University News

2018 WIU Alumni Achievement Awards

November 27, 2018

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MACOMB, IL - - Five Western Illinois University alumni have been selected to receive the WIU Alumni Achievement Award at the Saturday, Dec. 15 Commencement exercises.

This year's Alumni Achievement recipients are Randall S. Germeraad, executive chair of Springfield (IL) Electric Supply Company; James G. Leahy, chief operating officer of Veterans Canteen Service, Department of Veterans Affairs; Suzan Nash, retired executive director of the Western Illinois Regional Council; Dennis R. Papini, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at University of Illinois Springfield; and Michael G. Steelman, chairman and CEO of Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Bushnell.

Leahy, Papini and Steelman will be recognized at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, while Germeraad and Nash will be recognized at the 1 p.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.

Germeraad, a 1975 education graduate, is executive chairman of Springfield (IL) Electric Supply Company, an electrical distributor with 19 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. He has been with the company since 1979, and he has had roles in operations, procurement and supply chain management, sales and management. He serves on the board of directors of Springfield Electric Supply Company. In the electrical distribution industry, he has held several leadership roles in the trade association and is the immediate former chair of Channel Advantage Partnership Council of the National Association of Electrical Distributors. Germeraad also serves on the board of Ronk Electrical Industries.

Before joining Springfield Electric Supply Company, Germeraad began his career as a resource teacher for a truant alternative school in Springfield and was a resource teacher for the Sangamon Area Special Education District. In his community, Germeraad serves on, and is the immediate former chair of, Memorial Health System and Memorial Medical Center boards of directors, and he is a former chair of Memorial Behavioral Health. He also served as board chair for the Memorial Medical Center Foundation. Other community involvement has included chair of the Springfield Public Schools Foundation and chair of the Old State Capital Art Fair. Germeraad has also served on the boards of United Way of Central Illinois, Goodwill Industries and Big Brothers Big Sisters. As a former Rotarian, Germeraad received the vocational service award for establishing a mentoring program (Adopt a School) at Ridgely Elementary School in Springfield.

In the faith community, Germeraad currently chairs an endowment campaign and serves on multiple committees at his church. He is a member of the Western Illinois University Foundation Board of Directors, serves on its Executive Committee and serves on the College of Education and Human Services advisory board and has provided funding in support of many areas of the University over the years.

Leahy, a 1985 business graduate, is the Chief Operating Officer for the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He was appointed to this position in May 2015. His more than 30-year career has spanned the private sector and civilian federal service. In his current role, he is responsible for creating and leading the customer experience for America's veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. His operational oversight includes more than 200 retail stores and cafe locations, where he leads over 4,600 VCS associates focused on providing comfort and well-being to America's veterans and those who provide for their care. VCS was established in 1946 by Congress as a benefit to Veterans. The VA is America's largest integrated health care system with 172 medical centers and more than 1,000 clinics serving nine million enrolled veterans each year. Leahy joined VCS in 2007 after 22 years in private industry with May Department Stores, Inc. and Macy's Inc. Leahy established his business career in the retailing industry utilizing his marketing degree in merchandising, buying, product development and management.

In his community, Leahy has served as a local youth soccer and basketball coach for several years. He was the 2017 WIU College of Business and Technology (CBT) Executive in Residence, returns to speak to classes, volunteers to assist in recruitment and supports several areas of campus with his time and financially, including scholarships, the CBT, marketing department, Alumni Association and Harry Mussatto Golf Course.

Nash, who received her Master of Science degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) in 1980, served as the executive director of the Western Illinois Regional Council (WIRC) for 36 years. She began as an intern at the agency in 1979 and was named executive director in 1981, stepping down as director in 2017. During her tenure, Nash and her team transformed the agency into a multifaceted organization serving six counties and up to 16 counties in certain programs. Under her leadership, WIRC obtained more than $40 million for projects, including water and sewer infrastructure improvements, housing rehabilitation, flood relief and regional economic development. In 1982, WIRC expanded as a Community Action Agency and developed numerous programs to meet the needs of low-income residents in a four-county area. Nash and her team were also instrumental in developing a Victim Services Department; in 1986, establishing services to assist individuals and families affected by domestic violence; and in 1991, services for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. She has served on state and national boards, including vice president for both the Illinois Association of Regional Councils and the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies and representing Illinois on the board of the National Association of Development Organizations. After stepping down as director in 2017, Nash moved into the role of transition facilitator and planner to write and administer grants for the Community Development Department. She fully retired in April 2018 but continues to serve as a volunteer for Victim Services.

In her community, Nash served as president of the McDonough County YMCA Board, former campaign associate chair for the McDonough County United Way and is currently co-president of the St. Paul Women's Guild. She continues to serve on numerous volunteer boards, committees and community organizations, including the Youth Assistance Program, the McDonough County Community Quality of Life Committee (CQLC), the St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center Foundation Development Committee, the Macomb Centennial Morning Rotary Club, Macomb Feminist Network (MFN) and WIU's Performing Arts Society. Along with her husband, Tim Howe, they contribute to scholarships, the Art Chown Golf Learning Center, the Frank Lupton Outdoor Education Center, the performing arts, Tri-States Public Radio, Audio Information Services (AIS), where Nash volunteers as a weekly reader, and others. Nash has been recognized over the years for her service to her community and the region receiving many awards, including Outstanding Working Woman of Illinois, the MFN Writing Women into History, the CQLC Clyde Chronkite award and the College of Education and Human Services Lifetime Achievement award.

Papini, a 1979 psychology graduate, has served as the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at University of Illinois Springfield since July 2017. He is responsible for the implementation of the academic priorities of the institution, oversees academic and budgetary policy and priorities, ensures the quality of the faculty and student body and helps to maintain educational excellence.

Previously, Papini served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at South Dakota State University. In that role, he helped the university create a new strategic plan and added four new degree programs, as well as helped raise funds for four capital construction projects totaling $86 million and launched an Underrepresented Dissertation Fellows Program to bring minority faculty to teach. He also has served as professor and chair of the psychology department at Middle Tennessee State University. He started his career teaching psychology at Southeast Missouri State University, followed by University of Arkansas. Papini was a professor in the WIU Department of Psychology from 1990-04, and he directed the Master's Experimental Program and the gerontology master's program. He is an accomplished scholar who has received more than 20 awards, multiple research grants, had his research published numerous times, has presented at national and international conferences, served as a professional reviewer for journal articles and was on the editorial board of the Journal of Early Adolescence.

He received his master's degree and Ph.D. from West Virginia University and specializes in adolescent development, research methodology and statistics and family relations. Papini has been active on his campuses over the years, advising student organizations and serving as a board member for community organizations. He supports many areas at WIU including the College of Arts and Science, scholarships and athletics.

Steelman, a 1975 political science Honors graduate, is chair of the board of directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Chicago, and he has served as an elected member director since 2011. Steelman has served as CEO of Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Bushnell since 1996 and chair since 2001. He has also served as chair of the bank's holding company, Prairieland Bancorp., Inc. since 2001.

Steelman began his career with Farmers and Merchants in 1984. He served as chair of the Illinois Bankers Association in 2008-09 and was named Illinois Bankers Association Banker of the Year in 2013. Steelman is actively involved in the legislative and regulatory process at federal and state levels. He is an honors graduate of the Northern Illinois University College of Law and the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking. An attorney practicing in banking law, Steelman is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

He is actively involved with his alma mater, serving on the Western Illinois University Foundation Board of Directors and its Executive Committee; he supports many areas of campus, including political science, athletics and others and has been instrumental in Farmers and Merchants State Bank's financial support of Western. In his community, Steelman serves as the director and secretary of the Bushnell Economic Development Corporation and past president of the Bushnell Public Library Board of Trustees among others. He has also previously served as director of the Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation, director and president of the Shaw Creek Golf Club and director of the Prairie City Nursing Center, and he was a member of the McDonough District Hospital Planned Gifts Committee. Steelman honorably served in the U.S. Navy from 1968-72.

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