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2023 Alumni Award Winners

Ann R. Stroink headshotDistinguished Alumni Award

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 of
    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 WannemacherLoyalty Award
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.

Colleen O'Connor headshotRobert 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.