Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Alumni Association names 2010 award recipients

Twelve NIU alumni to be honored at April 29 ceremony

April 12, 2010

NIU Alumni Association

NIU’s Alumni Association annually recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni through the Distinguished Alumni Award, the F.R. Geigle Service Award, the Outstanding Young Alumni Award and the Outstanding Alumni Award for each of the seven academic colleges at NIU.

Recipients are selected based on outstanding professional and personal successes, as well as involvement in civic, cultural or charitable activities.

“NIU alumni have gone on to distinguish themselves and Northern in countless ways,” says Jack Tierney, president of the NIU Alumni Association. “This award program seeks to recognize some of those outstanding individuals who have gone out and achieved great success in their personal and professional lives.”

The NIU Alumni Association will be honoring these outstanding alumni Thursday, April 29, at a private reception at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. For more information, contact Linda E. Alberty at (815) 752-6064 or e-mail

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious award given by the NIU Alumni Association. The award is given to a member of NIU’s alumni body who has achieved outstanding success or recognition. This year the Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Cherilyn G. Murer, J.D.’78, president and CEO of the Murer Group.

As a long time active voice in the advancement of quality, cost-effective health care, Murer is a highly regarded lecturer and educator whose focus is on assisting her clients navigate through the complex, regulatory, strategic and financial issues facing healthcare today. In May 2005, Murer received a gubernatorial appointment with Senate confirmation to a six-year term on the NIU Board of Trustees.

In addition to her university appointment, Murer is a member of the NIU Foundation board. She and her husband, Michael, have provided a philanthropic gift to NIU to establish the Murer Initiative as a forum for scholarly discussion, policy analysis and cross disciplinary integration of medicine, law, technology and finance.

Murer has co-authored with Lyndean Lenhoff Brick and Michael A. Murer four books published by McGraw-Hill. “The Case Management Sourcebook” is a 300-page text that serves as a guide to designing and implementing a centralized case management system.

A second book, published by McGraw Hill and co-published by HFMA, titled “Post Acute Care Reimbursement Manual – A Financial and Legal Guide,” addressed the financial impact to post acute venues pre- and post-Balanced Budget Act. A third book, “Compliance Audits and Plans for Healthcare,” was one of the first books to address complex heath care compliance issues. A fourth book, “Medical Records Management” is an 800-page complete guide to disclosure, retention and technology. A fifth book was published in April of 2003 by Commerce Clearing House, Inc. (CCH), titled “Understanding Provider-Based Status.”

Murer has developed specialized expertise in proton therapy, serving as chair of the Northern Illinois Proton Therapy and Research Center, a project in conjunction with Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory.

Her concern for the future direction of health care within our country prompted her to accept a 1988 appointment by Vice President George H.W. Bush to serve as national co-chair of the Disability Coalition. She was subsequently appointed in 1989 as President-elect Bush’s national co-chair of the Access to Opportunity Committeeand served as a member of the U.S. International Cultural and Trade Center Commission Advisory Committee on Foreign Language Needs of Business. 

F.R. Geigle Service Award

The F.R. Geigle Service Award is generally given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to the best interest of Northern Illinois University.

This year the award will be presented to Barbara Cole Peters, first lady of NIU and founder of and exhibitor at Studio 513. In her capacity, Peters has demonstrated a keen interest in the history of NIU’s story through exhibitions and presentations showcasing garments from her private collection of 20th century women’s clothing.

Peters has spread enthusiasm for the university among multiple generations of students, employees and community members as a professional exhibition curator for the NIU Interdisciplinary Certificate of Graduate study in the Museum Studies program, the NIU Art Museum, activities surrounding Women’s History Month, as well as for the community-based Nehring Art Gallery in DeKalb. The important role women played in the development of NIU is an interest that continues to fascinate her and she is at work on a manuscript detailing how, historically, women shaped much of what we think today as the culture of the university.

In her capacity as first lady of NIU, Peters has represented the university with dignity, compassion, intelligence and charm. Through countless events and meetings, many held in the president’s residence, she has hosted a wide variety of guests and dignitaries from new student orientation leaders to foreign delegations on exchange missions.

Mrs. Peters also has been an invaluable asset to NIU in the cultivation of alumni leaders and donors. Her capacity to quickly make others feel part of the “NIU Family” has helped to increase the numbers of highly engaged alumni in support of NIU. Those who watched closely as the university responded to the tragic events of Feb. 14, 2008, always will admire Mrs. Peters’ compassion and grace as she represented NIU in its darkest hours.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award is presented to an alumnus who has received an undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University within the past 10 years and has shown outstanding promise and success in his or her professional career.

The Outstanding Young Alumni Award will go to Ryan J. Hayman, ’03, vice president with HSBC-North America. Hayman started his career at HSBC during college as an intern. After graduation, HSBC brought him on as a general auditor; he helped to develop and draft the internal audit engagement approach used by HSBC in the United States. In four years, Hayman worked his way to a vice president position in the Consumer & Mortgage Lending Division.

Hayman still is connected to his alma mater, participating in college recruiting efforts to hire interns and full-time employees. In addition to his career achievements and outstanding relationship with NIU, Hayman volunteers as a Junior Achievement instructor, and he has been a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors since graduation.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Business

Sheila G. Talton, ’80, will be awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Business. Talton is an innovative business leader with more than 25 years of experience in helping companies increase value through technology.

As vice president of the Office of Globalization, she identifies growth opportunities, develops unique solutions based on competencies in the market, establishes global teams to support local sales teams to build the go-to-market strategy, and coordinates all Cisco Services with other major functional activities in each market.

Her honors include selection as one of Enterprising Women’s “Top 10 Women in Technology,” and “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners. She is also a recipient of the “Entrepreneurial Excellence Award” from Working Woman. She was named a 2007 “Woman Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal, received the “Egretha Award” for achievement and conduct inspiring to African American Women from the African American Women’s Business and Career Conference and was named a “2009 Business Leader of Color” by Chicago United.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Education

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Education will be awarded to Thomas Gullikson, ’74 and Timothy Gullikson, ’74. Thomas played professional tennis on the ATP Tour from 1976 to 1986 and won 16 top-level double titles throughout his playing career, 10 of them with his identical twin brother, Timothy.

The skills that Thomas learned as a player would prove to be valuable assets that carried over into his coaching career. In October of 1993, Thomas was selected as the 36th United States Davis Cup Captain – a post he held for six years. His Davis Cup tenure included the challenge of managing many of the game’s most talented and high profile professionals of the 1990s.

In 1996, Tom’s coaching career reached another pinnacle when he was chosen to serve as the U.S. Men’s Olympic Coach for Tennis. The team included Richie Reneberg, MaliVai Washington and Andre Agassi, who fulfilled his Olympic dream by winning the gold medal with a convincing straight sets victory over Luis Bruguera from Spain in the finals.

At the same time, Timothy’s professional tennis career highlights included his being named the pro circuit’s newcomer of the year in 1977, and advancing to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1979. Timothy reached a career-best ranking of 18th in the world in 1978, and he would win four singles and 16 career doubles titles.

In 1986, Timothy would move into a new role as a coach for leading American tennis players, including Aaron Krickstein, Mary Jo Fernandez and Pete Sampras.

In 1995, Timothy was diagnosed with brain tumors during the Australian Open. As a well-respected coach in the tennis world, Tim recognized the critical need for coaching brain tumor patients and their families in managing the physical, emotional and social challenges of the illness. In order to fulfill that need Thomas and Timothy Gullikson, along with their families, founded the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation in 1995.

Timothy would lose his battle to brain tumors in 1996, but his vision for the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation has flourished over the years with tremendous support touching lives of brain tumor patients and their families. Recently, Timothy’s widow, Rosemary, established the Tim Gullikson Education scholarship. The scholarship is intended to help NIU students who are studying to be high school teachers and who have a desire to coach young student-athletes.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology will go to Joseph L. Bittorf, ’05, M.S. Bittorf has spent 25 years building a career in the field of manufacturing, ultimately progressing to the level of senior vice president with national manufacturing companies. During his professional career, Bittorf has achieved excellence in both the private and public sectors, developing strategies for successful mergers, management initiatives, and reducing cost overhead.

Eventually, Bittorf would return to NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology as a professor teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses in international management, high performance teaming, industrial systems management, leadership, technology and society, manufacturing systems and industrial quality control. Bittorf also has created an expendable scholarship for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology in honor of his father, who guided him into the industrial and systems engineering career.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Health and Human Sciences

Monique C. Ryan, ’84, is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Health and Human Sciences. Ryan, MS, RD, LDN, is a nationally recognized nutritionist with more than 24 years of professional experience. She is the founder of her private practice, Personal Nutrition Designs, a nutrition consulting company based in the Chicago area.

Launched in 1992, Personal Nutrition Designs provides nutrition programs for diverse groups of people with an emphasis on long-term follow-up and support programming.

Ryan has consulted with professional sports teams such as the Timex Multisport Team and the Chicago Fire Soccer Team. In 2004, Ryan was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for USA Triathlon, USA Cycling (Women’s Road Team) and Synchro Swimming USA at the Athens Olympic Games.

As a prolific nutrition writer, she is quoted frequently for sports nutrition articles and her comments have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Runner’s World, Fitness, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Outside and Oxygen.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Law

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Law will go to Vincent F. Cornelius, ’89, J.D. As a sole practitioner since 1994, Cornelius has established the Law Office of Vincent F. Cornelius in general practice with a focus in criminal and civil litigation, representing individuals, corporations, non-for-profit organizations and other business organizations.

In 2008, Cornelius became the first African-American president of the Illinois Bar Foundation, where he has been an active member for his entire legal career and a foundation board member since 2000.

In addition to an outstanding legal career, Cornelius has devoted a great deal of time to serving his community as an active member of numerous legal organizations including the Illinois State Bar Association Board of Governors, Chicago Bar Association Committee on Federal Jury Service, DuPage and Will County Bar Association, Illinois Academy of Lawyers (Chancellor, 2007) and the Governor’s Commission on Criminal Law Reform.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be presented to Leonard M. Lieberman, ’69, associate vice president of State Government Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

In his current role, Lieberman actively has supported and shaped state government Medicaid reforms that maintain essential funding for Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. In addition to securing and maintain $42 million in grants and contracts to other Jewish Federation Agencies in the Chicago area, Lieberman has assisted local Jewish Community Relations Councils in state legislative interests.

His advocacy on behalf of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has helped institutions and facilities to protect the services that help children, elderly and people in need. Along with his many accomplishments, Lieberman served his alma mater for six years as a member of the NIU Alumni Association.

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also will be presented to Kristina A. Valaitis, ’67, M.A. ’69, Ph.D. ’74, executive director of the Illinois Humanities Council.

Valaitis began work with the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) in 1979. Serving as director since 1993, she has built the organization’s budget from approximately $250,000 to $2 million per year even after the IHC spun off one of its most popular and well known programs.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed her to serve on the Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and she also serves on the Board of the Chicago Metro History Education Center and Metro Reads. Valaitis maintains a profile as an active scholar as well. She has published essays on literature, the humanities and education as well as texts to accompany two books, “Illinois: A Photographic Portrait of the Prairie” and “Reflections - Relessioni,” a book of photographs of Venice.

Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Visual and Performing Arts

The Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Visual and Performing Arts will be awarded to Ronald J. Keller, ’61.

As director of the Naperville Municipal Band for 44 years, Keller has poured his energy into developing this band into one of the premiere adult organizations in the country. In 1991, the Naperville Municipal Band received the prestigious Sudler Silver Scroll Award presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. This award recognizes excellence in community bands, and at the time the Naperville Municipal Band was just the fifth such band to receive such distinction.

An educator for 48 years, Keller is a member of Windjammers Unlimited, serving on the organization’s board of directors and as its president in 2007. He is a member of the American School Band Directors Association, Masonic Lodge and Burlington Route Historical Society. He also has served as past-president of The Association of Concert Bands (life member).