2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards
The outstanding accomplishments of Western Illinois University graduates Ernest J. Codilis, Jr., founder and president of Codilis & Associates, P.C., and Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, were recognized Saturday, May 14 at Western's Spring 2016 Commencement Exercises.
The Distinguished Alumni Award, given since 1973, recognizes alumni who have brought credit to the University and themselves through exceptional professional accomplishments, meritorious service to ensure the continued excellence of WIU and through service to their communities at the national, state or local levels.
2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient's Speech
The videos below feature the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, addressing the Class of 2016 at Western Hall on Saturday, May 14.
Ernest J. Codilis, Jr.
Codilis, a 1973 graduate, is the founder and president of Codilis & Associates, P.C., an Illinois creditors’ rights law firm, comprised of more than 60 attorneys. With over 38 years of practice, he concentrates his practice in the area of mortgage foreclosure, creditor bankruptcy, and real estate litigation, and is licensed to practice law in Illinois, Texas, Colorado and Florida. He is a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association, the Chicago Bar Association, the DuPage County Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Colorado Bar Association, the Texas State Bar, the American Foreclosure Network, Legal League 100 and Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity International. Following his graduation from WIU, Codilis received his Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in 1976.
Codilis and his wife, Pamela, a 1977 graduate, have been very generous to their alma mater over the years, including support of scholarships, the College of Arts and Sciences, the political science department and the library. Most recently, he established the Ernest J. Codilis, Jr. Pre-Law Scholarship, a $10,000 annual scholarship to be awarded to a student with a pre-law minor who is also a member of the Centennial Honors.
Ernie and Pamela are the proud parents of four adult children and four grandchildren. Ernie enjoys golfing, traveling with his family and tirelessly rooting for his favorite Chicago team, the Chicago Cubs.
In his community, he is involved with and contributes to many charities, such as Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, EGBOK Mission, Family Shelter Service, The Denis Savard Foundation, The Cara Program, Illinois Bar Foundation, Chicago Bar Foundation, Soaring Eagle Academy, World Vision and Bo Jackson’s Give Me a Chance Foundation.
Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart
Stewart, a 1981 history graduate, became the 20th director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in January 2015.
As the Director of the DIA, Stewart serves as a principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense and to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on matters of military intelligence. He also chairs the Military Intelligence Board, which coordinates activities of the defense intelligence community.
Stewart’s principal command tours are numerous, including Tank Platoon Leader with Company A, 1st Tank and Executive Officer, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion at Camp Pendleton; Company Commander with Company I, Marine Support Battalion, Adak, Alaska; and Company Commander with Headquarters and Service Company, 2d Radio Battalion; Company Commander with Company E, Marine Support Battalion, Misawa, Japan; Commanding Officer, 1st Intelligence Battalion at Camp Pendleton; Commanding Officer, Headquarters Battalion, 2d Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune; and Commanding General, Marine Forces Cyberspace. Additionally, General Stewart has held a variety of Intelligence staff positions throughout his career.
His military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit with one gold star; the Bronze Star; the Meritorious Service Medal with one gold star; the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, with two gold stars; the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; the Combat Action Ribbon; the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal; and various unit awards.
Stewart earned master’s degrees in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, Newport, RI and in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, DC. His military education spans numerous fields, including the Basic School; Armor Officer Basic Course; Basic Communications Officer Course; Cryptologic Division Officer’s Course; School of Advanced Warfighting; Industrial College of the Armed Forces; Amphibious Warfare School and Naval Command and Staff at the Naval War College.
While at WIU, Stewart played for the Fighting Leathernecks football team. He has been actively involved with his alma mater working to strengthen the connection between the United States Marine Corps and the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.