2019 Comeback and Lou Liay Spirit award winners
Change and fireworks were in the air at the 2019 Homecoming Alumni Awards Gala. The annual event’s name and date were changed to coordinate with the University’s Homecoming Weekend, and fireworks lit up the October sky to kick off the presentation of these prestigious honors at Pear Tree Estate, a Champaign event venue owned and operated by Annie Murray Easterday, ’07 ACES, and Lauren Murray Miller, ’06 ACES.
In addition to honoring the 2019 University of Illinois Alumni Award recipients Dale Kempf, PHD ’82 LAS, and Laura Niklason, ’83 LAS, ’83 LAS; Distinguished Service Award recipient Ted Brown; and first-ever Honorary Alumnus recipient Stanley Ikenberry, HON ’19 (see profiles on pgs. 28-33), the Gala celebrated Doris Derby, MA ’75 LAS, PHD ’80 LAS, and Leslie Munger, ’78 ACES, as 2019 Comeback Award recipients; and Al Davis, ’60 ED, MS ’62 ED, ED ’64, as the 2019 Lou Liay Spirit Award recipient.
Since 1980, the UIAA has invited p-rominent and accomplished alumni back to the campus during Homecoming to share their personal stories and professional experiences with students, stressing the value of their Illinois education. Doris Derby came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s for her work as an activist and photographer who documented the many roles and diverse faces of black men, women and children during the Civil Rights era. Recently, her photographs have been exhibited in France and at the University’s Krannert Art Museum, with a show in the U.K. scheduled for 2020.
Derby served 22 years as the founding director of African American Student Services and Programs at Georgia State University and as an adjunct associate professor of cultural anthropology. She retired in 2012. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Bob Banks, a television and film actor. “I found the opportunity to create my own niche, and the University of Illinois had a major role in developing my skills and talents to do so,” Derby said in summing up the road that led to this return. “Life came around to me full circle.”
Leslie Munger started her public service as deputy governor for Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017. She then served as Illinois State Comptroller from January 2015 to December 2016. Munger oversaw the expansion of Intersect Illinois, the state’s economic development organization, and guided the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.
Munger also worked closely with University of Illinois System leadership to advance the Discovery Partners Institute initiative. In the two decades prior to her public service, she was an executive for Helene Curtis/Unilever and worked for Procter & Gamble and McKinsey & Co.
Munger is proud of her “all-Illini” family. She and her husband John Munger, ’81 LAS, MS ’94 LAS, have two adult sons who are also U of I graduates—Tom, ’13 ENG, and Andy, ’15 BUS. She says the University still “feels like home” for the family. “Even though it’s been over 40 years since I was a student here, it feels like just yesterday because my U of I experiences opened doors for me throughout my life, both personally and professionally,” she says. “What I learned here are the skills necessary to be successful in life.”
Lou Liay Spirit Award
Al Davis received the Lou Liay Spirit Award, presented to alumni who have consistently demonstrated extraordinary spirit and pride in support of the University, exemplifying a positive image of their Alma Mater. The award is named after Lou Liay, EDM ’62, executive director of the Alumni Association from 1983–98.
Davis retired as an administrator at Champaign Centennial High School after three decades (1964–94). He established the Al S. Davis Leadership Award for the U of I College of Education, which provides support to students from underrepresented groups who have pursued or intend to pursue leadership roles in a K–12 urban school environment. Davis has been an active member on the College’s Alumni Board of Visitors, as well as a UIAA life member and a University of Illinois Foundation member. He also is the recipient of the University’s 2000 Orange and Blue Award in recognition of his contributions to the University and its College of Education.
Davis also is proud to be a part of an “all-Illini” family that includes his wife Janis Chadsey, PHD ’84 ED, daughter Lisa Davis Dreaden,’91 LAS, and son Douglas Davis, ’93 LAS. “My 60-year love affair with the University opened doors, provided me with life-enriching opportunities and ever so many memorable experiences,” he says. “It has been a beautiful life’s journey.”