Distinguished Alumni Class of 2015

2015 Class of Distinguished Alumni

The Distinguished Alumni Awards Program honors College of DuPage graduates for their outstanding achievements.

View pictures of the November 2015 event on Facebook!

Marco Benassi   

Marco Benassi, Speech 1983

Marco Benassi creates magic in the classroom, where his students frequently find themselves enjoying school for the first time. The COD speech professor and forensics coach has inspired hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to become community college speech teachers.

Marco became academically engaged and found his purpose as a student at COD, leading him to complete a bachelor’s degree in speech from Bradley University, a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. Marco began as a freelance writer for the Chicago Tribune’s Tempo, Friday and Travel sections and worked as a speech trainer at The Executive Technique before returning to teach at COD, where he was named the 2000-2001 Outstanding Faculty Member. He has served as an MBA instructor at Benedictine University and Keller Graduate School of Management.

Marco is a playwright and has helped launch the acting careers of COD Forensics Team members by featuring them in the professional Chicago plays he’s directed. For contributions as a national champion speech coach and college speaker at COD and Bradley University, Marco was inducted into the National Forensics Hall of Fame, the national intercollegiate organization that promotes excellence in speech and debate competition.

View Marco's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 Jolene Kremer  

Jolene Kremer, Journalism 1978

The journalism skills Jolene Kremer honed at COD have taken her far. The former Courier student newspaper editor completed an associate in arts degree at COD and a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Northern Illinois University.

She worked for more than 20 years as an award-winning reporter and editor at various northern and central Illinois newspapers. Then Jolene took her talents in a new direction, serving as creative services editor at Learning Point Associates as well as superintendent of marketing and communications for the Fox Valley Park District, where she garnered the top marketing award from the National Recreation and Park Association. Currently, Jolene is the PR, communications and marketing director at the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, where she led the effort to launch a national award-winning branding campaign,new website design and the Society’s first-ever Annual Reports, earning numerous honors for her work.

She and her husband Ron of 34 years have two married sons and welcomed their first grandchild to the world in September.

View Jolene's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 George Macht  

George Macht, Culinary 1970

Not everyone has a kitchen named in their honor—but George Macht does. His name is synonymous with the COD Culinary program and its success.

George began as a COD student, earning an associate degree in food service administration before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, where he completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He returned to COD in 1976, teaching culinary classes in a converted biology lab.

George devoted more than 30 years to teaching and even met his wife Vivian at COD. George expanded the program, which moved into the Student Resource Center, allowing students to develop their skills in larger kitchens, the Escoffier Dining Room and the Culinary Market. He chaired the task force to raise funds for the program’s current home in the Culinary & Hospitality Center. George spearheaded a culinary training program in Italy’s Tuscany region and continued to lead classes abroad each spring until he retired from full-time teaching in 2008.

View George's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 Heather Miller  

Heather Miller, Nursing 2002

As a nurse, Heather Miller understands the challenges cancer patients face. Her mother battled cancer for many years, and as a youngster, Heather, the oldest of five children, stepped up to help in every way she could. This life-changing turn led Heather to her life’s passions—treating cancer patients with dignity, providing opportunities for quality health care, designing award-winning cancer treatment centers, mentoring other health professionals, and being active in her community.

Heather is the regional director of cancer services at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and an experienced pediatric oncology nurse and manager. Heather completed her associate degree in nursing and applied science at COD, her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Florida International University and her master’s degree in nursing administration at Indiana State University.

A mother of two young children, Heather serves on the board of the American Cancer Society and Gilda’s Club,a free cancer support community, and is involved in numerous community events that benefit children with cancer.

View Heather's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 Mariam Pare  

Mariam Paré, Arts 1999

Artist Mariam Paré proves each day that creativity knows no bounds. Not even an accident that left her paralyzed would keep her from pursuing her passion. Mariam was a 20-year-old art history major when the tragic accident occurred on that fateful day in 1996—a day that changed the course, but not the direction, of her life. Following extensive rehabilitation, she enrolled at COD to continue her art studies, earning two associate degrees in graphic design and web design in 2003, while beginning a degree in fine art.

Today, Mariam is a visual artist known for her mouth paintings made in association with Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). Her work is exhibited nationally and internationally as well as in private collections. She continues to inspire people with her amazing artistic ability and message of perseverance. Over the past 10 years, she has shared her message with audiences all over the world through TV appearances, interviews, news segments and in print publications.

Find out more about Mariam from the celebration event.

 Ted Raspiller, E.d.D.  

Ted Raspiller, Ed.D., Business 1988

Ted Raspiller believes community college can be a life-changing experience—as it was for him. The president of Virginia’s John Tyler Community College attributes his success, in part, to his own experience as a COD student. Ted grew up the son of two educators. He graduated high school a year early, began college courses at Northern Illinois University, but decided to enter the workforce at the end of his freshman year. Three years later, Ted returned to college, this time enrolling in classes at COD, ready to continue his education. He earned an associate degree from COD, a bachelor’s degree from Governors State University, and a master’s and doctorate from NIU.

Ted took on the top job at John Tyler Community College in 2013, bringing more than two decades of experience in higher education, including teaching, leadership and administration, workforce development, fundraising and counseling. He also served as a mentor to future leaders, heading up Old Dominion University’s Community College Leadership Doctorate Program.

View Ted's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 Tony Venezia  

Tony Venezia, Animation 1972

Tony Venezia is a Hollywood star in his own right. His special visual effects work has been featured in commercials, television and blockbuster films, including Twister, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Total Recall, When a Man Loves a Woman, among others. A professor in COD’s Motion Picture/Television program since 2005, Tony launched his notable career studying animation at COD. He completed his bachelor’s degree in filmmaking at Illinois State University before heading west, to the University of California in Los Angeles, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in animation. Before returning to COD, he worked on the West Coast for 23 years.

He spent 15 years as co-founder of Electric Filmworks Inc., a company that specialized in creating and producing digital film optical effects, motion graphics, motion-control model shots and second-unit photography. He also taught at California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, Columbia College and Illinois Institute of Art. Tony initiated COD’s Associate in Applied Science degree in animation. He runs Venezia Arts and Design in Wheaton and received his full professorship in the fall of 2015.

View Tony's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

 Eileen Ward  

Eileen Ward, Humanities 1975

Eileen Ward still calls herself “Gotham gal”—a fitting nickname for the COD humanities professor emerita and Manhattan native known for her gigantic, New York-accented vocabulary. Eileen graduated magna cum laude from Fordham University, New York’s Jesuit University.

She and her husband, Tom, moved to Illinois in 1973, where they raised two sons and pursued their respective careers. Eileen began teaching liberal arts courses at COD in 1975. In addition, she served on the formation committee for COD’s Older Adult Institute and taught in that program for 18 years. She team-taught in English Language Community, a program combining English composition courses and social science courses, designed and developed by Bill Myers for non-native speakers of English.

Beyond the classroom, she coordinated humanities offerings delivered non-traditionally through the Learning Lab for 10 years and led travel/study courses to Ireland, Canada, Greece, and other national and international destinations from 1983 through 1996. She was named COD’s 1997-1998 Outstanding Faculty Member, the same year she retired, after more than two decades of teaching at COD.

Some of her students chose to honor her by establishing a scholarship in her name. The fund that supports six textbook scholarships annually continues today to assist students with the expenses of a college education. Eileen and her husband now live in San Diego, CA, and have set up college funds for their five grandchildren.

View Eileen's acceptance speech from the celebration event.

College of DuPage Alumni Relations
425 Fawell Boulevard
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Phone: (630) 942-2462
Email: alumni@cod.edu


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