2015 Forty Under 40 winners
Sarah Addison 38
Co-host of the "Morning Mix" on Mix 94.5 FM and News Director at the Illini Radio Group.
Proudest professional accomplishment: The money Mix 94.5 has raised through our annual "Christmas Wish" campaign.
I attribute my success to: Having a positive attitude and my eternal optimism.
Best advice: Be honest, to yourself and others. Know who you are as an individual. It's okay to be different. Different is good. The world needs different.
Interesting fact: That once upon a time I played clarinet and could read music like a boss.
That I recently lost 50 lbs. That I sang on stage with Matchbox 20.
That "Dirty Dancing" was about me. One of these may not be true... but only one.
Biggest career challenge: Balancing my home life and work life.
Important professional lesson: Be adaptable. Things are always changing.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: A kid at heart.
From the nominator: Sarah is a giver. She volunteered with One-to-One Mentoring, the Board of Safe Kids Champaign County, Go red for Women's luncheon/American Heart Association, The United Way, Carle's NICU CU and Roofsit to raise $75,000 for needy families. - Chris Shepard, Sales Manager, J.R. Americas, and nominee's spouse.
Ajith Antony 36
Member of Technical Staff Riverbed Technology, and landlord Rosewood Rentals.
Community involvement: Education Justice Project -team leader computer lab for the EJP students at the Danville Correctional Center.
I attribute my success to: My parents for showing me how to work hard.
Best advice: You can't help everybody. Don't let other peoples' problems become your problems. You make money when you buy. (as in the purchase price determines the profitability of an investment) Life is the sum of all your choices.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I prefer to operate on a "no news is good news" basis, and get a little anxious whenever the phone rings.
Biggest career challenge: There are always so many new things to learn, it is difficult to decide which ones to make time for. I own more books than I'll ever read.
Important professional lesson: You always have a choice.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: A guy you can count on in a jam.
From the nominator: "The quality I most admire in Ajith is that he is always curious to learn and then is already ready to give help when you ask a question."- Evgeni Peryshkin, softwear engineer, Riverbed Technologies. (One of two nominators.)
Jonathan Ashbrook 39
Engineering Manager, Finisar Corp.
Community involvement:Co-founder/coach of Prairie Fire Soccer Club, Leader for Cub Scout Pack 42, Leader for Boy Scout Troop 42, Member of Stand Up To Coal, Technology committee for Heritage CUSD #8
Proudest professional accomplishment: Earning a best paper award for the pre-eminent journal in my industry.
Best advice: Continually strive to improve what you work on and how you work on it.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: We live in a house that has been in my family for more than 130 years.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you make that decision?
I returned to Champaign from Vermont in 2002 to join Intersymbol Communications, Inc., a small integrated circuit start-up company. I love central Illinois and knew this might be my only chance to actually pursue my career here. I also couldn't pass up the chance to work with former colleagues from graduate school.
From the nominator: "He's done a lot in his 39 years to give back to his community and profession, in Champaign County, Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Illinois. There is nothing he can't do when he puts his mind and energy into it."-Kimberly Keniley-Ashbrook, assistant editor, Chambanamoms.com and nominee's spouse.
Kayla Banks 32
Executive Director of Operations & Planning at Carle Illinois College of Medicine
Community involvement: I serve on the Board of Directors for the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, am a member of the Carle Foundation Core Steering Committee, and volunteer annually for the Illinois Marathon.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Completing my PhD.
I attribute my success to: A strong support system amongst family and friends, determination, and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.
Best advice: "Life is a learning laboratory. You may not always get the results you want but as long as you learn from it, there is no such thing as failure."
Interesting fact: I love to learn. I would spend the rest of my life studying in countries all over the world if it was practical.
Biggest career challenge: Completing my PhD while working full-time.
Important professional lesson: Say yes as often as possible. You never know where a source of inspiration is hiding, an important relationship can be developed, or an opportunity is waiting.
From the nominator: "She is a model for all girls, women, young and old, and I am honored to be her friend." - Debbie Schmidt, director-supply chain services, Carle Foundation Hospital
Jennifer Bechtel 38
Program Director in University Housing at the University of Illinois.
Community involvement: My primary community involvement is with the Champaign Movie Makers group, a group focused in supporting filmmaking in the Champaign-Urbana area. I also participate as part of the planning committee for the annual Pens to Lens screenwriting event, which provides K-12 students in the C-U area to see their short screenplays produced by local filmmakers for the big screen.
I attribute my success to: Knowing how to identify and surround myself with talented, inspiring, and challenging people who push me and teach me constantly.
Best advice: Don't sit around waiting for opportunities to come to you. CREATE opportunities to follow your passions.
Important professional lesson: Be kind and respectful to everyone, but don't be afraid to be assertive and stand for something in your work. If you combine kindness with a willingness to stand up for what you believe in, you'll find that you have more allies than you ever imagined.
From the nominator: "Jennifer is incredibly smart and dedicated to her work, family and volunteer work."- Rhiannon Clifton, director of strategic programs & outreach, college of media, University of Illinois
Misty Teheran Bell 36
Community Elements, Clinician II-PLL, Parkland College, Math Instructor and MTB & Associates, CEO
Community involvement: I'm involved in the community through my church, I am an licensed and ordained associate minister at Canaan Baptist Church in Urbana, IL, my family; wife Angela, and two children Makel and Kaleigh, my fraternity; I am member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., my profession; providing mental health services, teaching, mentoring and providing consulting marketing and leadership expertise to the Champaign-Urbana community.
I attribute my success to: everyone that has invested and assisted me along my life's journey. The village raised me which consist of God, family, friends, fraternity brothers, neighbors, teachers, and preachers
Best advice: To seek wisdom over knowledge.
Biggest career challenge: The biggest challenge is to rise above the stereotypes that exist among African-American men and to maintain a proper balance of uniqueness to order to relate to the young men and women coming up after me.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Blessed.
From the nominator: "He models and promotes high character traits for aspiring students who demonstrate even a small amount of potential towards any arena." - Willie T. Summerville, outreach coordinator, DAAS, University of Illinois (one of two nominators)
Kathryn Bermingham 29
CPA, Senior Clifton Larson Allen, LLP
Community involvement: Board member of Community Foundation of East Central Illinois; membership chair on the board of Women's Business Council; member of Executive Club of Champaign County; have been active on the social xommittee for the organization; finance advisor at Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority at the University of Illinois,Urbana- Champaign.
Proudest professional accomplishment: When I received the 2015 Athena Young Professional Award from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. It was a true honor to be named an emerging leader, role model, and mentor for other women in the community. I would not have been able to receive such an award without the amount of guidance and encouragement of my family and my mentors at CLA.
From the nominator: "I was motivated to nominate Katie because of her passion for what she does and her commitment to this community. Katie is always well prepared going the extra mile to serve her employer and clients." - Mary Ellen O'Shaughnessey, retired
Laura Beyer 24
Community Relations Coordinator, Clark-Lindsey
Community involvement: Outside of my role at work, I am the Programs & Service Chair for Champaign County Women's Business Council and the 5k Race Director for Girls on the Run of Champaign County.
Proudest professional accomplishment: My proudest professional accomplishment is developing an ever-growing student internship program at Clark-Lindsey.
I attribute my success to: My parents have been a huge influence in my work ethic. They taught me that life is what you make it, and sometimes you'll have to get creative and work a little harder to make your dreams come true.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I decided to become a vegetarian in 5th grade and still am! I have to thank my parents for being supportive of a young 11-year-old that "demanded" a major dietary and lifestyle change.
From the nominator: "Laura leads with a genuine interest in seeing those around her succeed. She is creative and does not hesitate to share new ideas or raise questions that lead her organization to new and improved services." - Debra Reardanz, C.E.O., Clark-Lindsey Village, Inc.
Brandon Boys 33
Economic Development Manager, City of Urbana
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being elected City Council President of Ashland, Wisconsin at the age of 24.
I attribute my success to: Hard work along with support from my friends and family.
Best advice: Screwing up is a vital part of growing, improving and leading.
Biggest career challenge: Constantly striving to improve the communities and organizations I have served.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I had the privilege of acting in several great community theater productions at StageNorth in Washburn, Wisconsin.
Important professional lesson: It takes two years to get anything done.
pivotal career decision: Deciding to leave Wisconsin to go to graduate school; my partner and I went on a long hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains in the U.P.
My partner would describe me as: Analytical, brilliant, hilarious and caring.
To relax, I: Play disc golf, read sci-fi novels, go hiking, watch anime, spend time with my partner, Carrie, and our cat, Fennel.
From the nominator: "Brandon is simply brilliant. His sheer dedication and extensive local networks are making a huge difference to our local economy by revitalizing our main street and cultivating a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs of all ages." - Elizabeth Tyler, community development director, City of Urbana
Alicia Burge 36
High School Science Teacher at Urbana School District 116
What are some of the ways you are involved in the community? Teacher and student mentor and advisor; tutor; community outreach programs: Illini FS Farm Days, Champaign Park District 4th of July Celebration, and Urbana Middle School Restoration Service Project; FFA; Champaign Rotary; Habitat for Humanity.
Pivotal career decision: As I earned my degree in Animal Science, I wanted to improve people's lives and the agriculture industry by becoming a molecular geneticist. I continued my graduate degree with this goal in mind, but during this time, I was required to teach an introductory to genetics class. During this experience, numerous students, even those that were not mine, were coming to me for help and guidance. It soon became apparent that I was able to improve lives in another way. As a result of a series of outside challenges and personal growth, I made the difficult decision to leave behind six years of schooling and training to make a difference as a teacher.
From the nominator: "Alicia has always dedicated herself to helping students be their best in the classroom and beyond." - Scott Burge, architect, Farnsworth Group, Inc., and nominee's spouse.
Jennifer Carlson 39
Director of Residential Services, Developmental Services Center
Community involvement: Volunteer for March of Dimes, St. Joseph youth baseball; Prince of Peace Lutheran Church; St. Joseph Grade School P.T.C.; former president of Prince of Peace Community Early Learning Center's Parent Involvement Organization; 2011 Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes; Sunday school superintendent at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
Pivotal career decision: Deciding to accept a direct support position at Developmental Services Center in 1999. I left my job as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant to come here. It was a pay cut, but provided stability at the time that therapy work was not providing. I intended to work at D.S.C. until a better opportunity came along. Sixteen years and several positions later, I am still here. Not only have I had great professional learning opportunities, but this is where I met my husband, Mike Carlson, whom I have been married to for 13 years.
From the nominator: "Jennifer is mission-driven, self-motivated, dedicated leader who has the ability to get along with everyone. She is respected by her peers, direct employees and supervisor." - Dale Morrissey, C.E.O., Developmental Services Center and employer
Gregory Damhorst 27
M.D./Ph'D. student at the University of Illinois
Community involvement: Founded Illini Fighting Hunger, a program of the Wesley Foundation in Urbana and a Registered Student Organization at the University of Illinois; Illini Emergency Medical Services, a service and dialogue group called Interfaith in Action; two free health clinics in the Champaign-Urbana community.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Completing a doctorate in Bioengineering, and launching a start-up company called Electrocyt which is based on technology I worked on in graduate school. We won second place in the Cozad New Venture competition on campus in 2014.
I attribute my success to: Parents who made sure I did my homework and encouraged me to always do my best.
Biggest career challenge: Graduate school. Not merely the technical challenges of research, but learning how to stay committed to optimism and a larger purpose of using my gifts to serve others.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Dedicated, driven, and over-committed.
From the nominator: "Greg has a clear vision, excitement and passion for community service." - Kristen Costello, development relations manager, Eastern Illinois Foodbank (one of two nominators)
John Deckert 31
Associate at Coordinated Financial Services, Inc.; and, the Managing Partner of Coordinated Legal Services, P.C.
Community involvement: Champaign Rotary club -through the club I volunteer at a variety of activities (e.g., planting Tress in Gifford, the Corn Roast, Habitat for Humanity, etc.); president of the board of directors for the Rotary Club's Foundation; member of the board of directors for the Reading Group. I also run a very small mentoring program called the Men's Alliance. We work with five young men at a time. Our mission is to target young men with potential and provide them with substantial institutional, academic, and emotional support. I am also a participating attorney with the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Through this organization I help families in this community navigate estate planning and tax issues.
Important career lesson: To be indefatigable in my diligence. One day's success bears little on future achievement.
From the nominator: "As a young professional, John fully understands the power behind relationship building and connecting people to other people, particularly when it comes to solving problems." - Winnie Crowder, executive director, The Reading Group
Emma Dorantes 33
Partner, Attorney-Dodd & Maatuka Law Office, Champaign
Community involvement: Monthly town hall meeting program and an adult literacy and elementary school certification program for the Champaign-Urbana Latino community; board of directors of Promise Healthcare; Illinois State Bar Association-Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public.
Proudest professional accomplishment: There are several cases I could point to and say "that was a good win" but I think what I am most proud of is that I have earned a good reputation, not just among my peers, but with the judges I appear before. In Chicago, there is no civility among attorneys, and to the judges, you are one of hundreds of private attorneys, but here, in Central Illinois, one has the opportunity to build a reputation, and I'm proud of the name I'm making for myself.
Best advice: As an attorney you are not the cause of your client's troubles, and you can't always fix everything that has gone wrong in their lives. Your job is to do the best you can with the facts you are dealt and stay honest, with your client and yourself.
From the nominator: "Emma has been an active force in helping educate and empower the Latino community." - Shayla Maatuka, managing partner Maatuka, AlHeeti, Dorantes, Emkes, L.L.C. (one of five nominations)
Kyle Emkes 33
Partner, Dodd & Maatuka/adjunct instructor at the University of Illinos/owner of Autographs Alive
Community involvement: Cursillo church retreats, Thrivant community planning, volunteer for Equipping Leaders Internationally.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Becoming a licensed attorney.
Best advice: Be courageous, do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Biggest career challenge: Maintaining a work-life balance.
Important career lesson: To focus on the solution and not the problem.
Pivotal career decision: The decision to pursue a law degree. Being the first generation off the farm, I challenged myself to push my education goals further.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: An ambitious and driven man with a heart full of gold focused on helping others.
From the nominator: "Sincere, hard working, compassionate and ethical. Kyle is dedicated to helping others and doing what he can to make a difference in the lives of others through his faith, his actions and how he lives his life." - Ken Bohac, U.S. Marshall (one of six nominations)
Chris Engelbrecht 37
President and founder Engelbrecht Grills and Cookers/owner and operator Engelbrecht Farms - a grain farm/owner Engelbrecht Farm - a barn and farmstead wedding venue
Community involvement: March of Dimes; Crisis Nursery; Prescence emergency paramedic team; 30 acres of land restored to its original habaitat; Green manufacturer of the year by a trade association.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I like being creative and then when that creativity gets broadcasted is kind of neat. So I would have to say working for our President and Bobby Flay ranks up there. Also, with the barn/wedding thing; creating a place where people come and do nothing but enjoy themselves.
I attribute my success to: In large part my uncle. No one had any faith in a business building grills. The bank I had then denied me on the idea. I did not have hardly any capital then to borrow against. My friends thought it was a bad idea. My uncle was the only one who had faith in me and the idea. The other plus is he was a C.F.O. at a large business in Chicago. He's a business genius and also my being able to tap into his knowledge was a huge advantage.
From the nominator: "Chris helped a homeless man by putting him to work, and he taught an Iraqi veteran how to weld so he could get a pipelining job. Chris is an unsung hero. He never seeks the spotlight. He quickly grasps the needs of others and puts his creativity, ingenuity and resources to work helping those in need." - Rod Roberts, president Thunderstruck Design
Michelle Grindley 33
Continuing education manager at Human Kinetics
Community involvement: Girl Scout Leader- Service Area 5 Manager; chair, mission committee, Savoy United Methodist Church; entertainment co-chair for Relay for Life of Champaign County; Illinois Marathon committee; Mahomet-Seymour Schools PTO board. I attribute my success to ... never giving up!
Interesting fact you may not know about me is ... I lived in the largest orphanage in Russia for three weeks during college as part of a mission team with people who I had never met before. Those were three of the most heart-breaking weeks of my life, but also some of the most inspiring and challenging.
Biggest career challenge: The great balancing act is the biggest challenge I constantly face in my career, and in life... as I am sure most people do.
Important professional lesson: I've learned to trust my instincts and listen to the little voice inside of me. When something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
From the nominator: "Michelle has amazing leadership skills, not only among her peers at Human Kinetics, but in the community where she gives so much of her time." - Jeanne Bohlen, HR manager, Human Kinetics
Joseph Guyette 36
Attorney and partner, Heyl Royster Voelker and Allen
Community involvement: University YMCA board member; Campus Cooperative Preschool board member; Carle Foundation CORE, steering committee; soccer coach; Cub Scout den leader.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Becoming a partner in my law firm. It was a culmination of hard work, and a little luck.
I attribute my success to: The work ethic I learned from my parents. I watched how hard they worked, and tried to do the same.
Biggest career challenge: Balancing work life and the rest of life. That can require some late nights in the office, after a soccer practice.
Important professional lesson: Don't be afraid to ask. Ask for help. Ask for advice. Ask for a critique. Your more experienced co-workers don't expect you to know everything, and they might have a wealth of knowledge to share.
My wife would describe me as: Occasionally funny. Reluctant kitchen cleaner.
From the nominator: "Joe is an up and coming member of the community who deserves to be recognized for his hard work and volunteerism. He is an example of someone who came to this area to attend the U of I, and not only stayed, but toally bought into the community." - John Flodstrom, shareholder and partner, Heyl Royster Voelker and Allen
Erika Hackman 37
Dean of learning support, Parkland College.
Community involvement: Parkland, service learning project; Urbana High School, student senate Thanksgiving dinner; Restoration Urban Ministries.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I worked with a colleague at Parkland in our library to develop the college's online institutional repository, called SPARK, a place to make our students' best work visible and accessible. SPARK highlights students' projects in our honors program, graphic design, anthropology, and digital media, just to name a few areas. SPARK has been recognized state-wide and nationally, as an innovative resource for a community college.
Important professional lesson: People matter most. I began my career as an educator. I started teaching faculty and staff software programs at UIUC, and then taught grandparents how to use email to communicate with their grandchildren through Urbana Adult Education. Later, I joined Parkland College and began teaching software skills to a diverse range of students. Then, in my administrative roles at Parkland, I've had the great fortune of continuing to focus on supporting the learning and development of our people.
From the nominator: "Erika is so down-to-earth. She is incredibly smart, inquisitive, helpful, ethical, well-informed, reliable, hard-working and funny." Pam Lau, vice president for academic services, Parkland College
Michael Harden 32
Executive Chef/Owner of Caribbean Grill & Signature Events Catering
Community involvement:Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce; Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated; guest speaker, resource for Upward Bound; the Parkland College Entrepreneurial Network (PEN); Don Moyer Boy's & Girls Club; Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP; The Vipers Track Club; Big Brothers Big Sisters organization; March of Dimes organization; Registered Student Organizations on the Illinois campus; mentor; Stone Creek Church, in Urbana.
Proudest professional accomplishment: To date, one of my proudest professional accomplishments would be the establishment of the Caribbean Grill Food Truck.
Best advice: Advice I would give to any aspiring entrepreneur is to know that you will have to work harder for yourself -- as your own boss -- than you will for anyone else.
Important career lesson: The most important lesson I have learned in my entrepreneurial career is that there are no mistakes, only teachable moments. This is where the growth that leads to success comes from.
From the nominator: "Mike is charismatic, passionate, solution-oriented, creative and dedicated." - Sammer Jones, fundraiser, Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois
Patrick Harrington 34
Managing Attorney, Harrington & Tock LLC law offices.
Community involvement: Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club board and annual golf outing chair; Full Circle House, Inc. board member, treasurer; Rotary Club of Champaign, W.G.R.C.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Having the opportunity to learn from, and work alongside my grandfather, father and brother.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: During my freshman year at Indiana University my friends and I were yelled at by Bobby Knight for taunting a Purdue basketball player while he was shooting free throws. My parents later mailed me a News-Gazette article that mentioned it.
Biggest career challenge: Accepting that certain aspects of any transaction or case may be completely outside of my control. Also, keeping my desk clean.
Pivotal career decision: Being offered and accepting the Managing Attorney position only 4 years into my law practice. I was able to make the decision because I had the support and confidence of the other attorneys and staff.
From the nominator: "Patrick is a great example of dedication and hard work. He is honest, kind, thoughtful and community driven." Laura Shapland, manager, Shapland Realty
Jay Hooper 34
Mathematics teacher and the content area chair for the mathematics department at Centennial High School
Community involvement: Centennial math team coach; college student mentor; member Twin City Bible Church; Mountaintop Ministries; professional development at a high school in Haiti.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Several years ago, I was wrestling with the mathematics behind a new approach to recording and calculating student grades. As I investigated the mathematics, I, along with some other colleagues, discovered potential flaws, and my advice was listened to by other leaders. I love to dig deeper, think scientifically, and to create. The final result was a new method of calculating grades and a published paper in a peer-reviewed journal. I created an online gradebook system that supports the newly published grading method and the grading philosophy of the best-practice literature.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is ...I make no apologies, but I am originally from Green Bay!
From the nominator: "Jay Hooper is an outstanding teacher. He is dedicated to both teacher and student learning at CHS. He is respected by his colleagues as an instructional leader in the building." - Stacy Arie, instructional coach, Centennial High School
Jameel Jones 39
Director of Recreation for the Champaign Park District
Community involvement: Crisis Nursery board; Champaign Municipal Employees Credit Union board; I also coach basketball for our traveling program housed at the Douglass Community Center, Champaign Heat.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being a review panelist for the Illinois Arts Council to represent downstate Illinois for seven consecutive years.
Best advice: Listen twice and always remember to smile!
Biggest career challenge: Being flexible and the ability to adjust in time as this can be a trendy field...so keeping things current and up with the changing times is a challenge but also the best thing about what we do in the Recreation Field.
Important career lesson: Spend the time to develop staff so we are all successful in the long run; absorb as much as I can through trainings/literature/etc. to be a better supervisor/coworker/peer; make the workplace fun to come to!
From the nominator: "Jameel is dedicated and passionate about his work. He is loyal to his company and to all the people that he strives to help." Karli Hall, administrative assistant, Accent Counseling
Mary Konken 35
Director of Girls on the Run of Champaign County, Stephens Family YMCA
Community involvement: Junior League of Champaign Urbana, sustaining member, board of directors, Festival of Trees chair; United Way of Champaign County, Power of the Purse.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Bringing Girls on the Run to Champaign County.
Best advice: The best advice I can give is to do something that you love. I have always enjoyed helping people and giving back to my community. I never knew it would lead me to an amazing job opportunity!
Biggest career challenge: Trying to figure out the perfect balance of working and taking care of my family, of administrative duties vs. big picture thinking.
Pivotal career decision; I guess it would be deciding to go back to work. Since I am so passionate about Girls on the Run it was an easy decision.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: a good friend, loyal, caring, and hard worker.
From the nominator: "Mary is a very positive, up-beat person. She is incredibly self-motivated, passionate and someone who takes her work very seriously." Kim Webb, Stephens Family YMCA
Jennifer McCaffrey 38
Assistant Dean, Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Illinois - Extension and Outreach
Community involvement: I am involved in my church and children's school. Professionally I advocate and obtain funding for programs to help people make improvements for themselves and their community.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I have been successful in obtaining grant dollars that go toward educational programming for people in need across the state of Illinois. Through the work we do, we help hundreds of thousands of people better their lives.
Best advice: To help people identify their strengths and talents, then help them build on it to be successful.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is ... I grew up on a dairy farm.
Pivotal career decision: I decided that I wanted to work at a large publicly funded University as opposed to a smaller educational setting because I love lifelong learning and the opportunities large Universities present were right for my career goals. However, this meant that we had to move and there were fewer positions available. However, due to my husband's flexibility and timing, here we are!
From the nominator: "Jennifer brings energy, creativity and visionary ideas to her team!" - Ginger Boas, county extension director, University of Illinois Extension
Robert Meister 32
Owner/Operator of Minneci's at the Crossing, Minneci's Catering Company, Meister Artistry & Consulting
Community involvement: Volunteer /contributor, March of Dimes; Challenger League; Wounded Warriors; American Heart Association; Don Moyers Boys & Girls Club; The Humane Society; Make a Wish Foundation; Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being able to give back to the community that helped raise me. This year my staff and I passed the $100,000 mark in charitable donations.
Biggest career challenge: When I was setting out to buy the restaurant in 2007, I was turned down by seven different banks for a business loan. Each time I had to re-motivate myself to keep pushing forward. It was very difficult to be told 'no' so many times, but I just kept trying. Finally, I was able to secure a loan and purchase the restaurant. I kept the letters and emails from the banks who turned me down as motivation to be successful. Eight years later, four of the banks that turned me down are no longer in business.
"L'amore attraverso il cibo." Italian for, "Love through food." - Michelle Murphy, owner, Dashing Events, Inc. (one of three nominations)
Charles Mockbee IV 36
Assistant State's Attorney, Vermilion County State's Attorney's Office
Community involvement: CrossRoads Christian Church; Danville Bell Credit Union, president of board; Keep Vermilion County Beautiful, president of board; Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center, board member; Vermilion County D.A.R.E., volunteer; Vermilion County Bar Association, secretary, past president; Bismarck Lions Club, third vice president; Danville AMBUCS; Danville Noon Rotary;Danville Library Foundation, past board member.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Successfully prosecuting Danville's 2007 triple homicide.
I attribute my success to: Hard work with support from my family and friends.
Best advice: Just keep swimming.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: For the past several years I have ushered at Illinois Football games.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Dedicated, driven, loyal.
To relax I: Spend time with my family: wife, Rebecca and son, Jonah.
From the nominator: "He is young, but committed to his community. He steps outside of the 'busy' norm of his life to make a difference in the quality of life in Vermillion County where he was raised, and now where he now lives, works and plays." - Lynn Wolgamot, executive director, Keep Vermillion County Beautiful (one of three nominations)
Crystal Odoms 34
Treasury Analyst, Busey Bank
Community involvement: JLCU, chair of fundraising; YWCA, board member, and "Girls Go For It", board member; University of Illinois, money mentor; United Way; Emerging Community Leader Alumni.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being chosen for Busey's leadership program, "Evolve."
I attribute my success to: Taking chances, embracing change and keeping a positive attitude.
Best advice: Is to never give up and to always believe in myself.
Biggest career challenge: Relocating from my hometown to Champaign to work for Busey Bank. It was a difficult decision because I had to leave behind family and friends. Instinctively I knew coming to Champaign was the right thing to do and it turned out to be the best decision I've made in my career thus far.
Important career lesson: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who challenge you to stretch beyond what you think you're capable of.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Caring, funny, supportive and passionate.
From the nominator: "She truly is a wonderful example to others within the community and abroad." - Christa Dubson, manager, Busey Bank.
John Olson 35
Relocation Consultant - Federal Companies, an agent for Allied Van Lines
Community involvement: United Way of Champaign County, board of directors;United Way of Champaign County, Emerging Community Leaders;Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, Business Empowered PAC Board.
Proudest professional accomplishment: In 2014, I lead Federal's testing and implementation of new estimating software from our corporate office, training colleagues in 4 other offices while increasing my sales by 40% over the previous year. I finished the year ranking in Allied Van Lines' Top 100 consumer representatives nationally.
I attribute my success to: My co-workers who work so hard for our clients and my extremely patient and supportive wife, Sara.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I played snare drum in the Marching Illini Drumline
Important career lesson: Invest the time need to be an expert in your field, and always be willing to share your knowledge with others.
To relax I : Spend time outdoors: with our dog, kayaking with my wife, or shooting.
From the nominator: "Instead of 'can we do this?' John is always saying, "Lets' get this done!""- Nancy Suchomski, director of campaign development, United Way of Champaign County
Brad Petersen 39
Director of communications for the department of electrical and computer engineering, University of Illinois
Community involvement: Holy Cross school, marketing committee; Champaign Urbana Youth Hockey Association, board of directors; CU Day of Service and the Boneyard Creek Community Day with my family.
Proudest professional accomplishment: The ECE Department opened a new $95M building in August 2014. During my tenure in ECE I had the chance to contribute to this project in multiple ways. The opening of the building involved several special events for the students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and the community. This building is phenomenal in so many ways--it's an important addition to our campus and community. Its goal is to be the most energy efficient building of its kind anywhere, and is targeting LEED Platinum status as well as net-zero energy. I'm grateful to have contributed in some way to a project that will impact thousands of students in the coming decades.
Biggest career challenge: After just one year on my first job I was asked to oversee the team I had been part of. It's really difficult to go from being coworkers with people, to being their supervisor.
From the nominator: "Brad Petersen is the ultimate team player." - Beth Katsinas, assistant dean of advancement, College of Education, University of Illinois
Andy Roberts 39
Brand Manager and mornings on WIXY 100.3 and Brand Manager of WYXY Classic 99.1
Community involvement: Boy Scouts of American, Eagle Scout, leader, trainer, board member, vice president of Marketing; three Champaign Honor Flights; Illinois Marathon committee member; Champaign and Danville Toys for Tots.
Proudest professional accomplishment: The Holstein & Company Morning Show won the Country Music Association Personality of the Year Award in 2004.
Best advice I can give; I call it Too Many Tabs Syndrome - trying to do too many things at once and not getting anything accomplished. We cannot multitask the way we think we can (science says so). Web browsers allow us to have dozens of tabs open. When there are so many tabs open and you're working on a project, you typically flip from tab to tab to aggregate your content. But as you're flipping, you click on other open tabs from another project or an email you're in the middle of and that distracts you from your main project. Everything takes twice as long as it needs to. Close Facebook, close email, and just get your work done!
From the nominator: "He truly understands that if you don't grow people, the company can't grow." - Karen Cochrane, vice president and general manager Illini Radio Group
Amy Sage 30
Executive Account Representative at The Andersons
Community involvement: Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee, past chairman; United Way location coordinator; Village of Royal clerk.
Proudest professional accomplishment: At the end of the day, I feel that I am making a contribution to the world food supply chain and that my customers know that I genuinely care about their farm operations and success.
I attribute my success to: having incredible mentors through every stage of my life. I was taught at an early age to watch what people do not what they say. Fortunately for me, I have always had extremely dedicated, down-to-earth, smart and successful individuals to watch and learn from. I am where I am because others have taken time to help me get here.
Biggest career challenge: Helping our farmers manage through an extremely wet harvest in 2009. There were daily challenges managing space and logistics along with a lot of disappointment, frustration, and long days for everyone. Communication was extremely important but we all got through it together with many stories to tell!
From the nominator: "Amy's dedication to providing a high level of service to her customers is second to none." - Brian Stark, regional sales manager, The Andersons, Inc.
Matthew Schweighart 34
Attorney - Erwin, Martinkus & Cole, Ltd.
Community involvement: CU One to One mentor; Champaign County CASA, board president-elect; St. Matthew Catholic Church, finance council; United Way of Champaign County, Ready, Set, Grow! committee, pillar committee, campaign cabinet, former ECL committee chair; Champaign West Rotary.
proudest professional accomplishment: I'm most proud of the fact that I get to help people solve problems for a living. Each time a client is able to close a deal or resolve an issue, it's rewarding to have played a role in achieving the result.
Pivotal career decision: In making the decision to return to Champaign to begin my career after completing law school in St. Louis, I weighed the benefits of living and practicing in a larger city against the opportunity to be part of a community and be near family in Champaign. The latter has been everything I hoped it would be and more.
To relax I ... Play dress up with my four-year-old and peek-a-boo with my ten-month-old...while not always "relaxing," they keep me focused on what is most important in life.
From the nominator: "Matt is unflappable and is a steadying presence that you want by your side in tough situations." - Scott Bennett, Illinois state senator (one of two nominations)
Miranda Soucie 30
Partner at Spiros Law, P.C.
Community involvement: President East Central Illinois Women Attorneys Association (ECIWAA); ECIWAA board; Kingdom's Cause board; Copper Creek Presbyterian Church, business committee; worship team and middle school youth group, Copper Creek Presbyterian Church.
Best advice: My mom used to tell me that I could become and do whatever I put my mind to. While that isn't necessarily true in practice, that advice has been instrumental in giving me the strength, work-ethic and confidence to forge forward to reach my goals.
Pivotal career decision: The most pivotal decision in my career was the moment I chose my first job. I had received a couple of other job offers, but chose to work with Spiros Law. At Spiros Law, I was given the opportunity to jump in to the practice of law full speed ahead, but at the same time, I knew that I could always count on the other attorneys to answer questions and provide support. This environment has been invaluable to me.
From the nominator: "Miranda is selfless and gives her time and energy to others freely." - Scott Keeble, pastor, Copper Creek Church (one of three nominations)
William Stull 32
CPA and the President of Stephens & Stull, P.C.
Community involvement: C-U Sunrise Rotary; Champaign Center Partnership; The UP Center of Champaign County; Champaign County Humane Society.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Let me start by staying that taking risks has never been my forte, but being my own boss and being able to personally assess my own success has been a career objective for myself. After nearly a decade of public accounting experience I harnessed my courage. Alongside my business partner, Jason Stephens, I opened my own accounting firm in June 2014. I have a great deal of gratitude for all the people that supported me along the way. The positive feedback we receive on a regular basis is a constant reminder that I did the right thing.
Interesting fact: I grew up wanting to be a singer/songwriter and entered undergrad as a commercial music major. I eventually realized my brain was not wired for a career in music. Though, I still enjoy singing, playing piano and dabbling in composition.
From the nominator: "Billy is involved and truly cares about the community and in making a positive impact." - Lynnette Brown, accountant, Stephens & Stull (one of three nominations)
Bradley Uken 40
Manager of the Champaign County Farm Bureau
Community involvement: Champaign Rotary; Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation board; Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, treasurer; Regional Water Supply Planning Committee, chair.
Proudest professional accomplishment: The Champaign County Farm Bureau`s "Let`s Get Growing Again" and "Let`s Keep Growing" projects. There were 425 trees planted in the rural areas of the county, and Gifford, which were impacted by the tornadoes several years back. I continue to hold a special place in my heart for those impacted by this unfortunate event and the small part we played in rebuilding their lives. My proposed project created partnerships amongst various stakeholders and volunteers that helped give some sense of normalcy and hope back to the individuals who needed it the most; they were amazing! To top it off, I grew up in the impacted area and knew a lot of the individuals - which makes it even more meaningful.
Pivotal career decision: Relocating with the Farm Bureau back to Champaign County was probably one of my pivotal decisions.
From the nominator: "Brad is an outstanding leader in the community." - Carl Meyer, retired, Parkland College Foundation
Dan Waldinger, 36
Director, Parks and Recreation Department, Village of Mahomet
Community involvement: Visit Champaign County board; The Mahomet Seymour Youth Football board; member of the Mahomet River Trails committee; Mahomet Diamond Dogs, community development chair; Illinois Park and Recreation Association; University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Accepting the position here in Mahomet. I was fortunate to come to Mahomet at a time when the department and Village were poised for substantial growth. As a 28 year old young professional, I was able to take a young department and grow with it. Although there have been growing pains, the satisfaction of improving the quality of life in my own community is amazing.
Pivotal career decision: Accepting my first job in the Parks and Recreation field with Savoy Recreation Center. After juggling a few "post college" jobs, I knew within weeks that I had found my career path.
From the nominator: "Dan is professional, but also personable, in his work life and it is a real pleasure to be associated with him." - Robert Mahrt, administrator, City of Aledo, Illinois
Angela Wolters 39
Associate Director, Women in Engineering, University of Illinois
Community involvement: University of Illinois I-Promise mentor; Society of Women Engineers; Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church; volunteer presenter discussing engineering careers at local schools and organizations
Interesting fact: I am currently co-authoring a book with a colleague that highlights the accomplishments and contributions of women engineers affiliated with the University of Illinois.
Important career lesson: Surround yourself with great people. During my ten years as an engineering consultant, I had the benefit of working with individuals who served as great professional mentors. Now, working with talented colleagues at the University of Illinois, I have the opportunity to collaborate on special programs, events, and classes that provide prospective and current students knowledge of engineering disciplines and the experiences needed to succeed in their engineering studies and professional careers.
From the nominator: "Angie is a visionary leader with a far reaching influence as a role model, educator, mentor who effectively inspires students to pursue and become successful in science, technology, engineering, and math fields."- Barry Dempsey, professor emeritus, University of Illinois