Central Illinois Business' 40 under 40


Listen to this article

Meet the Woman of the Year and the Man of the Year, selected by Central Illinois Business Magazine as part of its eighth annual Forty Under 40 Awards.

The awards recognize the achievements, leadership, innovation, experience and community involvement of young professionals.

Winners will be recognized in the October-November issue of the magazine, which is published by The News-Gazette, and at an awards lunch Oct. 8.

See Sunday's News-Gazette for the complete list of 40 under 40.

Woman of the Year: Stacey LaBrecque Cole, 38, of Champaign

— Work: Associate director of development at the University of Illinois College of ACES.

— At home: Husband Terry "T.C." Cole Jr., and kids Kody LaBrecque, 19, Jazzmine Cole, 13, and Terry "Tre" Cole III, 6.

— Education: Associate's degree from Parkland College in general studies and bachelor's degree in liberal studies from UI.

— Community contributions: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, media spokesperson for Parenting with Love & Limits program, fundraising chair for Centennial High School JV & Varsity Cheerleading, UI College of ACES Student Advancement Committee advisor, involved with National Alliance on Mental Illness and this year addressed the Illinois House of Representatives on Isolation of Families and Barriers to Care.

— Free time fun: Watches court shows on TV, listens to Dr. Laura on SiriusXM Radio and is an enthusiastic seller on VarageSale.

1. What's the best decision you ever made, and how has it affected your life?

Investing in my son, Kody, and other families negotiating mental health and behavioral challenges. Through this experience I discovered that taking action isn't just one way. It's the only way. I crashed down and I stumbled, but I did not crumble. You can't live a positive life with a negative mind.

One part of that decision: She raised nearly $12,000 through GoFundMe to help get her son residential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It changed the lens through which she sees things, and she learned a worried mother does better research than the FBI.

2. What's the best advice you ever received?

Never let anyone dim your shine.

3. What's your one unbreakable rule?

Never give up.

4. What's the hardest thing about being a leader?

Learning that I can't do everything. There are so many things that I want to do.

5. What was your first job?

I walked beans (at age 14 or 15) but I only did it for a day. A grasshopper flew on me in the country and I freaked out.

Her first jobs that lasted longer than when she was a teen were working as a telemarketer for Olan Mills Portrait Studios and working at Ultimate Tan, but she considers her most important first job ever being a teenage mom at age 19.


Man of the Year: Matt Difanis, 39, of Mahomet

— Work: Realtor and co-owner RE/MAX Realty Associates.

— At Home: Wife, Angelle, and kids, 10-year-old son, Gabriel, and 7-year-old daughter, Isabelle.

— Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Illinois and JD from UI College of Law.

— Community contributions: Volunteer photographer for Central Illinois Honor Flight, president of Mahomet Area Youth Club, 2012 president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors and 2013 Realtor of the Year.

— Free time fun: Enjoys running, bicycling and photography. He's run 11 full marathons.

1. What's the best decision you ever made, and how has it affected your life?

I got married at age 20, and that was by far the best decision. Not only have we been a good, feisty, fascinating match, but my whole career has been self-employment. I couldn't have had a career of self employment if I hadn't been married to someone (Angelle, a nurse practitioner at Carle) with a real job.

2. What's the best advice you've ever received?

Pick partners who will raise your game, people who give you an opportunity to elevate to the high level they've achieved.

3. What's your one unbreakable rule?

Tell people the truth, even when it's not what they want to hear, even when it's going to hurt.

Even when he's had to be the bearer of unpleasant news with clients about their homes, he said, he knows they're better served with the truth.

4. What's the hardest thing about being a leader?

Having to give candid feedback to people. And the other part of that would be there are a lot of leaders who fail to lead by example, and I always try to stay sensitive to the fact that I need to lead by example. I need to practice what I preach.

5. What was your first job?

I have four younger sisters. I was an enterprising and very much in demand babysitter. I stayed very busy as a professional babysitter starting at age 12 or so. ... It didn't work when I tried to explain to my wife that I'd already satisfied my lifetime quota of diaper changing.

Here are the rest of the award winners:

 Here are the other winners:

  • Sarah Addison, Illini Radio Group
  • Ajith Antony, Riverbed Technology 
  • Jonathan Ashbrook, IC Engineering, Finisar Corporation 
  • Kayla Banks, Carle Foundation Hospital 
  • Jennifer Bechtel, Innovation and Sustainability LLCs, University of Illinois 
  • Mist Bell, Urban Ministries; MTB & Associates; Community Elements; Parkland College 
  • Kathryn Bermingham, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP 
  • Laura Beyer, Clark-Lindsey 
  • Brandon Boys, City of Urbana 
  • Alicia Burge, Urbana High School 
  • Jennifer Carlson, Developmental Services Center 
  • Gregory Damhorst M.D./Ph.D., student in AIDS research, University of Illinois 
  • John Deckert, Coordinated Legal Services, P.C. 
  • Emma Dorantes, Dodd & Maatuka Law Offices 
  • Kyle Emkes, Dodd and Maatuka Law Offices 
  • Chris Engelbrecht, Engelbrecht Grills & Cookers 
  • Michelle Grindley, Human Kinetics 
  • Joseph Guyette, Heyl Royster 
  • Erika Hackman, Parkland College 
  • Michael Harden, Caribbean Grill, CG Signature Events 
  • Patrick Harrington, Harrington and Tock 
  • Jay Hooper, Champaign Centennial High School 
  • Jameel Jones, Champaign Park District 
  • Mary Konken, Girls on the Run, Stephens Family YMCA 
  • Jennifer McCaffrey, University of Illinois Extension 
  • Robert Meister, Minneci’s at the Crossing 
  • Charles Mockbee IV, Vermilion County State’s Attorney Office 
  • Crystal Odoms, Busey Bank 
  • John Olson, Federal Companies 
  • Brad Petersen, University of Illinois, College of Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Andy Roberts, Illini Radio Group 
  • Amy Sage, The Andersons, Inc. 
  • Matthew Schweighart, The Law Firm of Erwin, Martinkus, & Cole 
  • Miranda Soucie, Spiros Law, P.C. 
  • Billy Stull, Stephens and Stull, P.C. 
  • Bradley Uken, Champaign County Farm Bureau 
  • Dan Waldinger, Village of Mahomet 
  • Angela Wolters, Women in Engineering, University of Illinois 


Trending Videos