2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards

The outstanding accomplishments of two Western Illinois University graduates were recognized Saturday, May 11 at the Spring 2013 Commencement Exercises.

The recipients of the 2013 WIU Distinguished Alumni Award are John Garvey, a managing director in the Disputes and Investigations practice at Navigant, Inc., and Karen Kolodzey, retired president and managing partner of Brigandi+Associates (b+a).

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.

2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient's Speeches

The video below features the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, addressing the Class of 2013 at Western Hall on Saturday, May 11.


Karen Kolodzey Kolodzey, a 1978 marketing graduate, retired as president and managing partner of Brigandi+Associates, Inc., (b+a), an independent Chicago-based marketing communications agency she co-founded with her husband in 1991. She established the agency with a single trade ad assignment and expanded it to a multimillion dollar full-service operation focusing on consumer marketing, shopper marketing and business-to-business practice areas for Fortune 500 clients like Kraft Foods, Motorola and Kellogg's. During her tenure, Kolodzey guided the development of some of the food industry's most dynamic marketing programs with studio partners like Disney/Pixar, Lucasfilm, Sony and DreamWorks Animation. Under her leadership, b+a garnered honors from the Marketing Agencies Association Worldwide (MAA), the Association of Promotion Agencies Worldwide (APMA), Effie Worldwide and PROMO Magazine. Kolodzey put her agency's talents to work for the nonprofit sector as well, with initiatives for partners like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Heart Association and the Avon Foundation for Women. Her leadership and business stake in b+a earned diversity certification from the State of Illinois Business Enterprise Program and the Women's Business Enterprise National Council.

Prior to b+a, Kolodzey held executive positions from 1980-1991 at a number of leading advertising agencies including D'Arcy MacManus & Masius, Bayer Bess Vanderwarker and J. Walter Thompson USA, directing campaigns in the food, personal care and entertainment industries.

Kolodzey has also been active with numerous civic and philanthropic organizations over her 33 year career, serving on boards and advisory committees for Chicago Public Schools Adopt-a-School Program, CRIS Radio, YWCA and the Women's HIV Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She has committed significant time and resources to the environment, earning certification as a Master Gardener from the University of Illinois, serving as an adviser for Chicago River initiatives, and volunteering at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank. Kolodzey has been a generous supporter of WIU throughout the years, donating to various WIU programs and providing guidance to WIU Marketing. Most recently, she has established a scholarship at WIU to help support graduates of the East Village Youth Program in Chicago who are attending Western Illinois University. Kolodzey and her husband live in Winnetka, Ill. They have two children.

John Garvey Garvey, a 1978 accountancy graduate, is currently the managing director in the Disputes and Investigations practice at Navigant. Previously, he was the segment leader of Navigant's Economics Practice for four years. Garvey was the president of Chicago Partners, which was sold to Navigant in May 2008. Garvey's career has spanned across the largest corporations in public accounting and consulting. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he served as partner for Deloitte & Touche before branching out and creating an independent consulting business. He has also served as partner and market team leader for the business Fraud and Investigation Services unit of Arthur Andersen, LLP. Garvey, a certified public accountant, has testified or directed complex litigation matters regarding fraud, merger and acquisition disputes, bankruptcy and more. He has represented numerous companies and individuals before regulatory bodies including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Garvey has appeared as an expert in Delaware Chancery Court, Bankruptcy Court, State and Federal courts and in various administrative forums, and has also served as an independent arbitrator.

He received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the WIU Department of Accountancy in 2001. He and his wife, Sarah, served as the 2008 Executives in Residence in the College of Business and Technology. He serves on President Jack Thomas' National Advisory Council. Throughout the years, Garvey has provided financial support to Western, having established an endowed professorship in the College of Business and Technology and giving to scholarships in the accountancy department, the President's Scholarship Fund and sponsorships for Alumni Relations. In his community, he has served on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for 25 years, and also serves on the boards of the Catherine Cook School and the Civic Federation. He is a member of the Parents' Leadership Council for Boston College, where his son Jack is a sophomore.

View Past Recipients