Alumni Awards

Award Winners

Alumni Medal 

Burton A. Lewis (CE ’48) has long been an active alumnus of Illinois Tech. He served as chair of the President’s Council Membership Committee and as a member of the President’s Council Executive Committee. He currently is a member of the  Armour College of Engineering Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering Advisory Board and co-chair of the department’s Development Committee. The creation and maintenance of the Burton and Erma Lewis Construction Engineering and Management Laboratory was made possible through his generosity.

Alumni Service Award

Dan Ephraim (M.B.A. ’76) started his career and honed his experience in the coffee business at Richheimer Coffee Company. Richheimer was shortly bought out by the Wechsler Coffee Corporation, where he then led business operations. In 1981, Ephraim partnered with his brother Phil to purchase Modern Process Equipment (MPE), which designs, manufactures, and distributes coffee grinding equipment around the world. Ephraim is now president, CEO, and owner of MPE, in addition to serving as a member of the Board of Directors. He was elected to the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees in 2020.

Collens Merit Award

Victor Tsao (M.S. CS ’81) co-founded Linksys in 1988 and made significant contributions to introduce home networking to the individual consumer. He grew Linksys from a garage entrepreneurship to a home networking leader that popularized the Wi-Fi router, which led to the universal use of the Wi-Fi connections we use every day. Tsao was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Association’s Hall of Fame in 2014. He retired from corporate life in 2007 and remained active in the technology industry through investments and philanthropy. Tsao holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Tamkang University, a master's degree in computer science and an honorary degree from Illinois Tech, and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

International Award of Merit 

Lih-Farn (Gary) Shiau (M.S. MET ’87) is an advisor providing knowledge, experience, and expertise at Proterial Taiwan, Ltd. (formerly known as Hitachi Metals Taiwan, Ltd.), a Taiwanese material resource company. He has served the company for over twenty years promoting sales, integrating subsidiary companies, alliances, technical support, and training. Shiau is also a professor for the Department of Materials and Mineral Resources Engineering at the National Taipei University of Technology.

John J. Schommer Honor I Award

Gwenn A. Peters (AE ’02, ME ’02), former captain of the Illinois Tech women's basketball team, has a celebrated and diverse background in engineering, operations, business management, and technology. As Director of Innovation, User Experience, and Design Thinking for the Chief Technology Officer at Rockwell Automation, she coaches teams toward innovative solutions for key customer needs and leads an internal development accelerator and open innovation programs with partners, customers, and startups. In 2020, Peters was recognized by the Milwaukee Business Journal with its 40 Under 40 Award. She currently serves on the board of directors for the MKE Tech Hub Coalition.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Lajos Schmidt (LAW ’54) was a partner at Baker McKenzie for more than 40 years specializing in the legalities of international commerce, including federal and foreign tax issues. He served on the law firm’s Executive Committee and Policy Committee and left Chicago to open its Budapest office in 1987. In 1990, he published a book titled Legal Aspects of Foreign Investments in Hungary. Schmidt has served on Illinois Tech’s Board of Trustees since 1974 and was chair of the Chicago-Kent College of Law Board of Advisors from 1980 to 1986. He was also chair of the Library of International Relations in 1986. Schmidt received Chicago-Kent’s Distinguished Service Award in 1978 and Illinois Tech’s Professional Achievement Award in 1988. Chicago-Kent also recognized Schmidt as one of its “125 Alumni of Distinction” in November 2013.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 37, Liz Butler (LAW ’15) has had an impressive career as a land use attorney where she works closely with developers, city officials, and community groups to navigate the complex web of regulations and approvals required for large-scale development projects. Butler was recognized by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Chicago Lawyer magazine as one of the 40 under Forty Illinois Attorneys to Watch in 2021; by REJournals as the 2021 Emerging Leader of the Year; by Leading Lawyers as a 2022 Emerging Lawyer in the areas of Land Use, Zoning, and Real Estate; by Best Lawyers as a “2023 One to Watch;” and by Bisnow as the 2023 Leader of the Year in commercial real estate.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award 

At age 37, Jessica Henson (ARCH ’08) is a partner at OLIN Studio. During her 13-year tenure at OLIN, she has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Tennessee Knoxville, and University of Southern California. Her recent project awards include a 2023 AIA Award for the Willis Tower; the 2023 ASLA PA/DE General Design Honor Award; a 2022 AIA National Award; a 2020 Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Award of Excellence in Best Tall Buildings Under 100 Meters for the new U.S. Embassy in London; the 2021 Floodplain Management Association Integrated Management Award and the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA) Excellence in Communications Award for the LA River Master Plan. Henson is the co-author of the book Fresh Water: Design Research for Inland Water Territories.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 40, Veeral Oza (MBB ’05) currently serves as medical director for Therapeutic Interventional Endoscopy at Prisma Health Greenville. He has published almost 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals and almost 50 abstracts at national conferences. In 2020, he was honored with the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Young Scholars Leadership award.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 38, Silverio Patrizi (M.S. CE ’11) has moved up in his career over the last decade at Thornton Tomasetti from intern to associate principal of the firm, where his current role involves managing high-profile projects both nationally and globally, specializing in cultural buildings and U.S. Embassies. In 2021, he received Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) Top Young Professionals 20 under 40 Award, which recognizes the top design and construction professionals in the New York and New Jersey area for making an impact throughout their region and beyond.

Outstanding Young Alumnus/ Young Alumna Award

At age 34, Allison Toonen-Talamo (ARCH ’13, M.A.S. STE ’15) is an associate III at Klein & Hoffman supporting the architectural and building enclosure team where she performs investigative procedures, historical review and research, development of technical specifications/construction documents, condition assessments, and construction administration services of existing structures, including historic landmarks, residential, commercial, and municipal buildings. Toonen-Talamo was one of three recipients to receive the 2020 American Express Aspire Award presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and listed as one of 2021 Landmarks Illinois Influencers.

Professional Achievement Award

Billy Dec (LAW ’99) is a two-time Emmy Award-winning TV personality, actor, attorney, restaurateur, and the CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, a hospitality and entertainment company that owns and operates celebrated restaurants. Dec also founded the COACT Agency, a cutting-edge marketing agency that leverages top independent talent around the world to align strengths, lower costs, and increase returns. Dec was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and the White House Bullying Prevention Task Force. Dec has served on many local committees, boards, and commissions, including the American Cancer Society, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and many more. He is also a Harvard School of Business alumnus.

Professional Achievement Award

Charles Knop (EE ’54, M.S. ’60, Ph.D. ’63) pursued engineering work first at Hallicrafters Company and later at Andrew Corporation specializing in antenna design and manufacturing. For over two decades, he was the director of engineering, culminating in the title of chief scientist by the time he retired. For his outstanding work on reflectors antenna design—widely used for satellite communication and cell phone base stations—Knop was elected a fellow of the IEEE in 1989. He also developed the leaky transmission line for use in the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel under the English Channel) that allowed wireless communication for vehicles traveling in the undersea tunnel with the outside world.

Professional Achievement Award

Robert Lyczkowski (M.S. GE ’66, Ph.D. ’70) worked for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Energy Incorporated, Goodyear Atomic Corp., Hooker Chemical Corp., and as a faculty member at Illinois Tech. He has been involved for over 40 years in chemical and nuclear engineering applications of his multiphase theory and computational fluid dynamics expertise. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and a recipient of its prestigious Ernest W. Thiele Award.

Professional Achievement Award

Don Means Jr. (EE ’89) was commissioned in the U.S. Navy as an officer and pursued a career in aviation. Following his career as a naval officer, he joined the U.S. Department of Defense as a civilian working for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Means rose through the ranks at DISA from a mid-level position focused on engineering to a senior executive position that is the equivalent of a two-star military general. He managed an annual budget of over $1 billion and protected the U.S. government's most classified information and assets. Means received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM), Black Engineer of the Year Award for Outstanding Contribution in Government, Exceptional Civilian Service Award, and Top 30 Most Influential Federal Professionals by FedTech magazine.

Professional Achievement Award

Susan Solomon (CHEM ’77) has been a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2012, and was the founding director of its Environmental Solutions Initiative. Prior to that, she was a scientist at NOAA in Boulder, Colorado and an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1982 to 2011. She is well known for her pioneering work that explained why there is a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer. Solomon received the 1999 U.S. National Medal of Science, the Grande Medaille in France, the Blue Planet Prize in Japan, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Spain, the Volvo Environment Prize, and the Crafoord Prize in Sweden. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican, and the Royal Society in the United Kingdom. Time magazine named Solomon as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008.