Local residents were recently initiated into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. All three students were initiated at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Neda Khudeira of Bridgeview, Kelly Peterson of Palos Heights, and Sylwia Szmigiel of Palos Hills became members of Phi Kappa Phi. These residents are among approximately 32,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year. Membership is by invitation, and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10 percent of seniors, and 7.5 percent of juniors, having at least 72 semester hours, are eligible for membership. *** Nearly 2,000 students received degrees at the University of Dayton’s spring commencement, held at the University of Dayton Arena on May 4, including more than 1,400 undergraduates. Local students earning degrees included: • Alexandra Loperena of Burbank who graduated with a bachelor of science in Education and Health Sciences degree in Early Childhood Education; and • Kimberly Murray of Oak Lawn who graduated magna cum laude with university honors with a bachelor of science in Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship. The University of Dayton is a national, Catholic, research institution, which was founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary (the Marianists).
Moraine Valley The Moraine Valley Community College Foundation is seeking notable alumni, who have achieved success in their careers or through work in the community, for its new Hall of Fame. Between five to eight inductees will be honored at the inaugural Hall of Fame reception in November. Candidates must have completed any amount of credit or noncredit coursework at Moraine Valley, achieved success in their chosen field and made a positive impact on the community through volunteering or leadership. They also must agree to attend the reception to accept the award, and return to campus at least once within the year to be a guest speaker and/or participate in a student engagement activity. Nominees can self-nominate (must include a letter of recommendation) or be nominated by someone else. All nominees are encouraged to submit up to three letters of recommendation and a maximum of three pages of supplementary materials such as news articles, brochures or photos highlighting the applicant’s accomplishments and contributions. Nominations, which must be accompanied by a current resume or bio, are due by midnight Sunday, June 1. Application forms are online at morainevalley.edu/alumni. For more information, contact Kari Pantol at
or (708) 974-5551.
Oak Lawn Community H.S. Oak Lawn Community High School will host its Relay for Life for the 12th year in a row. Relay for Life is an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research. This year’s Relay for Life will take place Saturday, May 17. Per Relay tradition, the faculty, staff and students painted the gym purple on Feb. 7 by wearing purple T-shirts during the varsity basketball game. Relay for Life coordinator Thaddeus Zuzga said that OLCHS raised more than $1,500. These funds will be used to cover all of the extracurricular activities at this year’s Relay For Life Event on May 17. It is not too late to register teams or participants for the event. For more information, call 424-5200.
St. Laurence St. Laurence students participated in Viking Quest Week, which included a variety of speakers and culminated in a Team of Teams competition called Igor’s Challenge. Rich Panico ’69 kicked off the week reminding everyone of the importance of vision and knowing where you’re going. Nathan Kipnis talked about his experience in the architecture industry as it relates to problem solving, and Mark Wollschlaeger highlighted the positive aspects of a STEM curriculum. During the Igor Challenge, each team of students created a ship from limited materials and then tested it in a competition, which gave them the opportunity to use creativity and problem-solving skills they have learned through the St. Laurence STEM curriculum. The final assembly also recognized students, faculty, and staff who are emblematic leaders at St. Laurence.
When Governors State University athletics in University Park begins intercollegiate play in the fall, its opponents will face off against the GSU Jaguars. The university unveiled the Jaguar mascot Tuesday, after conducting a search that took several months and included input from faculty, staff, student and the surrounding community. “The university is growing and having a mascot is an important component to a rich experience for our students,” said Courtney Sanders, vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “A mascot is an identifying symbol for a university, an important tool for building a tradition. We are thrilled to start building long-lasting traditions as the GSU Jaguars.” The university began its search in February by taking suggestions from students, staff, faculty and residents of the surrounding communities. It received over 400 entries, more than half of which were unique. The university’s search committee then voted to narrow the choices down to four finalists: the Jaguars, the Prairie Wolves, the Gladiators and the Bengals. After an artist designed sketches of what the mascot could look like, the university then put the choice to an open vote online. The university received an overwhelming response, logging over 30,000 online votes. Sanders said the university wanted to make the process as democratic as possible. With a mascot being an enduring symbol, the university wanted as much outside input as possible when making the choice, she said. The Jaguar is the university’s first mascot. It stands among other firsts for the university coming this fall, including the first freshman class, the opening of its first student residence hall and the beginning of intercollegiate play for its first sports teams. GSU presented prizes to the people who were the first to submit the four finalists. Joseph Iniguez received $175 for his submission of the Gladiators. Calvin Rowe received $100 for submitting the Prairie Wolves and Steven Alvarado received $50 for submitting the Bengals. Paula Franklin was the grand prize winner and received $350 for submitting the Jaguars. — Submitted by Governors State University
Hickory Hills, resident John Gorman, a master’s student in the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly and Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo, will travel to Hawaii this summer to study the extinction of Hawaiian species and what it takes to save them in the wild. Gorman is a science teacher. Since the program began 10 years ago, Earth Expeditions graduate courses from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly have engaged more than 1,500 people in firsthand educational and scientific research at critical conservation field sites in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas. Dragonfly’s AIP master’s program began in 2010 with the Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The program is now also offered at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Denver Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle). *** Cornell College, a private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has accepted several students from the area, including: Jacob Slusinski of Oak Lawn, who was also awarded the Community Enrichment Award; Timothy Daker and KateLynn Hohman, both of Evergreen Park, and who were also awarded the Presidential Scholarship.
During the April board meeting at Moraine Valley Community College last Wednesday, the board approved retirements of a handful of employees, which was predicted by the college’s administrators due to the new pension reform laws. In early December 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the new pension reform bill, which is expected to save the state of Illinois $160 billion over the course of 30 years by cutting automatic annual increases, limit pensionable earning and raise the retirement age by five years as of June 1. “After meeting with other college administrators I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to see a wave of retirements due to the new pension reform laws,” Moraine Valley trustee Tom Cunningham said. “There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered and it’s causing a wave of retirements across the board, not just at Moraine Valley.” Overall, across public colleges and universities in the state, 3,356 employees retired in the first six months of 2012. Two years ago, 2,171 employees retired in the same time period, according to Moraine’s retirement source, the State Universities Retirement System. Moraine Valley approved 12 retirements in the past year. The teacher’s unions have already filed lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality, stating that the law goes against the Illinois Constitution due to “diminished or impaired” causes of the law on employees’ pensions. “The problem is that we don’t know what’s going to happen with the new pension reform law,” said Mark Horstmeyer, director of college and community relations at Moraine Valley Community College. “What would help is if we were able to put the pension reform on hold until the issue is heard by the Illinois Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.” For employees under the State Universities Retirement System, the new law limits pensionable earnings as of June 1. Tier I employees – those who entered the system prior to Jan. 1, 2011– will not be able to earn more than tier II employees, which for fiscal year 2015, pensionable earning are capped at $110,631. Some provisions allow for longstanding employees to be grandfathered into the system. As part of the new law, SURS will begin skipping automatic annual increases, which some legislators have deemed a cost-of-living loophole, where administrators earn a three percent automatic annual increase each year. Automatic annual increases or cost-of-living adjustments are not based on the consumer price index and for some of the highest paid employees the AAI only leads to additional compounded debt put on the shoulders of the taxpayers. Due to the skipping of automatic annual increases most college professors would have to work an additional three years to earn the same amount prior to retiring on or before June 1. For a 50-year-old retiree the second automatic annual increase will be skipped. In the lowest age group, 44 years old and younger, the second, fourth, sixth, eighth and tenth automatic annual increase is skipped to further entice employees to work longer. SURS will use a new system to measure automatic annual increase, the $1,000 multiplier. Each employee will multiply $1,000 by years of service multiplied by 3 percent. Legislators feel the new automatic annual increase multiplier will not impact those who earn under $42,000 and this system will help reduce increases for those with the highest pensions. As of July 1, retirees under 46 years old will face a delay in retirement eligibility. The retirement age is determined by the employee’s age as of June 1. If a 45-year-old retires on or after July 1, a four month hold will be placed on the retiree’s retirement benefits. For anyone 31 years old or younger, there is a 60 month delay in retirement eligibility. Most college administrators would agree that public institutions such as Moraine offset lower salaries that are seen at four-year colleges or private college by offering generous pensions and benefits as an incentive to recruit top-notch college leadership. “There are a lot of vice presidents and qualified administrators who just don’t want to become the president of a community college and there is a growing need, nationally, for college leadership,” Horstmeyer said. “Serving as the president of a community college comes with the same responsibilities as a four-year college and a lot of administrators would rather stay in their VP position or avoid