2009 Recipients

Mironda Heston

Class Year: 2002
Wall of Witness Award Winner 2009

Mironda Heston ’02 is honored for her deep devotion to human service and commitment to social justice during a remarkable but all too brief life of 24 years. Her values and beliefs embodied the purest form of humanitarianism. While majoring in political science and theology at North Central, Mironda completed an eight-month independent study in Haiti, an experience that led her to seek a master’s degree in sustainable international development at Brandeis University. Called to continue her life’s work in Haiti, Mironda returned in 2004 to help rural workers write grants that would ultimately fund a much-needed medical clinic. Tragically, she developed dengue fever, and after medical evacuation to Chicago, died September 21, 2004. A measure of the impact of her life and work is that the people she served in Haiti named their clinic the Mironda Heston Medical Clinic in her honor.

At North Central College, Mironda’s legacy lives on through the Mironda K. Heston Scholarship for Public Service. Every year, one student is awarded a stipend for the implementation of a short-term project to benefit the needs of people either in the United States or abroad. The goal is to encourage other students to embrace the rewards of service and, in doing so, consider a lifelong vocation in humanitarianism.

Gwendolyn Graff

Class Year: 1994
Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2009

Gwendolyn Graff ’94 has distinguished herself as a leader and innovator in the confectionary industry—a real-life Willy Wonka—primarily specializing in chewing gum. In her 10-year career with Amurol and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company in Chicago, Gwen has become one of the top experts in her field, with a number of patents for her innovations.

A chemistry and biology major at North Central College, Gwen first landed a position as a research chemist analyzing samples in a laboratory. In 1999, she went to work as a chemist at Amurol Confections, a subsidiary of Wrigley, doing “blue sky” or futuristic research to create new products. After Amurol and Wrigley merged in 2003, Gwen managed a creative team of researchers who explored and developed new products. She had a hand in developing products that have subsequently become household names, such as Bubble Tape, Big League Chew, Squeeze Pop and Hubba Bubba. She continues to travel internationally to scout new products and in 2007 was promoted to technical principal, with responsibilities for training and advising.

Inspired by campus ministry and service programs at North Central, Gwen is an active volunteer and parishioner. She has chaperoned groups on mission trips with Habitat for Humanity and Mendenhall Ministries. For the last two years, she and her cousins have recorded a Christmas CD to benefit Misericordia.

Richard Tholin

Class Year: 1949
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2009

The Reverend Dr. Richard Tholin ’49 is a distinguished scholar and leader in seminary education, including long service as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has been recognized for his leadership in the United Methodist Church (UMC) and as a community activist focused on peace and justice, affordable housing and the abolition of nuclear weapons. After North Central College, Richard earned a bachelor of divinity from Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1952, a master’s degree in world mission in 1960 and a doctorate in Christian ethics in 1967 from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. His career path included serving as pastor of Diversey Parkway Evangelical United Brethren Church, Chicago (1952-1959) before going on to become a teacher, administrator and senior scholar at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Special recognitions in the UMC include election as a delegate to the General Conference four times and membership on the General Board of Church and Society (1968-1976). As a member of the General Board of Global Ministries (1976-1984), he chaired the task force that developed the Africa Church Growth and Development Program and served on its board (1977-1986).

Richard and his wife, Phyllis Eckardt ’49 Tholin, are loyal supporters of North Central and have donated their extensive collection of books on Chicago to the College. This working collection, particularly useful for students in the Chicago Term program, is housed in the Haven Hubbard room in Oesterle Library.

John Novak

Class Year: 1964
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2009

John Novak’s ’64 reputation for integrity and fiscal responsibility was endorsed seven times by voters during his extraordinary three-decade tenure as DuPage County Treasurer. He retired as the “dean of Illinois treasurers” in November 2006. A past president of the Illinois County Treasurers Association who was honored in 1995 as the County Official of the Year, John majored in business administration at North Central and was an All-American in wrestling. After graduation, he worked as an admission counselor and head wrestling coach at his alma mater until leaving to work for IBM. He was appointed Treasurer of DuPage County in 1977 following the indictment, conviction and removal of his predecessor. John  restored public confidence to the office and dramatically improved the processing, collection, payment and investment of tax funds.

John has served in a variety of other public service roles, including past chairman of the treasurers affiliate group of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers; as a member of the State of Illinois Pension Laws Commission; and as sub-chair of the State of Illinois Department of Revenue Recodification committee. In addition, John was a board member on his local community’s Police Pension Board from 1990-1999 and, in 1998, was elected to the Illinois Municipal Retirement board of trustees and served as chairman of its investment committee until his retirement.


Donald Wolfensberger

Class Year: 1964
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2009

Donald Wolfensberger ’64 is a senior scholar on public policy and congressional procedures after a distinguished career in the halls of Congress. A recognized expert on parliamentary rules and procedures, he played a key role in the House reform proposals implemented during the 104th U.S. Congress, after Republicans took control of the majority in 1995. After 28 years as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives, in June 1999 he became director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has published Congress and the People: Deliberative Democracy on Trial (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). While at North Central, Don earned his B.A. in English and held editorial positions on The Chronicle and The Spectrum. After graduation, he earned an M.A. in political science at the University of Iowa and then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa, from 1967-1968, which he describes as a “life-changing experience.”

In 1969, Don was appointed legislative assistant to his own congressman, U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.). He joined the House Rules Committee staff as Anderson’s subcommittee counsel in 1979 and subsequently served on the committee as subcommittee counsel to U.S. Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and U.S. Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.). In 1991, he was named Republican staff director of the Rules Committee and in 1995 he was named chief of staff on the committee. He currently writes a twice-monthly column, “Procedural Politics,” for the popular Capitol Hill Newspaper, Roll Call. He lectured frequently on Congress to student groups, foreign diplomats and executive branch officials. 

Holly Humphrey

Class Year: 1979
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2009

Holly Humphrey ’79, M.D., has achieved national recognition as a leader in the field of medical education and serves as dean for medical education at The University of Chicago. She oversees the education of students in the Pritzker School of Medicine and residents and fellows in graduate programs at The University Medical Center.

A Trustee of North Central College, Crain’s Chicago Business featured her in 2009 as one of its “Women to Watch.” Under her leadership, the Pritzker School of Medicine has soared in its selectivity as reported by U.S. News & World Report, rising from 41st to third, compared to all medical schools nationally. She has also increased the percentage of under-represented minority students in each medical school class.

Holly’s expertise is widely sought and she has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins, The University of Pennsylvania, Washington University and Georgetown University. She has won numerous teaching awards, including the Hilger Perry Jenkins Teaching Award at The University of Chicago, and been honored 17 times by graduating students as one of their favorite faculty teachers.

After graduating summa cum laude from North Central, Holly earned her M.D. with honors from The University of Chicago. She continued there in an internal medicine residency, followed by a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine. She served as chief medical resident before joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1989, thus beginning a 14-year appointment as director of the internal medicine residency program. She moved to the dean’s office in 2003.

She has authored more than 60 publications and has served as chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine and as president of the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine. Her career achievements led to her becoming the first clinician educator faculty member to earn tenure at The University of Chicago.