2022 Alumni Achievement Awards

Two Western Illinois University alumni were selected to receive the WIU Alumni Achievement Award at the Saturday, Dec. 17 Commencement exercises.

This year's Alumni Achievement recipients are Diane K. Rutledge, a partner with District Leadership Solutions; and John E. Sanders, senior business consultant for American Solutions for Business. The recipients will be recognized at the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Western's Alumni Achievement Award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions in one or more of the following: exceptional accomplishment in one's chosen field of endeavor; exceptional service in community affairs at the local, state or national levels; or exceptional service in support of the advancement and continued excellence of WIU.

View Past Recipients

Diane K. Rutledge

dianeRutledge, a 1972 elementary education graduate, has served as a partner with District Leadership Solutions since 2017 and is also the sustainability coordinator at the Regional Office of Education #17, a position she has held since 2018. Previously, Rutledge was the executive director of the Large Unit District Association, and also served in a variety of administrative roles since 1979, including superintendent, serving for five years with the Springfield School District, as assistant superintendent of schools, principal and assistant principal. Rutledge began her career as a teacher in 1972 at Dubois Elementary School.

Rutledge has received numerous excellence in education awards and women in leadership awards for her work in education and within her communities, including the recent 2022 Athena Leadership Award for her professional excellence, community service and assisting women in reaching professional excellence. In her community, she is the former chair of the Memorial Health System Board of Directors, and has served on numerous boards and organizations in the Springfield (IL) region.

While at WIU, she was involved in the elementary education department and Bennett Hall activities. Rutledge has been very supportive of her alma mater over the years with contributions to scholarships and the Curriculum and Instruction department. She is currently working with the School of Nursing to help develop a pipeline of nurses between WIU and Memorial Health System in Springfield. 

John E. Sanders

johnSanders, a 1974 business graduate, is a senior major gifts officer for the global non-profit Lutheran Hour Ministries and a consultant for American Solutions for Business, both in St. Louis (MO). Following his graduation from Western, Sanders has had a successful career in sales and business development. He began his career with Moore Business Forms, prior to founding the full-service marketing company, SWM, Inc. in 1981. His firm was recognized locally and nationally, receiving the St. Louis Small Business Award by the St. Louis Business Journal and attaining INC 500 status as one of the Fastest Growing Companies in America, and #1 in Missouri in 1987. Sanders sold SWM in 2006, but has continued to work as a business consultant focusing on integrating marketing and technology solutions for private, public and non-profit organizations on a regional and national level.

Sanders was a four-year starter and captain of the WIU Soccer Team. The All-Time leading scorer when he finished his soccer career, he was one of the youngest Leatherneck athletes, and one of the first soccer players, inducted into the Western Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame (1988). Sanders was also one of the leaders of the fundraising campaign to construct a new field, which was named after famed WIU Soccer Coach John Mackenzie. Sanders was a member of the WIU Alumni Council for 13 years, including a term as president from 2018-2020, during which he led the council and Alumni Association through a challenging time in WIU's history. Sanders' leadership was instrumental in laying the foundation for the success that Western enjoys today. He and his wife, Kathie (WIU '74), are longtime members of the Leatherneck Club, and he is a frequent presenter for WIU business classes.

Sanders has served in leadership positions with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Autism Speaks, The Backstoppers, The Adoption Exchange and more. He has coached youth baseball teams over the years, and was inducted into the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.