Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate Oakton graduates who have gone on to exemplify the College's vision and values in their respective careers and communities.

2022 Honorees

Alan J. Berkowsky
Associate in Applied Science '91
Fire Chief, Winnetka Fire Department (retired)

Deyanira Cardenas
Mathematics Teacher
Springman Middle School, Glenview, Illinois

Samuel J. Lopez
Associate in Applied Science '05
Immigration Services Officer
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service, Chicago, Illinois

Julian Serafin Gil
Associate of Arts '97
Regional Environmental Management Advisor United Nations World Food Programme, South Africa

Distinguished Alumni

The Oakton Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize former Oakton students who have excelled professionally and provided inspirational service to the community. Congratulations to the 2020 Honorees and all Oakton Distinguished Alumni!

Suzy Hakimian '87, Northbrook, IL

Hakimian has been a beloved middle school teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook for 30 years, where she has inspired countless students to pursue careers in nursing, medicine and the sciences. At Oakton, Hakimian served as a student trustee and received an award for outstanding service. Her time at Oakton prepared her to earn her bachelor’s degree in education and biology from National Louis University. Active in her community of Northbrook, Hakimian has served on the board of trustees and held several executive board positions for her synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom. She has also served on the Sisterhood of Beth Shalom board of directors for many years. Hakimian and her husband David have three adult children, all of whom are graduates of Solomon Schechter Day School, Glenbrook North High School, and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Tzvi Montrose ' 09, Chicago, IL

Oakton’s Emergency Medical Technician program prepared Montrose to establish Hatzalah Chicago, a non-profit emergency medical response service made up completely of volunteers. Founded in 2009, Hatzalah Chicago operates 3 ALS ambulances with 85 dedicated volunteers, and answers 1200-1300 emergency calls each year. Montrose is active in his community in many ways, including through his work with “Hugo’s Heroes,” a program that teaches high school students in Chicago and Skokie about first aid and CPR. Professionally, Montrose is the chief financial officer of Skokie-based Practice Management Systems, LLC. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Talmudic law from Yeshivas Bais Yisroel (Jerusalem) and a master’s degree in accounting from Roosevelt University. Tzvi and his wife Dina have five children.

Jill Schmidt ’83, Glenview, IL

The foundation of knowledge Schmidt built as an Oakton College student prepared her for a successful career as a public relations professional. She is the president of Jill Schmidt Public Relations, representing clients across the United States and internationally, including top brands, celebrities, athletes, events and authors. At Oakton, Schmidt was involved with the student newspaper, The OCCurance, serving as the sports editor for two years. After Oakton, she earned a degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she also played tennis on the University team. Schmidt is a longtime volunteer for St. John Brebeuf Catholic Church (Niles) Religious Education program. Her firm gives back to the community by creating PR campaigns for charities and providing hands-on PR internships to college students.

Terri Severin ’76, Arlington Heights, IL

An unspeakable tragedy led Severin on a path to becoming a renowned author and advocate for change in airline regulations and disaster response. Severin is the author of In the Wake of the Storm: Living Beyond the Tragedy of Flight 4184, an investigation into a 1994 commercial airline disaster that claimed 68 lives, including her sister and young nephew. Severin’s initiative and advocacy prompted the passage of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996—revamping disaster response and family assistance, and safeguarding the flying public. Her work is part of The Ohio State University’s Airline Investigation curriculum and has been utilized as a first responder training tool. Severin’s advocacy efforts have resulted in speaking engagements and written columns in local and national publications. Severin earned an associate degree in Applied Science from Oakton.


Theresa Bashiri-Remetio ’09, Morton Grove, IL
Cathy Bromberg ’84, Mundelein, IL
Maryam Coskun, ’09 - ’11, Tempe, AZ
George Lungu, ’90, Des Plaines, IL
Jhay Spottswood '10, Columbus, OH

Kristina Garcia ‘09
Franklin Ortega Palaguachi, 2008 - 2011
Jaqueline Saper ‘92
Randi Schneider, Ph.D. ‘81

Marc Hornstein ‘91
Felicia Kurkowski ‘90
Marc Menet ‘00
Steven Swanson, Ph.D. 1977 - 1978
Susan Trieschmann ’06 - 2017 Illinois Community College Trustee Association Distinguished Alumna

Dayani Pieri ‘09

Paul Johnson ‘92

Timothy J. Panfil ’88 and ‘89

Cheryl-Lynn May ‘06

Anthony B. Churchill ‘98

Felicia Kurkowski ‘90

Karen M. Haigh, Ph.D. 74

Melissa L. Bean ‘82

Ann E. Tennes, 1981 - 1988
Howard M. Tennes, J.D. ‘82

Joseph Kolb Jr. ‘81

Mark Klapperich ‘91

Donald J. Terras ‘74

Joselito Gatdula, ‘94

Bettye Cohns ‘94

Catherine Rondenet, 1977 - 1980

James H. Lawlor III, J.D. ‘81

Elaine T. Michelini ‘92

Ray Lester ‘86

John R. Provost, J.D. ‘80

Captain Joseph W. Lutz, 1971 - 1973

James Lago, D.D.S. ‘80

Andrea Jill Dybus ‘81

Joan Margolis Spigelman ‘78

Craig Johns ‘80

Peter Hansen, Ph.D. ‘76

Donald E. Long ‘77

Evelyn Meine ‘73

Bruce E. Brown ‘77

Carol Richards Lutz, J.D. ‘73