Harper College

2015 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Vladimir Goncharoff, Ph.D., Lecturer
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UIC

Vladimir GoncharoffOut of all his many accolades, the award Dr. Vladimir Goncharoff cherishes the most comes from his students.

He’s a five-time recipient of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Silver Circle Award for Excellence in Teaching, a recognition that senior engineering students bestow upon their favorite professor.

“It’s the best pat on the back I could hope for. I enjoy taking material and processing it and presenting it in a way I would understand if I was in a student’s shoes,” Goncharoff says. “Standing in front of a class, keeping students alert by mixing technical material with corny jokes, is fun. That’s the ham in me. I’m part engineer, part actor. I need that engagement.”

Goncharoff, who holds both a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from Northwestern University, has worked as an assistant professor and lecturer in UIC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since 1983. He primarily teaches courses in signal processing and radio circuit design.

At UIC, his College of Engineering colleagues honored him as the first recipient of the Harold Simon Award for Excellence in Teaching and twice selected him for the Faculty Teaching Award.

Goncharoff, of Rolling Meadows, received appointments as adjunct research professor for the San Diego State University Foundation and adjunct professor at Northeast University at Qinhuangdao in China. He and a colleague also co-wrote a textbook on signal processing.

His rise in academia began at Harper College, where he received a full ride through the Trustee Scholarship. Staying close to home allowed him to work part time as an electronics technician at Motorola alongside his father, a lifelong electrical engineer.

Harper also gave him the opportunity to take courses he wouldn’t have otherwise, such as electronics, music theory and even sight singing and ear training, lessons he still puts to use when singing in his church choir. He earned his Associate in Science in 1976.

In addition to exercising his vocal chords, Goncharoff has enjoyed sparking a new generation’s interest in pre-engineering as an affiliate professor for Project Lead The Way, the nation’s leading provider of K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Goncharoff has also volunteered at the American-Ukrainian Youth Association in Palatine for more than 30 years.

He hopes to stay in the classroom, in some shape or form.

“Though engineering mathematics can be difficult, lectures can also be made entertaining,” Goncharoff says. “I prepare each lecture anew, which takes a lot of time, but it’s a process I love. I’ll do it as long as they’ll have me.”

View Vladimir's video.

Richard Parlier, Owner
First Point Mechanical Services, LLC

Richard ParlierRichard Parlier believes the courses he took at Harper changed the trajectory of his career.

The mechanical services company he worked for after high school quickly recognized his work ethic and promoted him to a heating and air conditioning service technician. Knowing he needed to bolster his technical skills, Parlier turned to Harper.

Twenty-plus years later, Parlier owns First Point Mechanical Services LLC, a multimillion-dollar commercial HVAC company serving northern Illinois. 

“My instructors saw that I was serious about the career path I was on, and they helped shape me into a committed and responsible adult,” Parlier said. “I was held accountable and challenged, and I respected them tremendously because they all had experience in the field.”

After leaving Harper in 1993, V.A. Smith Co. promoted Parlier to sales representative and later sales manager. When Exelon acquired the company in 1999, he was named general manager of service operations. Parlier felt he had more to offer the industry and joined the startup Westside Mechanical North Division as its president.

In 2007, the Inverness resident purchased 40 percent of Westside and became a managing partner. He bought the remaining stake earlier this year and renamed his company First Point Mechanical Services, where he provides leadership and direction for more than 30 employees.

Though known as a self-made man unfazed by hard work or taking risks, Parlier is admired even more for his character.

Parlier and his wife, Carrie, are proud parents of Lexi and Lilli, who they adopted in 2005 and 2008. Lilli was a “Safe Haven” baby, prompting the couple’s involvement in the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation. The Parliers appeared on several newscasts to share their positive adoption experience. They successfully advocated for legislation that extended the time a parent has to safely relinquish an infant to 30 days old.

Parlier has also actively supported several organizations including Kids Fight Cancer, the Special Olympics, DuPage Medical Group’s efforts to fund clinical research and scholarships at St. Ignatius College Prep.

View Richard's video.

Joseph Quinn, Vice President and Regional Sales Manager

BMO Harris Bank

Richard ParlierOf all the lessons Joseph Quinn came away with from Harper College, perhaps the most important was the need to discover his passion and embrace it.

He became convinced of that concept while a student of Associate Professor Michael Harkins, whose enthusiasm for history and teaching convinced Quinn he needed to choose a path he’d be excited to navigate. For Quinn, that meant pursuing a career in finance while also committing himself to community service.

His journey has been a successful one.

Quinn currently serves as vice president and regional sales manager for BMO Harris Bank. He’s also a prominent civic leader and active volunteer for numerous organizations.

“I love what I do for a living and that I am able to give back to the community,” Quinn says. “I’m fortunate to work for an organization that not only shares my values and passions, but begs me to include them in my work environment.”

After earning his associate degree at Harper in 2000, Quinn transferred to Northeastern Illinois University to complete his bachelor’s degree. He’s currently enrolled in Northern Illinois University’s Master of Business Administration program. 

As part of the BMO Harris team, Quinn is responsible for the performance, support and guidance of more than 80 branches and retail executives. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, turned around struggling teams and managed rollouts of new positions.

Quinn believes he has a social responsibility to give back to his community. He has held leadership positions with the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce, Young Entrepreneur Academy, Palatine Jaycees, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights and the Palatine Library Foundation Board. He’s also involved with various Harper College Educational Foundation committees and other organizations including United Way and the American Heart Association.

His time at Harper was a formative period in Quinn’s life. His father had just passed away, and a year taking classes at his hometown community college hadn’t made much of an impact. He made the decision to move to his grandparents’ house in Barrington so that his mother could better support his four younger siblings. Knowing the value his parents placed on education, he enrolled at Harper. Eventually, he became focused and things fell into place.

“I came to Harper and things really started to turn around for me,” Quinn says. “Professor Harkins helped me see how important it is to do something you’re passionate about. For me, that was finance and helping others. I owe a lot of my direction to Harper.”

View Joseph's video.

Renee Spacapan, DNP, APN, FNP-C

Nephrology Associates of Northern Illinois

Renee SpacapanRenee Spacapan has walked Harper College’s halls at two very different points in her life.

In 1983, Spacapan studied banking and received her associate degree en route to working as a loan officer and starting a family. In 2004, she returned a mother of five daughters and determined to become a nurse.

“I think in some ways I was born to be a nurse,” Spacapan says. “I want to help people and be the best nurse I can, and for me that has meant educating myself. I always want to do more.”

The Arlington Heights resident has done just that.

After graduating from Harper in 2006 with an Associate of Applied Science degree, Spacapan earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Science in Nursing from Saint Xavier University. In May, she completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Today, Spacapan serves as a nurse practitioner at Nephrology Associates of Northern Illinois in Elk Grove Village. She manages end-stage renal disease patients on dialysis and is responsible for their care.

During her doctoral program residency, she helped develop an evidence-based practice change to assist nurses in the hemodialysis outpatient clinic that is predicted to decrease the number of trips to the emergency department and reduce the antibiotic use, leading to improved care and significant financial savings.

Spacapan was also awarded a grant and fellowship in palliative medicine from the Coleman Foundation in Chicago. The two-year training program for 30 nurses and physicians involved continuing education workshops, online learning, one-on-one mentoring and direct observation of a mentor’s practice.

Spacapan never considers herself off-duty. She regularly offers to make the rounds throughout her neighborhood, visiting the homes of elderly people to monitor blood pressure, give injections and perform dressing changes. She also volunteers at Off the Street Club, Chicago’s oldest boys and girls club.

After working as a preceptor for new employees and senior nursing students on her hospital’s telemetry unit, she can confidently say that Harper’s students are the best prepared. She’s experienced the rigorous curriculum and benefited from the College’s passionate faculty.

“I knew I was making the right decision coming to Harper when I saw how highly regarded the program and students are by area hospitals,” Spacapan said. “Harper fosters in me a love of learning.”

View Renee's video.

Laurie Turpin-Soderholm, Senior Project Manager
Global Access Meetings

Laurie Turpin-SoderholmWhen it comes to her work, Laurie Turpin-Soderholm is truly a citizen of the world.

A meeting and event professional with 20 years of planning and operational experience, Turpin-Soderholm has planned and executed domestic and international meetings, incentive trips and special events in more than 40 countries on five continents.

“I love what I do, and I am especially excited when I am able to create an unforgettable experience for my attendees,” Turpin-Soderholm says.

As a senior project manager for Denver-based Global Access Meetings – and throughout her career – Turpin-Soderholm has managed to incorporate her love of theater, travel and community service.

Those passions took shape at Harper College, where Turpin-Soderholm excelled as a student, served as a peer counselor and participated in numerous theater productions both onstage and off. She graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in 1982.

Turpin-Soderholm transferred to Georgetown University, graduated with honors and later completed a master’s degree in theater at Northwestern University. After college, she held positions at the International Theatre Festival of Chicago, the Shakespeare Repertory and helped plan and manage special events including Brach’s Chicago Holiday Parade and Mrs. T’s Chicago Triathlon.

It wasn’t long before Turpin-Soderholm’s talents reached an international stage. In addition to planning events and meetings across the globe, she held leadership roles for worldwide and national level sponsors at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens and Beijing.

“My education and earlier career in the theater helped to focus my creative eye and have developed my abilities to see and think beyond the obvious, ordinary or expected,” she says.

Turpin-Soderholm’s family has a longstanding tradition with Harper. Her sisters and mother are alumni, and her father taught part time. They saw Harper as a gateway to opportunity, and never doubted their journey in higher education would begin at the college.

“I owe absolutely every single thing I have to Harper,” she says. “I never would have gone to Georgetown had it not been for Harper, and I can honestly say that I never once felt underprepared or inferior once I got there.”

Turpin-Soderholm has long valued giving back to her community, offering her time and talent as a board member and planning an annual gala at Unity in Chicago. She also organizes various events at the Abundant Life Spiritual Center in Deerfield, and was a Sunday school teacher and volunteer for many years at her family’s church.

For the past five years, Turpin-Soderholm has again been a familiar face on Harper’s campus, giving guest theater lectures and supporting the Harper College Educational Foundation. She sits on the Foundation’s Annual Giving and Alumni committees and co-funds an endowed scholarship.

View Laurie's video.

Last Updated: 3/14/24