2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards

The outstanding accomplishments of two Western Illinois University graduates were recognized Saturday, May 12 at the Spring 2012 Commencement Exercises.

The recipients of the 2012 WIU Distinguished Alumni Award are John "Jack" M. Brannigan, the senior vice president for HomeSphere/Best Contractors, of Denver, and Laura J. Janus, chief investment officer and portfolio manager for Fixed Income and a founding partner of Holland Capital, of Chicago.

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 have extended meritorious service for the advancement and continued excellence of WIU.

2012 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient's Speeches

The video below features the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, addressing the Class of 2012 at Western Hall on Saturday, May 12.


John M Brannigan

Brannigan, a 1976 engineering technology graduate, was named to his current position of senior vice president at HomeSphere in January 2009. The company is the provider of technology-leveraged supply chain services to the homebuilding and remodeling industry. He previously served as the CEO of BestContractors for one year, and as the executive vice president and partner of Hanley-Wood, LLC, a $250+ million, 700+ employee multi-division media, internet and e-commerce company. Brannigan also served as publisher for Reed Business Media (formerly Cahners Publishing).

Over the years, Brannigan has been very supportive of Western, both financially and with his time. He and his wife Deedee established the Jack and Deedee Brannigan Scholarship Endowment in 2005 to support WIU students. In addition, he is extremely generous to many areas of campus including the Alumni Association, the Presidential Scholarship Fund and WIU Athletics. Named the WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT) 2007 Distinguished Alumnus, Brannigan is a member of the WIU President's Advisory Council and the CBT National Advisory Board.

He received his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management and currently serves on the board of directors for BuilderFusion, Inc., a leader in technology, and Parade of Homes solutions for home builders associations and building industry associations. Brannigan resides in Northfield, IL.

Laura J. Janus Janus, a 1970 accountancy graduate, is one of the founding partners of Holland Capital established in 1991 and is the firm's chief investment officer for Fixed Income and is the Fixed Income portfolio manager. She has more than 42 years experience managing taxable fixed income assets. Prior to forming the firm, Janus was a member of the investment department at Mutual Trust Life Insurance Company and was responsible for credit research and management of a $200 million fixed income portfolio comprised of short term instruments, private placements, public bonds and common and preferred stock. Later she was elected treasurer, which added responsibilities in the areas of banking relationships, cash flow management, five-year projection plans and budgets. She received the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and is a member of the CFA Society of Chicago and the CFA Institute.

Janus has been extremely supportive of her alma mater over the years. She recently committed her estate to WIU at an estimated value of $1 million to establish an endowment to fund accounting scholarships. Named the WIU Accountancy Outstanding Alumna in 2008, she is a member of the WIU President's Advisory Council, the College of Business and Technology National Advisory Board and the WIU Foundation Board.

In addition, Janus is active in her community as a member of the Congregational United Church of Christ of Arlington Heights and served in several leadership roles including Moderator, Deacon of Growing Disciples and Chair of the Finance Committee. Janus resides in Arlington Heights, IL.

View Past Recipients