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2004 Distinguished Alumni Award

Alfred D. Boyer and Mary K. O'Brien

The outstanding accomplishments of Alfred D. Boyer and Mary K. O'Brien were recognized Saturday, May 8 when they were presented the Western Illinois University Distinguished Alumni Award at Spring Commencement Exercises.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, given since 1973, recognizes alumni who have reached the pinnacle of their careers and have brought credit to the University and themselves through their professional accomplishments or community service at local, state, or national levels and extended meritorious service for the advancement and continued excellence of WIU.

Boyer, a 1972 accountancy graduate, is an international financier. He is a member of WIU's Foundation Board of Directors and serves on Western's College of Business and Technology Advisory Board. In 1999, Boyer was named the WIU College of Business and Technology Distinguished Alumnus and has been a frequent speaker for numerous business classes at Western. In addition, he invited one of his distinguished business partners, Jerry York, the former chief financial officer of Chrysler Corporation and IBM Corporation, to speak at Western.

In Summer 1972, Boyer joined Price Waterhouse where he worked for 10 years as a certified public accountant in Peoria, Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1982, he accepted a position as executive vice president and chief financial officer of the California-based, multi-bank holding Central Pacific Corporation. Boyer is credited for his work in restructuring and recapitalizing this financial institution, which later merged into Wells Fargo Corporation. In 1986, Boyer joined Industrial Equity Pacific Limited, a subsidiary of the Brierley Investment Group, a worldwide investment company headquartered in Australia and New Zealand. Boyer and a partner opened a new office in La Jolla, CA to concentrate on investment activities in North America.

From 1986 to 1993, Boyer was involved in the investment of more than $800 million in 80 companies that included leveraged buyouts, joint ventures, private placements, and a variety of merger-related transactions. These investments involved companies in the oil, cement/aggregates, financial, real estate, ranching, hotel, gaming, retail, timber, entertainment, restaurant, and manufacturing industries. In 1989, Boyer was the opening speaker of the Tulane Business Forum in New Orleans, LA. During this period of time, Boyer served on the boards of more than 15 companies. He formed his own investment company in 1993 to pursue opportunities including leveraged buyouts and other equity-related transactions. In 1995, Boyer and his business partner, Gary Wilson, chair and controlling shareholder of Northwest Airlines, current director of Walt Disney Corporation and Marriott and formerly the chief financial officer of the two, developed the idea and provided the financial engineering plan for Chrysler Corporation's value maximization prior to merging with Daimler Benz of Germany (now Daimler-Chrysler). Since 1995, Boyer's other equity transactions include companies in transportation, entertainment, insurance, food products, and resellers of computer products. Most recently he has been advising a Fortune 50 company in the entertainment industry on issues involving Corporate Governance and shareholder relations, and is also involved in entertainment intellectual properties, various transportation companies including rail and rail service companies, marine terminals and shipping. It has involved work with Mexico's largest railroad to restructure and recapitalize both the parent company and its subsidiaries.

Boyer continues to significantly support his alma mater. He recently committed $150,000 as the lead gift for the renovation of Western's baseball stadium. In addition, he made charitable estate planned gift of $1 million. Boyer also supports scholarships at WIU. Each year, beginning in 2004, two new entering freshmen from Carthage High School will receive four-year scholarships valued at $1,000 per year for the four years. Boyer supports WIU athletics as well. He attends most games, home or away. In 2002, he contributed $150,000 for new lights at Hanson Field, and in past years he purchased new pants for the football team; has players' names put on their jerseys each year; helped purchase the 2002 Gateway Conference Championship rings for the Fighting Leatherneck football team; contributed tickets for the Purple and Gold Auction on his chartered flight last year when the Leathernecks football team played Youngstown State and will again this year when WIU plays Nebraska; and he and his brother Earl purchased a new sound system in the athletics training center. Boyer is currently working with Western on ideas to help renovate Hanson Field. He is an avid fan of theatre and music and this year he is contributing $2,500 to WIU's Performing Arts Society and $2,500 for Summer Music Theatre.

Boyer's financial support goes well beyond WIU. In 1993, he set up a private foundation that focuses on educational programs at the grade school, high school and college levels. This foundation, supported 100 percent by Boyer's own funds, is jointly managed by his brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Dena Boyer. All of the programs prior to this past summer have involved schools in western Illinois. Boyer recently committed $50,000 to a Performing Arts Center and an additional $6,000 per year for various special needs at Chadwick School, a private K-12 prep school in Palos Verdes, CA; $50,000 to the Nauvoo public grade school to build a new playground; $3,000 each to Nauvoo Catholic School and the public school for new reading enhancement programs; and bought new uniforms for the Nauvoo Brownies scout troop and funds a portion of their fiscal year operating budget. Boyer continues to support charitable activities in the Carthage and Nauvoo communities with new Christmas lights for the Carthage town square and $15,000 for rural Nauvoo township road improvements. Through his own contributions of over $110,000, Boyer provided support for 28 college scholarships from 1998 through the present for graduates of Carthage High School. More than one-third of these scholarships have been awarded to students who went on to attend WIU. Boyer personally screens all applicants, interviews teachers and other sources, and makes the final selection for all scholarship recipients. The first recipient graduated from WIU in May 2002.

A former state representative (D-Essex), O'Brien is a 1986 political science graduate. In 2003 she was appointed to the Illinois' Third District Appellate Court, which covers McDonough County, to take the place of retired Justice Tom Homer. O'Brien was elected to the judgeship in the March 2004 primary. Following her graduation from Western, O'Brien worked for the Office of Attorney General in the Kankakee Regional Office, and then as a law clerk for the office of Marvin Gerstein in Urbana. A 1993 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Law, she served as the Grundy County assistant state's attorney for one year and then as a private practitioner with the firm of Frank J. Cortina, later known as Cortina, Mueller and O'Brien. She opened her own law practice in 1998 and is a partner in the firm of O'Brien and Smith, P.C.

O'Brien was elected to the state legislature in 1996. She has served as chair of the House Criminal Judiciary Committee, where she presided over two years of hearings on how to reform the death penalty. She sponsored legislation in 2003 ending the death penalty for the mentally ill and has also sponsored legislation to extend the statute of limitations for child sex predators, to require lifetime supervision of child sex offenders and to expand hearsay exceptions in domestic violence cases. As a member of the Legislative Audit Commission, O'Brien initiated the audit of Ty-Walk, the largest grain elevator bankruptcy in Illinois history.

O'Brien is a certified child advocate and a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the Supreme Court Rules Committee. She is a charter member of the Breaking Away Domestic Violence Shelter Board of Directors and the Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living Board of Directors. She has served on the Kankakee County Chapter of the NAACP and is currently a part of the University of Illinois Extension Council, the Morris Kiwanis Club and the Kankakee Exchange Club and the Zonta Club of Kankakee.

She has been awarded the Illinois Farm Bureau Friend of Agriculture (1997-98, 1999-2000, 2001-02), the Will County Farm Bureau Silver Plow Award (2000, 2001, 2002), the Advocates United Legislator of the Year (1998) and the A.B.A.T.E. Legislator of the Year and Associated Firefighters of Illinois Legislator of the Year (2002).