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Four Alumni Honored During 2023 Knox Alumni Achievement Awards

Knox College recognized the accomplishments of four alumni during the 2023 Alumni Achievement Awards presentation on May 5, 2023. Brenda Butler ’71, Christopher DeWald ’83, and Jeremy Butler ’95 received Alumni Achievement Awards, while Ladipo Lawani ’08 received the Young Alumni Achievement Award. 

Established in 1938, the Alumni Achievement Awards recognize outstanding career achievements by graduates who attended Knox or Lombard College for at least one full academic year. The Knox College Young Alumni Award, established in 2004, is given to one alumna or alumnus 35 years of age or under who has exhibited exceptional work in a field or endeavor, community, state, or nation.

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Brenda Butler ’71

Brenda Butler ’71  forged an exemplary, 35-year career in journalism, working as a reporter, copy editor, and senior features editor. She was the first African American member of the Chicago Tribune to hold the position of associate managing editor and her professional experience spans from the historic Johnson Publishing's Jet Magazine to the Chicago Tribune.

Butler played an active role in the sectionalizing of American newspapers in the 1990s. She held numerous editing positions at the Tribune, where she was involved in the conception and development of award-winning newspaper sections and magazines and co-managed a staff of more than 100 reporters, editors, and support staff.

She served three terms as a board member for the National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter, including a three-term presidency. Under her leadership, the organization was named the national 2009 NABJ Chapter of the Year, another first. She was most recently named executive director of Columbia Links.

Butler's ongoing dedication to Knox students includes professional mentoring and career advising. Her commitment to Knox alumni includes being a founding member of Allied Blacks for Liberty & Equality (A.B.L.E.), a facilitator in the creation of the Black Alumni Association of Knox College (BAAKC), and a supporter of the Black Alumni Network. 

“This will be one of the most cherished moments of my 45-year career. When I chose Knox in 1966, it, in turn, chose me,” Butler said during her award acceptance speech. “Knox believed in me, and I have continued to see that trust that it has given to so many other alumni in this country.”

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Christopher J. DeWald, M.D. ’83

Christopher J. DeWald, M.D. ’83 is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal deformity and scoliosis in pediatric and adult patients at Rush University Medical Center. In addition to being a member of Rush’s  Department of Neurosurgery, he is also a member of a number of professional organizations and has lectured nationally and internationally on advanced spinal surgery techniques. 

He developed an international understanding of spinal surgery through fellowship training in Germany, France, England, and Japan. He also served an elite Chicago Spine Fellowship with responsibilities to both Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

DeWald was voted among the top 10 to 15 percent of Top Doctors in America by U.S. News and World Report and Castle Connolly, a high-quality reference guide to the medical profession.

During winter and summer breaks, DeWald has hosted numerous clinical shadowing experiences for Knox students pursuing a career in medicine. These opportunities have allowed students to work with medical staff and engage with patients, providing real-world opportunities to learn more about caring for patients. 

“Knox taught me compassion for humanity and how to really understand that,” Dewald said during his award acceptance speech. “When I transferred to Knox from the University of Illinois, I remember saying that the university had maybe 100 people that I knew well. Knox had 1,000 people that I knew well. To me, that was important.” 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Jeremy Butler ’95

Jeremy Butler currently holds a position on the board of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), where he most recently served as CEO. IAVA’s purpose is to bring together and empower post-9/11 veterans. 

After graduating from Knox, Butler served his country as a naval officer. He then worked for the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Staff, and the Department of the Navy. He spent several months on active duty both overseas and in the United States and is currently a captain in the Navy Reserves. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and obtained his master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.

Butler is a true advocate for our military, our country, and Knox College. He has made it a priority to fight for veterans to ensure they have the assistance they need to thrive.

“Coming to Knox was one of the best decisions of my life,” Butler said during his award acceptance speech. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of this award and being brought back here.”

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Ladipo Lawani ’08

Realizing that entrepreneurship is one of the most potent drivers of economic development, Ladipo Lawani ’08 started an NGO in Nigeria to train youth to become entrepreneurs during his sophomore year at Knox. He was named one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 for being one of Africa’s “most promising young changemakers.” 

Lawani is the founder of L&L Foods, a food processing and packaging company focused on the Nigerian market that sources its products from local farmers. Their signature product is a brand of groundnuts called Mr. Ekpa. 

L&L Foods was started while Lawani was an MBA student at Columbia Business School. In 2016, L&L Foods won the Columbia Business School Shark Tank competition, and in 2017, it won the Nigerian Economic Summit startup competition. 

Lawani is also a board member of the Bethesda Child Support Agency, which provides free education to orphans and vulnerable children.

“I’ve always been a thinker, but Knox sharpened my thinking ability to a point where I could build on it,” Lawani said during his award acceptance speech. “When I look back at my life, there are few points that I think are pivotal. But I think my time at Knox is specifically pivotal.”

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024