President Al Bowman, far right, and Linda Bowman, far left, with some of the 2012 Alumni Association award winners. (File photo)

Six Illinois State University alumni and friends will receive awards for outstanding accomplishments at the Alumni Association Awards Recognition Dinner Thursday, February 21. The recipients also will be acknowledged during the Founders Day Convocation on that day.

They are recognized in five categories: Distinguished Alumni Award; Senator John W. Maitland Jr. Commitment to Education Award; E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award; Alumni Achievement Award; and Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Register for the Alumni Recognition dinner on the alumni website.

Distinguished Alumni Award

James Gentile

James Gentile

James Gentile, M.S. ’70, Ph.D. ’74

President, Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Tucson, Arizona

James Gentile spent two years in post-doctoral studies in the Department of Human Genetics at the Yale School of Medicine after completing two graduate degrees at Illinois State. For nearly 30 years, he held an endowed chair in biology and served as the dean for the natural sciences Hope College in Holland, Mich.

He acquired his current position in 2005. In addition to leading the Research Corporation, he holds adjunct professorships at the University of Arizona and at Hope College.

Gentile’s research programs focus on plant activation of environmental carcinogens and the connection between inflammation and cancer. His results have been published in more than 100 articles, book chapters, and book reviews. He writes opinions on science and science education for the Huffington Post and several magazines.

He has received numerous national and international awards and was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Educational Enrichment Foundation in 2012. His involvement with Illinois State remains strong. He returns to speak on campus and was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award in 1995. He was inducted into the University’s College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in February 2008, along with his wife, Glenda (Hill) ’73.

Senator John W. Maitland Jr. Commitment to Education Award

Dan Brady

Dan Brady

Dan Brady

Illinois House of Representatives, Illinois General Assembly, 88th District


Dan Brady studied politics and business at St. Ambrose, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. He is a partner in the Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Memorial Home in Bloomington, where he works as a funeral director. He is also a dedicated public servant and staunch supporter of the University.

Brady has served as an Illinois legislator for 12 years. He was named to the House Republican Leadership Team in 2003 as Republican caucus chair. In 2008 he was named assistant minority leader. Prior to serving at the Statehouse, Brady was elected twice as McLean County coroner.

Brady’s legislative efforts have focused primarily on issues tied to insurance, higher education, law enforcement and emergency medical services. He championed legislation to help local law enforcement agencies better respond to calls involving individuals with special needs.

Serving on many boards, Brady has received numerous accolades for his legislative work and recognition for his efforts to strengthen communities. He received the Friend of Agriculture Award from the Illinois Farm Bureau two years, the Champion of Free Enterprise honor from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and the Legislative Hero Award from the Illinois State Alliance of YMCAs.

E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award

Mike Matejka

Mike Matejka

Michael Matejka, ’74

Director of Governmental Affairs, Great Plains Laborers District Council


Karen “Kari” Sandhaas ’81, ’83

Senior Agency Training Designer, COUNTRY Financial


Michael Matejka and his wife, Kari Sandhaas, met at Illinois State. He studied history and philosophy, while she completed degrees in art and art teacher education.

With the Laborers International Union, Matejka works to improve employment conditions. He edits The Grand Prairie Union News and has authored two books. He served 18 years on the Bloomington City Council and serves on numerous local boards.

Karen “Kari” Sandhaas

Karen “Kari” Sandhaas

Sandhaas designs leadership training at COUNTRY Financial and is the 2012 recipient of the company’s Community Service Award. She previously served as creative director for an international education nonprofit and a consulting firm, where she pioneered early web-based training programs. Coauthor of two books, she serves as the Ecology Action Center board president, Autism Society of McLean County vice president, and Multicultural Leadership Program marketing cochair.

She and Matejka have a daughter, Loretta Santejka ’07, with Asperger’s Syndrome. They helped start ASMC employment awareness programs, such as Diversity’s Missing Piece, to open employment opportunities for adults with autism. They also help coordinate the annual Children’s Christmas Party for Unemployed Families, which serves 400 children from low-income families.


Alumni Achievement Award

David Wildt

David Wildt

David Wildt ’72

Senior Scientist and Head, Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute

Front Royal, Virginia

Since studying animal sciences at Illinois State, David Wildt has built a career as a reproductive biologist who specializes in the study and rescue of endangered species. Among his most significant accomplishments has been his work with Chinese colleagues to bring the giant panda back from the edge of extinction.

Wildt completed a master’s and doctorate at Michigan State University. He conducted research at Baylor College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health before working at the Conservation Biology Institute, a part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

He manages the endangered animal collection at the Institute’s 3,200-acre wildlife facility in Front Royal, Va., while leading a team that studies diverse species — from coral to elephants. While his research is centered on reproduction, he partners across disciplines in basic and applied research to discover and implement better ways to create and manage sustainable populations of rare species.

His work in reproductive biology and species survival is shared in more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and 56 book chapters that span more than 50 vertebrate species. His advice and expertise is sought throughout the United States and the world.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Adam Kinzinger

Adam Kinzinger

Adam Kinzinger ’00

Representative, U.S. Congress

U.S. House of Representatives, 16th District


As a political and government sophomore, Adam Kinzinger challenged an incumbent for the McLean County board in 1998 and won, becoming one of the youngest board members in the county’s history.

After leaving the board in 2003, Kinzinger enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he earned his pilot wings and currently serves as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves with the rank of major.

During his military service, he earned the Air Medal six times while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also received the National Guard’s Valley Forge Cross for Heroism and was selected as the Southeastern Wisconsin American Red Cross Hero of the Year for the saving life of a young woman.

Elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, Kinzinger is on the Energy and Commerce Committee and was named to the House Majority Transition Team just days after he was elected. One of the youngest members of Congress, he in the 40 under 40 “Rising Stars in American Politics” listing by TIME magazine.