Seven alumni from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences have named recipients of the college’s 2019 annual alumni awards. The alumni represent a variety of backgrounds and degrees, and their achievements have clear links to their experiences at the University of Illinois. The recipients will be honored during Homecoming weekend on campus.
The recipients are as follows:
Howard Aizenstein (BS, ’86, mathematics; MS, ’88; PhD, ’93, computer science; MD ’95), LAS Alumni Achievement Award. Aizenstein is an internationally recognized physician-scientist who has made significant contributions to neuroimaging data and uses that data to improve the lives of people with cognitive impairment and depression. He is the Charles F. Reynolds III and Ellen G. Detlefsen Endowed Chair in Geriatric Psychiatry, the director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory, and professor of bioengineering and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh. Aizenstein conducts cutting-edge neuroimaging research, cares for patients at the UPMC Benedum Geriatric Center inpatient unit and Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and supervises students, postdocs and residents. He is also winner of the 2019 Math Alumni Achievement Award.
John Coady (BA, ’74, political science), LAS Distinguished Service Award. Coady, who retired as judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Illinois in 2009, currently represents the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences on the Illinois Alumni Association board. Coady’s contributions of time, talent, and resources began as a student, when he was active in student government and the Inter-Fraternity Council. In retirement, he served as president of the Illinois Judges Association and played a central role in establishing the Political Science Board of Visitors. He served several years on the College of LAS Alumni Association Board, including two years as president, and meets regularly with students to talk about careers in law. He is actively engaged in supporting fellow alumni, and he has offered advice and shared resources to improve the student experience.
Billy Dec (BA, ’95, economics), LAS Alumni Achievement Award. Dec is a two-time Emmy Award winning TV personality, actor, attorney, restaurateur, and the CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch, a hospitality and entertainment company that owns and operates celebrated restaurants like Sunda New Asian and The Underground, as well as offers elevated marketing and HR services to clients. Dec can regularly be seen on NBC's TODAY Show and acting in films and TV shows, including Criminal Minds and Empire. He is producing a new documentary for PBS with his company Elston Films and hosts his own podcast, “The Meal of Your Life!” Dec was a presidential appointee for five years, serving on the White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the White House Bullying Prevention Task Force. He also serves on many local committees, boards, and commissions to address social issues.
Hariklia “Lili” Deligianni (MS, ’86; PhD, ’88, chemical engineering) LAS Alumni Achievement Award. As a longtime researcher at IBM, Deligianni played a leading role in solving numerous technical challenges in the electronics industry. Deligianni helped introduce electrochemical processes in solder bump technology, now a standard practice for joining silicon chips to packages. She also co-invented the copper electrodeposition process for on-chip interconnects, which revolutionized computer chips and allows computers to run faster. Both of these achievements have become industry standards. Thanks to her work, the microelectronics computer industry ultimately embraced and adopted electrochemistry and electrochemical engineering as a mainstream method for volume manufacturing of state-of-the art computer chips for devices from iPhones to high-end computer servers used for cloud computing in data centers.
Jerrod Henderson (PhD, ’10, chemical engineering), LAS Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Henderson is a passionate educator who has committed himself to increasing the number of underrepresented students obtaining degrees and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While he was a lecturer at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois, he co-founded the St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy, an innovative afterschool program that introduces underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys to hands-on, inquiry-based STEM activities, alongside their own fathers or other male mentors. The program has since expanded to Houston, where Henderson is now on the faculty of University of Houston.
Peixin He (PhD, ’85, chemistry) and Xiaoming Chen, LAS Dean’s Quadrangle Award. Peixin He and his wife, Xiaoming Chen, recently provided a gift to endow the Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry. Peixin He studied and worked with Faulkner and authored seven journal articles with him in electrochemistry, and Xiaoming Chen served as a visiting research scientist under Faulkner. After leaving Illinois, the couple returned to China and held faculty positions at Fudan University. In 1990, they returned to Illinois and rejoined Faulkner’s research group, and in 1994 the couple founded CH Instruments, a successful company based in Texas and specializes in electrochemical instrumentation.
Alison Kirby (BS, ’84, biology). LAS Alumni Humanitarian Award. From volunteering at a clinic for homeless youth to opening a free school-based health center, to staffing a rest stop on the MS Bike Ride when she was no longer able to ride due to her MS, Kirby has always thought about how her talents and skills could help others. She was a general practitioner serving families in the Walla Walla, Washington, when she learned about a lack of care for children at Lincoln High School, an alternative school located in Walla Walla. In 2009, Kirby created The Health Center at Lincoln, a full-service, mostly volunteer-run health clinic located adjacent to the school that provides free services to students. Kirby’s vision has reached five other schools in the community, with onsite health centers providing immediate care and monitoring the needs of students served by the Health Center at Lincoln.