50th Annual Spring Luncheon

by Sarah Small


An ILLINOIS-pride cheer commonly heard in Memorial Stadium, Assembly Hall and across the Champaign-Urbana campus rang out in the Hyatt Regency ballroom in Downtown Chicago on May 5 as more than 800 College of Business alumni gathered to celebrate the College’s 50th annual Spring Luncheon.

At this event, with record-setting attendance, the strong relationship between the College and its alumni was celebrated, and awards were presented to faculty and distinguished alumni. The keynote speaker was University alumnus and current USA basketball chairman, Jerry Colangelo.

Dean Larry DeBrock addressed the alumni at the beginning of the luncheon by commending their accomplishments and celebrating the 95-year legacy of the College of Business.

“We attract the very best students and during their years on campus, they make remarkable achievements, then they graduate and they go out and they become leaders at organizations around the world,” DeBrock said. “It’s with a great sense of pride that I stand before you today in this gathering of over 800 successful, brilliant hardworking professionals.”

It was not just the hardworking alumni who were celebrated; awards for Excellence-in-Teaching were given to three College instructors that honored the individuals for their diligence and devotion to their students, courses and research.

“Each member holds the esteem of not only students, but also their fellow faculty colleagues, as well as department heads for their outstanding contributions in the classroom,” said Kurt Miscinski, board member of the College of Business Alumni Association who presented the awards.

Brian White, Ph.D. candidate in Accountancy received the award for Excellence-in-Teaching by a teaching assistant. White teaches Accountancy 301, an introduction to measurement and reporting for strategic and operational purposes.

The award for Excellence-in-Undergraduate-Teaching was given to Steven Michaels, professor of Business Administration. Michaels is also the academic co-director of the Hoeft Techonology and Management program and was specially recognized for the course on entrepreneurial training he teaches, called New Venture Creation.

Madhu Viswanathan, professor of Business Administration, was honored with the award for Excellence-in-Graduate-Teaching. He is recognized for developing the Subsistence Marketplace Initiative to foster the development of sustainable solutions through use of management and technology, and for creating a year-long course cross-listed with Business and Engineering, which focuses on developing products and services for subsistence marketplaces.

Additional awards were given to honor alumni of the University of Illinois and the College of Business.

Alumnae, Jill Smart, received the Distinguished Alumni award. Smart graduated from the College in 1981 with a degree in Business Administration and is currently the Chief Human Resources Officer for Accenture. In her remarks, Smart spoke of her passion for ILLINOIS and of the valuable ways in which the University and College prepared her for the future.

“Now as a mother who worries about preparing her children,” Smart said, “If I can prepare my kids half as well as the U of I has prepared me, not just for my job, for my career, for my marriage, for being a parent, for being a friend, I would consider myself very, very successful.”

In his address, Jerry Colangelo spoke of his journey to success and how the University helped him prepare for it. He emphasized the importance of having the endurance to work hard and the courage to take risks.

“So many people I’ve run across are afraid to take that chance, step out on the plank knowing that you could fall off, you could be pushed off, but that’s okay if you’re willing to get up and do it all over again. That’s what really matters,” Colangelo said.

A few weeks before, Colangelo had visited the College of Business and had the opportunity to meet with various student organizations; at the luncheon he praised the students in the College and spoke of the lasting impression they left on him.

“I’ve heard many things about how much they appreciated me being there, but I probably enjoyed it more than they did,” Colangelo said. “I was excited to see how excited they are about their futures, about the questions they asked of me about my experience and being in the trenches, and the ability to share with them means a great deal, it’s like giving back to your university.”