North Central College - Naperville, IL

Joseph E. Birkett

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2002

Joseph Birkett was sworn in as DuPage County state’s attorney in 1996, and has been re-elected to two consecutive four-year terms. Throughout his career, he has assisted with training junior prosecutors and has received numerous awards and commendations for his public service. He received his law degree from the John Marshall Law School in 1981 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar later that same year. He became an assistant states attorney in DuPage County in 1981. In 1985, he was promoted to chief of the Major Crimes Unit and the next year was named deputy chief of the Criminal Division. He served from 1991-96 as the Chief of the Criminal Division. He is a member of several professional organizations and is also an adjunct faculty member at National Louis University in Wheaton, Ill.

Barbara Schroeder Rehn

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2002

Barbara Rehn has dedicated more than 40 years to the profession of teaching piano to students of all ages. She maintains a weekly studio of 45 students, many of whom participate and place in the Wisconsin State Music Association contests for which she has served as a volunteer accompanist for many years. Her most rewarding experiences have been developing lasting relationships with each of her students. Rehn is an active member of Community United Methodist Church of Elm Grove, Wis., and a loyal volunteer and supporter of North Central. She has assisted with recruiting high school students and organized Milwaukee area alumni gatherings on behalf of the College. She has served on the Alumni Board and has been a class representative for more than 40 years.

Al Benedetti

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2002

A native of Chicago, Al Benedetti joined the family residential construction business in 1951, assuming the presidency of Bruno Benedetti and Sons in 1963. Benedetti served on the boards of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce for nine years and the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association for six years. Almost 30 years ago, along with the help of other college supporters, Benedetti and Dick Wehrli ’56 performed what the Chicago Tribune referred to as the $18,000 Miracle in Naperville, together transporting and re-constructing the old St. Louis Cardinals stadium on North Central’s south campus.
Benedetti has been a College Trustee since 1988 and was named Life Trustee in 2002. He was also chairman of the 1986 committee that assisted with efforts to complete the renovation of Merner Field House and is a former Alumni Board member. He continues to serve as a North Central College Trustee. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service.


Dorcas Mae Lepien Toenniges Pearcy

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2002

Dorcas Percy was a savvy business woman who ran Toenniges Jewelers, Inc., for more than 50 years. She recently moved to Wisconsin but continues to travel. While residing in Naperville, Pearcy was an active community volunteer who served breakfast twice a month at PADS and Katharine Manor. She sang with the Naperville Woman’s Club Chorus and was also a member of New Horizons, the 55 Years and Older Band at Benedictine University. She also directed the Community United Methodist Church Choir for many years. Pearcy has traveled to the Philippines and Africa with Heifer Project International and continues to volunteer through its Chicago branch. In 1998, she published the book Facets of Dorcas, Memoirs, which includes a chapter about North Central College.

Obrad Kesic

Class Year: 

Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2003

Obrad Kesic is a senior partner with TSM Global Consultants LLC, a Washington, D.C. firm providing business consulting services and government affairs representation to American companies interested in doing business with Russia, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. TSM also offers the same services to international companies interested in doing business with the United States. Kesic has enjoyed a successful and wide-ranging career in international relations. In 1999, he traveled to Yugoslavia with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition to assist in negotiations for the release of three U.S. prisoners of war held by the Yugoslav Army. The group was successful and Kesic received the Rainbow Coalition/Operation Push Peace Award for his assistance in this successful mission. Kesic has authored more than three dozen essays, articles and research papers. Kesic has served as commentator and analyst for American and international media including CNN, 60 Minutes, BBC, NPR and The Lehrer News Hour.

Wayne Duehn

Class Year: 

Wall of Witness Award Winner 2012

Dr. Wayne Duehn ’61, Ph.D., has focused his career on advocating for the health of families and the prevention of child abuse. Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work, Wayne developed a child abuse prevention program for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, which has been implemented across the globe, and has conducted training seminars for medical personnel serving in the Air Force, Navy and Army in the United States and abroad.

Throughout his career, Wayne has been a lecturer, trainer and consultant for such organizations as The Casey Family Programs, National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA), Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association and National Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. 

After joining the University of Texas faculty in 1970, Wayne developed one of the first research-oriented, evidence-based practice curriculums in graduate social work education. He continues to be engaged in clinical research on sexually abusive parents and juvenile sex offenders and is a recognized authority and educator in the treatment of sexually abusive families. Wayne is also a published author and presenter at international conferences. He is a co-founder of Praesidium, Inc., an abuse risk management firm for organizations.

At North Central, Wayne majored in psychology and sociology and went on to earn his master’s degree in social work from Loyola University, followed by a doctorate in psychology and social work from Washington University in St. Louis. He was a research associate at the Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis and completed postdoctoral work at the University of Hawaii.

Wayne and his wife Barbara Mark ’61 Duehn live in Arlington, TX. 

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Matthew S. Brill

Class Year: 

Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2012

Matthew S. Brill ’97 has achieved outstanding success in the business world after graduating from North Central with a degree in international business and as a National Champion in cross country and eight-time All-American in track and field. Matt is currently an equity and derivatives broker for Tourmaline Partners, which is based in New York. Prior to this position, he spent 11 years with Susquehanna International Group (SIG), first in Chicago, and then outside Philadelphia.

A Presidential Scholar at North Central, Matt excelled at both academics and athletics, graduating as a National Academic Athlete as presented by GTE Corporation. In addition to placing first at the national cross country meet in 1996, Matt was part of North Central’s 1993 NCAA III Cross Country national championship team that set a record for the lowest team point total (32 points), which has never been matched. He was also a member of the 1998 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field national championship team and still holds the freshman record at North Central in the 10,000 meters.

Matt was inducted into the North Central College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007 and became a North Central College Trustee in 2012. He resides in Pottstown, PA, with his wife Magdalena Zdziarska ’99 Brill and their two sons.

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Eric McLaren

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2012

Eric McLaren ’86, Ph.D., has devoted his career to advancing the mission of the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA), most recently as its principal and vice president for academic programs. In that role, he has been responsible for ensuring quality instruction and the integrity of the overall academic and residential program. A charter staff member, Eric began as a resident counselor in 1986 and was subsequently promoted to head resident counselor, coordinator of residential life, assistant principal/coordinator of community learning and principal. He was named vice president for academic programs in 2004.

His leadership style is characterized by his ability to motivate others by building a shared sense of purpose. In fall 2010, Eric was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Find something that feeds your sense of purpose and be willing to look low for that purpose as well as high,” Eric said to IMSA students in a video revealing his diagnosis. “It’s one way to learn how to be more fully human as you press beyond ‘being good’ to ‘being good for something.’”

He has continued in his leadership role at IMSA for an extended time as vice president for academic programs and has helped establish a connection between the academy and ALS research efforts. In 2011, he and his family, along with IMSA, hosted an ALS Awareness Night Gala to advance a partnership between IMSA and Project ALS that will focus on programs and research. The proceeds went to the McLaren Family Research Fund at Project ALS and to a fund at IMSA called Cure A Dreaded Human Ailment (CADHA). “If I have to have a disease, then I want something good to come from it,” Eric has said.

Eric majored in psychology at North Central College and went on to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northern Illinois University.

Eric, his wife Kim and their children live in Sugar Grove, IL.

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Fredric Janzen

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2012

Fredric Janzen ’85, Ph.D., is widely known in the field of evolutionary biology and herpetology as an outstanding teacher, researcher and author. A professor in the department of ecology, evolution and organismal biology at Iowa State University, Fred teaches evolutionary genetics, herpetology and field biology courses to advanced undergraduate and graduate students and has mentored 100 postdoctoral fellows. He has authored 135 scientific articles and book chapters since 1986 and holds editorial positions with two academic journals. Dedicated to global conservation and ecology causes, which resulted in visiting professor posts in Costa Rica and China, he is frequently invited to deliver talks in a variety of academic and science-related settings worldwide and has garnered millions of dollars in grants to support research and education in biology.

Closer to home, Fred is involved in groups that are devoted to amphibian and reptile conservation and studying climate change. He is a member of the Sound Science Initiative, which helps to promote rational U.S. science policy involving the societal impacts of climate change and invasive species.

Fred’s numerous awards for his teaching and research included recognition as an ADVANCE Professor in 2007 by the National Science Foundation. Fred majored in biology at North Central and was inspired to pursue an academic career in zoology by traveling to Arizona and New Mexico for undergraduate research on desert ecology and reptiles. He completed a master’s degree in zoology at Colorado State University, a doctorate in ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California-Davis.

Fred, his wife Anne and their children live in Ames, IA.

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Priscilla Ferch Gallagher

Class Year: 

Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2012

Priscilla Ferch ’80 Gallagher is one of Illinois’ top lawyers, well known for her work in the area of intellectual property law. Registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Priscilla specializes in preparing patent applications involving chemicals, chemical processing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and mechanical arts. She has negotiated patent licensing and technology sharing agreements in such diverse fields as wellbore gas detection systems, plasma treatment processing and polymeric films; counsels clients on patentability, infringement and validity issues; and has prepared opinions in a wide range of technologies. She manages all aspects of the trademark portfolios for several clients, including clearing trademarks, and obtaining and maintaining registrations on a worldwide basis.

As a litigator, Priscilla has been a member of several successful litigation teams and has developed a unique niche as a strategist and case management specialist. She has extensive legal writing experience at the trial, appellate and Supreme Court levels, including being a principal author of many successful summary judgment and appellate briefs.

At North Central, she majored in chemistry and biology and went on to law school at Loyola University, graduating in 1984. She has been an active supporter of North Central, serving on the Alumni Board and speaking on intellectual property law to graduate students.

Priscilla, her husband Larry and their children live in Chicago.

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