N-G Exclusive: Rauner to appoint 2 Alumni Association board members as UI trustees
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SPRINGFIELD — Two Chicago business executives will join the University of Illinois Board of Trustees next month if their appointments are confirmed by the Illinois Senate.
Tuesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to name Jill Smart, former global head of human resources for Accenture, and Ramon Cepeda, senior vice president of The Northern Trust Co., to the UI board, The News-Gazette has learned.
They will fill the seats formerly held by Democrats Chris Kennedy and Pamela Strobel, whose six-year terms expired in January.
Smart is a 1981 graduate of the College of Business at the UI's Urbana campus, and Cepeda earned a criminal justice degree from the UI-Chicago in 1990. Both serve on the board of the UI Alumni Association.
Cepeda was included on a list of "Democrats and Independents for Rauner" released last March and contributed $250 to Rauner's campaign, according to records at the State Board of Elections.
He has worked at Northern Trust since 2007. He oversees the commercial real estate group, which he created in 2010, and is managing director of the wealth management division. His team works with "high net worth clients" to offer real-estate loans on retail, multi-family, student housing and office properties, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Cepeda previously worked for LaSalle Bank, now Bank of America, as first vice president in the commercial real estate group. He was responsible for construction and acquisition loans throughout the Midwest. He also worked for Second Federal Savings and Loan and Source One Mortgage.
Cepeda was named a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow in 2011, a member of "Who's Who in Hispanic Chicago" in June 2014 by the national publication Negocios Now, and one of the "Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S." by Hispanic Business Magazine in 2010.
He is also a trustee at the nonprofit lending agency IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Former UI Trustee Carlos Tortolero is president and founder of that museum.
Smart spent more than 30 years with Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, before retiring in August 2014. As chief human resources officer for 10 years, she was responsible for personnel management of more than 280,000 employees worldwide and was a strong advocate for investing in employee training and development. She previously was a business integration consultant for clients in government, financial services, transportation and health services.
Smart was named one of the "100 Most Influential Women in Chicago" by Crain's Chicago Business in 2004.
Currently, she is president of the nonprofit National Academy of Human Resources.
She has maintained close ties to the UI, currently serving as secretary on the Alumni Association board and a member of the Dean's Business Council and Illinois Business Consulting's Advisory Board. She frequently speaks to students and has worked as an adjunct professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations, co-teaching a management class, according to UI publications.
She and her husband, UI Chicago alumnus Stephen Smart, are longtime UI donors, with annual gifts to business and athletics. In a 2012 profile, the Smarts said the university "opened doors" for them and they feel a responsibility to give back.
"We can see that our gifts make a difference," said Jill Smart, who described herself as the "world's greatest Illini fan."
Smart has served as a director of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, a trustee at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, a member of the Civic Committee of the Chicago Commercial Club, and a trustee for the Accenture Foundation, a public charity that supports educational activities and disaster relief efforts.
Smart has said her favorite volunteer activity was being a "room mom" for her two children and sitting on the school board.
Smart received her UI bachelor's degree in business administration and later a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. She recently was honored with the UI College of Business Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award.