CUSF Celebrates 5 of Our Public High School Alumni at 2011 Gala

The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation will celebrate the accomplishments of five of our public high school alumni on Saturday, May 7 at the 2011 CUSF Gala at the IHotel. Three different awards will be presented: Distinguished Alumni Award, Local Hero Award and the Local Business Community Impact Award.

The 2011 Distinguished Alumni honorees are Admiral James B. Busey IV, USN (RET), Urbana High School graduate, class of 1950 and Dr. Emily Stipes Watts, Champaign High School graduate, class of 1954. Distinguished Alumni honorees are nominated by fellow professionals, friends, family, or local citizens, must be graduated from a Unit 4 or Unit 116 public high school for at least 10 years and demonstrate distinguished contributions to our society.

Admiral James B. Busey IV served in the U.S. Navy for over 37 years. He was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, Commander in Chief of all NATO Forces in southern Europe, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and Deputy Secretary of Transportation. He has extensive combat experience and holds the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest combat decoration among his many awards. Dr. Emily Stipes Watts received an AB degree in 1958, an MA degree in 1959 (Woodrow Wilson National fellow), and a Ph.D. degree in 1963, all from the University of Illinois. She taught American literature to U of I students for nearly 45 years. Her first book, Ernest Hemingway and the Arts, won her the Modern Language Association’s Scholars Library Award. She was the first woman on the University of Illinois Research Board and was a representative in bringing women into Big Ten athletics.

The Local Business Community Impact Award recognizes two local business owners who demonstrate an impact on the community through their commitment to philanthropy, service, volunteerism and support, with a particular emphasis on employing local high school graduates. The Local Hero Award celebrates the individual who willingly volunteers their time and efforts to benefit the local community as a whole or others singly.

Cynthia Somers, owner of Spherion Staffing and Central High School graduate, class of 1986; and Marty Kirby, owner of Kirby and Turner Masonry and Urbana High School, class of 1974 will be honored with Local Business Community Impact Awards. Spherion Staffing works to find the best employees for area businesses and staff members are encouraged to volunteer at local non-profits. Ms. Somers has served on many boards and committees including Junior Achievement, United Way and the C-U One-to-One Mentoring Scholarship Foundation. Mr. Kirby has been instrumental for over twenty years in local youth baseball programs, volunteering his time to coach as well as to build dugouts and redevelop baseball fields. Whether through a fair price, donations or his expertise, he consistently supports Urbana District 116 in a way that saves much-needed resources.

Tom Brown, Urbana High School graduate, class of 1970 will be awarded the Local Hero Award. Mr. Brown is an active member of the local community, volunteering his time, and is involved as a member in a variety of civic organizations. These include the Urbana Park District, Urbana Parks Foundation, C-U Schools Foundation and Urbana Rotary. He holds an enduring enthusiasm for coaching local youth sports. He is part owner of Brown, Hobbs, McMurray Insurance.

The 2011 Gala will also feature an art auction hosted by The I.D.E.A Store, CUSF’s social enterprise. All artwork was created using supplies from the store or was made from re-used materials. All proceeds of sales will go to CUSF.

The 2011 CUSF Gala will be on Saturday, May 7 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the IHotel and Conference Center, Champaign and is open to the public with advance ticket purchase. For tickets or additional information visit: and click on the “2011 Gala Event” link or call 217- 398-2873. Proceeds from ticket sales support the mission of CUSF.