The Division of Student Affairs is proud to recognize five extraordinary young alumni who live the values of learning and scholarship, individualized attention, diversity and inclusion, respect, civic engagement, collaboration, and integrity – in all aspects of their life.

The 2020 Redbird Proud recipients include:

  • Abe Lopez-Bowen ’12 College of Arts and Sciences – Communication
  • Bianca Gerardi Pietro ’14 College of Education – Special Education
  • Bill Dwoinen ’04 College of Arts and Sciences – Politics and Government
  • Jessica Garber Schaefer ’14 College of Arts and Sciences – Political Science and English
  • Quanisha Kumi-Darfour ‘06 College of Arts and Sciences – Chemistry

Find out more about these young alumni, their career journeys and aspirations for the future.

Student Affairs hopes to welcome them back to campus in accordance with Homecoming’s move to the spring semester. The official Homecoming date will be announced later this year. For updated information, visit

What the collective have shared since learning of their recognition is that, during these challenging times, it can be especially cathartic to reflect on their favorite memories at Illinois State, many of which surround Homecoming.

#RedbirdProud Memories

“Definitely being crowned ISU Homecoming king my senior year surrounded by family and friends – a moment I’ll never forget. Also, I found it so inspiring running my first-ever 5K race during Homecoming … then beating my time the next year by 10 minutes! I enjoyed all the Homecoming events with my friends, from Redbird rumble to tailgating to the carnival. Homecoming week is so invigorating and always reminds me of why I chose to attend Illinois State.” – Abe Lopez-Bowen

“My favorite part about Homecoming each year was the sense of community and the excitement for the full day of festivities—from the parade to tailgating with the Alumni Association and finally cheering on the Redbirds during the big game. My favorite memory was being the 2012 Homecoming Queen and riding in the fire truck through Uptown Normal, and later being crowned on the field with all my friends present in the stands.” – Jessica Garber Schaefer

“Homecoming brought me joy in so many ways. My favorite part was that it brought my sister and parents to campus to go to the football game and other events. Spending every Homecoming with my best friend and husband (boyfriend at the time) made the experience even better. Each year was filled with team-bonding with the Unlimited Dance Team and SWAT. Reggie’s Homecoming Tailgate, hosted by Health Promotion and Wellness, was also a highlight of the week.” – Bianca Gerardi Pietro

“I have enjoyed each and every Homecoming experience because it gives me a chance to reconnect with my ISU people. It’s always a good time filled with laughter and smiles.” – Quanisha Kumi-Darfour

“As a student, it was easy to have pride during Homecoming when you would see how excited people were to come back and reconnect with former classmates. The other thing that was very impactful for me as a student was interacting with successful alumni.  At that age and point of my life, being successful wasn’t something I thought could happen to me.” – Bill Dwoinen

The 2020 Redbird Proud Young Alumni Award recipients are a wellspring of memories with a deep appreciation of Illinois State’s traditions. No matter what time of year it is, they continue to spread Redbird spirit wherever they go. Find out more about how to nominate someone under 40 years of age for this honor.