2023 Alumni Award Winners
Distinguished Alumni Award
Ann R. Stroink, MD CPE FACS FAANS
Dr. Ann Stroink '76 is an accomplished, energetic physician leader with over 30 years of experience and
proven record of program and business development in the neuro healthcare sciences.
In addition to a full neurosurgery practice for Carle Health, she has served as a
System Medical Director, Neurosciences Quality and Educational Program Development
for Advocate/Aurora Healthcare, and has directed strategic planning for neurosurgery
services across the multiple hospital system placing quality and value at the forefront.
Dr. Stroink is co-founder of the Central Illinois Neuroscience Foundation, a not-for-profit
organization dedicated to enhancing neuro healthcare through education and research,
served as Director of Continuing Medical Education, trains residents in neurosurgery,
and participates in clinical research.
Dr. Stroink is actively involved in organized medicine, serving as:
- Immediate past President American Association of Neurological Surgeons
- Chair of the Neurosurgery Delegation to the American Medical Association (AMA)
- AMA Council on Legislation
- Immediate past-chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress
Neurological Surgeons Washington Committee—neurosurgery’s policy and advocacy
Dr. Stroink is an advocate for both doctors and patients with topic expertise on health
policy, legislative and advocacy matters.
Steve '73 and Deb '74 Wannemacher
Steven J. Wannemacher ’73 graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1973 with a BS in business administration.
During his time at Illinois Wesleyan, Steve played football and was a member of Sigma
Chi fraternity. After college, he took a job at State Farm Insurance Companies, and
later worked as the Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at Champion Federal
Saving and Loan. Steve is best known in the Bloomington-Normal community for his work
at Heritage Enterprises (1992-Present), where he was the President and CEO from 2002-2014,
and where he continues his work as the Vice Chairman of the Heritage Board of Directors.
Steve was also the co-chair of the Healthcare Council of Illinois.
Steve’s legacy at IWU is just as extensive: he is a member of the Board of Trustees,
as well as a previous member of two different presidential search committees and the
co-chair of the Transforming Lives Campaign. Steve and his wife Deb have generously
funded a classroom in State Farm Hall and an endowed scholarship in the theater department.
In addition to his volunteer work at IWU, Steve’s service to his community includes
numerous vital roles, such as: Director of The Baby Fold, President and Director of
the McLean Co. History Museum, Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the Bloomington/Normal
Airport Authority, and a member of the Multicultural Leadership Program. Steve and
Deb have two daughters, Sarah and Allison.
Deborah (Newberg) Wannemacher ‘74 is a member of the 1974 class of Illinois Wesleyan, graduating with a BA in English.
As a student, Deb was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, an organization that she continued
to take leadership roles in after graduation. She has served as the President of the
Sigma Kappa Corporate Counsel, President of the Sigma Kappa Advisory Board, and was
instrumental in the building of the present Sigma Kappa house. Deb was the owner and
operator of Initial Happenings from 1980-1997 before working at Country Financial
until her retirement in 2014.
In the Bloomington-Normal community, Deb has taken various leadership positions with
the Baby Fold (Board of Directors), McLean Co. Art Center (Board of Directors), United
Way (Allocation Committee), Head Start Christmas Parties (Chair), Christmas at the
Manor (Chair), Holiday Treasure (Chair), and the IHSA Women’s State Volleyball Tournament
(volunteer coordinator). Deb has also enjoyed hosting and organizing countless Wesleyan
gatherings and dinners over the years. She is proud to have served as the Chief Executive
Officer of the Wannemacher family since 1974, raising her two daughters with her husband
Steve and keeping the family schedule running smoothly.
Robert M. Montgomery Outstanding Young Alumni
Colleen O'Connor, CPS, CADC
Colleen O'Connor '14 is an award-winning educator and mental health professional. She uses her gift for
storytelling and her personal experiences with mental illness to create connection,
reduce stigma, and inspire hope. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2014 with a double
major in psychology and English writing. At IWU, she was active in Lyrical Graffiti,
the Pride Alliance, and research with multiple professors, and she received many awards
for her writing (including the President’s Club Award). At night, she answered calls
as a volunteer for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After graduating, she
received the “Re-Centering the Humanities” scholarship, which led her to design and
implement a creative expression curriculum for the Illinois Institute for Addiction
Recovery. In 2016, while providing school-based substance use prevention education
through Project Oz, she initiated McLean County’s youth suicide prevention and mental
health education program (NAMI Ending the Silence). She coordinates and delivers this
program, which now serves all twenty standard, public junior high schools and high
schools in the county. She also serves as the Executive Director of NAMI Mid Central
Illinois, provides mental health education for other populations, and consults with
neighboring communities. Over the course of her career, she has educated approximately
25,000 people, and her work has led directly to thousands of community members receiving
much-needed support. She has received the American Red Cross Saluting Our Heroes Award,
the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, the McLean County Public Health Award, and recognition
from the Illinois State Senate.