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ASPA’s Greater Chicago Chapter Honors Local Public Servants

Bruce Rodman

About 50 people attended the Greater Chicago Chapter’s annual awards program as part of Public Service Recognition Week. This was the 31st annual program at which the chapter recognized outstanding students from eight area universities with a graduate-level program in public administration or policy.

The chapter also recognized alumni from these programs as “model administrators” and awarded its Adlai Stevenson Public Service award, which honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to good government over the course of a career.

James F. Martin, who recently retired as regional commissioner for the Great Lakes Region of the Social Security Administration, received the 2011 Stevenson Award from Chapter President Meena Beyers. Martin had been regional commissioner of the six-state region since 1999, leading more than 9,500 employees.

He also noted that he spent more than 40 years in government service, all of them at the Social Security Administration, and that he was the third generation of his family to work for the agency, with a son in Texas representing the fourth generation.

In accepting the award, Martin said, “I grew up in a family where we were taught that being of service to others is one of the highest things to which we are called.”

A happy coincidence further reinforced the family commitment to public service, as Martin’s nephew was selected as the outstanding graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Last year, the student award was named after Dean Eitel, the retired assistant director of DePaul University’s School of Public Service and the ASPA chapter past president who initiated the awards program.

The 2011 outstanding graduate students were Caitlin Allen, DePaul University; Adam Christensen, Roosevelt University; Erik Jensen, Northern Illinois University; John Jesernik, Governors State University; George Martin, University of Illinois at Chicago; Francesca Rodriguez, University of Chicago; and Pingjing Zou, Illinois Institute of Technology.

The model administrators and their schools were Richard Escalante, vice chancellor for administrative services of the University of North Texas System (Northern Illinois University); James M. Grady, chief of the Frankfort (IL) Fire District (Governors State University); Julie Henning, program coordinator for the U.S. EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (Northwestern University); Mary Niemiec, executive director for external education in the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (University of Illinois at Chicago); Ameya Pawar, a program assistant in Northwestern University’s Office of Emergency Management who was recently elected to represent the 47th Ward on the Chicago City Council (Illinois Institute of Technology); and Albert Stonitsch, director of human resources for the Village of Glenview, IL (DePaul University).

In closing the program, Chapter President Beyers continued a tradition by quoting award namesake Adlai Stevenson. In a 1952 speech, he said, “The dedication of a lifetime… these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles, than to live up to them.”

She added her own postscript, saying, “Let us be inspired and become better people by learning from those that demonstrate the dedication of a lifetime to public service.”

The Illinois Institute of Technology and Roland Calia, the MPA Program Coordinator, hosted the May 6 event at the school’s downtown Chicago campus.

ASPA member Bruce Rodman is past president of the Greater Chicago Chapter of ASPA. Email: [email protected]

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