Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) will celebrate the accomplishments of five of our public high school alumni on Saturday, April 14 at the 2018 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign. Awards will be presented in two categories: Distinguished Alumni and Local Business Community Impact. The 2018 Distinguished Alumni honorees are Deborah Frank Feinen, Centennial High School graduate, class of 1985; Janelle Johnson, Central High School Class of 1998; and Susan Kroll, Urbana High School, Class of 1984.
Deborah Frank Feinen is the current mayor of Champaign, who began her career in public service soon after graduating from law school. Over the last 22 years, she has served on the Champaign County Board, Champaign City Council, City of Champaign Township Board and Regional Planning Commission, where she has played a pivotal role in shaping Champaign’s infrastructure and increasing the vibrancy of the downtown area. Using an inclusive, collaborative approach to tackling the community’s problems, she has earned the respect of diverse groups and is noted for her ability to work with others to gain group consensus. In addition to her duties as mayor, she practices law with Tummelson, Bryan & Knox, LLP; performs pro bono work with clients from Developmental Service Center, Swann Special Care and Family Service; and makes time for volunteer work including a mission trip to Haiti.
Janelle Johnson leveraged her athletic career at Central into a scholarship to Purdue University, where she graduated with honors in Landscape Architecture. After working as a park designer in the public sector she earned a Masters in Landscape Architecture and Certificate in Historic Preservation from the top-ranked design program at the University of Pennsylvania. She has excelled at Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects in Chicago where she works to create streetscapes, parks and plazas that serve as community hubs and places for cultural and artistic expression. Hoping to foster economic development and cross-cultural understanding through great design projects, she volunteers her time on community design projects in challenging neighborhoods such as Morgan Village in Camden, NJ. In addition, she’s worked with the American Society of Landscape Architects to identify challenges faced by minorities pursuing a career in landscape architecture, and she shares her expertise by mentoring students at several universities including University of Illinois.
In the years since her graduation from Urbana High School, Susan Kroll has spent time in war zones, met world leaders and won seven Emmy awards for her work as a journalist. She’s covered stories for CNN, ABC and NBC and lived in Iraq, Afghanistan and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. As a coordinating producer for NBC News, her work takes her across the globe, but she maintains her Urbana roots. One of her nominators said, “Despite the demanding schedule of her profession, she strives to maintain personal relationships with her parents, other family members and friends.” In the summer of 2017, Kroll spent a week teaching English to children in an orphanage in Cambodia with a group from Meadowbrook Community Church in Champaign. Kroll left Urbana to attend Oral Roberts University where she majored in telecommunications. She was hired as a video journalist for CNN straight out of college.
Susan Jepsen and Greg Reynolds of Reynolds Towing will be recognized with the Local Business Community Impact Award. According to Race Co-Director Mike Lindemann, Reynolds Towing has been instrumental in the success of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, which has donated over 1 million dollars to local charities. In addition, Ms. Jepsen and Mr. Reynolds are strong supporters of the Urbana Alumni Association and Urbana High School, offering vehicles for the homecoming parade and supplying giveaways for many events. Jepsen and Reynolds are both graduates of Urbana High School. Jepsen was class of ’77 and Reynolds was class of ’79.
CUSF solicits nominations for the three alumni awards from the community at large. Distinguished Alumni honorees must have graduated from a Unit 4 or District 116 public high school at least 10 years ago and demonstrate distinguished contributions to our society. The Local Business Community Impact Award recognizes local business owners who demonstrate an impact on the community through their commitment to philanthropy, service, volunteerism and support. All nominations are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the school districts, alumni groups and CU Schools Foundation.
The 2018 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala will be on Saturday, April 14 at 6:00 pm at the I Hotel and Conference Center and is open to the public with advance ticket purchase. For tickets or additional information visit: CUSCHOOLSFOUNDATION.ORG or call 217-398-2873. Proceeds from ticket sales support the mission of CUSF.