Annual USF Distinguished Alumni Award Winners Announced

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF), through the USF Alumni & Family Relations Office, honored five outstanding alumni with the annual Distinguished Alumni Award as part of the university’s Homecoming & Reunion festivities on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. 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/alumna from each of the university’s four colleges is honored each year, highlighting the diverse disciplines of a comprehensive university.

The 2019 University of St. Francis Distinguished Alumni Award winners are:

Margaret Benoit

Presidential Alumni Award
Margaret Benoit ‘69
(B.A., English)
Retired educator at Joliet District 86

Margaret Benoit grew up on a farm and had wonderful, hard-working parents. They were kind and honest and they taught her, by example, to give her time and talent.

When she started school, she went to a one-room country school for three years, and then to St. Rose School in Wilmington, Ill. She attended high school at St. Francis Academy (now Joliet Catholic Academy), and went on to receive her B.A. from the College of St. Francis where she majored in English and minored in Music and Education.

Benoit feels she had many excellent and dedicated teachers, both in high school and college, who inspired her to join the teaching profession.

After graduating from St. Francis, Benoit was told by Sr. Vivian Whitehead, OSF, that there was a need for teachers at a Franciscan school in a very poor area of Fairfield, Ala. Benoit spent her first year as a teacher guiding a second grade class at St. Mary’s School in Fairfield. It was a special year for Benoit.

After that year in Alabama, Benoit returned to Joliet where she taught elementary grades (grades 1-5) for over 30 years in District 86. She also enjoyed directing Christmas programs and spring musical events. Now retired, Benoit enjoys volunteering at Our Lady of Angels retirement home, where she assists in the gift shop and presents “Music with Margaret” every Monday.

Benoit and her husband, Bill, have one daughter, Beth, who lives and works in Chicago. After Bill also retired from teaching, he began working at USF in the College of Education so both Bill and Margaret have very meaningful connections with USF. She is very proud to be a graduate of USF, and is most humbled to be the recipient of the Presidential Alumni Award.

College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Award
Julius Patterson ‘13
(BSW, Social Work)
MTSS Behavior Specialist and head varsity baseball coach at Thornton Township High School

Julius C. Patterson was born and raised in Harvey, Ill. His love for his community and the people that influenced him is evident in his everyday life.

As a child, Patterson was heavily involved in sports and music, and went on to receive an athletic scholarship to play baseball at the University of St Francis. Patterson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2013 and continued his education at Illinois State University, obtaining a master’s degree in 2016.

Upon finishing school, Julius worked as a counselor for a non-profit organization that catered to Chicago’s inner-city youth. Patterson co-founded the South Suburban Defenders, a non-profit youth baseball team, which focuses on developing children’s skills and promoting the importance of giving back to the community.

In 2018, Patterson completed his professional educator’s license and is currently on staff as the school social worker and head varsity baseball coach at Thornton High School in Harvey, Ill.

Patterson’ deep love for his community and desire to give back led him into recently campaigning for the aldermanic position in Harvey’s 5th Ward. He is both creative and a scholar, and in his spare time, he dabbles in fashion design and produces music.

Julius C. Patterson is very much a “hometown hero”- his heart is in Harvey and his life is for his people.

Caroline Portlock

College of Business & Health Administration Alumni Award
Caroline Portlock ’02, ‘04
(B.S., Professional Arts; MBA Business Administration)
Director of the Workforce Investment Board of Will County

Prior to joining the Workforce Investment Board, Caroline Portlock was the workforce development director at Joliet Junior College and managed WIOA grants in Will and Grundy counties, totaling over $2 million.

Portlock participates in the Regional Planning Council for Workforce Boards and is a member of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and the Northern Illinois Workforce Coalition. She previously served as the board chair for the Grundy Livingston Kankakee Workforce Board and on the executive committee of the Grundy Economic Development Council.

She is the past president/CEO of the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry. responsible for the overall marketing, planning and directing operations for the business services organization. She was also the HR manager for a local casino, where her experience included recruiting, training and retaining employees with emphasis on employee relations and internal communications. There, Portlock successfully increased employee satisfaction and decreased turnover while also gaining experience in public relations and marketing.

Portlock received her PHR certification through the Society of Human Resource Management in May 2002, completed her MBA at University of St. Francis in May 2004 and received her IOM certification for non-profit organizational management through the U.S. Chamber in June of 2008.

She currently serves as president of the USF Alumni Board and is member of the USF Board of Trustees, Kiwanis Club of Joliet, Illinois Workforce Partners, and Advisory Council for the United Way of Grundy County.

In January of 2015, Portlock finished her first marathon at Walt Disney World, and in June of 2016, she earned her school black belt in combat hapkido. She is married to a local attorney, Vince G. Portlock, and spends her time chasing her Australian cattle dog, Rooby.

College of Education Alumni Award
Patricia Arias ’08, ‘11
(B.A., Elementary Education; M.S., Teaching & Learning)
Bilingual teacher at Joliet District 86

Patricia Arias’s life could best be described as a big roller coaster. She has lived through as many ups and downs, twists and turns, and highs and lows as anyone could imagine. Still, she would not trade a single moment for anything.

Arias was born in the bustling, large Mexican city of Moroleón, Guanajuato, where she lived until her parents brought to the United States when she was nine years old. She quickly became acculturated to the vastly different U.S. customs but, eight years later, found herself to be a newly single mom who had to drop out of high school to care for her child. Thankfully, when she was 20 years old and with the encouragement and motivation of her new husband, Oscar, she finally got her GED. This accomplishment left her with a great desire to return to school and further her education.

With this new determination and mindset, she enrolled in courses at Joliet Junior College. After obtaining her associate’s degree, she transferred to the University of St. Francis, where her love for education grew immensely. The university’s commitment and dedication to upholding its core values, including ensuring student success, is what made Arias believe that she was finally on the path to a future she never imagined would be possible.

She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and several other endorsements from the University of St. Francis. She’s now both a student and a teacher at the university, taking classes and also teaching some courses as an adjunct professor.

Arias is also a mother to five children and grandmother to one beautiful, baby girl who is one of her greatest inspirations. Twenty-five years ago, if you had told her that this would be her life, she would not have believed it. However, it was strength, love and education that got her where she is today: a shining member of the University of St. Francis family.

Lisa Pittman

Leach College of Nursing Alumni Award
Lisa Pittman ’00, ’10, ‘13
(B.S., Health Arts; M.S., Health Administration; MSN Nursing Administration)
Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago

Lisa Pittman MHA, MSN, R.N ., NEA-BC, OCN is a nurse executive and assistant vice president of patient care services at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Chicago. She has 24 years of hospital-based nursing with progressive leadership experience.

After graduating from Parkland College in Champaign in 1994, Pittman obtained three University of St. Francis degrees – a B.S. in Health Arts in 2000, an M.S. in Healthcare Administration in 2010, and an M.S. in Nursing in 2013. In addition, Lisa holds two national certifications, both as an oncology certified nurse and an executive advanced-board certified nurse.

Pittman is a proven leader with experience in transformational culture change. She has a passion for assisting organizations to exceed expected benchmarks in quality, satisfaction and efficiency by ensuring evidence-based, patient-centered, cost-effective, and compassionate care. Key priorities in her leadership roles have been leading initiatives, achieving results and advancing professional nursing practice. Under her leadership, CTCA Chicago received the Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award three times and continues to perform in the top decile for patient satisfaction. Some of her work was highlighted in Press Ganey’s August 2018 issue of Industry Edge.

Pittman has presented nationally on several topics including “Improving Symptom Related Patient Outcomes: Oncologic Surgical Site Infection Bundle” (Oncology Nursing Society 44th Annual Congress); “CVAD No Blood Return Algorithm and its Impact on Patient Safety” (lnfusion Nurses Society Annual National Conference and the Association for Vascular Access Scientific Meeting); “Leveraging Patient Complaints to New Heights” (Rush University Medical Center’s What Patients Say: Improving Quality, Safety and the Patient Experience Using Patient Comments) and “Patient Centered Care Next Stop: Bedside Shift Report.” (Adventist Patient Experience Summit).

Pittman has two daughters that are the loves of her life: Danielle, also a practicing nurse who resides in Dallas, Texas, and Casey, a high school senior who is active in speech and theatre.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 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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Mark Your Calendar for Homecoming and Reunion Day on October 5

Joliet, Ill. – Calling all University of St. Francis (USF) alumni! USF has its plans set for Homecoming and Reunion Day on Saturday, Oct. 5 and wants to see YOU there!

Homecoming and Reunion Day will include a variety of fun, family-friendly events both on and off campus, including:

  • Homecoming Tailgate and Football Game: Join the USF family for our Homecoming tailgate and football game at Joliet Memorial Stadium! This event will offer fun for Fighting Saints alumni and fans of all ages. The tailgate (sponsored by the Alumni and Family Relations Office and the Student Activities Board) begins at 11 a.m. and will include free food, music, giveaways, and children’s activities before the big game. There will also be a beer tent ($1 pints) this year. Be sure to stop by the Alumni table for your FREE t-shirt (limited quantity available). The homecoming football game will then kickoff at 1 p.m. as the USF Fighting Saints take on the Robert Morris University Eagles.

  • Alumni Baseball Game and Alumni Softball Game/Reunion: Catch up with old teammates and showcase your collegiate athletic skills as you take on either some of your alumni peers or some of today’s Fighting Saints. Families are invited to cheer on their favorite athletes. The Alumni Baseball Game will take place on Friday, Oct. 4 (note this is the only Friday event on this year’s schedule) at Joliet Route 66 Stadium (home run derby at 6:30 p.m. and the game at 7 p.m.). The Alumni Softball Game/Reunion will take place at the Inwood Softball Complex on Saturday, Oct. 5, beginning at 9 a.m. All alumni athletes that register to participate by Friday, Sept. 7 will receive a free game shirt.

  • Football Alumni Reunion: Join your fellow gridiron teammates, USF head football coach Joe Curry, and other Saints football alumni and friends after the Homecoming football game at 4 p.m. at The Dock at Inwood for food, drinks and camaraderie! Help us celebrate the past, present, and future of the Fighting Saints football team at this complimentary event.

  • “Joliet Gems” City Tour and Merichka’s Lunch: Enjoy a tour of the well-known buildings and landmarks of historic Joliet aboard the USF shuttle and end with a mouth-watering lunch at Merichka’s! The cost per person for this event is $25 and space is limited. The shuttle will depart the Motherhouse parking lot at 10 a.m.

  • Nursing Alumni and Lunch Tour: Attendees are invited to bring a guest and join fellow nursing alumni from St. Joseph School of Nursing, St. Joseph College of Nursing, College of St. Francis and University of St. Francis! Bring your stories and mingle with your former classmates whether you are retired or still working in the field. A delicious lunch will be served among friends and nursing faculty, including Dr. Ebere Ume, the new Dean of the Leach College of Nursing. A tour of our new nursing building will immediately follow. This complimentary event begins at 12 p.m. at the St. Clare Campus.

  • Champagne Receptions: Special champagne receptions are planned for general alumni, as well as classes celebrating their 25th and 50th reunions this year. Receptions will begin at 5 p.m. and will take place in the following locations: general alumni and guests – Executive Conference Room (third floor of the Motherhouse); Class of 1994 will take place – Alumni Gathering Room (second floor of the Motherhouse); and Class of 1969 – Conference Room A&B (third floor of the Motherhouse).

  • Young Alumni Happy Hour: All young USF alumni are invited to a special happy hour at The Dock at Inwood. This was a popular event last year, so we are hoping to see an event larger turnout this year. Register by September 27th and receive a complimentary drink ticket.

  • Distinguished Alumni Dinner and Awards Ceremony: All are invited to join us for dinner as we recognize this year’s honored year alumni (Classes of 2014, 2009, 2004, 1999, 1994, 1989, 1984, 1979, 1974, 1969 and before) and celebrate our 50th reunion alumnae as they are inducted into our Assisian Club. Alumni award winners will be presented by Arvid C. Johnson, Ph.D., USF President. Winners are selected by college based on their outstanding professional and personal successes and/or involvement in civic, cultural, and charitable activities. The event will take place in San Damiano Hall, which is located on the third floor of the Motherhouse, beginning at 6 p.m. Admission for honored year alumni and award winners is complimentary, and guest admission is $20 per person.

  • Alumni Memorial Mass: All alumni and friends are invited to worship as a community of faith as we celebrate our homecoming and offer thanks for our lives and remember those alumni and friends who have gone before us. Fr. Terry Deffenbaugh, the University’s chaplain, will be our celebrant. Mass will begin at 4 p.m. in St. Joseph Chapel, which is located on the third floor of the Motherhouse.

In addition to the various special events, a hospitality room (Alumni Gathering Room) will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will offer a great place to meet up with classmates or just take a break from organized homecoming festivities. The room is located on the second floor of the Motherhouse.

USF Alumni and Family Relations Director Aubrey Knight ’04 and ‘07 is excited to once again offer a full slate of homecoming activities to USF alumni.

“I am sincerely overwhelmed with excitement as we prepare to welcome our alumni home,” Knight said. “It is amazing to be able to experience the nostalgia that homecoming presents as classmates reconnect and continue to write the legacy of USF.”

Please visit https://www.stfrancis.edu/alumni/hcrw/ for the full schedule of events for Homecoming and Reunion Day, to register for a specific event, and for information on lodging and directions to campus. Alumni are asked to note the event reservation cutoff date of September 30th. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact the Alumni and Family Relations Office either by email at alumni@stfrancis.edu or by phone at 877-811-ALUM (2586).

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 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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USF Seeking Nominations for Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF), through the USF Alumni & Family Relations Office, will honor five outstanding alumni with a Distinguished Alumni Award as part of the university’s Homecoming & Reunion festivities on Saturday, October 5, 2019, in San Damiano Hall, which is located in the Motherhouse on USF’s main campus in Joliet (520 Plainfield Road). One alumnus/alumna from each of the university’s four colleges will be honored based on outstanding professional and personal successes, as well as involvement in civic, cultural or charitable activities, highlighting the diverse disciplines of a comprehensive university. The Presidential Alumni Award, the evening’s most prestigious award, will be selected by the university.

Honoree nominations for each of the university’s four colleges may be submitted online at stfrancis.edu/alumni/awards. Nominations may be submitted by family members, coworkers, fellow alumni and others who could testify to the nominees’ achievements. Nominations may also be self-submitted. Please note the nomination process will close on July 31, 2019.

The USF Alumni Association’s Executive Board of Directors will review all nominations and will select award honorees (with the exception of the Presidential Alumni Award).

Winners of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards included: Lillian (Doleshek) Buckley ’72 – College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Award, J. Brian Bain ’02 – College of Business and Health Administration Award, Holly Bontkowski ’93 – College of Education Alumni Award, Dayna (Bernstein) Jaynstein ’09 – Leach College of Nursing Alumni Award, and William “Bill” ‘82 & Patricia “Trish” (Banks) ‘83 Bellah – Presidential Alumni Award.

For more information on the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards, please contact the Alumni & Family Relations Office at 877-811-ALUM (2586) or alumni@stfrancis.edu.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 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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