The Distinguished Alumni Awards program at Harper College recognizes Harper College Alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers and in their service to the community. The program launched in 2008 and to date, a total of 87 individuals have been honored. In 2019, a new award, the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, was added to honor an alumna/alumnus who is less than 10 years out from Harper College and making an early impact in their careers and community. Learn more about previous Harper College Distinguished Alumni honorees by visiting the Distinguished Alumni digital display on Harper’s campus on the main level in Building A or click here.
We are now accepting nominations for the 2024 Harper College Distinguished Alumni Awards. Nominations open until Monday, May 13. The Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception will be held on Thursday, October 17, 2024.
On October 19, 2023, Harper College alumni, community members, friends and college leadership gathered to honor the achievements of five exceptional alumni at the 2023 Harper College Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception.
Outstanding Recent Alumni Award Honoree
Jennifer AK Mepham, MSN, BS, RN, CHSE
System Simulation Education Specialist
For Jennifer Mepham, Harper College was an integral part of her education before, during and after the preparation for her career in nursing, enriching her professionalism every step of the way.Mepham enrolled in summer courses at Harper College while earning her Bachelor of Science degree at Illinois State University (2011), and then completed her Associate Degree in Nursing at Harper (2014).
“My time in the nursing program (at Harper College) was filled with learning, relationship
building and personal growth,” Mepham said. “Nursing school is not easy, but the professors
at Harper College made themselves available to their students, which lightened the
Her relationship with Harper College continued while she completed a master’s degree in nursing with a focus in education. She collaborated with Jennifer Smith, professor and director of nursing, while working toward her advanced degree at Indiana Wesleyan University (2019). “Jen Smith was gracious enough to allow me to work with her and her students. The collaboration led to a podium presentation at a nursing conference.”
Mepham began her career as a bedside nurse within the clinical resource department at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in 2015. Since then, she has combined her education and professional experience to become an expert in patient care education. Today, in her role as a System Simulation Education Specialist for Advocate Aurora Health (AAH), she leads an array of training programs, including the onboarding of newly hired nurses.
Mepham became one of many health care “heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, she helped train nurses in using the prone position for patients with COVID. Later, she managed a vaccine clinic and 80 team members.
“I did not transition to ‘working from home,’ but instead had the opportunity to take on stretch assignments,” Mepham said. “In my Healthcare Simulation profession, my focus was training nurses … I was then asked to be a lead within the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital.”
She willingly accepted these “unique and stressful” challenges and was recognized for her unselfish dedication with a Hospital Team of the Year award for her work during the pandemic.
Mepham gives back to the local community in volunteer outreach for AAH including flu vaccine clinics for non-English speaking communities, the National Night Out in Barrington, and volunteering with the SEARCH program, which allows high school students to volunteer at the hospital and learn about health care professions.
Director, English Learner Program
Township High School District 214
Veronica Gott has used her education, compassion and multiple talents to succeed in a myriad of roles over her adult life.
She credits her success in earning a college degree to a helpful Harper College advisor. Gott attended Harper in 1994 because it was close to home, offered many resources, and was affordable. She was awarded a scholarship and that “sealed the deal.”
“As a first-generation student, I was less knowledgeable about how to navigate post-secondary education,” Gott said. “My parents taught me (many) qualities that have made me a successful adult. I know they would have helped me navigate college.
“In the absence of their guidance, a Harper advisor was committed to seeing me succeed. There were many times I felt lost and my advisor was always available to help guide me. She was a blessing!”
At an advising appointment, Gott discovered that graphic design matched her talents. Her advisor helped her transfer to a small art school in Schaumburg for a visual communication degree. “Even after I left Harper my advisor was helping me navigate my new school,” Gott said.
Gott later decided to take a leap to a new career and pursued two master’s degrees, first in Elementary Education in 2012 and Educational Leadership in 2018. Her leadership has made a significant impact on staff, curricula, and strategies to reach students. She began as an English language teacher to English learners at elementary schools and is now director for the English Learner Program for High School District 214.
“I have experienced success as an educator but that doesn’t compare to those of my students,” Gott said. “The families I serve are an inspiration of resilience every day. We continue to struggle with the aftermath of COVID-19, both in learning loss and financial losses among our EL families. We are constantly trying to think outside the box.”
Gott is also a passionate advocate for the disability community, after a severe car crash resulted in traumatic spinal cord injury to her sister (Reveca Torres, a 2016 Harper College Distinguished Alumna) and injuries to other family members. She co-created the non-profit organization BACKBONES in 2009 with Reveca. BACKBONES supports people with spinal cord injuries and their family members, and Gott leads fundraising efforts and other initiatives.
But it’s her role of mother that tops her list of successes. “Raising a strong, confident daughter who is kind and always looking for ways to help the underdog is my life’s biggest success,” she added.
Doryce McCarthy’s interest in helping adolescents and her academic start at Harper College launched an impressive social work career spanning 38 years at OMNI, based in Buffalo Grove. Working at OMNI and with the people there “is something I care deeply about,” she said.
After starting her career as a counselor with OMNI in 1985, she now holds the title of president, overseeing 85 team members, a budget of $9 million and services in more than 20 communities in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.
“Harper did teach me how to learn, enjoy ‘where you are at,’ and use every experience as a step to the next one,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy has taken that lesson to heart, using her experiences to handle increasingly responsible roles including youth and family counselor, substance abuse program director, program operations specialist, and quality assurance manager, among others.
She earned her Master’s in Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago in 1984 and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
“I always wanted to help adolescents,” she said. “Even as a teenager, I found adolescent development fascinating. I saw the field of social work as a means to not only provide therapeutic intervention but also work with systems that impact individuals.”
McCarthy is passionate about empowering youth and providing high-quality behavioral health support. She has spent nearly four decades dedicated to the OMNI mission of providing life-changing and lifesaving counseling, case management, and prevention services to youth and families. Under her leadership, OMNI has made a great impact on the communities it serves, providing more than 9,500 hours of mental health counseling during 2022, and collaborating with area schools on education in substance abuse prevention and sexual health and healthy relationships.
Among her greatest rewards is collaborating with a team of individuals who work together to overcome barriers, develop new systems, identify new areas of impact and then move them forward.
“The change in this field is constant,” McCarthy said. “What’s most exciting is that there’s always a new challenge and a new solution.”
Director of Marketing and Development
Mid-West Moving and Storage;
Founder LMJ’s Lost Souls Alzheimer’s Fund
Kari-Ann Ryan’s drive to succeed in her marketing career and community service work is grounded in the important lessons she learned at Harper College: Never give up and hit your goals. “I was a long-time Harper student while I worked full time in my first career path,” she said. “I never gave up, I was always committed to the end goal of graduating and moving on to finish my degree.”
After Ryan finished her associate degree in Marketing at Harper in 1999, “It set me up to move on and graduate with honors and a sense of accomplishment from Western Michigan,” she said. Ryan received a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2001.
Throughout Ryan’s stellar career, she has held a variety of marketing roles in the northwest suburbs and is currently director of marketing and development of Mid-West Moving & Storage, Inc. where she has worked since 2017. Her successes there have resulted in seven awards, including the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethics in 2022 earned for the company.
Her work in the community is equally notable and she’s especially passionate about causes that address Alzheimer’s Disease. Ryan led a top fundraising team for the Northwest Suburban Walk To End Alzheimer’s, bringing in almost $400,000 to the Alzheimer’s Association.
In 2022, she founded LMJ’s Lost Souls Alzheimer’s Fund, which makes a difference through fundraising, awareness, education and support. “My grandmother had Alzheimer’s Disease for more than 13 years, and she lived with us,” Ryan explained. “I had no control over all she was experiencing ... so I took control by advocating, fundraising and supporting this cause. It became a personal brand for me. (LMJ’s Lost Souls) has a vision to make an impact in our local community, be direct funders of research and so much more.”
She is also involved with a nonprofit called the backyard EXPERIENCE in Schaumburg,
Lemons of Love (which provides care packages to individuals impacted by cancer), Elk
Grove Chamber of Commerce and GOA Regional Business Association. The Schaumburg Business
Association (SBA) has recognized her numerous times for her leadership roles, and
she served the SBA as chairman of the board in 2021 and 2022. “Being involved in the
community, chambers and local organizations are a way for me to not only give back,
but to serve, inspire and lead others to do the same,” Ryan said.
It all started with her time at Harper College. “I will forever be grateful that Harper College made it easy to keep going and hit the goals I set for myself.”
Vice President of Sports Content
NBC Universal Local Chicago
As a high school senior, John Schippman had no idea he was destined for a career in sports media, especially covering historical achievements like the Chicago Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cup Championships.
Today, Schippman is Vice President of Sports Content for NBC Universal Local Chicago, overseeing all three sports departments of NBC 5 Chicago, Telemundo Chicago and NBC Sports Chicago, which includes live game telecasts of the Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox.
“I knew going to Harper College would give me more time to figure out what I wanted to do, complete my general education classes, while also building up my GPA,” Schippman said. “I took advantage of the tutoring program…the extra one-on-one time helped me raise my grades.
“After my first year, I talked to my counselor at Harper and realized that attending a school like the University of Illinois was realistic.”
In 2000, Schippman received his Bachelor of Science in Communication and Media Studies from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
During Schippman’s first job as a production assistant at ESPN, he produced highlights just like the ones he watched growing up. He realized that “this was the career I wanted, working in sports media, behind the camera.”
In 2004, he returned home to Chicago as an associate producer to cover the teams of his childhood for NBC.
“I couldn't believe that as a diehard Blackhawks fan growing up, (I would) be on the ice in Philadelphia in 2010, covering the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup championship in almost 50 years,” Schippman said. “My dad turned me into a sports fan, and he was the first person I called after the Blackhawks won in overtime.”
Schippman has earned five Emmys, including several for the station’s coverage of the Blackhawks and another for the long-form feature “25: The Ben Wilson Story.” Schippman also serves as the President of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and is the executive producer for the Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards.
“Winning an Emmy is a magical moment, but if you're in this business to collect hardware, you're doing it for the wrong reasons,” Schippman said. “In broadcasting and media, you will only be successful if you work together with your team … everyone needs to be on the same page, with everyone bringing fresh ideas day after day.”
Pinderski & Pinderski, Ltd.
Follett Higher Education
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