Shige Masaki Nagamura
Class Year: 1954
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2007
Shige Masaki '54 Nagamura received an Outstanding Alumni Award for her deep commitment to international education and loyalty to her alma mater, spanning a half century.
She came to North Central College in the difficult years following World War II with limited financial resources. "In January 1950, on a cold winter day, I arrived with a warm heart and with excitement and happiness ... because I could study in this country. And I could never dream that this day would come to me," she said upon receiving her award.
Following graduation from North Central College with honors, Mrs. Nagamura received a master's degree from the University of Chicago and returned to Japan to undertake an impressive career. She worked for the United States Educational Commission in Tokyo and later enjoyed a 25-year career in the Tokyo Family Court Conciliation Commissioners Association, part of the Japanese justice system. For her leadership, she was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Rays.
Her husband of 39 years, Mr. Teiichi Nagamura, held many prominent offices in government and business, including that of president of the Japan External Trade Organization, before he passed away in 2004. The couple traveled widely, met heads of state and represented Japan at the highest levels.
To help Japanese students experience the same benefits of studying at North Central College, Mrs. Nagamura made a generous gift commitment of more than $1 million to her alma mater. The College has in turn established the Teiichi and Shige Masaki '54 Nagamura Endowed Scholarship to support outstanding students from Japan in their studies. Mrs. Nagamura continues to live in Tokyo.
At the awards ceremony, she credited her own successful years at North Central College to the friends she made and their kind acts of friendship. "I want to share this award with those who helped me, my good friends, whom I shall never forget for the rest of my life."
Class Year: 1955
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2007
Jane Koten '55 received an Outstanding Alumni Award for her long involvement in higher education, both through her roles at North Central College and her distinguished career as a high school guidance counselor and college coordinator.
"Once upon a time I walked across the stage of Pfeiffer Hall and President Geiger handed me my diploma ... I had little insight as to what it meant at the time, but 52 years later, I can see what it represented and I can hardly be more humble," Koten said at the Homecoming awards ceremony.
For many years, Koten was regarded as the "dean of college counselors in Illinois." After first teaching fifth grade, she went on to earn a master's degree in guidance and counseling at Northwestern University. She spent 22 years at Evanston Township High School in the guidance department and then became college coordinator at Glenbrook High School. A recognized expert in the area of college admission and financial aid, she has held leadership positions in professional organizations, participated in national forums and appeared twice on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour on public television.
Koten has served as president of the Alumni Association at North Central College and was a generous contributor to the renovation of Kiekhofer Hall and Koten Chapel, named for her parents, Roy Y. '20 and Margaret Neerman '26 Koten, and rededicated October 2006. "When my big brother [John Koten '51] and I stepped into the chapel again last year, I was grateful for so many things related to this place," she said.
She continues to be active as a volunteer at First United Methodist Church in Evanston, IL, as an attendee at symphony and opera performances in Chicago, and as a visitor to countries around the world. She resides in Winnetka, IL.
"The final musical piece at last night's Homecoming concert was written by Aaron Copland, who also composed 'Fanfare for the Common Man,"' she told the audience at the awards ceremony. "I accept this award today as a fanfare to the common woman from a very uncommon college, North Central."
Class Year: 1992
Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2007
James McDermet '92 is the first master's degree recipient from North Central College to receive an alumni award. As the recipient of the Alumni Recognition Award, McDermet was honored for his notable achievements in the business world since he graduated 15 years ago. McDermet is currently senior vice president for U.S. Store Services at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, WA, and oversees support and direction for 6,000 Starbucks locations.
"I chose North Central College for the track in leadership in the management of change," said McDermet. "The only constant in life is change."
McDermet earned his Master of Business Administration degree while working as a regional vice president for Burger King in the Chicago area. He had started his career frying French fries—where he also met his wife Nancy—and over 24 years, progressed to a corporate position at Miami headquarters. He left Burger King to open a small chain of coffee shops in the Miami area, satisfying an "itch" to become an entrepreneur that he has attributed to Gary Ernst, Coleman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
His joint venture called Java Centrale ultimately led to a position as regional director at Starbucks in Seattle. Since joining the company in 2000, he has also served as region vice president in both the Midwest and New York metro areas. His rapid assent through management ranks at Starbucks can be attributed to his focus on sales, customer and employee satisfaction, building a pipeline of management talent and collaborative team work. McDermet resides in Seattle.
While on campus for Homecoming weekend, he shared his story and sage advice with North Central College business students. At the awards ceremony, he told the audience that change in life is always possible. "I get up every morning with a sense of optimism," he said. "You always have the opportunity to re-invent yourself and blaze a new trail."
Class Year: 1957
Wall of Witness Award Winner 2007
Sheldon Trapp '57 became the second alumnus to be named to the Wall of Witness in Kiekhofer Hall. Trapp was recognized for his career as a community organizer and his dedication to bringing about meaningful change for people living in poverty. "It was surprising to get this award, because I'm only doing what the great Spirit expected of you when you were created," said Trapp upon receiving the honor.
The Wall of Witness honors alumni of the College or Evangelical Theological Seminary whose lives embody a commitment to leadership, justice and service.
A sociology major at North Central College, Trapp pursued his theology degree at Evangelical Theological Seminary, graduating in 1960. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights in Chicago and worked in a community partnership in the city's Austin neighborhood to stabilize the racial mix of residents. For 29 years, Trapp was a key figure in the Chicago-based National Training and Information Center, which he helped cofound in 1972. The organization helps grassroots networks grow by offering assistance and seed money, addressing issues of housing fairness and community reinvestment.
In 2003, he wrote Dynamics of Organizing: Building Power by Developing Human Spirit. The forward describes him as "one man who imagines the world as it could be and encourages us to play a role in making that imagined place a reality."
Trapp credits his success during such a trying career to the support of his wife, Anne Heininger '56 Trapp. The couple continues to live in Chicago. At the awards ceremony, Trapp showed the audience his North Central College letterman's jacket. "On that football field, I earned my letter," he said. "But out in the world, my letter taught me how to win. Thank you for that gift to my life."