Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF), through the USF Alumni & Family Relations Office, is honoring five outstanding alumni with the annual Distinguished Alumni Award. Nominations for these prestigious awards were submitted by family members, coworkers, fellow alumni and others who could testify to the nominees’ achievements. The recipients were then selected by the USF Alumni Association’s Executive Board of Directors based on outstanding professional and personal successes, as well as involvement in civic, cultural or charitable activities. The most prestigious award, the Presidential Alumni Award, was selected by the university. In addition, one alumnus/alumnae from each of the university’s four colleges is honored, highlighting the diverse disciplines of a comprehensive university.
Traditionally, award winners are honored as part of the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, award winners will be honored on social media, in a compilation video, through a press release, and on USF’s website, stfrancis.edu/alumni/awards.
The 2020 University of St. Francis Distinguished Alumni Award winners are:
Presidential Alumni Award
Cheryl (Schroeder) Stepney ‘70
Retired President & Chief Technology Officer at Empowerment Associates, LLC
Cheryl (Schroeder) Stepney ‘70 obtained bachelor’s degrees in History and English and a minor in Education. She went on to work at large firms in Chicago and then obtained a Computer Science degree from Roosevelt University and became one of the first female pioneers in the technology industry. Her employer, AT&T, sponsored her in the Executive MBA Program of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
After filling multiple roles at AT&T, she came across a small, 25-person firm in California and accepted the position of chief trainer. Moving from one million employees at AT&T to a startup proved challenging but paid off in stock option investments. That small firm was Oracle Corporation, which grew to over 40,000 employees by the time she was recruited to move to Minnesota for another startup opportunity. She had implemented a sound methodology for delivering database applications to business. She was hiring manager to over 10,000 consultants. She had started Oracle University, a profit center certifying customers had the knowledge to build the same systems the consultants could build. She also performed product management for a suite of tools to automatically build systems, the earliest Machine Learning capabilities.
Upon moving to Minnesota to become the vice president of professional services for Macromedia, she leveraged her abilities to design database-enabled computer learning systems for large companies. She then established her own consulting company, Empowerment Associates, for the next 20 years before selling the company to Microsoft Corporation and then holding positions on the Database Team as a power business intelligence consultant. Rounding out her 50-year career, Cheryl continued to do consulting until her retirement in 2020.
She has been a dedicated volunteer throughout her career years for Loaves & Fishes, creating the Girl Scout Technology Badge, March of Dimes, and leading the 300 Minnesota volunteers teaching Safe Driving through AARP for nine years. She also served two terms on the Board of Trustees for the University of St. Francis.
College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Award
Julie McCabe-Sterr ’75
(B.A. Social Work)
Problem Solving Court Coordinator at the Office of the Will County State’s Attorney
Julie McCabe-Sterr ’75 began her career working with emotionally disturbed children in Virginia and California. Returning home to Illinois, she worked with the Franciscans at the Center for Correctional Concerns in the Will County Adult Detention Facility from 1989 to 2004.
In 2004 Julie joined the Office of James W. Glasgow, Will County State’s Attorney, as Drug Court Coordinator, which allowed her to bring together her passion for working with the criminal justice involved population and her compassion in helping those less fortunate. Using her aptitude for leadership, strategic thinking and program creativity, she worked with State’s Attorney Glasgow and the community to expand the Drug Court into the Will County Problem Solving Courts, a program that is relevant, sustainable and effective. In fact, Will County is the only Problem Solving Court in the nation to have both a women’s and men’s sober living residence and an apartment building for transitional housing. During her career, Julie has relied upon her Franciscan values, recognizing the unique dignity and needs of each individual and their family. For instance, Julie worked collaboratively with the University of St. Francis to develop a reading project for the Problem Solving Courts inmates’ children, while also creating new day programming and internship opportunities.
A three-time cancer survivor, Julie has spent the last twenty years volunteering with the American Cancer Society by serving in leadership roles for the Relay For Life of Joliet, as well as performing community outreach for those suffering with cancer. In addition to spending time with her children and grandchildren, Julie loves to garden, swim, and hike the national parks with her husband.
College of Business & Health Administration Alumni Award
Teresa Andrea ’15
(M.S. Health Administration)
Chief Information Officer at Silver Cross Hospital
Teresa Andrea ’15 is currently the Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, Ill. She is a graduate of Bradley University where she received her BS in Nursing. She also received her MS in Health Administration from University of St. Francis.
Having a strong technology background and diverse clinical roots, Teresa offers a futuristic and adaptive perspective as people, process and technology are connected. Her experience in multiple roles has allowed her the ability to problem solve through various perspectives.
Known for her transformational and innovative approach, she has successfully implemented numerous organizational projects to support business strategy while incorporating data and analytics to identify opportunities to transform to value based care. Whether it is digital innovation, workflow optimization or technical infrastructure, Teresa successfully fosters conversation in the context of business transformation to secure commitment and engagement, which ultimately brings success in deliverables.
College of Education Alumni Award
Dr. Peter Sullivan ’15
(Ed.D. Educational Leadership)
Assistant Regional Superintendent at the Will County Regional Office of Education
Dr. Peter Sullivan ’15 has served as the assistant regional superintendent for the Will County Regional Office of Education since July of 2018. During his education career, spanning 30-plus years, Sullivan has served as a classroom teacher, principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and district superintendent in the Chicago Public School System, Lockport Township High School, Lisle Senior High School, and Will County School District 92. He has been an adjunct faculty member at USF since 2015, teaching courses in research methods and educational leadership as well as mentoring doctoral candidates through both the dissertation process and superintendent internship.
As Will County assistant regional superintendent, Sullivan works to support school districts throughout Will County. He focuses on establishing networks of Will County educators to share their experiences and learn from one another. This effort was guided by his belief that the greatest experts in meeting the needs of students are the outstanding teachers and educational leaders who commit to their success on a daily basis.
Sullivan serves as president of both the Will County School Administrators Organization and the Bradley University Parents Association Board of Directors. He is a past-president of the Rotary Club of Lockport and has been active in a range of youth athletic programs. Sullivan and his wife, Chris, reside in Lockport and are the proud parents of four wonderful young adults, the youngest of whom will be graduating from high school this spring. He cites his wife, Chris, a first grade teacher who has spent her entire career in the Chicago Public School System, as his greatest role model in education. He is truly humbled and honored to be the recipient of this recognition from USF—an institution which has meant so much to him.
Raquel Prendkowski ’02
Assistant Chief Nursing Officer at Mount Sinai Hospital
Raquel Prendkowski ’02 says while some people knew they wanted to be a nurse even while playing make believe as children, she did not. Her parents told her she needed to choose a major and suggested nursing, so Prendkowski followed their lead. She found the content to be interesting, and admired the experience and passion the instructors brought to each rotation, but she did not think nursing would be her life’s path.
During school, some sage advice from an instructor regarding a heartwarming patient-nurse interaction Prendkowski had experienced drove her to want to be a lifelong nurse. The words were simple: “She told me that being a nurse is about making connections and helping people no matter how big or small the action might be. This resonated with me and I felt great purpose. Being a nurse meant having the opportunity to do God’s work every day. This was my calling, I just didn’t know it.”
Prendkowski graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Nursing 18 years ago and says she sometimes feels like a new grad. Every day, she enjoys waking up and learning something new, which she says is one of the most exciting and humbling aspects of being a nurse.
She started her career at a large teaching university as a pediatric intensive care nurse. Over the next decade, she served in PICU, NICU, Hem/Onc, general pediatrics, cardiac ICU, and ED. The experience and educational opportunities provided to her were priceless. She then joined the pediatric ICU team at a safety net hospital with extremely limited resources. After being at the bedside for 14 years, she moved to the manager of pediatrics, then to emergency department director, system emergency department director, and now ACNO. In administration, she gets to help in different ways. She is able to drive policies and practice to ensure her patients are receiving the best care even with scarce resources. She is able to tell stories to donors, legislators, and media about how her institution has been helping the city’s most vulnerable populations for over 100 years and what this means to our community. She is able to help those without a voice due to violence and socio-economic barriers. “But what I love the best is being with my nurses,” she said. “I am able to take their frontline voices of what is best and drive myself to be better for them.”
Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.
University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.
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