Chicago Illini of the Year Award (Est. 1997)

Co-sponsored by the University of Illinois Alumni Association and the Chicago Illini Club, this award recognizes the accomplishments of Chicago-area graduates of the University. Up to three distinguished alumni who live and work in Chicago or a Chicago suburb are honored each year.

2019 Recipients

  • Richard J. Sieracki, '74 ENG

    Richard J. Sieracki, ’74 ENG, is co-founder and Co-CEO of the Kenrich Group, a nationally -based construction and business litigation firm with its largest office in Chicago. Kenrich has been named by Brill Street recruiters as one of the “Top 50 Employers for Generation Y Emerging Talent in Chicago.” During his four decades in the construction industry, Rich has gained an international reputation for providing testimony in high-profile construction litigation with a specific emphasis in cost overruns and schedule delays. Rich and Kenrich have worked on numerous Chicago Projects such as Soldier Field, the Waldorf Astoria, the Palmolive Building, Malcolm X College, Millennium Park and the University of Illinois’s Memorial Stadium. He is a member of the Board of the U of I Civil and Environmental Alumni Association and with his wife Linda, ’74 LAS, established the Linda J. and Richard J. Sieracki Civil and Environmental Engineering Visionary Scholarship Fund. Rich and Kenrich continue to draw talent from U of I and eagerly hire engineers, finance majors and accountants who hold UI System degrees. In addition, Rich and his family are longtime supporters of U of I athletics.


  • Jill Wine-Banks, '64 MEDIA

    Jill Wine-Banks, ’64 MEDIA, began her career as a trial lawyer, becoming the first female attorney in the organized crime section of the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The Chicago native served as a prosecutor in the Watergate trial and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first female general counsel of the U.S. Army. She became a partner in the Chicago firm of Jenner & Block before serving as the first Solicitor General of Illinois and first female executive director of the American Bar Association. She next held international business roles at Motorola and Maytag and as the CEO of Winning Workplaces before becoming the Chief Officer for Chicago Public Schools’ career and technical education program where she helped to create DeVry University Advantage Academy, an early-college high school. Wine-Banks now is a MSNBC Legal Analyst, speaker and soon-to-be author. She is a member of The Chicago Network and a board member of the Better Government Association and Governor’s State University.


Past Recipients

  • 2018

    • Thomas DiSanto, '87 ACES

    • Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, '88 LAS

    • Steven Thayer, '88 LAS

  • 2017

    • Rebecca A. Snyders Darr, ’90 LAS

    • Mary Kay Kretch Haben, ’77 BUS

    • Judge James F. Holderman Jr., ’68 ACES, JD ’71

  • 2016

    • William T. Barry, ’77 BUS

    • Phillip C. Goldstick, ’53 BUS

    • Craig W. Vodnik, ’92 ENG

  • 2015

    • Dr. Pedro J. Cevallos-Candau, MS ’77 ENG, PHD ’80 ENG

      Co-Founder, CEO and President of Primera Engineers Ltd.
    • Jeanne K. Gang, ’86 FAA

      Founder and Principal of Studio Gang Architects
    • Howard T. Griffith, ’91 LAS

      Former NFL Player, Lead in-studio analyst for the Big Ten Network and a co-host for ESPN-Radio Chicago
  • 2014

    • Carrie J. Hightman, ’79 LAS

      Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, NiSource Inc.
    • Stephen D. Bardo, ’90 LAS

      College Basketball Analyst, ESPN, Big Ten Network and Fox Sports 1
  • 2013

    • Jesse H. Ruiz, ’88 LAS

      Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
    • Celene Peurye-Hissong, ’74 LAS, MSW ’76

      Principal Focused Philanthropy
    • Ryan Baker, ’91 MEDIA

      Sports Anchor/Director, WBBM-TV/CBS 2 Chicago
  • 2012

    • Carol Hillsman Sagers, ’79 MEDIA

      Founder and Consultant, CHS Marketing Consultants
    • Samuel Mendenhall, ’88 CBA (UIC), JD ’91 LAW

      Equity Partner Winston & Strawn
    • The Hon. Timothy C. Evans, ’65 LAS

      Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County
  • 2011

    • Howard M. Katz, ’82 ACES

      Senior Executive Vice President Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
    • Mary Frances Fagan, ’76 MEDIA, MA ’83 LAS

      Director, Corporate Communications, American Airlines
    • G. Thomas Castino, ’60 ENG

      Retired President and CEO Underwriters Laboratories
  • 2010

    • Richard C. Romano, ’54 LAS

      Founder & Chairman, Romano Brothers & Co.
    • Robert D. Kleinschmidt, ’63 FAA

      President, Powell/Kleinschmidt Inc.
    • Ronald W. Bess, ’69 BUS, ’72 MEDIA

      President and CEO, Euro RSCG Chicago
  • 2009

    • Avy H. Stein, '77 BUS

      Managing partner, Willis Stein & Partners LLC
    • Cirilo A. McSween, '54 LAS

      Owner, Cirilo McSween Insurance Agency, Founder and President, Black McDonald's Operators Association
    • Gail Veasman Kellogg, '65 LAS

      Retired Principal, partner and Consultant, Hewitt Associates
  • 2008

    • Paul Schrage, MS ’59 MEDIA

      Retired Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s Corp.
    • Sheldon B. Rubin, ’64 LAS, ’66 VM, DVM ‘68

      Former Owner and Director Emeritus, Blum Animal Hospital, Author
    • Caroline Becker Joss, ’84 ACES

      Co-founder and designer, Caroline Rose Inc.
  • 2007

    • Roger Plummer, ’64 ENG

      President & CEO, Plummer & Associates Consulting
    • Robert Falls, ’76 FAA

      Artistic Director, Goodman Theatre
    • Richard Cline, ’57 LAS

      Chairman & Director, Hawthorne Investors, Inc., Managing Partner, Hawthorne Investments, LLC
  • 2006

    • Pamela Bristow Strobel, ’74 MEDIA, JD ’77 LAW

      Retired Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Exelon Corporation
    • John David Mooney, MFA ’65 FAA

      Founder and Artistic Director, John David Mooney Foundation
    • Howard Engle, ’72 BUS

      Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP
  • 2005

    • Thomas Miner, JD ’53 LAW

      President of Thomas H. Miner & Associates, Inc., Chair and Founder of Mid-America, Committee for International Business and Government Cooperation
    • Jack Klues, ’77 MEDIA

      Chairman and CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group
    • Carol Ross Barney, ’71 FAA

      Founder and President, Ross Barney & Jankowski
  • 2004

    • Cary D. McMillan, ’80 BUS

      Chief Executive Officer, Sara Lee Branded Apparel
    • W. Gene Corley, ’58 ENG, MS ’60, PHD ’61 ENG

      Senior Vice President for Engineering, Construction Technology Labs, Inc., Head of Federal Investigation into Collapse of World Trade Center Buildings
    • Corinne J. Wood, ’76 LAS

      Former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
  • 2003

    • Robert P. Crawford, ‘59 MEDIA

      Retired “Dean” of Chicago Broadcast Journalists, more than 40 years with CBS and WBBM
    • Dr. Emiel Hamberlin, ‘77 EDM, ‘83 EDD

      Biology and Horticulture Teacher at DuSable High School Inductee, National Teachers’ Hall of Fame; Golden Apple Award
    • Doris Christopher, ‘67 ACES

      Chair and Founder, The Pampered Chef
  • 2002

    • Ralph Johnson, ‘71 FAA

      Director of Design, Perkins & Will
    • Eli Cohen, ‘55 ENG

      Principal Engineer, Thornton Tomasetti Engineers
    • Cheryl Berman, ‘74 MEDIA

      Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett USA
  • 2001

    • Thomas Tunney, ‘77 ACES

      President, Ann Sathers Restaurants
    • Mark Tebbe, ‘83 ENG

      Chair and Founder, Lante Corporation
    • Mary Dempsey, MS ‘76 GSLIS

      Commissioner, Chicago Public Library
  • 2000

    • Arnold Weber, ’50 LAS, AM ’51 LIR, HON ‘97

      President Emeritus, Northwestern University
    • Lynn Martin, '60 LAS

      Chair, Deloitte Touche's Council on the Advancement of Women, former U.S. Secretary of Labor
    • Avis LaVelle, '75 MEDIA

      V.P. for Government & Public Affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals, former Press Secretary for Mayor Richard M. Daley
  • 1999

    • Sam Skinner, '60 BUS

      Capital Partner & Co-chairman, Hopkins & Sutter Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Chief of Staff
    • Johnny "Red" Kerr, '54 ALS

      President, Kerr Financial Services Announcer for Chicago Bulls Basketball Team
    • Nicole Hollander, '60 FAA

      Sculpter, writer, creator of comic strip “Sylvia”
  • 1998

    • Sheldon Good, '55 BUS

      Chairman Emeritus, Sheldon Good & Company
    • Tonise Paul, '79 MEDIA, MS '80 MEDIA

      President and CEO, BBDO Chicago
    • Lester McKeever Jr., '55 BUS

      Managing Principal, Washington, Pittman & McKeever
  • 1997

    • Joel Weisman, '63 BUS

      News Analyst and Private Attorney, Siegman & Weisman, Ltd
    • Carol Marin, '70 LAS

      News anchor, CBS News
    • Roger Ebert, '64 MEDIA

      Film Critic, Author