GSU Honors Distinguished Alumni During Red-Carpet Affair
In her inaugural celebration of Governors State’s most distinguished alumni, President Cheryl Green on Saturday presented awards to two Southland mayors, an educator, a university founder, and a recent graduate who is now running a Texas-based foundation to help first-generation students persist to graduation.
In her inaugural celebration of Governors State University's most distinguished alumni, President Cheryl Green on Saturday presented awards to two Southland mayors, a university founder, an educator, and a recent graduate who is now running a Texas-based foundation to help first-generation students persist to graduation.
Dr. Green called Distinguished Alumni Reception keynote speaker Salvador Mendoza (‘97) and the six honorees “excellent examples of the leadership and success for our students and community.”
More than 170 guests and honorees walked the red carpet for the two-hour reception, where Mendoza – V.P. of NBC Universal Diversity Equity and Inclusion – led the awards program to honor those who have made major contributions to their fields, communities and raised awareness.
Born in Honduras, Mendoza moved to Chicago as an early teen, and with the help of public school mentors, said discovered his purpose early in life, allowing him to easily step into his role at NBC’s corporate offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
“To be in that building —for a kid who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, not speaking the language, and now I to get to work for that company making a difference in the programming is my story, but also the story of many, many of you here,’’ Mendoza said to a guests seated in the university's Hall of Governors, transformed with an elegant stage dressed in black and dramatic lighting. Local and state dignitaries dotted the room, soaking in the celebratory spirit.
Following Mendoza's speech, Dr. Green presented awards to the evening's six honorees chosen from 142 nominees and 23 finalists.
The four Distinguished Alumni awards went to those who graduated between 1972 and 2015 from each college; and Rising Star award went to a graduate who earned a degree between 2016 and 2021; and the Distinguished Emeritus Faculty/Retiree Award recognized a GSU emeritus/retiree who continues to demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to their community and the university through service and distinction. Winners received trophies and finalists received GSU-branded medallions.
The Distinguished Alumni award winners are:
- Honorable Sheila Chalmers-Currin (‘93), Mayor of Matteson. Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin received a degree in what is now Communication, representing the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Dr. Don Parker (’00), Principal of Posen Intermediate School, a highly sought speaker and professional development coach. Dr. Parker represents the College of Education
- Honorable Vernard Alsberry (‘90, ‘99), Mayor of Hazel Crest, entrepreneur and physical therapist, representing the College of Health and Human Services.
- Dr. Curtis Crawford (‘72, ‘74), author and entrepreneur who is the President and CEO of XCEO, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in executive leadership and corporate governance, support and services. He represents the College of Business.
- Dr. Tiffany Gethers (‘16) is the Rising Star Winner representing graduates who completed a degree in 2016 or later. Dr. Gethers is founder of the 2Gethers Foundation is a dual state nonprofit organization (Illinois and Texas), whose mission is to help first-generation college students overcome barriers to successfully persist to college graduation.
- Professor Emeritus Dr. Mel Muchnik was one of individuals who built Governors State University in the 1970s, working for the first three presidents. Dr. Muchnik retired in 2003 and continues to support the university. He received the Emeriti/Retiree Award.
The awards ceremony was followed by a performance by Emmy-award winning trumpeter and composer Orbert Davis, co-founder, conductor and artistic director of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Davis, a Kankakee-area native received an honorary degree from the Governors State University in 2014.
Watch the evening's highlights here.