Illinois State University’s Alumni Association honored six award recipients at Founders Day celebrations on February 15, as well as during a dinner program. Nominations are now being sought for the 2019 Alumni Awards. Deadline to nominate is May 31. Make a nomination online at Alumni.IllinoisState.edu/Awards or call (309) 438-2586.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Paul Flessner ’81, Business Information Systems
Retired senior vice president, Microsoft Corp.
Paul Flessner joined Microsoft as a program manager in 1994, and finished his career as senior vice president of the data and storage platform division. Flessner was the first leader of the server business unit when the company organized into seven business units.
His passion for addressing challenges led him to become part of Microsoft founder Bill Gate’s inner circle of executives., Flessner led businesses with annual revenues in excess of $7 billion in his leadership role, and was responsible for more than 25,000 employees.
Before Microsoft, Flessner spent 13 years developing and managing information technology systems for a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of health care products.
A member of ISU’s College of Business Hall of Fame, he created the Flessner Family Endowment for students in accounting and business information systems. He has given generously of his time as a classroom presenter and Business Week keynote speaker. He also invests in and mentors several socially responsible startup companies.
Flessner and his wife, College of Business graduate Sue (Zimmerman) ’81, have been active in the fight to cure cystic fibrosis. Both of their sons were diagnosed with the disease. As a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics board member, Flessner helped pioneer “venture philanthropy.” He secured a private gift of $20 million that led to the approval of the first drug targeting the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis.
Alumni Achievement Award
Thomas Carroll ’84, M.S. ’89, Psychology
Former executive vice president-chief administrative officer, R.R. Donnelley
Thomas Carroll led RR Donnelley’s global human resources, corporate marketing, corporate communications, government affairs, postal affairs, and foundation. He was lead advisor for the international Fortune 250 company’s Work-Bench accelerator initiative for enterprise technology startups in New York.
Carroll created the Bobbie McCambridge Endowed Nursing Scholarship to honor his mother. She was a nursing student who suffered injuries in a car accident that took her sister’s life. She completed a long nursing career.
Carroll believes in giving back. He has contributed financially and as a board member to many organizations, including Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, Chicago Public Library Foundation, North Central College, Naperville Community Television, Naperville Area Humane Society and Metro Chicago YMCA.
As part of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, Carroll created a fund within Mennonite College of Nursing to enhance preparing nurses for their role in transforming health care.
Amelia Franck Meyer ’89, M.S.’95, Psychology/Sociology
Chief executive officer, Alia
Amelia Franck Meyer is an innovative change-maker working to reimagine the nation’s foster care system. She is CEO/founder of Alia, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the child welfare system. The goal is her passion.
As former CEO of a treatment foster care agency, Franck Meyer and her team received the Bush Prize for Innovation and the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Youth Thrive Award for Exemplary Programs. They achieved nationally leading outcomes in the number of foster children who found permanent families.
Franck Meyer focuses on a child’s physical and psychological safety, and developing techniques to help youth overcome traumas. She led the initiative to develop the Youth Connections Scale and the Well-being Indicator Tool for Youth, both nationally recognized and used.
Franck Meyer has driven child welfare changes in more than half the states and internationally. She received prestigious fellowships from the Bush Foundation and the international Ashoka Change Maker Network for social entrepreneurs. She was ISU’s Sociology and Anthropology Department 2010 Alumna of the Year.
Senator John W. Maitland Jr., Commitment to Education Award
Peter Rankaitis ’74, M.S. ’98, Sociology
Executive director, Project Oz
Peter Rankaitis founded Project Oz in 1973, and still leads the Bloomington nonprofit agency that provides crisis intervention and emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth. He hires and mentors ISU students and interns.
Rankaitis also co-founded PATH, a 24-hour crisis and referral hotline in Bloomington. A founding member of the City of Bloomington’s Mayor’s Task Force on Gangs and Drugs, he works tirelessly on legislation and policies that impact youth.
He is a member of the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health, and past Illinois Collaboration on Youth board member. Rankaitis is co-chair of the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health Prevention Steering Committee.
Rankaitis has received the McLean County Bar Association Meritorious Service Award, the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, and the Executive Leadership in Excellence Award from the National Network for Youth.
E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award
Beverly Beyer, M.S. ’03, Sociology-Applied Community and Economic Development
Senior associate director, Illinois State University Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development
Beverly Beyer has held leadership positions with ISU’s Stevenson Center the past 14 years. As senior associate director, she manages the center’s Peace Corps Fellows, Peace Corps Master’s International, Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows graduate programs, and the University’s AmeriCorps program.
In 2016, Beyer launched a campus-wide Peace Corps Prep program for undergraduate students. She improved visibility and recruitment for the Stevenson Center’s graduate programs. Illinois State’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program has been ranked four times in the national top 10 of colleges and universities partnering with the Peace Corps.
Beyer served in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria from 1997 to 1999. She has volunteered for the American Red Cross, AmeriCorps, Ecology Action Center, Milner Library, Peoria Park District, and public radio stations WCBU and WGLT. She serves on the board of directors for Mid-Central Community Action, and she teaches grant writing. She is a recipient of ISU’s Distinguished Service Award.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Garrett Anderson ’10, Criminal Justice Sciences
Retired sergeant, United States Army
Garrett Anderson was in Iraq when a bomb detonated beneath the vehicle he was driving. He worked eight months to recover from an amputation, severe head injuries, and brain trauma.
With the support of his wife, Sami (Fitzjarrald) ’01, he earned an ISU degree in criminal justice sciences and began assisting veterans as a constituent relations representative for U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis.
Anderson raises funds for the Wounded Warriors Project and the Chez Family Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His community service includes serving on the boards of Illinois Secretary of State Veterans’ Advisory Council and the student-led organization DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring).
He is a motivational speaker educating schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses about the issues military veterans face. He also speaks with Illinois State students interested in government service.