North Central College - Naperville, IL

Alumni Awards & Recognition

Outstanding Alumni Awards & Recognition


J. Charles Eldridge, PhD '65, is Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC. A native of Ottawa, Illinois, he was introduced to North Central College by high school classmates and family friends.  After graduating with a B.A. in biology and chemistry, he attended Northern Illinois University and earned a M.S. in physiology in 1967. In 1971, he completed a PhD in endocrinology at the Medical College of Georgia.

Dr. Eldridge’s body of research has been presented in nearly 200 published manuscripts, book chapters, professional meetings and seminars, including a 480-page book, “Endocrine Toxicology”, edited and published in 2010. He is frequently invited as a consultant on endocrine matters for the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, various corporations and legal counsel.

In education, Dr. Eldridge is a principal instructor of endocrine physiology and pharmacology in the medical and graduate school programs.  He has held a variety of leadership positions at Wake Forest, and was architect and phase director of a new MD curriculum that utilizes small-group, case-centered tutorials for basic science learning.

Dr. Eldridge has received a number of teaching awards from his student classes, was a Macy Foundation Scholar at Harvard Medical School, a Ciba-Novartis Researcher of the Year, and was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from the Medical College of Georgia in 2002.

Colonel Stephen P. Taylor '75, earned a B. A. in Political Science from North Central College in 1975.  After graduation he attended United States Marine Corps Officer's Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in August 1975. He was designated a Naval Aviator in March 1977 and was subsequently assigned to HMH-461, Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina flying the CH-53D. While in HMH-461 he was designated an aircraft commander and participated in several exercises in the Caribbean and North Atlantic.

He reported to the Naval War College in August 1995 and graduated with distinction, earning a Masters of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. In July 2000 he returned to Marine Helicopter Squadron One and in June 2001 he assumed duty as Commanding Officer and Presidential Helicopter Pilot. There he led more than 700 personnel in support of Presidential and Marine Corps missions and flew more than 150 Presidential flights. In June 2003, he relinquished command of HMX-1 and retired from the Marine Corps with more than 28 years of service.

In July 2003 Steve joined Augusta Westland Inc as Director of Navy and Marine Corps Programs where he was primarily involved in the program to replace the Presidential helicopter fleet. In July 2005, he accepted a position with Lockheed Martin and continued to work on the Presidential Helicopter Program. Steve has been active in establishing the Vertical Lift Consortium, a group of more than 90 companies which have worked with the Department of Defense to advance the field of vertical lift aviation.


North Central College trustee, Esther Benjamin ’90, currently serves as the executive director for resource development at the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), where she is responsible for leading IMP’s development strategy.  She also served on President Barack Obama’s Presidential Transition as a member of the National Security Team. Her team focused on foreign assistance programs, conducting agency reviews of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Ms. Benjamin is a member of the board of directors of Echoing Green, and is a fellow with the U.S.-Japan Foundation and the U.S.-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values. She holds two graduate degrees from American University in international affairs and applied economics and a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from North Central College.

Alumni Recognition Award Recipient

Ryan Dowd ’00 graduated from North Central College with a B.A. in religious studies. After North Central, he went on to Northern Illinois University to earn a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration.  


Ryan is the Executive Director of Hesed House in Aurora, where he started volunteering when he was 13 years old and joined the staff during his senior year at North Central.


Under Ryan’s leadership, Hesed House has focused more on services that help people get out of homelessness, becoming one of only five organizations in the country to offer a “one stop shop” comprehensive service center integrated into a shelter.  With its 6,000 volunteers—which includes many North Central College students—Hesed House has embraced the concept that the community heals only when affluent individuals partner with individuals in poverty to solve collective problems. 


In his spare time, Ryan works with churches—mostly in Africa—who are confronting governments that commit brutal human rights abuses like torture and extrajudicial killings.  While in Zimbabwe in January, he helped church leaders hide political fugitives who were being hunted by security forces armed with machine guns.

After graduating from North Central College in 1949 with a B.A. in psychology and sociology,

Wall of Witness

James Will earned his B.D. in theology from Evangelical Theological Seminary (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) in 1952 and a Ph.D. in philosophy and religious ethics from Columbia University in 1962.

In 1951 Dr. Will was named “Seminarian Preacher of the Year” in a national contest sponsored by the Christian Century and the Chicago Sunday Evening Club. 

His leadership activities have been numerous in local community, denomination, National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches and Christian Peace Conference. Dr. Will also served as chairperson of CAREE (Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe), was president of the United Nations Association, USA, Illinois-Greater Chicago Division and chairperson of the Consortium for International/Intercultural Theological Education.  In addition to writing articles, Dr. Will has also had four books published. Must Walls Divide? 1981; The Moral Rejection of Nuclear Deterrence, 1985; A Christology of Peace, 1989; The Universal God: Justice, Love and Peace in the Global Village, 1994.