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.