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Heartland Community College Student Magazine

Heartland seeking nominations for Distinguished Alumni Award

Heartland seeking nominations for Distinguished Alumni Award

The Alumni Association at Heartland Community College is accepting nominations for their Distinguished Alumni award.

According to the Distinguished Alumni nomination form, this award recognizes individuals who’ve “achieved the success of an exceptional nature within their chosen field or profession”. These individuals also have “made a positive impact in their community, through leadership and/or active volunteering.”

Nominations are accepted until Friday, March 29 with the winner being recognized during Heartland’s commencement at Grossinger Motors Arena in May.

“We started this award as a way to honor and recognize our alumni,” said Gina Glover, Associate Director of College Engagement. “In 2009, we were at the point where we needed to recognize our alumni and the contributions they make.”

While Glover accepts the nomination forms, she pointed out the selection is done via a committee. This is done because she wishes to be “fair and impartial.”

“I work closely with alumni from all over and I don’t want to pick one over the other,” Glover said.

The nomination process through the committee becomes a tricky spot when narrowing down who ends up receiving the award.

“It’s not a simple algorithm,” adds Heartland Foundation Executive Director, Chris Downing. “It’s a lengthy discussion because the applications that do come in highlight impressive people.”

The selection committee has its hands’ full processing individuals throughout various fields. If success was easy to define, “a computer could handle it,” said Downing.

“Success is hard to define to one metric but you know it when you see it,” Downing said. “Past recipients have been successful in their industry, made an impact in our local community, or are heavily engaged in an important cultural issue.”

While success may be difficult to define in metrics, there is a rather unique requirement the nominees must follow: complete at least one class at Heartland. This, to celebrate the fluidity that exists at HCC.

“Community colleges see people enter and exit at different points and attend for different reasons,” Downing said. “The overall criteria align with the college’s definition of alumni, so we wanted to make sure every HCC alumni was eligible for the award.”

However, as this award brings accomplished people into the community spotlight, the college has struggled to bring in nominations.

Glover personally has tried looking into increasing nomination amounts which annually comes to around 10. Asking why so few nominations, is not an easy answer.

“I’m not sure if it’s a lack of attention for the award that causes low nominations,” Downing mentions. “Culturally, we are slow to toot our own horns so people may not even realize the impact that is being made by their fellow citizen.”

Downing adds that people who nominate others may not be aware of whether their choice is an HCC alumnus.

After the March 29 deadline, the selection process takes around three-to-four weeks. Once the selection is made, the individual needs to know in advance to be at graduation.

Chad Pregracke won the initial award in 2009. According to, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters in 1998, a non-profit river clean-up organization based in East Moline, Illinois. He is the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and was the CNN Hero of the Year in 2013.

Justin Boyd, a representative for Country Financial in Bloomington, was the most recent recipient in 2018. He volunteers with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project, American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. He also serves on the Bloomington Planning Commission and the Downtown Bloomington Task Force.

Justin M. Boyd, 2018 Heartland Community College Distinguished Alumni Recipient

To nominate an individual, go to under the ‘Celebrate Success’ tab.

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