2023 Founders Medal, Alumni Merit Award Winners Honored

October 17, 2023 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

founders awards recipients

Elmhurst University recently honored five people with two of the University’s most prestigious awards, the Founders Medal and Alumni Merit Award, for their outstanding contributions to the University and the broader community.

The Founders Medal celebrates those who have distinguished themselves through philanthropic or personal service to the University. This year’s medal was given to alumna Virginia (Gina) Prochaska ’88 and her husband, Joseph J. Prochaska Jr., of Northfield, Ill. Both are civic leaders and longtime supporters of Elmhurst University. Virginia Prochaska is an active member of the Elmhurst University Board of Trustees, and served as past chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee and on a number of subcommittees. Over more than 25 years of giving, the couple have contributed significantly to the Annual Fund, the new Health Sciences Building, off-campus study, the American Dream Scholarship and many other funds.

The Alumni Merit Awards celebrate Elmhurst graduates who have made outstanding contributions to the community and to their alma mater.

  • The Distinguished Young Alumni Award winner this year Brittany Nolan ’13, MS CSD ’15. Director of specialty services at By Your Side Autism Clinic, Nolan oversees the clinic’s speech-language therapy department across 11 locations and has mentored Elmhurst graduate students and hired alumni. A resident of Elk Grove Village, Ill., Nolan is also an active volunteer with United Parents Support for Down Syndrome.
  • Jessica Sullivan-Wilson ’10, of Chicago, received the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award. She is managing director of partnerships at Teach For America Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana and an active member of the Elmhurst University Alumni Board of Directors. A passionate connector and facilitator, Sullivan-Wilson uses her unique combination of classroom experience and legal expertise to deepen the impact of school partnerships and shift the trajectory of student outcomes for high-needs schools.
  • Educator Heather Rusch McCarthy ’02 won the Distinguished Service to Society Award for using her passion for literature to spread the message of love and equality through service-learning projects with her students. A teacher in Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 and a resident of Oak Lawn, Ill., McCarthy and her students host an annual meal-packaging event for families and veterans in need. She and her students also have been recognized for their work on climate change and a variety of other projects.

All of this year’s winners were recognized at the University’s annual Founders Recognition Evening on Oct. 12.

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