Chicago Illini of the Year

More than one hundred alumni and friends of the university gathered on April 22 at the Illini Center in Chicago to honor the three Chicago Illini of the Year, one of whom is a Commerce graduate. Samuel Knox Skinner (BS Accountancy 1960) was named to the honor, along with Nicole Hollander (`60) and Johnny Red Kerr (`64). This is the third year for the award, which is presented by the University of Illinois Alumni Association and the Chicago Illini Club.
Skinner, who is president of the Commonwealth Edison Company and Unicom Corporation, its holding company, has served as secretary of transportation and chief of staff during the Bush Administration and was recently named to the board of directors of Midwest Express Holdings. He began his career working in sales and management for IBM, and later became United States attorney for the northern district of Illinois. A senior partner in the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin from 1977 to 1989, he was also chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority of Northeastern Illinois during much of that time. An avid flyer, who has logged in more than four decades behind the controls of various aircraft, he is currently a jet-certified pilot. In accepting the honor, he recalled coming to the university as an 18-year-old, right out of high school with no direction in life. "The U of I quickly became home. There I met some of the finest faculty I have every known. To be honored as a Chicago Illini of the Year means a great deal to my family and me. Once an Illini, always an Illini."

Connecting with West Coast Alumni

 

"Several of the alumni spoke movingly of their experiences at Illinois and how these shaped their lives."

Mark Neville, Associate Dean of Development

A recent gathering of Commerce alumni from San Francisco and northern California provided an occasion for reminiscences about student life and observations on the impact a top-quality education from Commerce can have on business success. Held May 18 at the Pacific Union Club on Nob Hill, the luncheon meeting was hosted by Barbara Goodrich (MAS `78, BS Accountancy `77), former vice president and CFO for Shaman Pharmaceuticals; Henry Leingang (BS Commerce `72), chief information officer and senior vice president, Bechtel Group; and Kent Penwell (BS Marketing `56) senior vice president of investments, Paine Webber. A diverse group of around thirty Commerce alums, from graduating classes which spanned a fifty-year range, gathered to enjoy lunch, converse, and listen to remarks by Dean Howard Thomas. Those present included such distinguished grads as Marvin Dennis (BS Accountancy '59), principal, Dennis & Company, and Conrad Hewitt (BS Finance '58), who is former superintendent of banks for the State of California and came from Seattle for the event. Also on hand was Charles Blue (BS Commerce Curriculum '38), who took time out from celebrating his fifty-ninth wedding anniversary with his wife Mollie Mae Blue (LAS '38), whom he met in 1934, while they were both students at Illinois.

"There was a range of comments," noted associate dean of development Mark Neville, also present. "Several of the alumni spoke movingly of their experiences at Illinois and how these shaped their lives. These distinguished graduates voiced the opinion that their success had been measurably affected in a positive way by their education."

"What I valued from that session," alumnus Marvin Dennis later observed, "was simply learning about what's going on at the University of Illinois, particularly at the College of Commerce and in the accounting department those areas in which I participated while I was a student there. I appreciated what the dean had to say about maintaining and improving the excellence of the programs. I want to know that the college's commitment to quality is being maintained. And I thought having that communicated at the meeting was very, very valuable."

Comments elicited from the alumni at the meeting included suggestions for more such gatherings, both in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley, and for programs on such topics as estate planning, fundraising, and computer technology at Illinois. Wrote Steve Weiser (BS Management '61), senior vice president, Bank of America: "The Round Table in San Francisco was the best alumni event since I graduated! Please do it again twice a year."

A Day of Networking

Commerce grads offered an intimate glimpse into the world of public accounting, finance, and banking to members of the Society for Women in Commerce, when the CBA student group headed to St. Louis on an April 9 field trip. Twenty women undergraduates met with CBA alumnae holding high posts in companies and organizations throughout the city, to talk about the opportunities and challenges for women in today's business world. The day got going with a talk by Wendy Timm (BS Finance '77), CRE, who is vice president of Krombach Partners. The meeting, held at the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers, was followed by a lunchtime forum, hosted by Julie Snitzer (BS Accountancy '88), who is a director with the international accounting firm. A total of eight alumnae were present at the forum. Issues discussed included career paths and career choices, educational decisions, the balance between work and family, networking, professionalism, opportunities for students, and the challenges facing women at various companies. The trip concluded with a visit to NationsBank, where members met with senior vice president Jackie Dezort (BS Accountancy '72).

In the course of their rounds, students heard about everything from what a "typical" day consists of, to how to navigate politics within corporate culture. Both Wendy Timm and Jackie Dezort provided motivating advice to students about creating their own "brand identity," as well as how to assess corporate cultures and diversify one's background through learning experiences. New to CBA this year, SWC has been formed to provide positive role models for female business students, while developing a network of women to facilitate their entry into the workforce.