2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards

The outstanding accomplishments of Western Illinois University graduates Robert L. Nardelli and Patrick M. Magoon were recognized Saturday, May 14 at Western's Spring 2022 Commencement Exercises in Western Hall. Nardelli was recognized at the 9:00 a.m. ceremony and Magoon 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. 

Robert L. Nardelli

nardelliNardelli, a WIU Hall of Fame inductee and former Leatherneck Football captain, Honorary Doctorate recipient and College of Business and Technology Distinguished Alumnus, is the former Chairman/CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler and former CEO of GE Power Systems.

Nardelli received his bachelor's degree in business in 1971. He was a three-year letterman on the Leatherneck Football Team, and was a starting left guard of the 1969 team that won the final IIAC championship. He also served as co-captain of the 1970 team, and was an active member of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity at WIU.

Nardelli began his career with GE following graduation, advancing through the ranks of the company, before being named CEO of GE Power Systems in 1993. He grew the company's earnings from $5 billion to $20 billion in just a few years.

As Chairman and CEO of Home Depot from 2000-2007, Nardelli helped grow the retail corporation to a $90 billion company. Under his leadership, the company added 1,000 new stores and more than 135,000 jobs. The son of a veteran, Nardelli made it his mission at Home Depot to hire veterans. Following his time at Home Depot, he served as chairman and CEO and as a member of the Board of Managers of Chrysler LLC from 2007-2009. President Barack Obama credited Nardelli with saving Chrysler.

He left Chrysler to serve as CEO and senior adviser of Cerberus Operations Advisory Company. After eight years, he decided to branch out on his own and founded XLR-8 LLC, an investment and advisory company, where he remains as the company's CEO.

Nardelli is a member of the WIU President's National Advisory Council, served as an honorary co-chair of WIU's $25 million Centennial Campaign, which concluded in December 2000 and served on the College of Business and Technology Advisory Board. In 1998, he established an endowed scholarship for student athletes majoring in business.

Nardelli serves as a Senior Advisor to EY and CORE Industrial Partners LLC and also to a number of equity investments. He is a frequent co-host with Maria Bartiromo on Mornings with Maria and he also does guest appearances on other financial shows, including Your World with Neil Cavuto, America Reports and others. He sits on the Board of Directors for BWXT Technologies, Inc., FATHOM Digital Manufacturing Corp., and on the board of a number of private equity investment firms. Nardelli also serves on the Board of Trustees for Savannah College of Art & Design and Atlanta Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Over the years, Nardelli has received numerous awards in recognition of his leadership and his contribution to many community organizations. Nardelli has twice been awarded the U.S. Secretary of Defense Freedom Award and most recently he received the TKE Foundation highest honor, the Circle of Excellence award.

Watch the 9:00 a.m. commencement ceremony with Robert's speech HERE.

Patrick M. Magoon

magoonMagoon, a 1976 sociology graduate, served as the president and CEO of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, one of the top children’s hospitals in the country, from 1997 until his retirement in 2020. He devoted his entire professional career to Lurie Children’s Hospital (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital), where he started as a planning department intern in 1977 working on long-range planning projects. While there, he worked his way up through a series of jobs, including early on as the hospital’s laundry manager and served in several operational and leadership roles before being named CEO.

In his decades at Lurie, Magoon led the hospital through a time of massive changes, including the hospital turnaround from an annual operating loss to consistently strong financial performance. When he took over as CEO, the hospital was losing more than $1 million a month on operations. Now, Lurie is in the black and growing, despite facing challenges. The number of children served by the hospital increased by more than 50 percent to nearly 200,000 a year, and the research funding from the National Institutes of Health more than quadrupled. Under his leadership, the hospital was relocated in 2012 to a new state-of-the-art facility on the downtown campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which included a $600 million philanthropic campaign with over 250,000 donors. By the fall of 2019, Lurie Children’s Hospital had an increase in the number of beds from 288 to 364. In addition to growing capacity at the hospital, Magoon led the way for the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute to move to a new state-of-the-art home at the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center. During his tenure, the hospital consistently appeared on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of top children’s hospitals in the nation and was the first children’s hospital in the country to receive the Magnet Hospital designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the most prestigious recognition of nursing excellence.

Magoon has been an advocate in all matters of children’s health. He had a major role in both federal and State arenas on issues such as Medicaid reform for medically complex children, graduate medical education, pediatric research and child safety. He is past Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions/National Association of Children’s Hospitals (now called Children’s Hospital Association) and has provided high level of expertise through service on numerous committees. He also is past Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Illinois Hospital Association and served on the IHA Medicaid Reform Task Force and Safety Net Hospital Forum.  He currently serves as an advisor to his successor.

Magoon has been very supportive of his alma mater over the years, and currently serves on the President’s National Advisory Council. In 2012, he established the Patrick Magoon Scholarship and in 2013 gave the Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture. In 2019, Magoon hosted eight Western Illinois University School of Nursing students at Lurie Children’s Hospital giving them the opportunity to work for a week to expand their academic experience, shadowing hospital leaders in various parts of the hospital.

View Past Recipients