John Fulton Distinguished Alumni Award
Established in 2009, the John M. Fulton Distinguished Alumni Award is named for long-time KCC Alumni Association member John Fulton of Herscher. Fulton is a 1981 graduate of KCC, and earned two associate degrees, in business and general studies.
As a decorated Vietnam War hero, a tireless advocate for veterans affairs, and for people with disabilities, a farmer, and friend, Fulton is a source of pride and inspiration for all of us at KCC.
Following Fulton's receipt of the KCC Foundation's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, the KCC Foundation Board voted unanimously to rename the recognition "The John M. Fulton Distinguished Alumni Award."
Recipients of the award must meet the following criteria:
- Outstanding success and distinction in chosen field
- Humanitarian service that has proven greatly beneficial to society
- Continued interest in/support of education and community colleges
- Overcoming life's obstacles
- Completion of a recognized program of instruction at Kankakee Community College
2017 - Donald Rehmer
Dr. Rehmer has established a successful career as a geologist and is currently with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Donald’s passion for his career has inspired him to volunteer his services of aid and expertise in times of disaster throughout the United States.
Dr. Donald Rehmer embodies the positive role model of a Kankakee Community College graduate. He continues to work hard and attain professional success, while inspiring others to give back to their community. He is a leader, a mentor, and a lifelong learner.
2016 - Robert de Oliveira
Since graduating from KCC in 1993, Robert de Oliveira has made a major impact on the Hispanic community in and out of the classroom. He was raised in Brazil and moved to the United States to receive a higher education. As a former migrant, de Oliveira understands how challenging it can be to live in a country without knowing the language. He says he couldn’t have succeeded without the help of his friends, He now speaks three languages: Portuguese, Spanish and English. One of de Oliveira’s missions is to help new migrants adjust to living in the U.S.
Since 2014, de Oliveira has been a consultant for the Migrant Education Program, helping students and their families with their education. He helps those wanting to learn English as well. De Oliveira was president of the Illinois Migrant Education Association from 2006-09. In 2008, he received the Illinois Migrant Teacher of the Year award.
After receiving an Associates in Arts degree from KCC, de Oliveira attended Olivet Nazarene University and completed a bachelor’s degree in history education in 1996. He began teaching in Kankakee School District 111 and quickly became a favorite teacher among students, who frequently call him “Mr. D.” In 19 years of teaching, he has taught subjects such as social studies, bilingual classes, and English as a Second Language.
In 2013, de Oliveira introduced the Foreign Travel Program, encouraging students to explore other countries and learn their cultures. In 2016, he left teaching to become an assistant principal for Kankakee High School.
Outside of teaching, de Oliveira has been involved in many committees including:
- Kankakee Public Library
- Kankakee Historic Society board of directors
- Kankakee Natural Historic Preservation Committee
- Kankakee Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra (founding member)
- Acting Out Theatre Co. (founding member)
De Oliveira credits KCC for sparking his interest in academics. He considers himself a “lifelong learner,” with a passion for education that keeps growing. De Oliveira also frequently brings his classes to KCC for field trips to share the opportunities the college provides—like it did for him.
2015 - Jordan Arseneau
Growing up, Jordan Arseneau and his twin brother, Jesse, spent hours making films. “From the moment my brother Jesse and I started messing around with video cameras, we knew we wanted careers involving media. But coming from a family where neither of our parents graduated from college, we were unsure of where to start.”
Jordan and Jesse were part of a single parent household and they knew early on they would be responsible for paying for their own education. Jordan met with several KCC faculty members and weighed his options before choosing KCC.
Both brothers began at KCC in 2000 following graduation from Kankakee Trinity Academy.
While attending KCC, Jordan’s interests were piqued when he took his first speech class, “I remember thinking, ‘I definitely would like to do something in the communication field.’” Jordan earned an associate degree from KCC in 2002 and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Illinois State University in 2004. He has since climbed the ranks in broadcasting and filmmaking. Jordan now works as a photographer and editor at Tribune Broadcasting, where his main assignment is for Chicago’s Best, a food show which airs on WGN.
Jordan has proven himself to be one of the best, too, and has been awarded three Emmy awards from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The awards are a 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Achievement for Magazine Programming as part of Chicago’s Best; and 2013 and 2014 individual awards for editor of a non-news program for work on Chicago’s Best.
“I firmly believe that KCC is the best educational option in Kankakee County. The education and career guidance I received in my short time there was instrumental in my success. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Kankakee Community College.”
Jordan is committed to education and he mentors students who are interested in broadcasting. Jordan has even helped his wife develop a media program in the Lansing school district that she teaches called “Mustang Media.” Jordan and his wife, Nikki, have two sons, Cameron and Ian.
Work is often viewed as “the daily grind.” Not for KCC graduate Jordan Arseneau. He describes work as “spending the day at the playground for a kid.”
2014 - Barbara Decker
Barbara Decker started her college career at Kankakee Community College right after high school. KCC is truly a family tradition. Her mother, an administrative assistant in the admissions office, and her uncle, the supervisor of the media department, both worked at Kankakee Community College. She and her two sisters both attended KCC. After completing her Associates in Applied Sciences, she began her nursing career in 1977 as a staff nurse in the Kankakee community. She steadily worked to enhance her capabilities and climbed the corporate ladder. Barb has invested more than 30 years of her life in nursing. She says, without hesitation, that she has enjoyed every moment.
Barb has held many positions of responsibility including:
- Staff Nurse
- Operating Room Head Nurse/Director
- Director of Perioperative Services and Women and Children’s Services
- Interim CNO
- CNO/Vice President of Nursing
- She has also been employed by the Provena Health/Presence Health Corporate office as Director of Clinical Value Analysis and she currently serves as the Director of Perioperative Services at Presence St. Mary’s Hospital.
A strong supporter of community colleges, she has served on the KCC Associate Degree in Nursing/Licensed Practical Nursing Advisory Board and is currently on the KCC Foundation Board. She has also been a guest speaker at the KCC Nursing Pinning Ceremony and participated in a panel presentation for nursing students.
2013 - Steven DePasquale
Steve DePasquale was born and raised in Bourbonnais. As a student, he worked full-time at night while attending KCC. He completed an associate degree in 1989 at 27 years old and was the first in his family to graduate from college.
After KCC, Steve transferred to Illinois State University, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree (1991) in history and a master’s degree (1993). He served as a teaching assistant while doing graduate work at ISU. After working for several years as an adjunct history professor, Steve was hired as a full-time history professor at KCC in 2003.
For over a decade, Steve has been a leader among his peers. He has held leadership roles in retention, assessment, and college readiness. Since 2005, Steve has served as representative on the Faculty Advisory Council to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He also is the current president of the KCC Faculty Association.
Steve is committed to enriching educational experiences through history, culture and world affairs for KCC students and the community. He was a key collaborator on a French Canadian Heritage Wall at KCC that pays tribute to the primary cultural group that settled Kankakee County and the surrounding area.
Steve is one of three KCC professors who sponsors and leads intellectual discussions each semester about historical and political issues. Most recently, the group discussed Policraticus by John of Salisbury and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Steve also was recently nominated by the KCC Foundation for the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Distinguished Alumnus Award.
2012 - Cathy Boicken
A 1993 graduate of KCC, Cathy Boicken has built a very successful career in banking. She has dedicated significant time and talent to our community, and is an involved parent with her teenage daughter.
Boicken has advanced through the ranks at Municipal Bank in Bourbonnais over the past 30 years, beginning as a secretary. Today she is president of Municipal Bank.
She returned to school in the early 1990s, and graduated with honors from Kankakee Community College with an associate in arts degree. Boicken went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree and graduated summa cum laude from Olivet Nazarene University.
As an active community volunteer, Boicken has led a number of charitable initiatives. Most notably, she served for almost 15 years on the board of Hospice of Kankakee Valley, including terms as vice president and president.
She chaired Hospice’s annual Playhouse Raffle for four years, raising more than $30,000 to aid in the establishment of palliative care services and shepherded the organization through significant growth in its delivery of services to patients and their families.
Boicken also served on the board of a local chamber of commerce, and chaired its annual Leadership Development Institute.
Boicken is a consummate professional, a community leader, a dedicated wife and mother, and graduate of whom we are most proud. Her achievements and service to others mesh perfectly with the values of KCC, and the spirit of this award.
2011 - Dominic Surprenant
After graduating from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1973, 17 year-old Dominic Surprenant wanted to pursue higher education, but his family could not afford to send him to college.
Dominic became a janitor on the night shift at the K-Mart in Kankakee. In the fall, Surprenant landed a job as an orderly at what is now Shapiro Developmental Center on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. The facility was five minutes from KCC, and Dominic enrolled at KCC in the winter term of 1973-1974.
In 1975, he earned an Associate in Arts degree, and had saved enough money to transfer to Illinois State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors in 1977. He then graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1985.
Surprenant credits his success equally to KCC and Harvard. He explains, “I would say that both points in the arc of my education – a local community college and Harvard Law School – were equally important to forming my views as a trial lawyer and, in many respects, as a person.”
Today, Surprenant is a senior partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, the largest litigation-only law firm in the U.S., with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, London, Tokyo, Chicago and Mannheim, Germany. His clients include Sprint/Nextel, Miramax Films, Continental and Northwest Airlines, General Motors, Avery Dennison, and many others.
Surprenant also is committed to a number of charitable causes. He returned to KCC in 2009 as the keynote speaker for the Kankakee Community College Foundation’s “Blue Tie Gala,” a donor recognition and award dinner. He resides in Los Angeles.
2010 - Jenny Dinelli
Ever since Jenny Dinelli was a young girl, she has been a star athlete and loved to play sports. Unfortunately, all of this could have changed for her in middle school. During a basketball game, Jenny hit her head on the court and experienced a brain hemorrhage. She was flown by helicopter to Loyola Medical Center in Chicago.
She woke up after being in a coma for five days. Her recovery included learning new study habits to overcome short term memory difficulties. Though the injury was serious, Jenny didn’t stay out of sports. After high school, she decided to attend KCC and play softball.
“My favorite KCC memories stem from playing softball for Coach Dennis Clark,” she said. Clark and Dinelli are shown in the photo to the left. “In the 2002 national tournament, we upset the No. 1 team in the nation, Phoenix College, in a game that lasted until midnight. Even though we ran out of steam the next day, we still earned a third place finish. In addition, we finished third in the nation in 2001.”
Beyond being a wonderful athlete, Jenny also was a gifted student who was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college. Jenny was the first of her family to graduate from college, and she took full advantage of the opportunity. At KCC, she was:
- Lion’s Club Scholar/Athlete of the Year
- Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Member
- Phi Theta Kappa All-Illinois Academic Team Member
- Nominated for Phi Theta Kappa All-USA Academic Team
- Parent Teacher Association College Scholar
- NJCAA Distinguished Softball Academic All-American
- National Fastpitch Coaches Association Softball All-American Second Team Member
- NJCAA Div. II National Softball All-Tournament Team Member
- NJCAA Div. II Softball All-Region IV Team Member
After completing an Associate in Arts transfer degree at KCC in 2002, Jenny transferred to Marian University in Indianapolis and completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. Jenny then attended Illinois State University and earned a master’s degree in communication and science disorders.
Currently, Jenny is a speech language pathologist at Reed-Custer grade school. Originally from South Wilmington, she now lives in Braidwood. Jenny has devoted her life to helping others through her profession, and as a volunteer teacher for Habitat for Humanity in Haiti. Each year, she leads workshops to help train more than 500 Haitian teachers. She also has volunteered in an orphanage in the mountainside village of Sucre, Bolivia.