Alumni Association Recognizes Alumni Contributions

The Bradley University Alumni Association recognized three alumni with awards for their ongoing commitment and contributions to the university during the annual Founder's Day luncheon.

Each year Bradley recognizes an Outstanding Young Graduate who is 40 years old or younger and who exemplifies exceptional professional, civic and charitable achievement. This year’s recipient is Tommy Choi.

Tommy graduated from Bradley in 2003 with a degree in Marketing. He and fellow Bradley alum Josh Weinberg, class of 2004, founded Weinberg Choi real estate agency in 2007. The guiding principle of Tommy’s life is: Be better than you were the day before.

Since 2016 Tommy and Josh have been co-owners of Keller Williams Chicago – Lincoln Park, one of the city’s top 10 real estate brokerages with an office of 200 agents. Tommy is currently the 135th president of the Chicago Association of Realtors and the first Korean American to hold the office. 

The Women’s Council of Realtors named him entrepreneur of the year in 2013. In 2014 he received the Chicago Association of Realtors Community Service Award. Chicago Agent magazine awarded Tommy the magazine’s Charitable Service award in 2017.

Tommy’s goal is to change the landscape of Chicago real estate with a mindset of abundance and cooperation, rather than fear and competition. He said, “It wasn’t real estate itself that made me happy, it was building relationships with people and helping them achieve their goal.”

Each year Tommy and his team organize 365 Days of Giving. His team has built so many houses for Habitat for Humanity that they had to start on a new block. He was one of the founding committee members of Bright Pink, which supports young women who are at high risk of breast cancer. His golf events have raised more than $100,000 for The Nora Project, an anti-bullying campaign that teaches kids how to build relationships with their classmates who have disabilities.

In addition to offering internships and mentoring Bradley students, Tommy serves on the Foster College of Business’ National Council of Advisors. He supports his fraternity, Delta Upsilon, and spreads the word to other young people about the positive impact Bradley has had on him. 

One of the most elite awards Bradley offers to its graduates is that of Distinguished Alumna. It marks outstanding achievement in professional or civic activities that brings the highest distinction to the award winner, their field of endeavor and Bradley University.

This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumna award is Lisa Helfrich (hell-frick) Jackson. Lisa graduated in 1986 with a degree in Theatre. She had planned to study a topic she says sounded “responsible” and came to Bradley with an eye on majoring in business, but by her sophomore year she knew her heart was in theatre. She was in campus plays and on the speech team. She applied herself further by working in community theatre and taking dance and voice lessons outside of school, while enjoying an active social life through her sorority, Pi Beta Phi.

She began her career in television production as an intern at WTVP while still a student. Shortly after graduation she moved to Los Angeles where she worked her way up from production assistant on HBO’s First and Ten. By the mid-1990s she was associate producer of Ellen. She worked all nine seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, wrapping the series as co-executive producer. She was a producer for the five-season series The New Adventures of Old Christine. Since 2015 she has worked for Warner Brothers Television, where she’s currently the senior vice president of production. In her job she oversees all Warner Brothers comedy productions including The Big Bang Theory, Mom and The Kominsky Method. Lisa manages the largest entertainment media production company in the world, securing and overseeing a global network of studios, crews and productions.

She has been recognized by her industry with two Primetime Emmy awards and seven Emmy nominations. Her career encompasses productions for HBO, Touchstone/ABC, Fox Broadcasting and CBS, among others. She is a member of both the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America.

Lisa welcomed Bradley Expedition courses to Los Angeles, where she met with students in real-world settings to teach them about working in entertainment. She often teaches a classroom session on television production and her industry when she’s in Peoria to visit family. 

The Lydia Moss Bradley award is given each year to recognize outstanding commitment and service to the University by someone from the Bradley family or the greater community. The award this year went to Bob Carruthers.

Bob is a lifelong advocate of education and a passionate ambassador of Bradley University. He completed both of his degrees at Bradley: a bachelors in Education in 1963 and a masters in Education Administration in 1966. During his student days Bob was a member of Sigma Chi and Interfraternity Council, a member of the student senate and student-manager for the men’s basketball team from 1959 to 1962. In fact, he was inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 1960 NIT-championship team. Bob’s dedication to Bradley did not diminish during his working career. He was a B-Club and Varsity Club board member for more than 40 years. For 23 years he was the official timer and scorekeeper for Bradley men’s basketball.

Bob worked in education for 43 years. He was a teacher of elementary math, science and reading; principal of Lincoln Elementary; Director of Human Resources at Peoria District 150; associate superintendent for Park Ridge Schools District 64; interim director of human resources back in Peoria; and supervisor of new superintendents and principals in Limestone Elementary school district. One of the most unusual titles he held was Homeless Director of Peoria County. He ran a program to help young people experiencing homelessness stay in the education system. One of the great experiences of his life, as he tells it, is the people from that program who finished high school and attended college despite the odds against them.

He continues to help and inspire Bradley students by sharing his time and expertise at campus job fairs and in mock interviews. As one of his nominators said, “There are thousands of former student athletes whose experience at Bradley was enhanced by Bob’s efforts, and there are hundreds of educators across the country who are shaping the minds of the next generation with a vision and philosophy that was imparted to them by Bob Carruthers. Bob has not just taught Bradley graduates how to educate, he taught them how to make a positive impact in the years to come.”

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.