2011 Recipients

J. Charles Eldridge

Class Year: 1965
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2011

Dr. J. Charles Eldridge ’65 is distinguished for his expertise in endocrinology, pharmacology and medical education. He is currently professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, where he conducts laboratory research and is principal instructor of endocrine physiology and pharmacology.

His laboratory research in recent years has become focused on mechanisms underlying “endocrine disruptors,” which are environmental contaminants that affect the endocrine system, particularly reproduction functions. His findings have been presented at seminars and published as manuscripts, book chapters and in the 480-page book, “Endocrine Toxicology.” Charles is frequently invited as a consultant on endocrine matters for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, various corporations and legal counsel.

He has held a variety of leadership positions at Wake Forest and was the architect for a new medical and graduate school curriculum that utilizes small-group, case-centered tutorials. Charles has received a number of teaching awards from his students, was a Macy Foundation Scholar at Harvard Medical School, a Ciba-Novartis Researcher of the Year and honored by the Medical College of Georgia.

After graduating from North Central with a B.A. in biology and chemistry, he attended Northern Illinois University for a master of science, and, in 1971, earned a doctorate in endocrinology at the Medical College of Georgia. He completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Bordeaux, France, and at the Medical College of Georgia. He joined the faculty of Wake Forest in 1978.


Stephen P. Taylor

Class Year: 1975
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2011

Colonel Stephen P. Taylor ’75 had a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps, which reached a pinnacle in his service for President George W. Bush as a presidential helicopter pilot and commanding officer. He led more than 700 personnel in support of presidential and Marine Corps missions. He flew more than 150 presidential helicopter flights from 2001 to 2003. Steve previously served as presidential command pilot in 1985 and as officer in charge of several detachments that supported presidential travel.

In addition to his time in Washington, D.C., during his career Steve was deployed to the Mediterranean aboard the USS Guam, to Saudi Arabia for combat operations in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm and to central Norway in support of Exercise Strong Resolve 95. In 1998, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and assigned to the chief of staff of Naval Operations as the head of the Amphibious Aviation Division.

After obtaining his political science degree from North Central, Steve attended U.S. Marine Corps Officer’s Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1975. He was designated a naval aviator in 1977. He attended Amphibious Warfare School in 1982 and the Naval War College in 1995, where he earned a master of arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.

Steve retired from the Marine Corps in 2003 and joined Augusta Westland Inc., where he was involved in the program to replace the presidential helicopter fleet. In 2005, he accepted a position with Lockheed Martin and continued to work on the presidential helicopter program. Steve has also been active in establishing the Vertical Lift Consortium, a group of more than 90 companies working with the U. S. Department of Defense to advance the field of vertical lift aviation.


Esther T. Benjamin

Class Year: 1990
Outstanding Alumni Award Winner 2011

Esther T. Benjamin ’90 is associate director for global operations for the Peace Corps. In this capacity, she oversees programs in nearly 80 countries. Following the 2008 presidential election she participated in the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, focusing on foreign assistance.

Esther previously served as executive director for resource development at the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a global biotechnology organization focused on the health of women in developing countries. She also worked at the International Youth Foundation as chief financial officer and then as vice president of business development responsible for global programs and partnerships supporting children and youth initiatives.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed her a White House Fellow, one of the nation’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. In this capacity, she worked with Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman on international policies and programs. Esther had previously coordinated humanitarian aid in Somalia as a United Nations humanitarian affairs officer. In the private sector, she has experience in management consulting with Grant Thornton and Arthur Andersen.

Esther is a fellow with the U.S.-Japan Foundation and the U.S.-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values. At age 13, she and her family moved to the United State from Sri Lanka due to civil unrest. She later graduated from North Central with majors in political science and English. Esther holds master’s degrees in international affairs and applied economics from American University, which honored her in 2009 for her accomplishments. Esther has been a Trustee of North Central College since 2006 and a recipient of an Alumna Recognition Award, which honors successful young alumni.

Ryan Dowd

Class Year: 2000
Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2011

Ryan Dowd ’00 is a devoted worker and advocate for social justice causes locally and internationally. At age 13, he became a volunteer at Hesed House in Aurora, IL, and his mission to help individuals in poverty continued throughout his years at North Central. While a student, he joined the Hesed House staff as assistant program director in the overnight emergency shelter. During his law degree studies, Ryan was an intern with the organization, and in 2004 he was appointed executive director.

Under Ryan’s leadership, the organization has grown to serve 1,000 individuals with the help of 6,000 volunteers, including many North Central students. Hesed House sets a high standard for delivering human services, becoming one of only five organizations in the country to combine a comprehensive array of services like job training and counseling with a homeless shelter. The goal of the organization is to not just manage homelessness, but to end it.

Ryan’s passion for international causes has taken him to Africa to work with churches confronting governments that perpetuate human rights abuses.

After majoring in religious studies at North Central, he went on to complete a law degree and master’s degree in public administration at Northern Illinois University.


James Will

Class Year: 1949
Wall of Witness Award Winner 2011

The Reverend Dr. James Will ’49 has focused his ecumenical witness on peace and justice issues in the United States and around the world. He’s taken on leadership roles in his local community, in denominational organizations, in the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches and Christian Peace Conference. During his career, he has served as a youth director, pastor, professor of religion at North Central, professor of philosophical theology at Evangelical Theological Seminary and professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where he was also director of the Peace and Justice Center.

Jim has been a visiting professor/lecturer at nine universities or colleges worldwide including Israel, Poland and Zimbabwe. His writings include 40 articles published in various journals and four books: “Must Walls Divide?,” “The Moral Rejection of Nuclear Deterrence,” “A Christology of Peace” and “The Universal God: Justice, Love and Peace in the Global Village.”

After graduating with high honors from North Central College with majors in psychology and sociology, Jim studied theology at Evangelical Theological Seminary (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). In 1951 he was named Seminarian Preacher of the Year in a national contest sponsored by the “The Christian Century” and the “Chicago Sunday Evening Club.” He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion and ethics from Columbia University in 1962.