2016 Alumni Awards
McKendree University celebrated the accomplishments of several alumni at its annual awards dinner, held on Oct. 15 at the St. Clair Country Club in Belleville, Ill. Chosen by the University’s alumni board, the 2016 awardees have made their mark in their professions and at their alma mater.
“Our alumni serve their alma mater in a number of ways, and that service does not go unnoticed. Those we honor are intimately involved in the life of our institution. They support McKendree by their physical presence at a variety of functions and events, their financial support, and by promoting our University programs,” said Maria (Stallings) Page ’89, M.A.Ed. ’06, president of the Alumni Association Board.
Honorees were recognized in the following categories:
Peter Akers Award
Academy of Excellence for Social Sciences, Community Service, and Nursing and Health Professions
Sports Hall of Fame
Peter Akers Award - Janet (Welch) Eckert ’89
Janet Eckert has had a lifelong relationship with McKendree and made a habit of outstanding support to her alma mater. The daughter of a McKendree alumna, professor and former Peter Akers Award recipient Grace Renner Welch ’30, Janet grew up in Lebanon and was introduced very early to the institution by her mother. While her life’s journey took her away from Lebanon for a period of time to follow her husband Bill’s career in New York and Connecticut, McKendree was always a special place for her.
Upon returning to Lebanon in the mid-1980’s, Janet enrolled at McKendree and pursued her nursing degree. She went on to a successful career in nursing as an oncology RN at Barnes Jewish Hospital (BJC), home health nurse, private duty nurse, nurse educator, and staff nurse in the gallstone clinic at BJC. One of her most rewarding experiences was a prestigious appointment at the Siteman Cancer Center to survey 250 cancer patients to discern their psychological needs while they were undergoing treatment. She really enjoyed attending to the wishes of these patients.
She belongs to the Lebanon History Club, PEO Sisterhood, and First United Methodist Church of Lebanon, and volunteers at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. She continues to support the University as an Annual Fund contributor, a Star Friend of the Hett, William McKendree Society member, and sponsor of the Eckert Scholarships, Welch Memorial Concert and the Robert and Grace Welch Endowment at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts.
Loyal Service - John Schomaker ’83
John Schomaker has been a longtime supporter of the institution. He has served on the McKendree University Alumni Association Board and volunteered at numerous events on campus. In the community, he has served as a trustee of St. George Catholic Church in New Baden, Ill., chair of the finance council, and as a minister for over 35 years. In addition, he volunteers with the New Baden Fire Department, the Belleville Rotary Club and the St. George New Baden Knights of Columbus. He graduated with degrees in accounting and business administration, while working part-time. He passed the CPA exam in 1981 and in 1996, he became a partner at Rice Sullivan, LLC. He is a member of the Illinois Certified Public Accountant Society and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Rising Star - Dr. Chris Cunnings ’05
Chris Cunnings is an assistant professor specializing in science education at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and a former high school science and math teacher. He was named an Illinois Outstanding Teacher of Science in 2014, a State Farm Companies Foundation Scholar in 2012, and “Teacher of the Month” by Chicago’s WGN-TV in 2011. Earlier this year he completed a Doctorate of Education from the University of Illinois and presented his research at Harvard University’s International Graduate Student Research Conference. He majored in chemistry and minored in biochemistry at McKendree, where he was captain of the football team in 2005, a second team All American, MSFA All-Conference for football and academics, a peer science tutor and Sigma Nu social chair.
Rising Star - Tony L. Mitchell, Jr. ’09
Tony Mitchell is manager of health policy at JDRF Diabetes Foundation in Washington, D.C. He earned a degree in political science with a speech communication minor. After graduation he became an intern for the Congressional Black Caucus foundation and later a government affairs summer associate at the Podesta Group in Washington, D.C. In 2013, he completed his Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University School of Law and stayed involved as an executive board member of the National Black Law Students Association. Tony volunteers at Martha’s Table and is an ambassador for Kicks 4 the City in Washington, D.C. As a college student he played football and was a member of Model United Nations, Campus Activities Board, Black Men of McKendree and student government.
Academy of Excellence - Kevin Lee ’80
Kevin Lee, Social Sciences awardee, is president of Matrix Consulting Firm in Fullerton, Calif. He is on the board of directors for the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles (ACLA) and the Orange County Underwater Photographic Society. Kevin’s macrophotography work has been published in magazines, newspapers, academic works, textbooks and online, and exhibited throughout the country. A permanent collection of his work resides at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. In 2013, he received the Los Angeles Underwater Photography Society “Photographer of the Year” award and ACLA “Adventurer of the Year” award. He graduated with a degree in business administration and a minor in marketing, and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma.
Academy of Excellence - Angela Grossmann-Roewe ’98
Angela Grossmann-Roewe, Community Service awardee, is truly a humanitarian that believes in giving back to her community. She is president of her Belleville, ill., neighborhood association and a member of the McKendree University Alumni Association Board, Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois Board of Directors, St. Clair County Juvenile Judicial Council, Daughters of the American Revolution, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Teresa School PTO, Our Lady of Peace Mother’s Club, and Belleville Catholic Schools picnic committee. In addition to all her service, Angela currently is an elected member of the St. Clair County Board of Review. At McKendree, she majored in political science and minored in journalism.
Academy of Excellence - Sharon J. Wright, MSN ’09
Sharon Wright, Nursing and Health Professions awardee, has actively served her alma mater. She serves on the Nursing Advisory Board for McKendree University and helped develop and implement an onsite McKendree ADN-to-BSN program for registered nurses at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Ky. She also attained full funding for 25 nurses to continue their education with their coworkers. Sharon is just as involved in her community. She serves on the Nursing Advisory Board for Western Kentucky University and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College; the board of directors for community clinics in Hardin and Larue counties; and the board of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. She earned a master’s degree in nursing administration at McKendree’s Louisville, Ky., campus while working full time as a nurse manager.
Sports Hall of Fame - Kari (Crnkovich) Crask ’96, Dave Markwell ’73, Jackson Makene-Marwa ’00, Carl Poelker, Francisco Mosca ’03
Five outstanding Bearcats were inducted into the McKendree Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Kari (Crnkovich) Crask ’96 had a well-rounded game that saw her excel as a scorer, rebounder, shooter and defender for the women’s basketball team. After her freshman season was cut short due to injury, Kari was a mainstay in the Bearcats’ lineup during her final three seasons. She appeared in 100 games and registered 1,532 points, 697 rebounds and 165 steals. At the time of her induction, she ranked sixth in scoring, seventh in rebounding and 10th in steals. One of the best long-range shooters of her era, Kari connected on 130 three-point field goals, which is good for seventh on the Bearcats’ career list. She is third all-time in three-point field goal percentage at 37.5 percent, and holds the single-season mark by connecting on 42.1 percent of her tries from beyond the arc as a senior. Kari was just as solid at the free throw line. She ranks second on the McKendree career list with 442 free throws made, and is third on the career chart in free throw percentage, making 78 percent of her attempts. In addition to her accomplishments on the basketball court, Kari was a two-year member of the softball team. As a junior, she batted a team-high .377 and starred in center field while helping the Bearcats to a fourth-place finish at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Softball National Championship.
Whether serving as an educator, a coach or a sports official, Dave Markwell ’73 has excelled at a high level. His accomplishments display a versatility along with proven results that have been achieved by a select few throughout the state of Illinois. That versatility was first shown on the baseball diamond at McKendree, where David was a four-year letterman and served as team captain as a senior. A pitcher and outfielder, he led the team in both hitting and earned-run average as a junior. He also spent two years as a member of the Bearcats’ basketball program. Following his graduation from McKendree, David embarked on a career that saw him serve as an educator, coach and athletic director at various high schools throughout Illinois, including Newton High School, Westfield High School, Beecher City High School, St. Joseph-Ogden High School, and Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac High School. In a coaching career that included baseball, wrestling, basketball, cross country and track, David had a hand in nearly 770 team victories. In 1983, he led the Beecher City baseball program to a runner-up finish in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class A state baseball championship. In 1988, after serving four years as the wrestling/baseball coach at st. Joseph-Ogden High School, he became the wrestling coach at Oakwood High School. In over two decades as coach of the Comets’ squad, he led his teams to nine conference titles, 11 county championships and eight regional crowns. The nine-time wrestling Coach of the Year honoree was inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame in 2009. Along with his coaching accolades, David was also an accomplished official in the IHSA. He was a baseball, softball and basketball official for more than three decades.
Jackson Makene-Marwa ’00 was one of many pioneers who helped the cross country/track and field programs get their start in the late 1990s. The four-year cross country athlete raced to a seventh place overall finish and was named an All-American at the 1997 NAIA Cross Country National Championships. Thanks in part to his performance, McKendree placed fifth in the final team standings, which began a run of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the national meet, including a second-place showing in 1999. As a distance runner for the track and field squad, Jackson earned All-American honors at the 1997 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships as he posted a second-place finish in the 5,000-meter run. His national success during the 1997 season earned him the Most Valuable Track Athlete award given by the McKendree coaching staff. At the time of his induction, Jackson holds top-10 career times for the McKendree cross country program at three different distances. He ranks second all-time at 10 kilometers with a time of 32:25.10. Jackson is also third over an eight-kilometer course with a time of 24:25, and he sits in fourth all-time with a time of 26:33 on a five-mile course.
In 1995, Carl Poelker was hired to revive a McKendree football program that had not played a game in more than four decades. Over the next 17 years, Carl and the members of his coaching staff molded the Bearcats’ program into one of the top programs in the nation, both athletically and academically. From the time he first led McKendree back onto the football field at the beginning of the 1996 season to his retirement after the 2012 campaign, Carl guided the Bearcats to 117 victories. At the time of his induction, Carl is the all-time leader in wins and winning percentage (.657) in program history. In 31 seasons as a collegiate head coach, he amassed 205 victories, and won nearly 70 percent of his contests. During his 17 years at McKendree, Carl led the Bearcats to nine appearances in the NAIA Football Championship Series. That included an NAIA post-season berth in 1997, which was just the second season following the revival of the football program. The most memorable of those post-season appearances came in 2002, when the Bearcats won a school-record 11 games and reached the national semifinals for the first time in team history. For this accomplishment, Carl was named the 2002 NAIA National Coach of the Year. As a member of the Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Midwest League, McKendree collected seven league championships under Carl’s watch. He led the Bearcats to undefeated MSFA records in 2004 and again in 2009. Carl was a two-time MSFA Midwest League Coach of the Year honoree. While at McKendree, Carl coached 14 NAIA All-Americans and 69 players who received first-team All-Conference accolades. Carl was at the helm of the Bearcats’ program as it began its transition towards NCAA Division II membership. He led McKendree through its first season of Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) play in 2012. Six Bearcat players received GLVC post-season honors in the team’s inaugural year as league members. In the classroom, McKendree was just as accomplished thanks to Carl’s leadership. A total of 25 NAIA Scholar-Athletes and 72 individual academic All-MSFA honorees were produced by the Bearcats’ program. In 2012, a total of 23 McKendree student-athletes collected Academic All-GLVC honors. The McKendree football team also boasted a graduation rate of better than 98 percent for players who completed all four years in the program during Carl’s tenure.
H. Francisco Mosca ’03 was one of the most dynamic players ever to wear a McKendree soccer uniform. Throughout his four-year career, he was one of the most feared scoring threats on a conference, regional and national level. Playing as a forward, Francisco led the men’s program in scoring in each of his four seasons. He burst onto the scene with 10 goals and 22 points as a freshman, then followed up with a 17-goal, 12-assist performance for 46 points while leading the Bearcats to 13 victories as a sophomore. After posting 16 goals, 10 assists and 42 total points as a junior, Francisco saved his best for last. In his senior season, he registered career-high totals of 22 goals and 48 points, leading the American Midwest Conference (AMC) in scoring, and was named the AMC player of the year. At the time of his induction, Francisco stands second on the Bearcats’ career charts for total points scored (158), goals (65), assists (28) and is third all-time in game-winning goals with eight. During his four-year career at McKendree, Francisco helped guide the Bearcats to 43 victories.