Illini converged in Chicago on March 3 for the 46th annual Spring Luncheon honoring outstanding teachers and loyal College of Business alumni.
Dean Avijit Ghosh welcomed the crowd of almost 600 to the luncheon, highlighting recent initiatives in the classroom and inviting alumni to attend the groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for April 28 in Champaign.
Brooke Elliott, assistant professor of accountancy, received the Excellence in Teaching award for undergraduate teaching. Abbie Griffin, professor of business administration was named as the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award winner for graduate teaching. Teaching assistant David Piercey was honored for his for his work in the Department of Accountancy.
Norma Lauder received the Appreciation Award for her generous efforts on behalf of the College. A three-term chair of the Dean’s Business Council, she has been a guest speaker in the College on numerous occasions and is a member of the Investing in Excellence campaign steering committee.
“I treasure my Illinois education,” said Lauder upon accepting her award. Lauder had a distinguished career in taxation having served in leadership roles in such firms as Bank One, Beatrice Companies, and Discover Financial Services. She is now the academic program director for the MS in Taxation program in Chicago. “This is my dream job,” she said. “It’s rewarding, fun, and engaging to work with the College.”
Keynote speaker and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Michael Tokarz said that he was humbled by the honor. “It’s great to be home,” he said, noting that his definition of home was an “affectionate and safe place.” Tokarz’s successful career has taken him to Miami and New York when he worked for Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust, KKR, and, now, the Tokarz Group. Although for the last 26 years he had viewed Illinois from afar, he told his fellow alumni that “my heart remains in Illinois and Chicago.”
Tokarz looked to the future in his keynote, commenting that Americans fear rising energy costs and competition from China. But one need look no further than Illinois, he said, to discover some assets that could be an answer to these challenges: the state’s immense coal reserves, its fields of corn, and the navigable rivers. Putting these pieces together, notes Tokarz, is Illinois VENTURES, a company that helps new companies get seed and venture capital, recruit management talent, develop business plans and provide other services essential for success. “We’re sitting on an energy goldmine.”
Tokarz told the audience that “You can predict the future if you make it happen.”
Other speakers included Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn who spotlighted a recently announced scholarship collaboration between the College’s MBA programs and the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) program, and Everett Westmeyer, president of the College of Business Alumni Association, the sponsor of the Spring Luncheon.