2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

The outstanding accomplishments of Western Illinois University graduates Steven E. Nelson and Margaret W. Wong were recognized Saturday, May 12 at Western's Spring 2018 Commencement Exercises in Western Hall. Nelson was recognized at the 9 a.m. ceremony, while Wong was recognized at the 4:30 p.m. ceremony.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, given since 1973, recognizes alumni who have brought credit to the University and themselves through exceptional professional accomplishments, meritorious service to ensure the continued excellence of WIU and through service to their communities at the national, state or local levels.

steve Nelson, a 1977 health sciences graduate, is a semi-retired investor, founder/co-founder and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of several successful healthcare services and information technology companies. He has extensive entrepreneurial, development, consulting and executive management experience in the healthcare industry. Nelson began his career in health care in 1983 with Republic Service Bureau, Inc., a nationwide hospital auditing company. Under his leadership, the company expanded into several other areas of health care cost containment before being sold to a Washington D.C. investment group. In 1990, Nelson founded Medical Bill Review, Inc. and Preferred Payment Systems, Inc., and in 1999, he founded Health Network Systems, LLC.

In addition to serving as chair and CEO of several companies, Nelson has served on the Board of Concentra Preferred Systems (now Viant, Inc.) and IntelliClaim, Inc., and he also co-founded and actively served on the Board of Directors of two additional healthcare services and information technology companies, ClariCon, LLC and ClearHealth Strategies, LLC. Outside of healthcare, Nelson is an active private investor in various early to mid-stage companies in the biotechnology, consumer cloud, maritime defense, healthcare and wealth management industries.

Nelson and his wife, Debra, have contributed numerous gifts in support of WIU, including a planned gift. He is actively involved with his alma mater, Leatherneck football and the WIU Alumni Association. 

He currently serves on the Board of Directors of HALO Maritime Defense Systems, Inc., MiMedia, Inc., Dura Medic, Inc. and NelsonCorp Wealth Management Services, LLC. In his community, Nelson is a Board member of the Sunset Gulf Condominium Association and the Waterside Dock Cooperative Association.

wong Wong, a 1973 biological sciences graduate, is an attorney and the founder of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. Wong founded her firm in 1978 with one desk and no secretary, specializing in immigration law. Today, her practice includes 15 attorneys and 40 staff members with offices in seven major U.S. cities. She has helped thousands of people coming to the United States to become permanent residents, advance their education and pursue career opportunities. Wong, and her sister, 1973 WIU graduate Cecilia, were born in Hong Kong, moving to the United States in 1969. Overcoming language and cultural barriers, they both attended WIU. She began her law career in 1977 as chief legal counsel for the City of Buffalo, NY.

Wong has won numerous awards and recognition for her work, including the Social Diversity Award from Kent State, the highly coveted Ellis Island Medal of Honor in May 1998, "Super Lawyer," U.S.News & World Report's "Best Lawyers in America," Life Member of the Sixth Circuit and Eighth Judicial District of Ohio and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Trailblazer Award. Wong, the author of "The Immigrant's Way," has also been appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court as a charter member of the Continuing Legal Education Commission for Attorneys.

Wong has contributed numerous gifts in support of WIU, including, with Cecilia, four awards to support the WIU RISE (Research Inspiring Student Excellence) Program in biology. She is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board and received the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. Wong also served as the 15th Annual WIU Centennial Honors College Pre-Law Symposium keynote speaker. She is a member of the Cleveland State University Foundation Board and the Tri-C Foundation Board, as well as the State of New York at Buffalo Foundation and the Law School Board. Wong is also an adjunct professor of immigration law at Case Western Reserve University Law School, and serves as president of the Federal Bar Association Cleveland Chapter.

Wong received a law degree in 1976 from the University of Buffalo Law School.

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