Elmhurst's York High School to honor 6 Dukes of Distinction Nov. 4

  • This year, Elmhurst Unit District 205 will be honoring six "Dukes of Distinction." Clockwise from upper left, John Aravosis, Dr. Joseph Collins,  Dr. George Williams, Jerome Rich, Bruce Mather, and Dr. Rachel Elliott.

    This year, Elmhurst Unit District 205 will be honoring six "Dukes of Distinction." Clockwise from upper left, John Aravosis, Dr. Joseph Collins, Dr. George Williams, Jerome Rich, Bruce Mather, and Dr. Rachel Elliott. Courtesy of Elmhurst Unit District 205

Updated 10/25/2021 12:28 PM

The York Distinguished Alumni Program has named six "Dukes of Distinction" honorees for 2021. These are exemplary alumni who have made significant or extraordinary accomplishments, service, and an outstanding contribution to society.

In 2013, Elmhurst Unit District 205 launched the York Distinguished Alumni Program.


"These exemplary alumni are wonderful role models and mentors for our students, and help raise the expectations of all of our students," said Superintendent Keisha Campbell.

This year's "Dukes of Distinction" will be honored Thursday, Nov. 4. The evening will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by a recognition program at 7 p.m. in the York Commons.

The event is free and open to the public. The following day, the honored Dukes will visit classrooms and talk with students in both large and small group settings. View past Dukes of Distinction at www.elmhurst205.org.

The honorees for 2021 are:

• John Aravosis, Class of 1981, is a lawyer, journalist and LGBT advocate. He created one of the first online grass-roots networks in 1995 for the Children's Defense Fund and started his own global internet consulting business in 1997.

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Aravosis went on to become The Economist magazine's first correspondent covering the internet and society; and then launched an online media company, AMERICAblog, called "recommended-reading" by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and PC Magazine. The Washingtonian magazine's annual "50 Best Journalists" issue listed Aravosis alongside CNN's Jake Tapper as one of "journalism's rising stars."

Aravosis also has run a number of high-profile LGBT advocacy campaigns and was twice chosen for the "Out 100" as one of the most compelling LGBT people of the year. He received his bachelor's degree in rhetoric at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and joint Juris Doctor and Master's in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

• Dr. Joseph Collins, Class of 1972, has had a distinguished career as a physician and teacher at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He received the Distinguished Mayo Clinician Award in 2004, a singular honor from his peers for his dedication to patient care and acclaimed expertise.

A gifted and respected teacher, he has won a multitude of awards, including 2002 Educator of the Year in Medical and Laboratory Specialties; Outstanding Faculty Member in 2010 and 2014; Top Faculty Member 2016; Radiology Educator of the Year Award 2014, 2016, and 2018. He has more than 40 peer-reviewed published articles or book chapters and numerous national and international invited lectures.


He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and earned his M.D. from the University of Illinois. Collins studied at Queen Square in London, England and completed his residency in radiology from the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Minnesota.

• Dr. Rachel Elliot, Class of 1984, is an aerospace engineer and an advocate for LGBT individuals. She also has a passion for lifelong learning, a trait, she said, was first instilled in her by the faculty at York. She earned her bachelor's in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1989, completed her master's in mechanical engineering in 2011, and her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2021.

Her first post-college job was supporting fighter jets in Texas. Since then, she has worked on commercial aircraft with Boeing, on an airborne observatory for NASA, and many other commercial and military aircraft programs.

Elliott came out as a transgender woman in 2013, and since then has facilitated support groups for transgender youth and adults and has advised many public and private organizations on LGBT rights. She has testified before the Utah legislature and partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to provide transgender awareness training. She has also served on the board of directors of the ACLU of Utah, seeking to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.

• Bruce Mather, Class of 1965, has dedicated his life to his faith, his family, his vocation and his community. A 1965 graduate of York High School, he worked his way through college and graduate school as a youth minister and a part-time employee at Elmhurst Hospital. Positions of increasing responsibility prompted him to become a licensed engineer and a member of the hospital administration. In 1980 he became the executive director for facilities management at Elmhurst College.

As a forward-thinking leader he worked to transform the college into a modern, beautiful and welcoming institution while developing the campus into a nationally recognized registered arboretum. His concern for the environment led to innovative programs and facilities that emphasize sustainability and conservation of natural resources. The college's West Hall received many awards including national recognition as a LEED Gold building for its green initiatives.

He founded a regional facilities association and has served as an officer in national and international organizations. He has been a leader in various churches throughout his lifetime.

• Jerome Rich, Class of 1956, is the architect and owner of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, a golf course that is consistently ranked in Golf Digest's "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses." After graduating from Northern Illinois University in 1961 with a degree in mathematics and earth science, he joined his father's company, Rich Inc. In the 1970s, he revolutionized the way Wall Street trading is done, and still done today, with the development of the integrated trading terminal.

He is most proud of the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois, a nonprofit junior golf organization housed at Rich Harvest Farms, which he founded with lifelong friend Don Springer in 1998. Since its inception, the foundation has introduced 250,000 kids throughout Illinois to the sport of golf. In addition, Rich has hosted more than 50 amateur, collegiate, and professional tournaments during the past 20 years, including the 2009 Solheim Cup, the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Golf Championships, and the 2021 Arnold Palmer Cup.

• Dr. George Williams, Class of 1970, is chief of the department of ophthalmology and director of the Beaumont Eye Institute at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. He also serves as professor and chair of ophthalmology at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and is professor at the European School for Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology in Lugano, Switzerland.

He has published more than 250 articles and book chapters in his field, has participated in more than 30 clinical trials and delivered 25 named lectureships around the world. As former president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and active board member, he is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the AAO. He is an associate editor for surgical techniques for the journal RETINA. Williams is a recertified Diplomate (2005, 2016) of the American Board of Ophthalmology and an elected Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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