Impressive Huskies Recognized with 2022 NIU Alumni Association Awards
By Eva Richards

Each year, the NIU Alumni Association rewards the achievements of incredible alumni who have achieved outstanding professional and personal successes while pursuing civic, cultural or charitable activities.

The seven 2022 award winners embody many important characteristics that so many Huskies share, including integrity, innovation, empathy and grit.

“This is an especially impressive group of NIUAA award winners, and I cannot wait to be able to share their stories with others,” said Reggie Bustinza, executive director of operations and alumni engagement. “These individuals have worked years—some of them decades—to reach the pinnacles of their fields, helping others succeed around them, and improving their communities.”

•    Willie J. Kimmons, M.S.Ed. ’70; Ed.D. ’74 – Distinguished Alumnus Award
As a “strong voice for our children, parents and teachers,” Kimmons has worked for 40 years in education, serving as a classroom teacher, superintendent of schools, a college professor and a college president and chancellor. Since 2005, he has worked as an educational consultant through his corporation Save Children Save Schools, Inc. Educational Services. He is also as an author, a motivational speaker, and one of America’s leading authorities on education, leadership, parental involvement, and health-related issues. Kimmons has returned to the NIU campus to speak to education students, sharing his story of overcoming many obstacles as a first-generation college student, and attaining great success.

•    James Deutsch, ’96 – F.R. Geigle Service Award 
Mr. Deutsch has been a leader in the business intelligence community and a role model for many students and alumni. He founded and grew his own consulting company, focusing on improving clients’ business performance while cutting costs and streamlining processes. Deutsch sold the company to the Hackett Group in 2004, where he became the Global V.P. of Business Intelligence, before becoming a partner at Ernst & Young, where he is charged with developing their business intelligence practice. Deutsch has served NIU’s College of Business in a number of ways, including mentoring OM&IS students and sitting on the school’s advisory board.

•    Gary Timmins, ’12 – Outstanding Young Alumnus Award
As a foreign affairs officer, Mr. Gary Timmins has worked on several complex and high-profile issues for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. He has served as a delegate to the United Nations First Committee, which deals with disarmament, global challenges, and threats to peace that affect the international community, the United Nations Disarmament Commission, and the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In addition, Timmins has represented the United States in bilateral meetings with foreign countries, including the Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement, and served on the Ukraine Task Force. Previously, he served as senior policy advisor to Congressman Bill Foster with a legislative portfolio covering foreign affairs, the armed services, and intelligence policy, among other issues. Since graduating 10 years ago, Timmins remains dedicated to and involved at NIU, volunteering with the Political Science Department and the University Honors Program, among other programs.

    Louis Apostol, M.B.A. ’74; J.D. ’78 – Alumni Achievement in Public Service Award 
Mr. Apostol’s service, in an official public capacity, spans three decades, as public administrator for Cook County for 12 years, and then as commissioner and trial judge on the Illinois Court of Claims from 2003 to 2008. In 2008, Louis was appointed executive director, general counsel, and legislative liaison of the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board, a position he held until 2017, before returning to the position of public administrator of Cook County, which he holds today. He has given back to NIU in many ways, including a recently finished term on NIU’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, as well as a long-serving member of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors.

•    Katherine Padgett, ’73 – Alumni Achievement in the Sciences Award
Ms. Katherine Padgett has devoted her professional life to hospital and health care provider operations. As an employee serving multiple hospital systems in the greater Chicago area, and subsequently, as a purveyor of revenue cycle solutions to hospitals and health care providers, Padgett’s professional life has taken her from direct patient interaction in the field of patient access to hospital managerial and directorial positions, and finally to the vice-presidency of a company offering productivity software and services to hospitals and health systems. Since retiring in 2016, Padgett has continued to be sought out as a subject matter expert by those currently active in the field, authoring several industry-related articles in professional journals.

•    Jim Wong, ’92 – Alumni Achievement in Business and Industry Award 
Since 2001, Mr. Jim Wong has started and grown two companies—known for their great people, sound business plans and accountable execution—to successful exits with strategic and private equity companies. He is former CEO and founder of Brilliant, which is an award-winning search, staffing and management resources firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology for the Greater Chicago, South Florida and soon Dallas-Fort Worth labor markets. He currently serves of Brilliant’s board of directors, as well as on the boards of several middle-market companies, start-ups and nonprofits. Today, he works as a partner at WW Advisors, LLC, which provides companies with strategic and management consulting, and he actively invests in middle-market and start-up companies. Known as the ultimate connector, Wong has paired an enormous number of employers with candidates to fill some of the best accounting and finance opportunities in the country. 

•    Wilbur You, ’13 – Alumni Achievement in the Arts Award 
Mr. Wilbur You is making waves as the CEO of Youtech, a modern, full-service marketing agency, based in Naperville, Illinois, and Scottsdale, Arizona, with expansion to Texas expected later this year. Founded in 2012, while You was still completing his B.S. in general computer science at NIU, Youtech combines the best qualities of both digital and traditional marketing and advertising to effectively achieve the client’s goals. The company has grown from an initial investment of $600 to be valued at a whopping $25 million. In 2021, he was named as one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” He also released his first memoir—"Happy, Humble, Motivated”—last year.


The annual awards banquet will be held at noon on Friday, Oct. 7, at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center on campus. 


To RSVP, contact Dana King, ’05, at 815-753-5421 or dking1@niu.edu by September 28.