Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) will celebrate the accomplishments of five of our public high school alumni on Saturday, April 2 at the 2016 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign. Three different awards will be presented: Distinguished Alumni Award, Local Business Community Impact Award and the Local Hero Award. The 2016 Distinguished Alumni honorees are Erika Harold, Urbana High School graduate, class of 1997, David Neuman, Centennial High School graduate, class of 1978, and Elliott Douglas Rodgers, Central High School graduate, class of 1993.
Erika Harold has distinguished herself in the areas of academics, public service, law and advocacy. She is a nationally recognized advocate of bullying prevention efforts and presents on the topic frequently. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors of Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners and their families. After earning her bachelors degree in political science from the University of Illinois, Ms. Harold entered and won the Miss Illinois and Miss America contest. Her Miss America 2003 award paid for her tuition at Harvard Law School where she earned her Juris Doctor and the Boykin C, Wright Memorial Award. Ms. Harold practices law at Meyer Capel Law Firm.
David Neuman’s accomplishments are impressive. He is an executive, producer and media entrepreneur with unusually wide-ranging experience that spans television, film and digital media. He’s worked in high-level roles at three of the world’s blue-chip media companies (Walt Disney, NBC/Universal, CNN), as well as three startups. He is highly respected as an innovator in news and information and a pioneer of original, made-for-the-internet content. He’s led creative teams with cutting-edge partners such as Google, Twitter and Yahoo! In 2007 Mr. Neuman was named Volunteer of the Year for the Los Angeles Superior Court for his work on behalf of abused and neglected children.
After graduating from Central High School, Elliott Douglass Rodgers was admitted and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served with distinction in the United States Army and obtained the rank of Captain. Later, he earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He has held several prominent business positions, including Vice-President and Assistant General Manager of Caesars Entertainment, Vice-President of Citigroup, and General Manager for Distribution Operations at Target. Currently he serves as Vice-President for Ulta Beauty Products Supply Chain Strategy.
Parham Parastaran, owner of CarX and 1989 graduate of Central High School will be recognized with the Local Business Community Impact Award. Mr. Parastaran is probably most well-known for the CarX Crazy K event, which he developed to raise more money for Champaign County charities. The one-day event has raised over $277,000 for local charities in five years.
John Hecker, Central High School graduate, class of 1969, will be awarded the Local Hero Award. In 1986, John Hecker and John Gnagey founded the Champaign County Crimestoppers organization in order to help police solve crimes by way of tips provided by the public. He served as the first president and still holds that position. Now over two decades later the Champaign County Crimestoppers is considered one of the finest Crimestopper organizations in the country. With Mr. Hecker’s leadership the organization has solved more than 1,600 cases.
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. The Local Hero Award celebrates individuals who willingly volunteer their time and efforts to benefit the local community. All nominations are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the school districts, alumni groups and CU Schools Foundation.
The 2016 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala will be on Saturday, April 2 at 6:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign and is open to the public with advance ticket purchase. For tickets or additional information visit: www.CUSchoolsFoundation.org and click on the Benefit Events tab or call 217-398-2873. Proceeds from ticket sales support the mission of CUSF.