There are heroes among our Millikin alumni - hundreds, if not thousands, of them.
The graphic on this page may be lighthearted, but we are serious in recognizing the fact that the ranks of Millikin alumni are full of heroes. They may not be recognized on the national scene for their heroism, but each day, in a variety of ways, Millikin alumni are changing the face of the world with their commitment to making it a better place through their skills and service.
On the next few pages, we salute a handful of our Big Blue heroes, and we'd love to hear about other alumni who should be recognized for their heroism.
Drop a line to MillikinQuarterly@millikin.edu before Feb. 15 and let us know why your Big Blue hero should be featured on the pages of this magazine. Or mail your thoughts to Millikin Quarterly, 1184 West Main Street, Decatur IL 62522.
Cody Moore '88
This alum has been a foster parent, a teacher and a police officer, and he's done it all "for the kids."
After nearly 20 years spent enforcing the law, Lieutenant Cody Moore '88 decided in 2008 to help change the law for the sake of children.
Working with fellow police officer and Emergency Response Team member Brian Bell '84, Moore co-wrote legislation to increase the punishment for individuals convicted of possessing cannabis in the presence of children.
"We realized that more than half of our drug-related search warrants were served in situations where there could be children present," Moore explains. "We figured something's got to change - somebody's got to look out for their best interests." So after he and Bell wrote the legislation, they testified before the Illinois Judiciary Committee and saw the law changed as a result of their efforts.
"Hopefully some people are getting longer sentences because of it," Moore says. "When we execute a drug-related search warrant and people meet us at the door saying, 'There are kids here,' I tell them, 'Your kids are the reason I'm here. Nothing's going to happen to your kids.'"
Working with and for children has always been important to Moore. As a Millikin physical education major, he planned to teach P.E. and coach football. And that's just what he did for a few years. Then his career path took a surprising turn.
In 1990, Moore's wife, Jean Wolgast Moore '89, now executive director of the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, was working with Decatur's Youth Advocate Program and was often called in the middle of the night to help with runaways. Worried for her safety, Moore accompanied her on these nighttime excursions. While his wife assisted the young people, Moore found himself chatting with local police officers on the scene.
After talking with them, he decided to take the Decatur Police Department's physical fitness test and written exam, passing both. One month later, he was a policeman.
"I love what I do," he says, "and I'm still teaching. The department made me a field training officer after two years on the force and after four years, they made me a fire arms instructor."
Currently lieutenant in charge of the criminal investigations division, Moore supervises more than 50 investigators and other employees working within adult, juvenile and street-crimes-narcotics bureaus. He is also a supervisor on Decatur's Emergency Response Team, where he is in charge of firearms training, as well as planning and executing high-risk drug search warrants.
Not surprisingly, Moore believes being a good supervisor means being a good teacher.
"As a supervisor, you're teaching people what to do," he says. "If you can teach somebody to do something well, you don't have to tell them what to do."
Although many people would find his job incredibly stressful, Moore has a unique outlook on his life and career.
"I lead a life of controlled chaos, but I don't feel like I have a stressful job," he says. "My job has a rule book. If something happens, how you respond is in the rule book."
Nichole Coers Folkman '06
This 2006 alum used haiku to provide a life lesson in giving.
When an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent 30-foot tsunami struck Japan last March, an outpouring of sympathy and assistance came from all over the world.
In Central Illinois, Nichole Coers Folkman '06 devised a way to aid victims of the disasters while providing an interesting learning experience for her English students at Hartsburg-Emden High School in Hartsburg, Ill.
During her time as a Millikin student, Folkman took January term courses with Dr. Randy Brooks, professor of English and now dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has remained in contact with Brooks, so it's no surprise that Folkman turned to him when she needed some help in his area.
"I knew that my students really needed more guidance in genres I didn't know terribly well," Folkman says. "I wanted them to learn more about haiku [a very short form of Japanese poetry], and I knew Dr. Brooks was an expert, so I contacted him and he agreed to work with us on a haiku project."
Last spring, Brooks facilitated two workshops on reading and writing haiku at the high school. While the workshops were in the planning stages, Folkman had an idea for helping the disaster victims.
"It occurred to me that since haiku originated in Japan where these disasters had just happened, we should do something with this project to benefit the victims," Folkman says. "So we decided to publish a book of the students' haiku, sell the books and donate the proceeds to the Red Cross for Japanese disaster relief."
Nearly 80 students participated, culminating in publication of the chapbook.
"Some of the best efforts came from kids who usually say 'I hate English class,'" Folkman says. "But haiku is short and concise and really makes you think, so some of them really connected with it."
Featuring a selection of the students' best haiku, the book was released last May with proceeds donated to the Red Cross to aid Japanese disaster victims.
Marie Alice Ernst Rademacher '49
This alum has spent most of her life in service to others.
Although many of us dream of a retirement filled with relaxation and travel, others find satisfaction in lifelong service.
One such person is Marie Alice Ernst Rademacher '49. A regional director with Catholic Charities since 1985, Rademacher always knew a life of service was her calling.
"I really had great role models," Rademacher says. "My parents gave a lot in service to the community, so I grew up seeing that happen."
At Millikin, she majored in psychology and sociology. "I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession," Rademacher says.
Originally from Virden, Ill., Rademacher heard about Catholic Charities in Springfield and wanted to learn more about their work and mission.
"I talked to the director of the Springfield office and said, 'Give me an idea what direction my life should take.' He told me to come work for Catholic Charities after I graduated."
While she was serving as a case aide in Springfield, the executive director of Catholic Charities encouraged her to attend graduate school. In 1952, Rademacher received a master's degree in social work from St. Louis University. She then relocated to Decatur to become a case worker for the local office of Catholic Charities, working primarily with crisis pregnancies, adoptions and what were then called "juvenile delinquents."
In 1953, she attended her first Catholic Charities Ball on an arranged date with Jack Ernst; they married less than two years later. She stayed home after the birth of their first child, but returned to Catholic Charities part-time while pregnant with their third daughter. Ernst died of cancer after just six years of marriage, leaving her a single mother at age 34.
Then in 1965, her pastor asked her to teach part-time at Holy Family School.
"I told him, 'I think I'm a social worker, and I know I'm a mother, but I'm not a teacher,'" Rademacher says. "He said that my skills from both would transfer to the classroom."
Her decision to teach was a fateful one. At a parent-teacher conference, she met Joe Rademacher '48, the widowed father of one of her students. They fell in love and were married in 1967. A year later, she gave birth to another daughter. But after just three years of marriage, Joe died following surgery for a brain tumor. Marie, age 42, was once again a widow, now with eight children to raise.
In 1982, when her youngest child was a high school sophomore, Rademacher heard about Richland Community College's displaced homemaker program, designed to help women re-enter the workforce.
"I thought maybe I should enroll in the program, but they asked me to work with them as an assistant instead," Rademacher says.
A year later, she joined Family Services (a social service agency eventually absorbed by Catholic Charities) as a case worker. In 1985, the president of the Catholic Charities advisory board asked Rademacher to apply for the job of director of their Decatur office. She's been a regional director ever since.
"Although we are the official service agency for area Catholics, our mission is to assist people of all faiths," Rademacher says. "Need is the determining factor."
She also decided to go back to school, earning her master's degree in human development counseling through the University of Illinois at Springfield in 1994.
Rademacher is particularly proud of the services provided to seniors.
"We help seniors stay in their homes and remain independent as long as possible," she says. "We'll also help them find a guardian, or the agency can become their guardian if no one else is available to serve in that capacity."
Another source of pride is the affordable counseling program for singles, couples and families.
"Catholic Charities provides great counseling services," Rademacher says. "But the job is bittersweet - we help people through some very difficult times, so we see a lot of sadness, depression and anger. But we also see some wonderful success stories."
Honored with the Administrator/Director of the Year Award from the Human Service Agency Consortium in 2009, and now winner of a Women of Excellence Award, Rademacher has no plans to rest on her laurels.
"It seems like my whole life has been my family and Catholic Charities," Rademacher says. "But I love what I do and I look forward every day to coming to work. How blessed I am - how blessed at my age to have the energy level to be able to continue the work I love."
Carol Westermeier Radtke '66
This alum has dedicated herself to fighting child trafficking for "the child we all have the possibility of saving."
A chance encounter on an airplane in 2001 inspired Carol Radtke '66 to begin a fight against child trafficking.
"I had to travel from Paris to Zurich, then Zurich to Chicago, and next to me in the aisle was an adorable girl of 6, perhaps 7," says Radtke. But this little girl was not alone. She was with eight or 10 other children.
"Being the inquisitive person that I am, I asked the girl where she was going, and her answer was 'on holiday, a special trip.' I said, 'Where's your mommy?' and she said 'Auntie,' pointing at a woman with the girls."
Radtke flipped open a book and thought little of the encounter until they arrived in Zurich and the children were getting off the plane.
"Two young fellows stood up a few rows ahead of me, watching this group. They were dressed in the latest designer look, both of them maybe 20 years old. They very carefully stayed in their seats, and as this group of children got off they went behind them and off the plane."
This piqued Radtke's suspicions again, and she brought the matter up with airport security once she was off the plane, but nothing was done. "No one was there who could help. It was brushed aside."
Having done all she could, Radtke boarded her plane headed to Chicago, where she saw a similar group of about 25 people, most of them children ranging from infants to teenagers, led by three women, an older teenager and a grown man.
One woman was holding a baby hanging limp at her side.
"This is what drew my attention," Radtke says. "I thought the baby wasn't well. No one really communicated. The man just directed and yelled, 'Sit! Sit down!' and pushed them to a seat."
Then the pieces started to fit together. "I'm seeing a replay of what I had witnessed on the earlier flight with groups of children led by strange adult figures with little interaction, concern or care being shown," she says.
Worried about the health of the baby, Radtke caught the attention of a flight attendant. When the flight attendant approached the group, she was rebuffed by the grown man in charge who stood up and said the baby was fine.
But Radtke was not convinced. She asked the flight attendant to get the captain, who informed the woman with the baby and the other four children in their row that they would have to leave before the plane took off.
"The man stood up and started screaming and shouting," says Radtke, but despite his efforts, the woman, the baby and the four other children in their row were forced to leave.
After Radtke expressed further concern, the captain asked others in that group to disembark, and an immigration agent took the remaining adults into custody and secured the children once the plane landed in Chicago.
"The group was traveling under the guise of religious refugees, but all the children were being trafficked," Radtke recalls. "It took me so long to stop visualizing, reliving, seeing the faces of the children in front of me, especially those on the first flight, for whom I could do nothing."
Since that day, Radtke has made it her mission to spread the word about child trafficking. "I started to investigate," says Radtke. "There exists today a lucrative, diverse, constant market for both young boys and girls all over the U.S. and beyond. If there were not the market, the trafficking would then not occur, certainly not to the degree that it does."
It occurs to a great degree, with more than two million children trafficked annually.
Luckily, there are like-minded individuals to whom Radtke is lending support, including a group of flight attendants with American Airlines who banded together and started an initiative called Blue Lightning.
Their initiative has made reporting suspected child trafficking easier and more efficient. "The flight attendants are your first line of defense for awareness. They have blue plastic wrist bands which have a hotline to call in the event of suspicious activity," Radtke says, "and the plane will be met by immigration agents who will investigate the situation."
Radtke has also joined forces with Leonie Brandsetter, wife of the Austrian diplomat to Jamaica and Canada, in hopes other diplomats will urge their countries' airlines to join in an airline initiative modeled after Blue Lightning.
Radtke says awareness is key. "Wherever you are, however you are traveling, whomever you are with: Look and listen outside of yourself for anything unusual in regards to children."
She urges anyone who views suspicious activity involving children, especially while traveling, to call the national hotline at 888-373-7888. She also says more information about how to prevent child trafficking can be found at at innocentsatrisk.org.
"Averting your eyes or disregarding what you are hearing will only bury the crime deeper," Radtke says. "Please help bring it into the light."
Christel Jene '10
This young alum helps fight poverty in Appalachia.
Living well below the poverty line is the unfortunate reality for most residents living in hard-scrabble Appalachia. Fortunately, many charitable groups canvas the area, providing volunteer assistance and supplies. For nearly a year, one of those volunteers was Christel Jene '10, who worked in Eastern Kentucky with the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), a nonprofit organization providing physical, spiritual and emotional support for residents of that area.
During her time in McKee, Ky., Jene taught fourth grade students on topics such as conflict resolution and consumerism. She also ran an afterschool reading program, an afterschool teen center and taught music to middle school children in various small towns throughout Jackson County.
"Although I volunteered through CAP, my service placement was actually at Camp Andrew Jackson, which is primarily known for its summer camps for underprivileged children in the area," Jene says. "During the rest of the year, [the camp] promotes education in schools, which is why I did other school programs in addition to summer camp."
For Jene, seeking ways to improve the community was one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteer life. For example, at the Lord's Gym teen center she led devotion classes for underprivileged teens searching for something to do.
"There's nothing to do in town, so the teens went there to hang out or play basketball," Jene says.
Although Jene went on mission trips in high school, she credits her Millikin experience as her inspiration for wanting to help those in need. A vocal music education major, she especially remembers the lessons she learned as a member of the University Choir.
"The opportunities to travel to China with University Choir while at Millikin gave me a passion for experiencing the uncomfortable," she says. "These experiences prepared me to step out of my comfort zone once again and enter into the world of Appalachia."
After finishing her service in Kentucky last summer, Jene joined a year-long traveling ministry group called Youth Encounter, ministering to youth in the United States, Ukraine, Romania and Germany through music and teaching. Reflecting on her 10 months of teaching life lessons to underprivileged children in Kentucky, she insists that her students and their families taught her just as much.
"The people in Jackson County may not have much in material possessions, but they have more faith and love than anyone I have ever met," Jene says. "If I left Kentucky with even an ounce of this faith and love, I will consider myself truly blessed."