Alumni Awards

2022 Award Winners

Alumni Medal 

Jeffrey Denenberg (M.S. EE ’68, Ph.D ’71) was instrumental in developing electronic technology that forever changed our access to radio, ensuring that FM radio could be enjoyed by all. With more than 20 patents, he went on to make important contributions to a variety of technologies that enhanced acoustics and communications. He recently retired as president of DTS, a technology consulting firm that specialized in resolving system and product design issues. A Life Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Jeffrey is currently teaching electrical engineering and software at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Charlotte Denenberg (M.S. MATH ’70, Ph.D. ’73) was a pioneering female in technology leadership at ITT, Southern New England Telecommunications Corporation (SNET), and Metromedia Fiber Network (MFN). An early champion of fiber in the network, Charlotte leveraged her roles as CTO and VP of Network Technology at SNET to bring the Internet to Connecticut by positioning SNET as the first telephone company to be an internet service provider. A member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, Charlotte has her own consulting practice that focuses on technology leadership in the telecommunications sector.

Together, they have left a significant bequest to the university to establish undergraduate scholarships; the Denenbergs’ accomplishments have an enduring impact on current and future Illinois Tech students.

Alumni Service Award

Bob Hoel (BE ’70), a dedicated and long-term volunteer, is the current Vice Chair and incoming Chair of the Illinois Tech Alumni Board of Directors. After spending 34 years in various capacities at RR Donnelley, he retired in 2004 to become a full-time volunteer; he serves on the Career and Professional Development Committee, Admissions Committee and Executive Committee as Vice-Chair of the Alumni Board of Directors. Bob was elected a Trustee of the University in October 2018. In addition to Illinois Tech, Bob served as president of the Active Transportation Alliance from 2015 to 2019.

Collens Merit Award

Bob Frey (CHEM ’65), a former chemist for the US Air Force, established the chemistry department’s first endowed chair and has been instrumental in elevating the prestige of Illinois Tech’s chemistry department. An avid art collector, Bob has donated several pieces from his private collection to the university, including Entropic Reaction by artist Philip Levine, which is currently on the first-floor of the Pritzker Science Center for all to enjoy.

Galvin Award 

The Grainger Foundation is represented by  Brian Walker, who serves as Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Grainger. In 2020, The Grainger Foundation established the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize at Illinois Tech which has become an avenue for Illinois Tech students to distinguish themselves in the field of computing.

International Award of Merit 

Ruth Lopez-McCarthy (LAW ’09), a dedicated immigration attorney and community organizer, was appointed a Senior Immigration Fellow at the Illinois Department of Human Services in 2021. Ruth has made a significant impact on immigrant and refugee communities on a local, national, and international level. Ruth was the recipient of the 2019 Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Law Award, the 2020 Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois Latina Lawyer of the Year, and the 2020 Angel Harvey Family Health Center of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago Champion for Children Award.

John J. Schommer Honor I Award

Jackie Sokolowski (PSYC ’05, MBA ’14), a standout volleyball player at Illinois Tech, currently serves on the Athletics Advisory Board and has been instrumental in developing the forthcoming Athletics Hall of Fame. Professionally, Jackie spent the first decade of her career at Illinois Tech and currently works at Huron Consulting as manager in Higher Education Practice; where she mentors and leads a team of consultants.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Virgil Abloh (M. ARCH ’06), an exceptional fashion designer and entrepreneur, was the first person of African descent to lead Louis Vuitton’s menswear line. In 2012, he established his own fashion line, Off-White; which was renowned worldwide by 2018. He went on to forge partnerships with brands like IKEA, Nike, Rimowa and Planned Parenthood. He was named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world in 2018 and often lent his talent to non-profit causes including Little Sun Foundation and War Child. He died in 2021 at the age of 41.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Roy Sahlstrom (ME ’45) had a successful and illustrious career in mechanical engineering, retiring as President of Belltech in 1990. Throughout his career, Roy was professionally associated with the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), which honored him with a distinguished service award and made him a fellow for recognition of excellence in his field. He formerly served as a member of the Alumni Board of Directors and several alumni reunion committees throughout his life. He died in 2020 at the age of 96.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 36, Gareth Meirion-Griffith (Ph.D. MAE ’12) is currently the lead for the Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR) program element at NASA Headquarters within the Space Technology Mission Directorate. He is responsible for the formulation and execution of an effort to engage U.S. universities in the development of near-term lunar technologies for the Artemis program. Gareth also serves as a Fellow in NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award 

At age 32, Ameena Payne (BA ’15) has won numerous teaching awards and is a fellow of the Australian Higher Education Academy. She is a member of the College of Reviewers and is a peer reviewer for the Journal of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 37, Dawveed Scully (ARCH ’10) is an Associate Director and Senior Urban Designer at  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he leads complex urban planning projects nationwide. He received the Urban Land Institute Chicago’s Young Visionary Award in 2018 and was named to “40 Under Forty” by Crain’s Business Chicago in 2020.

Professional Achievement Award

Said Al-Hallaj (Ph.D. CHE ’00) was the CEO and co-founder of All Cell Technologies and recently founded NETEnergy, LLC, a Chicago-based thermal energy storage company. Dr. Al-Hallaj earned his B.Sc and M.Sc in Chemical Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology and during his PhD studies at Illinois Tech, Said Al-Hallaj co-invented a new solution for passive management of heat, Phase Change Composite (PCC) material. He has several issued and pending patent applications in the areas of renewable energy, energy storage and water desalination. He is an adjunct professor with Northwestern’s Master of Science in Energy an Sustainability Program and a Visiting Research Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Professional Achievement Award

Jiang Hsieh (Ph.D. ECE ’89) recently retired from GE Healthcare in 2021, where he worked as the Chief Scientist. His work was focused on development of image reconstruction algorithms for improving the diagnostic accuracy of modern CT imaging systems. He holds more than 250 patents related to CT imaging technologies and has published over 300 journal and conference papers. He has  been elected a fellow of multiple prestigious societies, including The American  Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, The American Association  of Physicists in Medicine, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Professional Achievement Award

Francis Kulacki (ME ’63, M.S. GE ’66) is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He was previously department chair at The University of Delaware, Dean of Engineering at Colorado State University and Dean of the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota. His scholarship has had significant impact in the nuclear reactor heat transfer field; correlations developed by Frank Kulacki and his group have become standard practice at Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Society of Thermal and Fluids Engineers.

Professional Achievement Award

Mathai Varghese (MATH ’81) is a mathematician and educator at the University of Adelaide. One of his most influential contributions was to the Mathai–Quillen formalism, which has since found applications in index theory and topological quantum field theory. Since 2009, Professor Varghese has been Director of the Institute of Geometry and its Applications at the University of Adelaide. In 2021, he was awarded the Hannan Medal and Lecture from the Australian Academy of Science, and the George Szekeres Medal from the Australian Mathematical Society. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Mathematical Society and is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Mathematical Physics.