Chicago Illini of the Year Award (Est. 1997)
Co-sponsored by the University of Illinois Alumni Association and the Chicago Illini Club, this award recognizes the accomplishments of Chicago-area graduates of the University. Up to three distinguished alumni who live and work in Chicago or a Chicago suburb are honored each year.
Rebecca A. Snyders Darr, ’90 LAS
Driven by her passion to end domestic violence and homelessness, Rebecca A. Darr, ’90 LAS, has grown the Palatine, Ill.-based WINGS Program, Inc., into one of the state’s largest social service agencies for women and children fleeing domestic violence. First as executive director (1999-2014) and then as CEO (2014 to present), Darr has played a pivotal role in WINGS fulfilling its mission of providing housing, integrated services, education and advocacy. To that end, she has helped increase the nonprofit’s assets (which includes apartments and homes for domestic violence victims) from $600,000 to more than $25 million. Darr also developed new funding sources for WINGS, which allows the organization to achieve its objectives with less than 15 percent of its funding being generated from government funding.
A past recipient of the United Way’s Executive of the Year award, Darr also serves on several boards and coalitions that advocate for stronger legislation and increased awareness related to domestic violence, including the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues.
A native of Alton, Ill., Darr graduated from Illinois with a degree in psychology and is a current member of the Dept. of Psychology’s alumni advisory board. She and her husband, Joe, ENG ’90, MS ’92, live in the Chicago area with their three sons.
Mary Kay Kretch Haben, ’77 BUS
Mary Kay Kretch Haben’s distinguished business career includes executive roles at two of Chicago’s best-known companies: Kraft Foods and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
Over a 27-year career at Kraft, Haben, ’77 BUS, led several multi-billion dollar divisions as president, and oversaw the growth of iconic supermarket brands such as Philadelphia cream cheese, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, A.1. Steak Sauce and DiGiorno pizza.
In 2007, Haben accepted a position with Wrigley as president, North America, the company’s most profitable region. After Wrigley was acquired by Mars, Inc., in 2008, she successfully integrated Wrigley gum’s operations into Mars Confections, and oversaw such brands as Skittles, Starburst and Orbit gum in the U.S. and Canadian markets until her retirement in 2011.
Haben currently serves on the Boards of Directors for Bob Evans Farms, The Hershey Co. and the Off the Street Club, Chicago’s oldest boys and girls club, and she serves on the Board of Trustees for Equity Residential. Previously, she served as a board member for Liz Claiborne.
Haben received her undergraduate degree in business administration from Illinois, joining her husband Ed,’77 BUS, and sons, Mike, ’10 BUS, and Jack, ’13 MEDIA, as UI alumni. A strong advocate on behalf of the University, Haben served as chair of the University of Illinois Alumni Association Board of Directors, and is a member of the University of Illinois Foundation Board of Directors.
Judge James F. Holderman Jr., ’68 ACES, JD ’71
Appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, Judge James F. Holderman Jr. enjoyed a distinguished 30-year career as a federal judge, including seven years as Chief Judge. During his tenure, Judge Holderman presided over more than 10,000 cases, including some of the region’s highest profile cases, such as those involving the Chicago Cubs and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. After retiring from the bench in 2015, he joined JAMS (previously known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services) as a mediator, arbitrator and trial consultant.
Leading organizations such as the American Bar Association, American Inns of Court and the Chicago Bar Association have recognized Judge Holderman for his varied contributions to the legal community, which includes authoring law review articles and book chapters, directing legal education seminars and teaching at law schools. For 22 years, Judge Holderman served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois College of Law where he held the title of the James C. Wood Distinguished Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law, a topic on which he is regarded as one of the nation’s foremost judicial experts. Most recently, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner honored Judge Holderman with the 2017 Order of Lincoln award, which is the state’s highest honor for professional achievement and public service.
A native of Morris, Ill., and married to Paula Hudson LAS ’76, Holderman is a proud “Double Illini,” having earned both his undergraduate degree in agriculture as well as his law degree from Illinois. He is also a past president of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors.
William T. Barry, ’77 BUS
Phillip C. Goldstick, ’53 BUS
Craig W. Vodnik, ’92 ENG
Dr. Pedro J. Cevallos-Candau, MS ’77 ENG, PHD ’80 ENGCo-Founder, CEO and President of Primera Engineers Ltd.
Jeanne K. Gang, ’86 FAAFounder and Principal of Studio Gang Architects
Howard T. Griffith, ’91 LASFormer NFL Player, Lead in-studio analyst for the Big Ten Network and a co-host for ESPN-Radio Chicago
Carrie J. Hightman, ’79 LASExecutive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, NiSource Inc.
Stephen D. Bardo, ’90 LASCollege Basketball Analyst, ESPN, Big Ten Network and Fox Sports 1
Jesse H. Ruiz, ’88 LASPartner, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Celene Peurye-Hissong, ’74 LAS, MSW ’76Principal Focused Philanthropy
Ryan Baker, ’91 MEDIASports Anchor/Director, WBBM-TV/CBS 2 Chicago
Carol Hillsman Sagers, ’79 MEDIAFounder and Consultant, CHS Marketing Consultants
Samuel Mendenhall, ’88 CBA (UIC), JD ’91 LAWEquity Partner Winston & Strawn
The Hon. Timothy C. Evans, ’65 LASChief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County
Howard M. Katz, ’82 ACESSenior Executive Vice President Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Mary Frances Fagan, ’76 MEDIA, MA ’83 LASDirector, Corporate Communications, American Airlines
G. Thomas Castino, ’60 ENGRetired President and CEO Underwriters Laboratories
Richard C. Romano, ’54 LASFounder & Chairman, Romano Brothers & Co.
Robert D. Kleinschmidt, ’63 FAAPresident, Powell/Kleinschmidt Inc.
Ronald W. Bess, ’69 BUS, ’72 MEDIAPresident and CEO, Euro RSCG Chicago
Avy H. Stein, '77 BUSManaging partner, Willis Stein & Partners LLC
Cirilo A. McSween, '54 LASOwner, Cirilo McSween Insurance Agency, Founder and President, Black McDonald's Operators Association
Gail Veasman Kellogg, '65 LASRetired Principal, partner and Consultant, Hewitt Associates
Paul Schrage, MS ’59 MEDIARetired Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s Corp.
Sheldon B. Rubin, ’64 LAS, ’66 VM, DVM ‘68Former Owner and Director Emeritus, Blum Animal Hospital, Author
Caroline Becker Joss, ’84 ACESCo-founder and designer, Caroline Rose Inc.
Roger Plummer, ’64 ENGPresident & CEO, Plummer & Associates Consulting
Robert Falls, ’76 FAAArtistic Director, Goodman Theatre
Richard Cline, ’57 LASChairman & Director, Hawthorne Investors, Inc., Managing Partner, Hawthorne Investments, LLC
Pamela Bristow Strobel, ’74 MEDIA, JD ’77 LAWRetired Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Exelon Corporation
John David Mooney, MFA ’65 FAAFounder and Artistic Director, John David Mooney Foundation
Howard Engle, ’72 BUSPartner, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Thomas Miner, JD ’53 LAWPresident of Thomas H. Miner & Associates, Inc., Chair and Founder of Mid-America, Committee for International Business and Government Cooperation
Jack Klues, ’77 MEDIAChairman and CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group
Carol Ross Barney, ’71 FAAFounder and President, Ross Barney & Jankowski
Cary D. McMillan, ’80 BUSChief Executive Officer, Sara Lee Branded Apparel
W. Gene Corley, ’58 ENG, MS ’60, PHD ’61 ENGSenior Vice President for Engineering, Construction Technology Labs, Inc., Head of Federal Investigation into Collapse of World Trade Center Buildings
Corinne J. Wood, ’76 LASFormer Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
Robert P. Crawford, ‘59 MEDIARetired “Dean” of Chicago Broadcast Journalists, more than 40 years with CBS and WBBM
Dr. Emiel Hamberlin, ‘77 EDM, ‘83 EDDBiology and Horticulture Teacher at DuSable High School Inductee, National Teachers’ Hall of Fame; Golden Apple Award
Doris Christopher, ‘67 ACESChair and Founder, The Pampered Chef
Ralph Johnson, ‘71 FAADirector of Design, Perkins & Will
Eli Cohen, ‘55 ENGPrincipal Engineer, Thornton Tomasetti Engineers
Cheryl Berman, ‘74 MEDIAChief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett USA
Thomas Tunney, ‘77 ACESPresident, Ann Sathers Restaurants
Mark Tebbe, ‘83 ENGChair and Founder, Lante Corporation
Mary Dempsey, MS ‘76 GSLISCommissioner, Chicago Public Library
Arnold Weber, ’50 LAS, AM ’51 LIR, HON ‘97President Emeritus, Northwestern University
Lynn Martin, '60 LASChair, Deloitte Touche's Council on the Advancement of Women, former U.S. Secretary of Labor
Avis LaVelle, '75 MEDIAV.P. for Government & Public Affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals, former Press Secretary for Mayor Richard M. Daley
Sam Skinner, '60 BUSCapital Partner & Co-chairman, Hopkins & Sutter Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Chief of Staff
Johnny "Red" Kerr, '54 ALSPresident, Kerr Financial Services Announcer for Chicago Bulls Basketball Team
Nicole Hollander, '60 FAASculpter, writer, creator of comic strip “Sylvia”
Sheldon Good, '55 BUSChairman Emeritus, Sheldon Good & Company
Tonise Paul, '79 MEDIA, MS '80 MEDIAPresident and CEO, BBDO Chicago
Lester McKeever Jr., '55 BUSManaging Principal, Washington, Pittman & McKeever
Joel Weisman, '63 BUSNews Analyst and Private Attorney, Siegman & Weisman, Ltd
Carol Marin, '70 LASNews anchor, CBS News
Roger Ebert, '64 MEDIAFilm Critic, Author