Friday, November 07, 2014

Alumni Association honors four for achievement, service and humanitarian work

The University of Illinois Alumni Association honored the significant contributions of Ralph Blackman, William and Julie Kellner and June Agamah during the University of Illinois Springfield’s annual Alumni Gala on Friday, November 7, 2014 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

The Alumni Achievement Award was given to Ralph Blackman, who earned a master’s degree in Public Affairs & Administration in 1976. Blackman is currently the President and CEO for the Foundation of Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (AAR). The award is the highest honor bestowed upon graduates of the University. It is given to those who have attained distinction and success in one’s profession or life work.

Blackman said that when he was named to his current post in 1996, he knew it could be the most important position he’d ever hold in a career that included stints at the White House.

The efforts of the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit have helped decrease alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by 32 percent since its inception in 1991.

Prior to joining AAR, Blackman served as the associate director of the White House Conference on Small Business during the Reagan administration, and as the assistant administrator for private enterprise within the U.S. Agency for International Development during the George H.W. Bush presidency. Blackman also founded Public Access, Inc., a Washington D.C., corporate-relations firm that provided assistance to clients interested in business ventures abroad.

The Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary commitment, dedication and service to the advancement of the University of Illinois was awarded to William and Julie Kellner.

William Kellner earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1973, Julie Kellner received a bachelor’s degree from the UIS College of Business and Management in 1986.

Whether through their own generosity and volunteer work or by generating community and corporate support, the Kellners have made invaluable, decades-long contributions to UIS and the region.

The Kellners are Presidents Council and UI Foundation members, as well as generous annual contributing members of the University of Illinois Alumni Association. At UIS, they give regularly to the visual and performing arts programs and have endowed the Kellner Family Scholarship Fund, a needs-based scholarship. They are major benefactors of Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.

Julie serves as the executive director of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. William, along with Julie, is the third-generation owner of M.J. Kellner Co., a wholesale food distributor, and a director of National City Bank.

June Agamah was honored with the Alumni Humanitarian Award for significant contributions of leadership or service to improve the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

June received her master’s degree in Public Affairs and Administration in 2001. She is a public health worker with the International Health and Development Network.

Since 1996, June, along with her husband, has helped lead 25 mission trips to bring clean water, electricity and medical care to rural villagers in Ghana, West Africa, her husband’s homeland. In 2008, Agamah and her husband helped open a hospital for thousands of under-served villagers. The organization’s records show that it has helped tens of thousands of people in the past 18 years.

A native of Guyana, South America, Agamah believes that monetary aid is vital to doing good work, but to effect change, the willingness of the human heart to serve counts even more.

For more information on the awards, contact Chuck Schrage, vice president and association chancellor for alumni relations at 217/206-7395 or email

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