Centurion Society Inducts Outstanding Alumni


Six alumni joined the University’s Centurion Society during Founder’s Day events. Earl Feldhorn ’62, front left, was named 2013 Distinguished Alumnus. He is a senior vice president for Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. Marta Peláez ’83, president/CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. in San Antonio, was also inducted into the prestigious group along with former NBA star and movie producer Chet Walker ’62, back left; Wayne Baum ’60, chairman of Core Construction; retired Air Force pilot David Frederick ’59, who also founded a construction company; and William Benman ’74, an attorney who founded a software company to fund his nonprofit education and community development program. 

On Founder’s Day in October, six accomplished alumni were named to the University’s prestigious Centurion Society. The Society began in 1982 to recognize alumni for outstanding achievements in their careers and lives that bring national and international recognition to Bradley.

Wayne Baum ’60

After earning his Bradley education while also learning the family trade of bricklaying, Wayne Baum ’60 and his brothers started Core Construction Group, which now has six offices nationwide, thousands of employees, and annual revenues of more than half a billion dollars. 

As an employer, Baum encourages his workers to give back to their communities. As the company’s chairman of the board, he leads by example, having served as a Bradley trustee and as chairman of the University’s Civil Engineering and Construction Advisory Board. Along with his Bradley service, Baum also was on the boards of numerous civic organizations in the Peoria area, including the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and WTVP
Channel 47. 

He was honored in November at the 23rd annual Easter Seals tribute dinner, where nearly $800,000 was raised for the agency’s programs in central Illinois. 

William Benman ’74

Professional accolades started early for William Benman ’74. He was commended by the Federal Aviation Administration for his work while an electrical engineering co-op student at Bradley. After earning a law degree at the University of Michigan, he founded a Los Angeles law firm specializing in intellectual property law with a client list that includes such firms as XM Satellite Radio, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Eastman Kodak. 

Benman also founded a nonprofit education and community development program, Project to Improve the Quality of Urban Education (PIQUE). To fund it, he launched a software company, Integrated Virtual Networks, with patented software called Silhouette that allows people to see and interact with each other in virtual 3D environments. A member of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology Advisory Council, he has served on the boards of several community organizations.  

David Frederick ’59

David Frederick ’59 entered the Air Force after graduation and flew 425 combat missions in Vietnam, winning the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars and 17 Air Medals. He served on the faculty of the Naval War College and held top positions at the National Security Agency. 

After retiring from the Air Force as a command pilot, Frederick founded Facilities Development Corporation. The international construction firm specializes in building facilities for counterterrorism operations, hardened data centers, and tactical military operations centers. 

Marta Peláez ’83

With what she described as “obstinate determination,” Marta Peláez ’83  commuted 120 miles roundtrip from Princeton, Ill., to attend classes at Bradley. Sometimes, her family commitments required her to bring her children to campus, and she recalled the times the University accommodated her unique needs. That same dedication carries her through grueling days as president and CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. in San Antonio. She oversees more than 20 programs to help victims of domestic violence and has been honored for her work with abused women and children nationally and internationally.

Peláez, originally from Colombia, came to the U.S. at age 16. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Chester “Chet” Walker ’62

After a Hall of Fame career in basketball, Chester “Chet” Walker ’62 transitioned to an equally successful run in the entertainment industry. He produced TV movies and won an Emmy Award for one based on the life of Mary Thomas, mother of former NBA star Isiah Thomas. 

A member of the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame, Walker was selected last year for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was named a unanimous first-team All-American his senior year and still holds many Bradley basketball records.  He played in the NBA for 13 years, including with the 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers, considered by some the greatest NBA team ever. His memoir, Long Time Coming: A Black Athlete’s Coming-of-Age in America, was published in 1995.


View the Centurions’ Convocation Day speeches at bradley.edu/go/ht-2013Centurions.

— B.G.



Los Angeles Investment Exec Honored as Distinguished Alumnus

Achieving success, especially in the world of finance, requires dedication, perseverance and character. A bit of luck never hurts either. Bradley’s 2013 Distinguished Alumnus has all of those.

Earl Feldhorn ’62 escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and came to the U.S. with his parents when he was less than a year old. Shortly after his graduation from Bradley, Feldhorn went to work at Wedbush Securities, a brokerage and investment firm where his father also was employed.

Throughout his 51 years with the company, Feldhorn has served in several capacities and is now senior vice president, handling accounts of all sizes. He has helped the Los Angeles-based firm expand from five employees to a staff of 1,000 people and 100 offices nationwide. Together with his business partner, he manages about $300 million for 1,500 clients. 

He was presented the Distinguished Alumnus honor and inducted into the University’s Centurion Society during Founder’s Day activities in October. “There is no investment I’ve made in my life that returned like my degree here at Bradley,” Feldhorn said at the ceremony, adding jokingly that he planned to wear the award’s medallion at his office and make colleagues call him “distinguished.”

One of his most successful financial investments was turning a postal worker’s $400 investment into $40,000 over the course of several years.

He credits his parents’ resilience with fueling his commitment to help others, and he is thankful he can be of service. In addition to serving as a board member of the Epilepsy Foundation, Feldhorn has been on the board of the Frostig Center, a school for children with learning disabilities. He also has been an associate trustee for Bradley and an adviser to the Foster College of Business.

Feldhorn, who lives in Bel Air, Calif., has created two endowed scholarships for the University. They are the August R. Feldhorn Scholarship for students majoring in communications or fine arts and the Puder/Feldhorn Endowed Scholarship for business administration majors.


View Feldhorn’s acceptance speech at bradley.edu/go/ht-Feldhorn.

— B.G.



Faculty Honored on Founder’s Day

Every year during its Founder’s Day Convocation, Bradley recognizes faculty and staff for their exceptional contributions to the University. In October, five faculty members were honored for their achievements in teaching, scholarship and public service.

Charles M. Putnam Award for Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Bradley Andersh, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Putnam Award. Noted in his department for consistently receiving the highest rating of all instructors for teaching, research, and service, Andersh is praised as one of the most profound influences on his students’ professional lives. During the award presentation, it was said, “No one better exemplifies Bradley’s commitment to experiential learning.”

Andersh joined the University’s faculty in 1993 after receiving his doctoral degree from Iowa State University.

Samuel Rothberg Professional Excellence Award

Dr. Kevin Finson, professor of teacher education and co-director of the Center for STEM Education, was honored with the Rothberg Award. Having published 13 scholarly articles in top journals, co-authored two well-received books, and presented more than 50 professional papers, he has earned a national reputation as a leader in his field. One co-worker noted, “He listens to others, takes their ideas seriously, supports those in need of mentoring, and is a superb colleague.”

Finson earned his doctoral degree from Kansas State University and has taught at Bradley for 13 years.

Caterpillar Inc. Faculty Achievement Award for Teaching

Dr. Elena Gabor, assistant professor of communication, was presented with the Caterpillar Award for Teaching. Since coming to Bradley in 2008, she has distinguished herself as a model classroom teacher and a developer of new courses and programs. One student commented, “Not only does she go above and beyond for her students every day, but she has also inspired me to work hard and push myself in my coursework for the sake of learning and growing rather than simply earning a desired grade.”

Gabor has a doctorate from Purdue University.

Caterpillar Inc. Faculty Achievement Award for Scholarship

Dr. Jennifer Robin, assistant professor of management and leadership, received the Caterpillar Award for Scholarship in acknowledgement of her remarkable level of scholarship achievement at the beginning of her career. She has co-authored three books, and her articles have been cited about 250 times in scholarly journals. Described as “brilliantly creative,” Robin previously won the Caterpillar Award for Teaching. One nominator commented, “Just as she holds herself accountable to high-quality research, it is also important to her that results of her research have merit in the industry.”

Robin holds a doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee and has taught at Bradley for nearly eight years.

Francis C. Mergen Memorial Award for Public Service

Dr. Souhail Elhouar, chairman and associate professor of civil engineering and construction, was the 2013 Mergen Award honoree. Over the past two decades, he has set the standard for helping nurture tomorrow’s leaders through his extensive involvement in organizations including the Bridge-Pal Program, Dream Center of Peoria, and Peoria Race Relations Committee. One nominator shared, “Not only does his community service clearly demonstrate his dedication to community, but his ability to inspire students in our department reaches beyond the classroom.”

Elhouar holds a doctoral degree from the University of Oklahoma and joined Bradley’s faculty in 1994. 

— C.M.