MATTOON -- The four professionals chosen for the Lake Land College Distinguished Alumni Society this year credit the dedication of Lake Land staff for helping them to reach their career goals.

“The smaller class sizes and relationships I was able to build with my instructors at Lake Land allowed me to push myself as a student and as an individual, thus lying the groundwork that would later enable me to maximize my educational and professional potential,” said Katie Williams, school psychologist and special education director of the Marshall Community School District.

“The instructors at Lake Land are incredibly committed to make a difference in the lives of their students. They know education changes lives, just like it changed mine,” said Dr. Sally Salmons, a doctor of family medicine and vice president and associate chief medical officer at Carle Foundation Hospital.

Williams and Salmons join Todd Gartner, director of surgical services at Baptist Health, Paducah, Ky., and Thomas L. Overmyer, president/owner of Phoenix Consulting Engineers Ltd., Mahomet, as the 2017 inductees in the LLC Distinguished Alumni Society. The induction ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 30 in the West Building Atrium in conjunction with Laker Homecoming.

The Distinguished Alumni Society recognizes alumni who have utilized the Lake Land experience to make an imprint on their profession or community.

“We’re extremely proud of the newest members of the Distinguished Alumni Society. They exemplify the values we all share at Lake Land College,” said Dave Cox, director of alumni relations and annual giving. “In addition to being accomplished in their careers, they are dedicated to giving back to their communities and improving the world around them.”

Salmons of Mattoon, who studied business as part of the Class of 1982, said Lake Land was the perfect fit when she decided to make a major career change.

“I was working in the health care business world when I felt the need to be closer to the delivery of care. I had a bachelor’s of business at the time I decided I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I also had a mortgage, a full-time job and two kids. Lake Land helped me gain the knowledge I needed to pass the entrance exam around my busy schedule.”

Overmyer of Mahomet (Class of 1983) said his study of civil engineering technology led to immediate employment and the skills necessary to continue his education in engineering.

“Lake Land College gave me both an educational foundation and job skills that seeded my life and career. Upon graduation I was able to find a good job in my major as a civil engineering technician,” he said. “Lake Land College’s Civil Engineering Technology program provided me the necessary knowledge to compete with anyone in the marketplace.”

After working for several years, Overmyer said he decided to continue his education in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois. “It quickly became apparent that the critical thinking skills and educational foundation that I absorbed while attending Lake Land would play a major role in my success at the U of I.”

Overmyer graduated with honors in 1989 with a bachelor of science degree from the College of Engineering. “Achieving this goal would not have been possible without the work I did at Lake Land first.”

Gartner of Paducah (Class of 2003) said his major of nursing led him to a career in health care that he had only dreamed about.

“The education I have received has allowed me to help make people's lives better,” he said. “Now, as a director of surgical services at a regional facility, I have the opportunity to influence the care of many patients every day.

“I have truly been blessed to be able to be a part of health care. Lake Land College has played a major role in helping me achieve that goal.”

Williams of Marshall (Class of 2002), who majored in psychology, said she immediately felt comfortable as a student at Lake Land, and she credits her work as a student ambassador with giving her experiences that have positively impacted her career and life.

“The time I spent serving as a Lake Land College student ambassador provided me with the experiences that helped me develop leadership skills, integrity, and connections among students and surrounding communities. All of these skills have assisted me in obtaining a higher education, my career, and continued positive relationships.”

Heldebrandt of Mattoon is public relations director at Booth Library and adjunct instructor of journalism at Eastern Illinois University.

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