In just more than 50 years, more than 15,000 alumni have graduated from St. Viator and Sacred Heart of Mary high schools. Only two will be inducted as part of St. Viator High School's first Distinguished Alumni class Sunday, Oct. 21.
James Fruchterman (SVHS '78) and Dr. Mildred Olivier (SHM '78) have made an extraordinary impact on the world.
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"We established the Distinguished Alumni program to recognize the very best of our alumni," said St. Viator President Rev. Robert Egan, C.S.V.
"In presenting these awards to Jim and Mildred, we have done just that. These two graduates exemplify everything that makes the Viatorian and Sacred Heart educational traditions so vital and special."
Jim Fruchterman has been a rocket scientist, founded two of the nation's foremost optical character recognition companies and developed reading machines for people with disabilities.
He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 in recognition of his work as a pioneering social entrepreneur. He is CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit technology company based in Palo Alto, Cal.
In 1989, Fruchterman founded the nonprofit Arkenstone to produce reading machines for the blind based on the technology developed by one of his companies. Arkenstone became Benetech in 2000, and began creating new technology for people with disabilities.
He has also researched for the human rights and environmental conservation communities. Benetech's programs include Bookshare, the world's largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities.
Dr. Mildred Olivier is a glaucoma specialist. Since 1993, Dr. Olivier has led regular medical missions to Haiti several times a year, bringing medical equipment, other practitioners and training programs for the local Haitian doctors. An estimated 17,000 patients have been helped by Dr. Olivier, her colleagues and others she has helped train.
Dr. Olivier practices in Chicago and the Northwest suburbs. She serves as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Olympia Fields Osteopathic Medical Center and Cook County Hospitals.
In her practice she is affiliated with a number of leading hospitals in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. She is the recipient of the 2011 Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine. Presented by the American Medical Association, the award recognizes physicians who have dramatically improved medical practice, education, or research for an international patient population.
Dr. Olivier initiated research on the substitution of diode laser treatments instead of scarce, costly medications for primary open angle glaucoma patients. She is working with a team to identify markers for glaucoma through registration and genetic sampling of families in Haiti with high incidence of the disease.
"The process of evaluating the nominees was very thorough and detailed," said Mary Maher, executive director of St. Viator's Office of Institutional Advancement.
"The committee had very vigorous discussions that led to the selection of two individuals who truly fulfill the criteria that were established and who stand as extraordinary examples of the Viatorian mission."
A select committee of alumni, faculty, and community leaders worked to find a new way to recognize distinguished alumni from St. Viator and Sacred Heart, which closed in 1987. The Oct. 21 recognition event coincides with the Feast of St. Viator. A new recognition wall for the Distinguished Alumni recipients will also be unveiled on that day.
"Our committee received many outstanding nominations," said Jim Banaszak, committee member and 1979 graduate of St. Viator. "We look forward to honoring Jim and Mildred this year and more outstanding alumni in the years to come."
Visit www.saintviator.com for more information on the recipients and the Oct. 21 ceremony.