Two local men with University of Illinois ties will be honored this week with the Order of Lincoln prize, the state's highest honor for achievement.
Among those being honored by the Lincoln Academy are Timothy Nugent, who has devoted his life to making college campuses accessible to students with disabilities, and Shahid Khan, entrepreneur and president of Flex-N-Gate in Urbana.
The academy, which honors the state's most distinguished citizens, either by birth or residence, will hold its convocation and investiture of laureates at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana on Saturday.
"I couldn't be happier for Tim," said Jean Driscoll, a wheelchair athlete and associate director of development in the UI's College of Applied Health Sciences. "It's neat to see how his life and contributions are being celebrated, knowing that it wasn't really that long ago that he described himself as the most hated man on campus and how he had to fight and fight for creating opportunities.
"It started with veterans, expanded to us and the rest of the world."
When she was a UI student, Driscoll said, Nugent would often cheer on the athletes at wheelchair basketball games and track competitions.
"You couldn't find a bigger fan than Tim Nugent," she said.
In 1948, Nugent founded the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services on campus. He built ramps in his garage for veterans injured in World War II who were attending the UI on the GI Bill.
He worked on curb cuts, fixed route buses with wheelchair lifts, founded the first National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, and established a fraternity for those with disabilities.
Nugent is "passionate" and a "quiet leader," said Sid Micek, president of the UI Foundation. "He's a quiet, humble guy." And not only does Nugent have a vision that he can articulate to people, but he can motivate people as well, Micek said.
The other laureate with a local connection is Khan, a native of Pakistan who graduated from the UI in 1971 with an engineering degree. He worked at Flex-N-Gate in Urbana as an engineer, went on to establish his own company, Bumper Works, and eventually acquired Flex-N-Gate in 1980.
It's now one of the country's 200 largest private companies, with 9,500 workers and manufacturing, engineering and product development locations around the world.
"We have great respect and appreciation for Shahid and all his professional and personal achievements in the community," said Molly Tracy, associate dean for advancement at the College of Engineering.
Tracy, who described Khan as an "extremely intelligent and very savvy business person" said it is valuable to have an involved alumnus who lives and works nearby as well. Through the years Khan has volunteered to serve on a number of boards, such as the Engineering Board of Visitors, the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Alumni Board as well as the department's extern program, which entails students job-shadowing engineers.
His involvement on campus has extended beyond the College of Engineering.
Shahid and his wife, Ann Khan, have supported academic programs, such as those in the College of Applied Health Sciences, College of Engineering and College of Business, athletic programs, such as the Atkins Tennis Center, as well as the Spurlock Museum, Micek said. Khan is also a member of the UI Foundation Board of Directors, and the Khans have donated to the Champaign Public Library.
"Shahid is the kind of person who has great energy and is a very caring person. He really cares about what's happening in this community and state. He sees the university as a critical factor in enhancing community development, economic development and social development," Micek said.
Attempts to reach Khan and Nugent were unsuccessful.
Other laureates with ties to the UI Foundation include Tom Siebel, Doris Christopher and Mannie Jackson, all of whom have been honored by the academy in recent years.
Other previous laureates have included former Gov. Jim Edgar, former President Ronald Reagan, poet Gwendolyn Brooks and former UI President Stanley Ikenberry.
In addition to Khan and Nugent, recipients of the Order of Lincoln this year include Richard and Mary Lackritz Gray, Chicagoans who have supported arts organizations throughout the decades; Shirley Madigan, an arts promoter and wife of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan; and Dawn Clark Netsch, a law professor and politician.
The convocation and dinner chairs this year will be Ikenberry and his wife, Judy, and current UI President Michael Hogan and his wife, Virginia Hogan.