Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Press Releases
Millikin University alumna Sierra Boggess '04 is starring in a new Broadway musical entitled "It Shoulda Been You," which opened April 14 at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

USA Today says the musical is "this Broadway season's freshest and funniest to date." The musical is directed by Emmy and Tony Award-winner David Hyde Pierce.

Since her Broadway debut as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," 2004 Millikin graduate Sierra Boggess has become one of the most sought after young artists in the New York and London theatre markets. Referred to by Tony Award-winning Producer and Director Harold Price as "one of the most talented and intelligent artists in the musical theatre today," Sierra dazzles audiences with her unique brand of charm, humor and virtuosity.

Boggess recently finished a limited run in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. Her London credits include "Les Misérables," the 25th anniversary concerts of "The Phantom of the Opera" at Royal Albert Hall and "Love Never Dies."

Millikin University alumnus Kevin Mathews '91 has visited the Big Blue campus on a number of occasions to speak with students and faculty. However, during a visit on April 9, Mathews did more than just share his success story with a group of students. Mathews engaged in Performance Learning activities during a microbusiness course led by Julie Shields, Millikin instructor of entrepreneurship.

The course was part of a day that recognized Mathews for exemplifying the best in entrepreneurial thought and action. Mathews, founder and chief executive officer of GenOx Transportation, Inc., was awarded the Tabor School of Business Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award. The award was presented to Mathews during an evening ceremony at the Decatur Country Club on April 9. 

While addressing Millikin students, Mathews said, "It's important to remember that 90 percent of customers will tell you what you want to hear, and 10 percent will tell you what you need to hear. With my trucking business, it's important to develop good relationships with customers."

Mathews started GenOx Transportation, Inc. in La Porte, Texas, in 2001. Building on the lifetime experience of his father in the industrial gas industry, Mathews set out to design a business model for GenOx that would enable it to become a market leader in the transportation of liquid nitrogen gas and other frozen industrial gases. 

Operating in one of the smallest niches within the tank truck industry, Mathews' company is investing more than $5 million a year on new equipment in anticipation of increased customer demand in 2015. This past year, GenOx generated $62 million in revenue, up from $1.2 million in revenue when the company launched in 2001.

When asked about launching a business venture, Mathews said, "It's important to keep moving forward and not be fearful. Don't let the effects of fear hold you back as an entrepreneur. There's a lot to learn when running a business and plenty of multitasking."

Mathews received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Millikin University in 1991 after earning his associate degree from Richland Community College. While at Millikin, Mathews was a member of the Millikin Marketing Association and Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity. 

Following graduation from Millikin, Mathews worked for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and Matlack Systems, Inc. before becoming regional manager of Cryogenic Transportation, Inc., a company headquartered in Omaha, Neb.

"When you're a business owner, it takes time to learn and it's important to not take on too much," said Mathews. "Know your business and know yourself, and constant successes will help build momentum for your business."

Dr. Susan Kruml, dean of the Tabor School of Business said, "In a previous visit to Millikin, Kevin was captivating and the students enjoyed hearing his story. I think the key to his success is his value system, and the way he treats his customers and employees."

Additionally, Lisa Mathews, chief financial officer of GenOx and Kevin's wife, spoke with Millikin students and faculty during a women's luncheon held in Richards Treat University Center. She shared aspects of her successful career in a question-and-answer format. 

Dr. Kruml added, "Kevin's a great example of someone who has seized opportunity, created opportunity, and done so in a way that is extremely ethical. In terms of the award, the Tabor School of Business looked at alumni who were successful and were great role models. We believed that there was not a better example of a successful entrepreneur than Kevin."
Millikin University hosted its seventh annual Edible Book Festival on April 14 in the Staley Library. The festival featured several culinary creations based on literary works including novels, biographies and more.

Millikin University held its first Edible Book Festival in 2009. Over the years, entries have come from Millikin University students, faculty, and staff, but have also been submitted by teams from Richland Community College, Garfield Montessori, Decatur Christian School, and Okaw Valley High School.

Entry fees and donations raised from the event are going to the Good Samaritan Inn of Decatur.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review that recaps Millikin University's Edible Book Festival.
The Millikin University Institute for Science Entrepreneurship, a signature program of Millikin's Center for Entrepreneurship, will continue its 2014-2015 Speaker Series on Thursday, April 30, with keynote speaker Ken Smithmier, president and chief executive officer of Illinois Health and Science (IHS).

The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the East Room of Lower Richards Treat University Center on Millikin's campus; the event is free and open to the public.

As part of his presentation, Smithmier will explain how Decatur Memorial Hospital (DMH) launched a business that will help address healthcare needs around the world.

Smithmier has been with Illinois Health and Science since 1993. IHS is the parent corporation of a number of companies including: Decatur Memorial Hospital, a 2000 employee organization including an owned physician multispecialty group, two imaging centers, and two surgery centers. DMH has frequently been cited by government and private organizations for high levels of performance in a variety of quality measurements including being named a Top 50 Heart Hospital for the fourth year in a row.

IHS also includes Zevacor Molecular, an Indianapolis-based firm started by IHS in 2013 for the production and distribution of radiopharmaceuticals important in nuclear medicine imaging. In fall 2015, Zevacor will install a 70 MeV cyclotron which will be the world's largest privately owned cyclotron devoted to medical isotopes.

Smithmier has spent his entire life in healthcare starting as an 18-year-old Navy corpsman. After the service, he was a 1978 graduate of the St. Louis University Physician Assistant program and worked as a physician assistant for five years. He subsequently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a master's degree in hospital administration.

Prior to joining IHS, Smithmier held a variety of executive positions in hospitals, from small rural facilities to major teaching hospital positions at BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, Mo.

Smithmier has extensive experience throughout the healthcare industry. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Hospital Association from 1998 to 2004 and served as chairman in 2003. He is a past member of the American Hospital Association's (AHA) Regional Policy Board and has served on many AHA committees and task forces.

The speaker series focuses on science entrepreneurship and how an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship can spark job creation and societal well-being. Throughout the academic year, executives from science ventures discuss particular aspects of their business. In addition, business leaders discuss broader topics of interest.

The Institute for Science Entrepreneurship was originally funded by a Millikin University Performance Learning Enhancement Grant in December 2012. Since that time, the institute has received funding from the Andreas Foundation, Coleman Foundation, 300 Below Inc., a private foundation and anonymous donors to develop the 2014-2015 Speaker Series and other institute programming.

Formed by Dr. David Horn, associate professor of biology, Dr. George Bennett, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Casey Watson, associate professor of physics and astronomy, the Institute for Science Entrepreneurship connects external clients with faculty and students of Millikin to provide high quality services to science companies and private practices.

In addition to the speaker series, the Institute for Science Entrepreneurship has recently garnered several accomplishments including external funding from Caterpillar Decatur to support a new course entitled "Introduction to Science Entrepreneurship," external funding and a collaboration between 300 Below Inc. and Millikin University, and a collaboration with the Community Foundation of Macon County to host a discussion on poverty.

The Institute for Science Entrepreneurship also offers Performance Learning opportunities for students through its new Science Entrepreneurship Research Fellow Program. The program matches student interest with needs of private practices and companies in the health and natural sciences.

For more information on the speaker series or the Millikin Institute for Science Entrepreneurship, call 217.424.6392 or visit
Millikin University students have been volunteering to help community members prepare and file federal and state tax forms at the Decatur Public Library.

The students are providing the service as part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

According to Dr. Michael Brown, Millikin associate professor of accounting, the program has helped over 800 people this year, and has provided practical work experiences for the students.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review recapping the work of the Millikin students.
Millikin University biology students took top honors at the 2015 Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society North Central District 1 Convention, held March 28 at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill. The convention gave students and faculty members opportunities to share current research and discuss scientific topics.

The convention featured 38 presentations (nine oral presentations and 29 posters) from students representing 11 institutions in the Midwest.

Millikin student Spencer Hudson, a senior biology major from Wilmington, Del., won the Richard G. Brooks Award for Best Oral Presentation. Senior biology majors Ashley Fulk, from Altamont, Ill., and Elizabeth Wrobel, from Tinley Park, Ill., each received John C. Johnson Awards for Best Student Poster.

Jade Becker, a senior biology major from Decatur, Ill., won a 2nd Place Poster Award, and Kendra Peterson, a senior biology major from Batavia, Ill., received an Honorable Mention Poster Award.

"The overall environment at the convention was very welcoming," said Ashley Fulk. "It was nice to be able to speak with judges and people interested in my research one-on-one."

In addition to individual accomplishments, Millikin's Tri-Beta Chapter, Iota Epsilon, won the Travel Gavel Award for bringing the most participants the greatest distance to the convention. Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, Millikin assistant professor of biology, was also named North Central District 1 Outstanding Advisor for the 2014-2015 academic year.

"It's apparent that when we are at these type of conferences, our students are prepared to present their facts and they think like scientists," said Dr. Wilcoxen. "When people look at the work from our students and compliment it, it shows the value of a Millikin education. Everyone gets an opportunity to perform real research, and I think the students gain an appreciation for doing real science before they graduate."

Spencer Hudson's presentation covered how different amounts of blue coloration in Indigo Bunting feathers relate to the health of the birds. Ashley Fulk's research covered how tadpoles respond to environmental stress and protect their skin with antioxidants, and Elizabeth Wrobel's research covered incidence of diseases in songbirds and birds of prey, as well as the health impacts of the diseases on the birds.

"I truly valued presenting my research at the Tri-Beta Convention," said Wrobel. "Through these conventions, I have the opportunity to share my research with so many people. Also, I am able to learn about other projects being completed by students from other schools, which is always interesting."

Jade Becker's research covered the impacts of elevated testosterone on growth and jumping performance in frogs, and Kendra Peterson's research covered molecular and gene responses of soy bean plants to caterpillar's consuming parts of their leaves.

Other Millikin students who presented at the convention included: Jessica Kerr, a senior biology major from Saint Johns, Fla., and Olivia Waszczuk, a senior biology major from Roselle, Ill. Kerr's presentation covered strategies for developing green techniques for plant growth on the roof of buildings. Waszczuk's poster covered strategies for using nanoparticles in breast cancer research.

Spencer Hudson added, "My experience as a member of Tri-Beta has been highlighted by the way science and people come together. I've come to realize that many of our research projects build over long periods of time in our careers, with crucial input from colleagues at meetings and key observations from other colleagues along the way. The science grows while careers grow and Tri-Beta provides that critical meeting place where one might seek out input from colleagues."

Tri-Beta is a society for students, particularly undergraduates, dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending boundaries of human knowledge through scientific research. Since its founding in 1922, more than 200,000 persons have been accepted into lifetime membership, and more than 670 chapters have been established throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. For more information on Tri-Beta, visit

The Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (MDSO) will present its season finale concert on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in Kirkland Fine Arts Center. The performance will feature Millikin School of Music faculty soloists William Gorton (tenor) and Randy Reyman (trumpet).

The MDSO season ends with a truly spectacular Pops concert featuring two of Millikin's stellar artist faculty.

First up, William Gorton, whose ringing tenor voice will bring to life "O sole mio," "Nessun dorma," and a host of other popular light arias and Neapolitan favorites, interspersed with Italian-flavored orchestral interludes played by the MDSO. Following a brief intermission, Randy Reyman plays his own new arrangements of some of the greatest hits from the American songbook: "When I Fall in Love," "All or Nothing At All," "Waltz for Debby," "My Romance," "My One and Only Love," and "I Hear a Rhapsody."

Randy Reyman will host the concert preview on April 18 at 6:45 p.m. in Kirkland Lecture Room 128. The event is free to concert attendees.

William Gorton

Dr. William Gorton, Millikin assistant professor of voice and opera, has had a diverse career as a singer, voice teacher, conductor, and composer. Dr. Gorton teaches studio voice, serves as coach and conductor for the opera program, and directs Tudor Voices, a select chamber choir specializing in early music. As a professional tenor, he has performed numerous opera roles and oratorios with organizations such as the Sacramento Opera, Opera Pacific, Pacific Repertory Opera, the National Messiah Festival at Bethany College, Orchestra X of Houston, and the San Francisco Opera Guild.

The founding artistic director of the Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale, Dr. Gorton acquired his Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University, and served as assistant chorus master for the Phoenix Symphony. He is currently the music director at First Christian Church in Bloomington, Ill. Dr. Gorton is also a published composer. His hymn, "O God in Whom We Live," can be found in "Worship and Song," a United Methodist hymnal, and a choral anthem, "The Lord is My Shepherd," was published by World Library Publications.

Randy Reyman

Randall Reyman is director of jazz activities at Millikin University and coordinator of brass, and serves as principal trumpet with the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra. His teaching duties include directing Millikin University's Jazz Band I, studio trumpet instruction, brass ensembles, and other courses in the commercial music area. Professor Reyman holds degrees from the University of Northern Iowa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Illinois State University. His teachers have included Keith Johnson, Vincent Cichowicz, John Haynie, and Bill Adam.

An active composer, arranger, and trumpeter, Reyman performs frequently in jazz venues throughout central Illinois with his West End Trio, and other groups such as the Millikin Faculty Jazz Sextet and the Decatur Big Band. Professor Reyman has published educational materials with Mel Bay Publications and Kendor Music, and his CD , "Hard at It," is available through First Step Records.

Tickets are $13-$16.50 and are available through the Kirkland Fine Arts Center Ticket Office, by phone at 217.424.6318 or online at Ticket Office hours are Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. A $2.50 fee will be charged for credit card purchases. This is a per transaction fee, not per ticket, and applies to online and Ticket Office orders.

Concerts of the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Symphony Guild of Decatur.
Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters (LL&W), has dedicated his life to cleaning up and preserving our nation's rivers. He will discuss his journey on Monday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Shilling Hall's Albert Taylor Theatre on Millikin University's campus. This event is free and open to the public; no reservations or tickets required.

The Mississippi River was literally Chad Pregracke's backyard while growing up outside of Hampton, Ill. The son of educators and river enthusiasts, KeeKee and Gary Pregracke, Chad and his older brother, Brent, spent the majority of their time on, in, and around the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

During his summer breaks from high school and college, Pregracke worked on the river − primarily as a commercial shell diver for the cultured pearl industry, but also as a commercial fisherman and barge hand. It was during this time that Pregracke began to realize how neglected the rivers were, with the unsightly and toxic accumulation of trash along their banks. At the age of 17, he started making calls to government agencies to notify them of the problem, assuming someone would take care of it. Years passed by and the problem only worsened.

In 1998, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization based in East Moline, Ill. LL&W hosts river cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives, workshops, tree plantings and other key conservation efforts. Today, the organization has grown to include 13 full-time employees and an equipment base of four barges, two towboats, six workboats, five trucks, a semi, a crane and two skid loaders. With this equipment, the crew is able to travel and work in an average of seven states a year along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Delaware Rivers, as well as many of their largest tributaries.

Since the project's inception, Pregracke, his crew, and nearly 70,000 volunteers have collected over 7.5 million pounds of debris from our nation's greatest rivers. Pregracke has also expanded the mission of the organization to include Big River Educational Workshops for teachers and students aboard a floating classroom, The MillionTrees Project, and the Adopt-a-River Mile programs.

Pregracke's vision, charisma, non-stop work ethic and natural leadership have garnered him an abundance of awards and honors over the years. Most notably, Pregracke was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service in June 2002, recognized at the Points of Light Tribute in Washington, D.C. and chosen as the CNN Hero of the Year in December 2013.

For more information on Living Lands & Waters, visit

Pregracke's appearance is Millikin University's 2015 James W. Moore Lecture. The lecture was established in 1991 to honor the late James W. Moore of Decatur. Moore's children, Madeline and James "Mac" Moore, created the endowed fund to present speakers on campus who represent "innovative or progressive political or artistic views."
Bronze Man Books is pleased to announce the publication of the final book in the popular series "Let's Talk Kids," titled "Let's Talk Kids: Celebrating Your Family," written by Claudia Quigg '75, Millikin University adjunct faculty member.

Following the form of the previous books, Quigg continues to share her parenting columns that have been featured in numerous newspapers and radio segments over the years. "Let's Talk Kids: Celebrating Your Family" consists of anecdotes ranging in topics from Halloween to the challenges of a long road trip with young children.

A publication ceremony will be held on Tuesday, April 14, at 4 p.m. at Millikin University's Alumni and Development Center, located at 1305 W. Main St. in Decatur, Ill. The full "Let's Talk Kids" trilogy will be available for purchase. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

"Let's Talk Kids: Celebrating Your Family" is a joyful conclusion to the series, and fans of the first two installments will fall in love with it quickly. The series launched with "Let's Talk Kids: Becoming a Family," tracing the beginnings of parenthood, pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood. This was followed by "Let's Talk Kids: Facing Family Challenges," which focused on the challenges families face with their kids throughout life. Quigg notes that this was "of course a joy to write because I want to support parents and those challenges."

In the final book, readers will find the best parts about having a family. "The third book is like dessert because it's exploring all of the great things that kids get from their families," said Quigg.

Claudia Quigg, M.Ed., is founding executive director of Baby TALK and has blazed the trail for professionals dedicated to supporting families of young children. Her weekly column, "Let's Talk Kids," is featured in a number of newspapers and on WUIS Illinois NPR. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Millikin University and her M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A mother of three and grandmother of six, Claudia brings her parenting experience to thousands of families served through Baby TALK programs each year.

Millikin student editors, Lauren Elise Taylor, a senior English writing major from Decatur, Ill., and Caitlin Husted, a junior English writing major from Germantown Hills, Ill., enjoyed the hands-on learning experience with Bronze Man Books, working closely with Claudia Quigg on the editing process and proceeding to design, produce and market the book. Husted, the lead editor, says, "I admire how she covers a variety of topics in one book; it really covers all the bases of parenting."

"Let's Talk Kids" books are available for purchase online at

Bronze Man Books is a student-owned and operated press that was established in spring 2006. It is located on Millikin University's campus in Decatur, Ill. For more information, please call 217.424.6264 or visit
Millikin University commercial music alumnus Matthew West '99 performed in concert at the Decatur Civic Center on April 4 along with opening acts Colton Dixon and Byron "Mr. Talkbox" Chambers. West's band features MU graduates Sean McDonald '12 (drums) and Jake Widenhofer '12 (guitar).

West has released five studio albums since 2003. He has been nominated for eight Dove Awards, winning once in 2003 for his album "Happy." West won the 2013 American Music Award for Best Contemporary Inspirational Artist. West will release his sixth studio album, "Live Forever," on April 28, 2015.

Click here to read an article from the Herald & Review that recaps West's successful music career and the writing process for his new album.
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL