Western will recognize alumni for achievements

Steven Barnum , Assistant News Editor

Western Illinois University will recognize five former students during December’ Commencement Ceremonies.

The Western Illinois University Alumni Achievement Award is designed to recognize those who have offered significant contributions to society after graduating from Western.

This award especially recognizes outstanding achievements in one’s career path, their continued support in the improvements and success at Western or helpful service in local, state or national communities.

Randall S. Germeraad, James G. Leahy, Suzan Nash, Dennis R. Papini and Michael G. Steelman will all receive the award during the Commencement Ceremonies in December. Western will recognize Leahy, Papini and Steelman during the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, while Germeraad and Nash will receive the award during the 1 p.m. ceremony.

Germeraad is the executive chair of Springfield (IL) Electric Supply Company, where he serves on the board of directors. After graduating in 1976 with a degree in education, Germeraad has worked in sales, supply chain management, teaching and procurement. He has served or currently serves on the board of Memorial Health System, Memorial Medical Center and Memorial Behavioral Health.

Throughout the community, Germeraad has served as chair of both the Springfield Public Schools Foundation and the Old State Capital Art Fair. The former Rotarian is also responsible for “Adopt a School,” a mentoring program for kids in Springfield.

Leahy is the chief operating officer of Veterans Canteen Service Department of Veterans Affairs for the last three years. Leahy left Western in 1985 with a degree in business, which he used to pursue a career in the private sector. He focuses on making sure veterans in America get the care they need. Leahy has also spent time in the retailing industry.

Leahy was the Western Illinois University College of Business and Technology Executive in Residence in 2017. He frequents classrooms on campus to talk to students about his experience, and he also helps with the recruiting process at Western.

Suzan Nash graduated Western with a Master of Science degree in recreation, park and tourism administration. She spent time as the executive director of the Western Illinois University Regional Council, where she helped expand the organization from six countries to 16 countries. Additionally, she helped gather funds to improve housing and water quality in areas lacking economic development.

Recently, Nash was the transition facilitator and planner, which allows her to hand out grants for the Community Development Department. She formally served as president of the McDonough County YMCA Board, and is currently the co-president of the St. Paul Women’s Guild. She is a member of various other boards and committees throughout McDonough County.

Dennis R. Papini is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at University of Illinois Springfield. He oversees budgets and priorities in the academic side of business. Papini went into the workforce in 1979 after graduating with a degree in psychology.

Papini worked at South Dakota State University, where he was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. During his time there, he helped establish four new degree programs to provide more career paths for students, while also creating a program that brought in more minority faculty members to the university. He worked at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Arkansas before working in Department of Psychology at Western, where he advises student organizations.

Michael G. Steelman is the chairman and CEO of Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Bushnell, Ill. and the chair of the board of directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago.

After graduating in 1975 with a degree in political science, Steelman has since served as chair of the Illinois Bankers Association, which named him “banker of the year” in 2013. He is also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Steelman can be seen on Western Illinois University’s Foundation Board of Directors, and has been crucial in getting proper funding for Western. Before his time in college, Steelman served in the U.S. Navy.

Western’s Commencement ceremonies will take place on Dec. 15.