IMSA celebrated the students, faculty, and alumni who have shown leadership in IMSA’s mission to “advance the human condition” by positively impacting their community, Illinois, and the world through an awards ceremony on Tuesday, December 1. The Academy-wide midday ceremony recognized national and international award-winning students and faculty members, and honored the two distinguished 2015 Board of Trustees Alumni Award winners. In attendance were Illinois Representatives Linda Chapa LaVia, Stephanie Kifowit, and Bob Pritchard, as well as IMSA’s Founding President and President Emerita Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall, Former President and IMSA Ambassador Cathy Veal, the first to hold this new title recently bestowed by the Board of Trustees, and 2010 IMSA Titan Award winner Mike McCool ’91.
Senior Tavis Reed ’16 of Oswego was recognized for winning a Gold Medal in the Chemistry/Biochemistry division of the national Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO Competition). His national gold, announced in July, came in competition against a field of more than 700 of his fellow local medalists. Illinois State Representative Stephanie Kifowit presented Tavis with a certificate of recognition for this accomplishment, saying, “I’m blessed to have Tavis and his family in my district… for myself and my fellow representatives STEM education is very important, so thank you [Tavis] for all you’ve done toward making our future a better place.”
IMSA Principal Dr. Marie Dahleh spoke about the extraordinary accomplishments of Junior Pranav Sivakumar ‘17, whose original research recently won him the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award at the 2015 Google Science Fair. Pranav was also recently acknowledged by President Barack Obama, who spoke at length about the IMSA student at the White House Astronomy Night event in October. “IMSA seeks to expand our understanding of the world around us, and this is a core focus of Pranav Sivakumar’s research,” Dr. Dahleh said. State Representative Ed Sullivan also issued a certificate of recognition for the student from Tower Lakes, which is a part of Rep. Sullivan’s district.
“Our faculty embody the spirit of the pioneering education community, and they are the pillar of what makes our students and alumni accomplish the things that we are recognizing today,” said Dr. Dahleh, in recognition of IMSA Faculty Dr. Anita White and Dr. Claiborne Skinner. Dr. White was honored for winning two national awards this year, the Inspiring Women in STEM Award by INSIGHT into Diversity magazine and the SCI Teacher Award from the Society of the Chemical Industry. Dr. Skinner was also nationally recognized for his teaching, being named the 2015 Outstanding Teacher of American History by the National Society Daughters of the Colonial Wars.
“The Board of Trustee Alumni Awards were created to highlight how the inquiry and scientific thinking engrained in our students sets them on a path to make meaningful contributions to both society and to IMSA as alums,” Board Chairman Sheila MB Griffin said in presenting Michael Suh’97 with the Alumni Titan Award. Michael Suh currently serves as the treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee for the IMSA Fund Board of Directors, and his advocacy for “stability and investment” was a critical factor in influencing IMSA and the IMSA Fund to establish its first endowment. “Through his efforts we now have the Eric McLaren Faculty Excellence Endowed Fund, the Professional Field Services Fund, and the Stephanie Pace Marshall Endowment for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” Griffin said.
Griffin made the final presentation of the day, the Alumni Distinguished Leadership Award, to Dr. Gabriel Demombynes ‘89. As an economist at the World Bank, Gabriel Demombynes works on issues of poverty and inequality in developing countries, and is well known for his work arguing for the greater use of the scientific method in evaluating international development programs. This summer, in a major speech in Nairobi, President Obama quoted Demombynes’ writings on employment in Kenya. Griffin extolled Dr. Demombynes accomplishments, saying, “Gabriel for all you do to shed light on important, often urgent challenges of our time, and to advance the human condition worldwide, congratulations on your IMSA Board of Trustees Distinguished Leadership Award.”
The IMSA Board of Trustees Alumni Awards are the highest honors given to alumni in recognition of their accomplishments and contributions to their professions, to IMSA and to the citizens of Illinois, the nation and the world.