1001 S. Wright St., Champaign, IL 61820 | Summer Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-4:00 | hello.ymca@universityymca.org  |  (217) 337-1500

Distinguished Service Award

John Jordan (Community), Liz Soellner (Student), 2023-24 Recipients

About the Honoree

Established by the Board of Governors, this award recognizes individuals who epitomize a core value of the University YMCA: service to others and the community.

About the Award

Presented to students, staff or community members who have shown involvement and commitment to programs and leadership at the University YMCA. The Distinguished Service Award will go to one Student, and one other person who stands out as extraordinary among those nominated. Nominations arise from involvement with any of the University YMCA programs and the University YMCA as a whole.

John Jordan (Community), Liz Soellner (Student), 2023-24 Recipients

After growing up in north central Illinois and building on a rich career in campus ministry work, John Jordan first became involved at the University Y as a staff member, when he was hired as Executive Director in January of 1990. For a decade he served admirably in this role. During his tenure, the Y saw a growth in student participation with several student groups emerging or joining as affiliated organizations. He also successfully oversaw the rebuilding of our endowment, which had dwindled in previous years. And he led a successful Capital Campaign for the organization, the first in many years.

Since his retirement in 1999, John has remained actively engaged at the Y as a supporter and volunteer. Most recently, he served on the 150th Anniversary Planning Committee, helping to plan our Celebration on Sept. 30 of last year, participating in outreach and engagement, and contributing to several working groups throughout the 2 year planning process. In recent years John has also volunteered at Dump & Run for both collections and the Big Sale, spoken at Friday Forum, helped with the Annual Dinner & Auction, and been a member of asking teams for our past two Major Funds Campaigns.

For over 30 years John has been an active member of the University YMCA community, offering his time and institutional knowledge whenever needed. For all of us love the University Y, there have been few as consistently dedicated to advancing our mission and preserving our rich history as John Jordan.


Liz Soellner is a Senior at the University of Illinois studying Neuroscience and Sociology. Coming from the small, rural town of Chester, IL, Liz was keenly aware early on how few students from rural areas were attending Illinois. This prompted her in 2022 to co-found Rural Area Student Initiative (RASI), a new student organization that strives to support UIUC students from rural areas as they transition to higher education, and provide resources to current high school students interested in higher education.

As the co-founder she was instrumental in the creation of this group, but has also played a critical role as its President for the past two years. As the only Registered Student Organization on campus dedicated exclusively to supporting rural students, she has helped to build a community for an underserved population on campus. She successfully led RASI in applying for membership as an affiliated student organization at the Y, and since then has worked closely with Y staff on strategies to grow the group, fundraise for their mentoring and Liaison programs, and actively participated in Y programming and the Student Board.

This past year she led RASI’s team at the Shark Tank 150, for their project on Nurturing Rural Roots, Fostering College Futures, and has spoken at multiple conferences, podcasts, and panels on her work with the organization. Beyond RASI Liz has also served in other leadership roles, including on the Board of the Governors for the Y during the spring and summer of 2023, the Student Board of the Y, as a Chancellor’s Scholar in the Campus Honors Program, and volunteering for Crisis Nursery in Champaign. For over two years she has been a Research Assistant in the Auerbach Lab at the Beckman Institute, aiding in the study of sensory processing and neural plasticity in autism spectrum disorders, as well as conducting her own research project as a Beckman Institute Undergraduate Fellow.

Liz's leadership within RASI has provided community, resources, and support for a minority group of students on campus. Her ability to forge connections, inspire change, and address the unique needs of rural students exemplifies the essence of dedicated service and exceptional leadership.

Past Award Recipients

2024: John Jordan, Liz Soellner

2023: Belinda Guillen, Lily Lainson, Ross Wantland

2022: Cassie Carroll, Sydney Curts

2021: Steve Rugg, Cheyenne Wendell

2020: Joseph Guyette, Joseph Vitosky, and elizaBeth Simpson

2019: Nishant Makhijani, Rebecca Vining, and Priya Vaikuntapathi

2018: Nancy Dietrich, Catherine Schmid, and MJ Oviatt

2017: Ricardo Diaz and Lorenzo Grego

2016: Ruta Rauber, Benjamin Daniels and Catherine Kemp

2015: Mauricio Salinas and Nate Lawrence

2014: Lorenzo Macedo and Sally Feng

2013: Geoff Merritt and Allie Wojtowicz

2012: Lucia Maldonado, Grace Kyung, and Laura Frasz

2011: Adrienne Harris, Rebecca Long, and Martha Webber

2010: Matt Rosenstein, Suhail Barot

2009: Walter Manske, Laura Gutierrez, Adam Reisberg

2008: Cassie Carroll, Michael Polito

2007: Tom Seals, Nikki Khan

2006: Sonja Kassal, Jacob Spendelow

2005: Glenn Stout, Meghan Sullivan, Queenie Tsui

2004: Walt McMahon, Matt Cheney, Jon Fisher

2003: Helen Sattherthwaite, Lori Kae Schwab

2002: Geoff Merritt, Andy Vaughn

2001: Ellie Kron, Danielle Marino

2000: Erin Krejci, Chantel Brennan, Aimee Rickman

1999: Mary Beastall, Jon Dolle

1997: Ray Leuthold, Keisha Williams

1996: Carl Bouton, Sonju Walker

1995: Stephen A. Douglas, Christopher Ramirez

1994: William Riley, Hazel Spitze, Joanne Lagattolla, Steve Frankel

1992: Tom Seals, Abbie Illenberger

1993: Jack Brighton, Tania Schusler

1991: Edith Buhs, Joanne Wells

1981: John W. Thompson

1980: Sherri Sandberg