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2013 Alumni Award Honorees

Governor James ThompsonGov. James Thompson A’53

North Park Academy 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

“What I remember most from my Academy years: small classes, good friends, common goals, and exceptional teachers. We also were privileged to share a campus with the Seminary. I look back on that time as the golden years.”

James R. “Big Jim” Thompson was the longest-serving governor of the state of Illinois from 1977 to 1991, when he chose not to seek reelection. A former U.S. district attorney, Governor Thompson joined the Chicago law firm of Winston & Strawn, LLP, serving as chairman of the Executive Committee from 1991 to 2006, and chairman and CEO from 1993 to 2006.

“I predicted for myself in the Academy yearbook that I would be President of the United States,” he said. “I didn’t achieve that— but I got as close as I could.”

President George H.W. Bush appointed Governor Thompson as chairman of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board from 1989 until 1993. He also was appointed a commissioner of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission).

Today the Governor is senior chairman of Winston & Strawn and serves on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards. In 2013 The National Law Journal again recognized him as one of the nation’s 100 most influential lawyers. The Governor received his JD from Northwestern University School of Law in 1959 and is the recipient of 17 honorary degrees.

“Every job I had is the best job I ever had,” he said. “My advice to students today is to take advantage of opportunities and lucky breaks. There are a lot of lucky breaks in your life and you’ve got to recognize them for what they are and take advantage of them.”

The Governor and his wife, Jayne Carr Thompson, reside in Chicago and are the parents of Samantha Thompson.

Colin KihnkeColin Kihnke C’93

North Park University 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

“My fondest memories of North Park are all the social aspects and hanging out with friends. Together we explored all the city had to offer and all that North Park provided. Along with my buddies, we did all the big city activities. It was exciting for me because I was from western Michigan and had only been to Chicago one or two times before I started at North Park. Those were exciting times. The campus has undergone an amazing transformation in the years since then.”

Colin Kihnke is President of CMK Companies, which he founded in 1995. A leading Chicago real estate firm, CMK is responsible for more than $1 billion in real estate development. Chicago magazine has recognized the firm for “developing forward-looking, contemporary-styled condominium buildings.” CMK Companies has won numerous awards for its innovative residential developments from such distinguished groups as the American Institute of Architects. “I’m now in real estate development but I didn’t get a degree in this area at North Park,” Kihnke explained. “But what I did get was a great well-rounded education that was more focused on core values and relationships. What was so special to me about North Park was the focus on family and relationships, and a Christian education. It’s stayed with me all these years. What I learned about values and people is part of my business dealings to this day,” he said. CMK’s many residential development projects range from 235 West Van Buren, a 714-unit residential tower, located at the edge of Chicago’s South Loop, to the Contemporaine, a 28-unit condominium at 516 North Wells Street.

“One of the biggest things I focus on is not to believe in failure but to believe in experience,” Kihnke explained. “So many people let fear of failure prevent them from chasing their dreams. I say, don’t buy into this. When you don’t succeed, you don’t fail—you just get experience that will help you do better next time.”

Kihnke and his wife, Tracey, who is a dolphin trainer at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, have three children, Myles, Kate, and Keesen.

Dr. Britt EricksonDr. Britt Erickson C’03

North Park University 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni Award

“I discovered a community of intellectual curiosity at North Park. A spark really ignited in me during my years at North Park, and I was very encouraged to pursue a career in science, and eventually medicine. I also found that the focus always came back around to serving the world around us. I never felt like my mentors at North Park pushed me to find success in making money or climbing the ladder. Instead, they led by example and showed me that a career in teaching, learning, and serving is the ultimate reward.”

After earning her bachelor of science in physics, Britt Erickson, MD, went on to Mayo Medical School, graduating in 2008. Following her residency at Northwestern University’s McGaw Medical Center in obstetrics and gynecology, she joined the University of Alabama Medical Center, where she is currently completing a surgical fellowship in gynecologic oncology.

“Majoring in physics and studying with professors Larry Martin and Linda McDonald taught me how to approach challenging and seemingly impossible problems,” she said. “They showed me that with hard work, intuition, and definitely some collaboration, there is no limit to how much we are capable of learning, growing, and gaining a better understanding of the world around us.”

As part of University of Alabama’s Medical Center, which is the South’s only national comprehensive cancer center that also serves some of the country’s poorest patients, Erickson is focusing her research on racial disparities in cancer outcomes.

“I am now in a very specialized field of medicine that I never would have imagined, but I kept following my interests and it took me to unexpected places. As a surgical fellow in the field of gynecologic oncology, I still spend most of my days learning and teaching. It’s these things that make all of the long hours and hard work worth it,” she said.

Erickson is part of a family of North Park alumni with parents Donna and Dean, both 1971 graduates, and brother Bjorn, who graduated in 2002.

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2014 North Parker.