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2020 Alumni Award recipients (left to right): Damian K. Gregory, Beverly Grimes, Griffin Hammond, Jay D. Bergman, President Dr. Larry H. Dietz, Jenna Goldsmith, and Dan Wagner (not pictured Paul DeJong)

Seven receive 2020 Alumni Awards

Each year Illinois State University’s Alumni Association recognizes alumni for their outstanding contributions to their fields, their impact on society, and their passion for Illinois State through the Alumni Awards program. This year seven individuals were honored in February:

Distinguished Alumni Award
Jay D. Bergman ’70
CEO and chairman, Petco Petroleum Corp.
Major/College: Business administration, College of Business

Jay D. Bergman started his first business as an ISU student, buying and selling recreational acreage in Wisconsin. After graduation, he expanded the business, building and marketing condominium or vacation projects in resort areas in Wisconsin and Missouri.

His entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to service endured. In 1987, Bergman purchased oil wells in southern Indiana and started Petco Petroleum Corporation with one part-time employee. Under his leadership, it developed into the largest upstream oil company headquartered in Illinois.

He remains CEO of the company that employs more than 200 people and operates more than 1,000 producing oil and gas wells with energy operations in six states. Bergman is chair of the board and majority owner of the First Secure Bank Group, consisting of eight bank facilities in suburban Chicago.

He serves on the board of the AMITA Presence Hospital Network, and is a trustee of the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and Civic Federation of Chicago.

The business administration graduate was on ISU’s Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2017—the longest term served in the institution’s governing board history. He has served on ISU’s Foundation Board and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Bergman was inducted into ISU’s College of Business Hall of Fame in 2019. He is faithfully in the stands supporting Redbird football and basketball teams.

Alumni Achievement Award
Daniel Wagner ’89, M.S. ’94
Senior vice president of government relations, Inland Real Estate Group
Major/College: Political science, College of Arts and Sciences

A student regent, academic senator, and vice president and president of the Association of Residence Halls as an undergrad, Daniel Wagner has spent his professional life advocating for others.

Wagner is the senior vice president of government relations at Inland Real Estate Group in Oak Brook. A past president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, he was the 2017 Chicago Realtor of the Year. He was inducted in 2019 into the Hall of Fame for the Illinois Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

Wagner received the Institute of Portfolio Alternatives’ (IPA) Outstanding Service Award in 2018 for his role as co-chair of the Policy and Government Affairs Committee. An IPA board member, he serves on the Illinois Chamber of Commerce board. Wagner was inducted into the College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame and the Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame.

The parent of an autistic child, Wagner advocates for the special needs community. For working to build a special needs park and passing a special needs referendum, he received the Advocacy Award for the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association.

Senator John W. Maitland Jr. Commitment to Education Award
Damian K. Gregory
Founder and executive director, Gridiron Group

Damian K. Gregory’s leadership abilities emerged in 1999, when he was voted captain of the ISU football team during his only year as a Redbird after transferring from Indiana University. Ever since his first-team All-American season as defensive tackle at Illinois State, Gregory has focused on giving back, especially to underserved youth.

Following his six-year NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gregory founded Gridiron Marketing Group LLC. It specializes in residential development planning, marketing, and funding of housing initiatives—including rentals for low-income families.

Gregory founded the Gridiron G.A.N.G. (Giving Adolescents New Goals), a nonprofit organization advocating sports and athletics to inspire destitute youth. The goal is to create a pathway for success on and off the field. Gridiron G.A.N.G. has administered volunteer football camps and lectures in Michigan, New Jersey, and New York.

Gregory serves on the executive committee of the NFL Alumni Detroit Chapter and is president of the board of trustees for the Calais Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers children with learning and behavioral challenges. He draws inspiration from his wife Shyla, son Damian Jr., and daughters Genevieve and Vivenne.

E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award
Beverly Grimes ’60
Retired nurse
Major/College: Nursing, Mennonite College of Nursing

Beverly Grimes has championed nursing since graduating from Mennonite School of Nursing in 1960. She worked at the Peoria State Hospital, caring for patients with mental illness. Grimes was the first nurse there to treat patients in the locked unit with cold pack hydrotherapy.

She pioneered diabetic care, fighting for the long-term management of patients. She created patient diabetic programs at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. The American Diabetes Association honored the initiative as a Recognized Diabetes Self-Management Program—one of the first in Illinois.

Governor James Thompson appointed Grimes to the Illinois Diabetes Advisory Board. She was the first nurse in management to receive OSF’s Outstanding Nurse Award. Grimes was a clinical nurse specialist at Caterpillar Inc. and continued her career at Medtronic Diabetes.

She received the 1985 Diabetic Educator of the Year Award, Mennonite College of Nursing’s (MCN) Distinguished Alumni Award in 1992, and was Medtronic Leadership’s 2010 Outstanding Nurse Educator. She serves on MCN’s Strategic Planning Committee, was a member of the college’s centennial gala committee, and volunteers for Redbirds Rising.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Paul DeJong ’15
Shortstop, St. Louis Cardinals
Major/College: Biochemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Before slugging home runs in MLB, Paul DeJong was a standout Redbird on the diamond and in the classroom. The starting shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, DeJong played at ISU four seasons. He earned honors completing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

DeJong hit .326 in 144 career games at ISU and belted 23 home runs. He had a 3.76 GPA as a pre-med student, becoming a four-time recipient of the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award.

The two-time first-team All-MVC selection was drafted in 2015. He was the National League Central champion’s lone representative in July’s All-Star game, and was a finalist for the 2019 Gold Glove award as shortstop.

In the 2019 season, DeJong hit 30 home runs and 78 RBIs while playing in 159 of the club’s 162 regular-season games. Entering the 2020 season, he had a career .251 average for St. Louis with 74 home runs and 211 RBIs. In 2017, he was second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Jenna Goldsmith ’08, M.S. ’10
Instructor of Writing, Oregon State University-Cascades
Major/College: English, College of Arts and Sciences

Working as a police reporter brought Jenna Goldsmith out of her shell. Now she encourages sharing and expressing through her writings and teachings.

Goldsmith is an instructor of writing at Oregon State University-Cascades School of Writing, Literature and Film. She is also interim director for the university’s Low-Residency MFA Program.

While at ISU, Goldsmith was involved in the Feminist Led Activist Movement to Empower. She was instrumental in organizing the Take Back the Night March and Clothesline Project. She helped promote the Women and Gender Studies student research symposium.

Goldsmith continued her activism in Oregon by taking a leadership role in establishing policies and procedures for developing and maintaining diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus practices.

After earning her master’s degree with a certificate in women’s and gender studies, Goldsmith completed a Ph.D. in English at the University of Kentucky. She won the inaugural Kentucky Writers Fellowship given to the outstanding Kentucky poet. She also secured the Lexington Herald-Leader Fellowship.

Since taking the OSU-Cascades position, Goldsmith has received two grants and has published critical interviews and two poetry volumes. Six of her poems have appeared in edited collections

Griffin Hammond ’07, M.S. ’09
Documentary Filmmaker, Recount Media
Major/College: Television/Communication, College of Arts and Sciences

A documentary filmmaker, Griffin Hammond is covering the 2020 presidential race for Recount Media. He chronicled the 2016 campaign for Bloomberg News, interviewing every major presidential candidate.

Hammond is known for his DIY filmmaking tutorials on YouTube, and his award-winning documentary Sriracha about the popular hot sauce. The San Francisco Chronicle praised his film as “gorgeously shot.”

He’s taught filmmaking in 13 countries as a global brand ambassador for Panasonic cameras. The U.S. State Department sent him on diplomacy missions that involved conducting workshops in the Middle East and Central Asia.

As an undergrad, Hammond worked at TV-10 and taught as a graduate assistant in ISU’s School of Communication. He’s since worked at Millikin University, State Farm Insurance, and YouTube Next Lab.

Nominations are also being sought for the 2021 Alumni Awards. The deadline to submit is May 31, 2020.

Related Article: Video: Learn how to nominate for Alumni Awards A quick summary how to recognize outstanding alumni.

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