players Association, a non-for-profit organization that funds eight $12,0000 scholarships for high school students and donates new equipment to Chicagoland youth football teams.
The desire to foster a giving organization, he says, stems from the culture he found at Harper. While at Harper, he received guidance from his head football coach, athletic directors and professors, on how to deal with challenges.
"Coach John Eliasik focused on encouraging us to come up with solutions rather than thinking about problems and instilled in me a passion that is unmatched," he says.
Additionally, Tyrrell dedicates many hours of service working with non-for-profit charities, feeding the homeless, helping with football camps, speaking to local schools and helping former NFL players give back to the community.
Tyrrell calls on his leadership skills as the Director of Market Development for PIRCH, a company that specializes in premium lifestyle goods for the home. In the role, he oversees the expansion of three new stores, hiring 100 new employees and introducing high-end indoor- and outdoor-kitchen, laundry and bath brands to interior designers, homebuilders, and architects.