McKendree to Honor Outstanding Alumni Oct. 21

Accolades to include the Peter Akers Award, Loyal Service, Academy of Excellence, Rising Stars, Sports Hall of Fame

(LEBANON, Ill., September 19, 2023) - McKendree University will honor several of its accomplished alumni at its annual award dinner on Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. Chosen by the alumni board, the 2023 awardees have made their mark in their professions, communities and at their alma mater.

This year’s winners include the following:

Peter Akers Award
Dan Lett of St. Louis, Mo., will receive the highest alumni honor, the Peter Akers Award, this year. This award acknowledges professional success, outstanding service and loyalty. Lett graduated from McKendree in 1991, earning a degree in business administration. At the university, he was involved in the Pi Lambda Tau fraternity and the soccer team. After graduating, he went on to earn his law degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1994 and his executive masters of international business degree from Saint Louis University in 2004.

Lett is the executive vice president for corporate development and general counsel at Bunzl Distribution, a role in which he has been serving since 1998. He has also served as the Board of Governors’ president at the Missouri Athletic Club. Lett has been an essential member of the Board of Trustees at McKendree University since 1999. A member of the William McKendree Society, he has also served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, having been its president from 1999 to 2003. He was also inducted into McKendree’s Academy of Excellence in 2010 and received its Loyal Service Award in 2003. Recently, Lett was honored during McKendree’s commencement with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree for his service, insight, leadership, philanthropic support and commitment to his alma mater as its outgoing Board of Trustees chairman.

Lett is married to his wife, Polly, and has three children, Sarah Mitchell Lett, Julia Elizabeth Lett and George Bradford Winter. He also has one grandchild, Niall Bradford Winter. His hobbies include travel, basketball, golf, skiing and several outdoor activities.

Loyal Service Award
Jim Forrler of Belleville, Ill., will receive this year’s Loyal Service Award. He graduated from McKendree in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in English. At McKendree, Forrler was the editor of The McKendree Review, a member of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, the president of the Student Education Association, a member of Student Government and a member of the tennis team. He went on to earn his Master of Secondary Education degree from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville.

Forrler was an English and reading teacher for many school districts in the area, including Mascoutah Junior High, Belleville School District #118, West Junior High School and Central Junior High School. He was also drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968, serving for two years. Additionally, he has coached track and soccer and won Coach of the Year in 1992 and Teacher of the Year in 1993.

Forrler has served McKendree in several capacities, including being a member, vice president and president of the Alumni Association Board and serving as a member of the Board of Directors. He is a member of the Bearcat Booster Club, the William McKendree Society and a retired assistant tennis coach. He has two sons, Jeff Forrler and Jon Forrler, and one grandchild, Amelia Elizabeth Forrler. Forrler works at the Belleville Food Bank and volunteers at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville. He is an avid clay target shooter and is a proud owner of a 1964 Corvette, which he personally restored. He also volunteers his time for McKendree’s men’s and women’s tennis teams regularly.

Academy of Excellence
Four alumni will enter the university’s Academy of Excellence for achievement, leadership and character in the following categories: education; humanities; language, literature and communication; and mathematics, science and technology. Honorees have made exceptional contributions to the honor and prestige of the university and have demonstrated the values imparted by a liberal arts education in their professions or chosen fields.

Courtney Logan, Esq., of Swansea, Ill., graduated from McKendree in 2008 with two degrees: one in communications and the other in philosophy. As a student, he was a student ambassador and was involved in Black Student Organization, the debate team and Model United Nations. He went on to earn his law degree from Saint Louis University’s School of Law in 2012.

Logan is the general counsel and vice president of government relations at Blue Line & Associates in Chattanooga, Tenn. He previously served as the city manager and chief operating officer for the City of East Saint Louis, an associate attorney for Lashley & Baer, P.C. in St. Louis, an associate attorney for Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen and as an assistant state’s attorney for Saint Clair County State’s Attorney Office, both in Belleville, Ill. He has also served as an adjunct professor of law for Saint Louis University’s School of Law since 2012 and coaches a high school debate team through Kappa Alpha Psi’s mentoring program for young men called the Guide Right Program. A board member of the Southern Region of Children Home and Aid, Logan is also a past recipient of McKendree’s Rising Star award and McKendree’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.

Logan is married to his wife, Rachel, a 2007 alumna and together they have two children: daughter Courtney R. Logan and son Caleb R. Logan.

Language, Literature and Communication
Elizabeth (Hise) Brennan of St. Louis, Mo., graduated from McKendree in 2004 with a degree in English. While at the university, she was the co-editor for The McKendree Review and was a member of Kappa Sigma Tau, the color guard, the marching band and The Montage. She went on to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Fontbonne University in 2015.

Brennan currently serves as the director of communications at Greater St. Louis, Inc. She was previously the director of communications and marketing for Fontbonne University, the channel and public relations manager for Hughes in St. Louis, and the editor of Taste Magazine. She was recently named to Focus St. Louis’ Women in Leadership cohort. Brennan has also served as the managing chair for Art in the Park and is a member and previous faculty advisor for Omicron Delta Kappa.

Brennan is married to her husband, William “Billy” Brennan, and together they have one child: Bernadette Brennan.

Andrew Johnson of Effingham, Ill., graduated from McKendree in 1995 with a degree in K-12 physical education and health. As a student, he spent three years on the McKendree men’s baseball team and two years as a resident assistant. He later returned to earn his master’s in educational leadership and administration degree from McKendree in 2009 and also earned his superintendent certification from Eastern Illinois University in 2014.

Johnson is the superintendent at Effingham School District #40. He has previously served as the superintendent at Jasper County School District #1 in Newton, Ill., and as the district athletic director and high school assistant principal at Teutopolis High School. He was also a teacher, coach and athletic director at Marissa Jr./Sr. High School District #40. He has been a member of the Jasper County Rotary Club for six years.

Johnson is married to his wife, Sherra. Together they have three children: Austin, Cali and Taryn; and one grandchild: Tate Andrew Johnson. He enjoys fishing, playing golf, collecting baseball cards and spending time with his family.

Math, Science and Technology
Scott Brennan of Plainfield, Ill., graduated from McKendree in 1996 with a degree in mathematics. As a student Scott was a member of the McKendree men’s basketball team, holding a career record of 105-32 between 1992 and 1996, along with two national tournament appearances and ranking third in the nation in three-point percentages in 1995. He won the All-American Scholar Athlete award in 1996 and was also the president of the Phi Rho Chi fraternity.

Brennan became a business owner at 28 as he became partner at Sikich, a top technology firm in Chicago. He then opened the Sikich St. Louis office in 2005 and became a Microsoft Inner Circle Member, which is reserved for the top one percent of partners worldwide. Brennan is also a board member for the Microsoft Partner Advisory Board, the president of the Microsoft Directions Partner Conference, and is on the leadership committee for Microsoft Directions EMEA. His partnership with Microsoft has allowed him to travel and establish business relationships in several countries including many in Europe, Iceland, Ukraine and Japan.

Brennan is married to his wife, Elizabeth, and together they have two children: Madeline Brennan and Nick Brennan. He enjoys golf and fishing, is involved as a youth coach for basketball and baseball, and participates and speaks at youth sports camps.

Rising Stars
Rising Stars are McKendree University graduates of the past decade who have made significant achievements in their professions or chosen fields, and who have been highly involved with the university or their communities.

Scott Armistead, of Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated from McKendree in 2016 with a degree in athletic training. As a student, he was a member of Iota Tau Alpha athletic training honor society, the men’s soccer team, and a volunteer for Stray Rescue of St. Louis. He later earned a master’s degree in exercise wellness and sport performance from Arizona State University in 2020.

Armistead is currently the assistant athletic trainer for FC Cincinnati, a major league soccer team. He also serves as a consultant for various professional soccer players and former athletes around the world on programming and rehabilitation plans. He coaches and provides medical coverage for local goalkeeping clinics and camps run by FC Cincinnati’s director of goalkeeping and also coaches individual high school players from around the greater Cincinnati area. He continues to serve McKendree by being a preceptor for students in the athletic training program and also as a guest lecturer for the athletic training curriculum.

Armistead is married to his wife, Gabrielle Hart-Armistead. He enjoys spending time with his partner and their three dogs, hiking and exploring in the off-season and road biking when time allows.

Lauren Cook of Maplewood, Minn., graduated from McKendree in 2016 with degrees in English literature and sociology emphasizing in criminal justice. As a student, she was a student ambassador, a resident assistant in Residence Hall East and a phonathon caller. She was a member of several organizations on campus, including Campus Activities Board, Literary Interest Society, New Student Orientation, the McKendree Gospel Choir, Black Student Organization, First Generation Student Success, the Advanced Leaders Program and the Senior Class Gift Committee. She was also a member of several honor societies, including Sigma Tau Delta, Pi Gamma Mu and Alpha Kappa Delta, and volunteered at the Christian Activity Center through the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service on campus.

Upon graduation, Cook spent five years employed with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, first within the treasury department and then in supervision, regulation and credit as a community and regional bank examiner. She later decided to further her education and graduated with her master’s in business administration degree from Florida A&M University in 2022. She recently accepted a new position as the senior internal auditor with The Bank of Elk River in Elk River, Minn.

In addition, Cook serves as a robotics coach for the Minnesota Stem Partnership and is involved with the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.

Madelaine Zinser of Vienna, Va., graduated from McKendree in 2017 with a degree in computational science. While at the university, she was the president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a STEM tutor, and a member of the competitive dance team, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Zeta honor societies. She went on to earn her master’s degree in computational science from Johns Hopkins University. There, she received the best presentation award for her paper titled “Impact of Similarity Ratings on Human Judgement” at the International Conference on Semantics-Enabled Recommender Systems and Applications.

Zinser began her career as a software engineer at MITRE, a large federally-funded research and development center. After, she moved to a big data and AI startup company named BigBear, in which she and her team earned a congressional award for an application they delivered for the Department of Defense. She currently serves as the lead scientist for Booz Allen Hamilton’s AI research and development group, and she researches artificial intelligence, large language models and big data solutions.

Zinser volunteers and fosters at Wolf Trap Animal Rescue in northern Virginia and is an enthusiast for STEM and STEM education.

Entering the McKendree Bearcats Sports Hall of Fame in 2023 are Robert “Bob” Karnes, class of 1966, football, alumni coach and sports professional; Arela Williams, class of 2018, women’s volleyball; Darren Wynn, class of 2017, men’s wrestling; and the 1999-2000 men’s baseball team, including head coach Jim Boehne, who earned his 100th coaching victory against Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville and won the AMC Coach of the Year.