The University of Wisconsin-Parkside celebrates the accomplishments of its graduates and proudly recognizes the accomplishments of the 2020-21 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners. Throughout the academic year, the university will honor nine alumni in the categories of Achievement and Service, recognizing alumni who excel in their chosen field and or perform exemplary service to the community.
The 2020-21 UW-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are: Ellen Dobson ’05 (Madison, Wis.); Kristin Fritz ’87 and ’90 (Racine, Wis.); Gil Gonzalez ’00 (Los Angeles, Calif.); Linda Ham ’82 (League City, Texas); Rick Harris ’85 (Gurnee, Ill.); Monique Herena ’93 (Scarsdale, N.Y.); Rick Kilps ’75 (Mount Pleasant, Wis.); Brooke Jones-Story, ‘06, (deceased, formerly of Rockton, Ill.), and Frances Jaeschke ’71 (deceased, formerly of Kenosha, Wis.).
In addition to honoring awardees representing each of the university’s four colleges, UW-Parkside will recognize the late Frances “Fran” Jaeschke with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Jaeschke was a leading member of the advocacy group that worked to establish UW-Parkside in the late 1960s. She went on to earn her degree in the university’s second graduating class in 1971 and was a dedicated supporter of education and UW-Parkside until her death in 2016.
The UW-Parkside 2020-21 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients evidence the success of the university’s alumni in education, business, healthcare, technology, and other professions. They play an important role in economic, civic, and talent development on both a national and local level. UW-Parkside alumni have a notable impact on the region, as approximately 70 percent of UW-Parkside alumni continue to work and reside in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois following graduation.
Chancellor Deborah Ford noted that these alumni embody the spirit of UW-Parkside. “From helping to found this university and then becoming one of our first graduates, to serving as a flight director for NASA space missions, to leading global companies, this year’s honorees showcase the best of UW-Parkside alumni: their passion, determination, and commitment to success in their industries and communities. It fills me with pride to recognize this class of Distinguished Alumni for their achievements and service. They are an inspiration for current and future UW-Parkside students and the community at large, and we look to them as models of the transformative power of a UW-Parkside education,” she said.
The 2020-21 Distinguished Alumni will be recognized in a variety of ways throughout the academic year, with plans to publicly celebrate in May 2021.
About the UW-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Awards
UW-Parkside accepts Distinguished Alumni Award nominations throughout the year and selects award recipients each spring. Nominees must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and are considered based on criteria for the Achievement Award or Service Award. To learn more UW-Parkside’s Distinguished Alumni Award, visit: www.uwp.edu/traditions.
2020-21 UW-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
- Dr. Ellen Dobson ’05: Dr. Ellen Dobson earned her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology & Bioinformatics, where her experience conducting research solidified her interest in bacterial pathogenesis and prepared her for the next stage in her scientific training as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Dr. Dobson’s doctoral research focused mainly on tissue microbiology, specifically on the characterization of Salmonella typhimurium infection of the gallbladder during an acute, murine model of typhoid fever. Today Dr. Dobson’s work focuses on developing and applying new technologies to better understand dynamic biological phenomena. She now works as an Assistant Scientist in the Laboratory of Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which engages in software development within a biological context, directly linking imaging to biology. Dr. Dobson is passionate about the interdisciplinary field of microscopy and bioimaging, which for her represents the perfect balance of science, collaboration, and innovation.
- Kristin Fritz ’87 and ’90: Kristin Fritz is vice president of Human Resources at Rockwell Automation, a Fortune 500 company and provider of industrial automation and information products. She leads the business partnership for products and solutions technologies for Architecture & Software, Control Products & Solutions, Strategic Development, Corporate Development and Connected Enterprise Consulting. Kristin began her career at Rockwell Automation in 2002. Previously, Kristin spent nine years with Golden Books Publishing Company, the world’s largest printer and publisher of children’s books, in Racine, Wisconsin and New York City, progressing from human resources representative to vice president for the organization. Kristin has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in human resources and a master’s degree in business from UW-Parkside. In addition, she has spent time in the United States Army Reserves.
- Gil Gonzalez ’00: Gil Gonzalez is an actor, director, producer, and Professor of Acting and Directing in the Department of Theatre & Communication Arts at Whittier College in Los Angeles, where he also serves as Associate Dean of Academic Support and First Year Programs. He is the also the founder and producing artistic director of Enceladus Theatre Company, a professional company staging new and classical works in southern California. He holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Virginia and earned a BA from UW-Parkside as a double major in Dramatic Arts and History. Gil is the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Theatre Education Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In 2018, he received Key to the College Award for his dedication and support of students at Whittier College. In 2020, Gil was once again recognized by the Kennedy Center with the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, which is the most prestigious award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theatre education.
- Linda Ham ’82: Linda Ham has reached many milestones in her career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): first female Propulsion Officer in Mission Control, first female Section Head – Systems Division, first and only female Manager of Space Shuttle Program Integration, first and only Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager and, perhaps her proudest achievement, first female Flight Director – Leader of Mission Control. Linda has served as Flight Director on fourteen Space Shuttle missions during launch, orbit, and re-entry mission phases. Currently, Linda is Lead, NASA JSC’s Technology Infusion. She leads the efforts of Johnson Space Center (JSC) to collaborate with industry in developing America’s return to the Moon 2024 Program. In addition, Linda led JSC’s effort in creating the newly formed Technology Collaboration Center of Houston. Linda holds a Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, a Master of Business Administration from Rice University, and Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Mathematics from UW-Parkside.
- Rick Harris ’85: Rick Harris is a seasoned Human Resource Executive who specializes in improving individual and organization performance. He has over 25 years of experience in the Human Resources and Manufacturing Operations fields in Fortune 500 companies. In 2008, Rick founded RJ Harris & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in general HR, Diversity & Inclusion, Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Talent Management services. In his various roles over the years, he has remained consistent in his endeavor to assist organizations be successful and create equal opportunities for people of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities. For his contributions to his community, Rick was named “Most Influential African American” of Lake County, Ill. in 2008, inducted into the Lake County Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2009, and received the Lake County Dreamer’s Award in 2016.Rick received his Bachelor of Science degree in Labor & Industrial Relations from UW-Parkside in 1985. He became a member of the UW-Parkside Foundation Board of Directors in 2019.
- Monique R. Herena ’93: Monique Herena is Chief Colleague Experience Officer at American Express. As Chief Colleague Experience Officer, Monique is responsible for talent management, leadership development and compensation and benefits globally. Monique joined American Express from BNY Mellon, where she was Chief Human Resources Officer and Senior Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Marketing and Communications since 2014. Prior to BNY Mellon, Monique was at PepsiCo for 13 years where she served in a number of increasingly senior HR leadership roles, including assignments in Dubai and Chicago, as well as in their Purchase, NY headquarters. Her career also included several years at both Honeywell and The Quaker Oats Company, where she held leadership roles in a wide range of HR disciplines. Monique holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from UW-Parkside, and two Masters of Arts degrees, one in Communications Studies from Northern Illinois University and one in Organization Psychology and Change Leadership from Columbia University.
- Rick Kilps ’75: As the head coach of the UW-Parkside men’s soccer team from 1984 to 2011, Rick Kilps boasted a 363-137-40 record and had 26 consecutive winning seasons. As a student-athlete himself, Rick was on the soccer team for four years while earning his degree from UW-Parkside. Rick positively affected the lives of countless student-athletes throughout his coaching career and contributed to their success on and off the field. Rick had 85 players named to the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) all region team including 47 players named NAIA All-Region team, 41 players named All-Americans, and 18 players drafted by or signed contracts with professional soccer organizations. Under Rick’s direction the Rangers were a mainstay in post-season tournaments and won the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship in 2000. Rick’s excellence in coaching has been recognized with numerous awards, including Wisconsin State Coach of the Year, multiple awards as NAIA District Coach of the Year and NCAA Regional Coach of the Year, and induction into the Wisconsin Soccer Association Hall of Fame.
- Brooke Jones-Story ’06: Brooke Jones-Story’s life is a story of honor, courage, and commitment to helping those around her. She was a model student during her academic career at UW-Parkside, earning her degree in criminal justice and competing on the women’s volleyball team. After graduating, Jones-Story joined the Illinois State Troopers in 2007. She died in the line of duty on March 28, 2019. In addition to her career service, Brooke’s love for animals led her and her husband, Robert Story Jr., to open the Storybrooke Farm in 2015 to rescue horses and other animals. The farm also serves as a satellite adoption center for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, a nonprofit organization whose founders received a CNN Hero award.
- Frances ‘Fran’ Jaeschke ’71: Frances “Fran” Jaeschke was a life-long advocate for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Before UW-Parkside was founded in 1968, Fran was a driving force in the original advocacy group that worked to garner support in the community and in the Wisconsin Legislature to establish a four-year UW campus in southeastern Wisconsin. Fran was also among the first students to ever earn a degree from the new UW school. In May 1971, UW-Parkside’s second commencement, she was honored with the UW-Parkside Outstanding Graduate award. Fran went on to create scholarships that, to this day, provide access to education for students in each of the university’s four colleges. Her generosity also established the Ralph Jaeschke Solutions for Economic Growth (SEG) Center in memory of her husband, who passed away in 1996. Over the course of seven-plus decades in Kenosha, Fran served on the Kenosha Unified School Board for 10 years and participated in more than 40 community organizations, from the PTA to the Kenosha Woman’s Club and the League of Women Voters.