Naperville resident Jai Shekhawat, 49, has established a tradition by enjoying his town's Ribfest with co-workers. The Fourth of July celebration has come to mean more to this native of India, who also has lived in other cities including Moscow and Vladivostok as a child during the Soviet Union era.
The CEO of Chicago-based Fieldglass Inc., which has offices in Naperville, has come to appreciate the American way of life after coming here years ago to work. He stayed with a green card, became a U.S. citizen, and later settled in Naperville, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
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He remembers becoming a citizen while in a roomful of people.
"There was no doubt in my mind that day," he said. "I was already here as a professional and paying taxes, so my experience wasn't quite like it was for many of the refugees who fled persecution. They showed up with their family and held American flags. My thoughts were on the collection of people there. They were from all walks of life and there was a feeling that we were all connected."
Shekhawat said he was glad he made the commitment to become a U.S. citizen and to move to Naperville permanently.
"In some ways, it's like those who buy their first home," he said. "For most people, that can be an emotional experience and a strong sense of permanency."
That feeling of being permanent wasn't part of his childhood. He was born in Jaipur, India, and his father, a naval officer, moved the family from city to city around India as well as the Soviet Union.
"Everywhere we moved in India, it was like another country, because each area had its own food and culture. Everything was different," he recalled.
After he earned his bachelor's degree in management science from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India, he worked as a developer for a company in New Delhi. When they said they wanted to transfer some of them to Georgia, he thought it was Soviet Georgia. It turned out to be Georgia in the United States and his first taste of American life. While his stint was supposed to be for a short time, he decided to stay, went through the immigration process and became a citizen.
Today, he's the CEO of Fieldglass, a software company he co-founded in November 1999. And among his many awards, he's also been recently named Midwest Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He's also raising his family here, including one son who recently made his own mark on Naperville.
One day when Shekhawat was walking after lunch with a colleague, they came upon an artist painting a wall mural in downtown Naperville. The city scene included faces of residents. Shekhawat and the artist began to talk, and the artist wanted to include Shekhawat's 9-year-old son, Gaurav. So Shekhawat quickly talked with a friend, who picked up his son and his young friend, and the boys soon were modeling for the mural. They were incorporated into the fabric of life there. Just like Shekhawat.
"There's no other place that could give an immigrant any type of opportunities, especially those who had just a few dollars in their pocket," he said.
Cool new stores
Kevin Visel will open two new Yumz Gourmet Frozen Yogurt stores in August, one at 1235 W. Bought Road in Bolingbrook and the other at 406 Randall Road in South Elgin. Visel, who is expecting his third child with wife, Kelsey, decided to leave his career in wedding photography to become the regional manager of the two frozen yogurt stores. The new endeavor will include Kevin's father, Daniel Visel as the main franchise investor and sister, Lauren Visel, as store manager of the South Elgin store.
Bluhm marks 1 year for casino
Midwest Gaming & Entertainment Chairman Neil Bluhm marks the 1-year anniversary of opening the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. In July 2011, he saw the culmination of about $8 million worth of options and expenses to retain the 22-acre site, 10 years of corralling investors and bucking a tough recession that nearly T-boned his efforts. The casino plans celebrations all this month.
Western DuPage Special Recreation Association volunteer Greg Bizarro ofLisle received the Charlie Long Award last week at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton. Association staff member Jorie Meyer made the presentation to a stunned Bizarro. Every Monday night, Bizarro puts aside his Jaffe Films Inc. film company and volunteers for an association program called "Video Ventures," giving participants the opportunity to work on videotaping, interviewing skills and camera work. He also helped to create a talent show, called "Special Talents" similar to American Idol, which gives people with disabilities the opportunity to perform in a nonthreatening environment. In addition, he has produced many association videos at little to no cost. The group is a cooperative extension of park districts in Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Roselle, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton and Winfield.
Choose DuPage President and CEO Greg Bedalov, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin and Elmhurst Memorial Hospital President and CEO Peter Daniels talked about local economic growth with 36 government officials from the Chinese providence of Guangdong on Friday. The delegation met at and then toured the hospital. ... Robert Condon is the new president of Lemko Europe, part of Lemko Corp. in Schaumburg. The firm distributes mobile wireless networks solutions and he'll work on expanding the company's presence with European carriers and private network operators.
Sears Holdings Corp. General Merchandise Manager of Kmart Home's Phil Elliott, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer Rob Riecker and Deputy General Counsel Stephen Sitley were among the executives who brought their children to work last week for the company's own Take Your Child to Work Day on the Hoffman Estates campus. ... Waukegan Mayor Robert G. Sabonjian joined Vista Hospital CEO Barb Martin and other members of the health care community for the grand opening of Fresenius Medical Care's Waukegan Harbor dialysis center.
Lisa M. Labiak is the new president/executive director, and board member at Serenity House Counseling Inc. and Serenity House Foundation Inc. a nonprofit, community-based substance abuse treatment facility in Addison. ... North Aurora resident Laura Poss was promoted to Family Services Division director at TriCity Family Services in Geneva. She's been at the agency since last year. ... Dr. Neel Shah has joined the staff of DuPage Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician group in Downers Grove. ... Financial Advisor Tom Thompson, of Palatine, and Branch Office Administrator Patti Bauer, of Rolling Meadows, were ranked within the top 25 percent nationwide for excellence in client service at Edward Jones in Wheeling.
Wheaton resident Nancy Zawicki, an independent director with The Pampered Chef In Addison, received the One Million Dollar Sales Award for consultants who have reached $1 million dollars in personal sales. ... James Winterstein, president for 26 years at National University of Health Science in Lombard, said last week he would retire. He'll be replaced by Joseph Stiefel, who is currently dean of the College of Professional Studies on the university's Florida campus.
Evanston resident Philip Willink has joined the Shedd Aquarium's Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research as senior research biologist. Willink will help lead the Shedd's Great Lakes initiative to build relationships with universities and government agencies, advancing the understanding of local waters, wildlife and habitats through research in order to protect them. ... Wilmette resident Chris Wright has been elected by firm partners to be managing director at ZS Associates in Evanston, a global sales and marketing consulting firm.
Dominica Tallarico becomes the new president on July 30 of Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. She most recently served as chief operating officer at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Hope Children's Hospital in South suburban Oak Lawn. Parent organization, Advocate Health Care, is based in Oak Brook.
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