2000 Recipients

Esther T. Benjamin

Class Year: 1990
Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2000

Esther Benjamin was appointed White House Fellow In 1999.  She has focused on international priorities and worked with Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. During the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, Benjamin was appointed United Nations humanitarian affairs officer, the youngest person ever named to this position. After returning from Somalia, she worked on a joint project of the World Bank and the Brookings Institution, contributing macroeconomic analysis of the World Bank’s policies over the past 50 years. The outcome was The World Bank: Its First Half Century (Brookings Institution, 1997). Benjamin has served on the board of directors of the National Urban Coalition since 1995 and on the board of the Society for International Development. She is a founding member of the Good Samaritan Fund and a member of the Council in Foreign Relations.


Robert "Bob" E. Koehler

Class Year: 1940
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2000

Robert “Bob” E. Koehler ’40 grew up in Naperville and graduated summa cum laude from North Central College in 1940 at the age of 19 with degrees in sociology and commerce. He passed the CPA exam and began his career with Arthur Andersen and Company. In 1962 Koehler became the chief financial officer for Marriott Corporation where he remained until his retirement as senior vice-president in 1984. He has been active in local and national community service, having served on the Mayor’s Committee on Economic Development in Washington, D.C.; as a school board member in Bensenville and Naperville; as a village trustee for Bensenville; and as a member of the Naperville Planning Commission from 1957-1962.


Dwight L. Freshley

Class Year: 1950
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2000

Dwight L. Freshley is professor of speech emeritus at the University of Georgia. In 1995, he traveled to Beijing, China, to serve as a visiting professor at Renmin University. He was the first person to serve in all three top positions in the Southern Speech Association—editor of The Southern Speech Journal, executive director of the Association, and later president. Over the years he has received numerous awards for his outstanding service and was featured on Spotlight Program as the former president of Southern States Communication Association in 2004. He has co-authored and co-edited five books and book chapters and over 20 articles. Freshley still serves as chair of the past presidents of Southern States Communication and co-chair of the placement center for the National Communication Association.


Floyd A. Thompson

Class Year: 1950
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2000

Community service has been a large part of Floyd Thompson’s life. He has been a member of the Naperville YMCA board of directors where he served as president for three years. He also volunteered with Wayside Cross Ministries, the American Legion, the College’s Alumni Association and has been part of the Naperville Post Office Citizens Advisory Committee for the past eleven years. He served as director of admission for North Central from 1950-64 and was one of six founders of the Association of College Admissions Counselors. He served as the first and second president of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) and was a national parliamentarian of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). He has received service awards from the Mayor of Naperville and the YMCA, a Citizen Award from the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, and a Citizen of the Year Award from the American Legion.



John W. Kalas

Class Year: 1955
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2000

John Kalas began his career as assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Lake Forest College and was later named director of special projects for VISTA/OEO in Washington, D.C. Kalas has also served as director of extension services at Mary Holmes College; vice president at Bacone College; and vice president with Douglas Trout Associates in Washington D.C. He joined the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1974 as deputy director of the Washington Office. He became director of the Washington Office and later served as director of research and development and associate vice president for planning. In 1989, Kalas became acting provost and academic vice president at SUNY, Potsdam and served as associate provost for research and development.


Donald "Don" R. Pletcher

Class Year: 1965
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2000

Don Pletcher comes from a family with a long association with North Central College. Pletcher’s mother, Irene Thornton Pletcher, is a 1941 graduate, and his father, the late Donald L. Pletcher, was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1968-98. In 1998, Pletcher honored his parents with a naming gift for the President’s office/suite in the College’s newly renovated Old Main building. Pletcher is chairman and CEO of Damon Corporation in Elkhart, Ind., the sixth largest recreational vehicle corporation in the nation. Previously, he was chairman and CEO of Lincoln Investments, Inc. He has served on the board of directors of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association and is active in his community, including service on the 2010 Coalition Development Group to revitalize downtown Elkhart.