Purdue University Northwest (PNW) will honor Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., the Honorable Diane Kavadias Schneider and Jeff Strack, president and CEO of Indiana Grocery Group, as its third annual PNW Alumni Hall of Fame class.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome these three accomplished PNW alumni and friends of the university to our Alumni Hall of Fame,” said PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon. “They have remained loyally connected and integrally involved in PNW’s forward direction as a catalyst for our region. Their induction attests to their fervor in helping make Northwest Indiana the best place it can be for its community members.”
PNW’s Alumni Hall of Fame honors alumni who are high-achieving leaders in their fields, involved members of their communities and who have engaged with PNW well beyond their time as students. The three 2024 inductees will be honored April 4 during a reception and dinner hosted in Alumni Hall in the Student Union and Library Building on PNW’s Hammond campus.
“The PNW alumni office is looking forward to honoring Mayor McDermott, Judge Kavadias Schneider and Jeff Strack in the 2024 PNW Alumni Hall of Fame,” said Katie Holderby, director of Alumni Engagement at PNW. “Their achievements, accomplishments and generosity will be celebrated and inspire others to reach greater heights.”
Ticket and sponsorship information will be announced in early 2024. A percentage of registration proceeds will support the PNW Alumni Legacy scholarship.
In spring 2023, PNW inducted three impactful alumni in its second annual class, including Robert Johnson III, Stewart “Stu” McMillan and Alfredo “Al” Sori. Johnson serves as President and CEO of Cimcor, Inc. in Merrillville, Indiana. McMillan is the founder of the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative (MAAC) Foundation in Valparaiso, Indiana. Sori led a distinguished career with Kiewit Corporation, one of North America’s largest construction and engineering organizations.
David A. Roberts, retired chairman, president and CEO of Carlisle Companies Inc., was the inaugural PNW Alumni Hall of Fame inductee in 2022. Roberts is a longtime supporter of STEM education and PNW developments that benefit the Northwest Indiana community, including the Roberts Impact Lab, the David Roberts Center for Innovation and Design, and the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center.
For more information, visit pnw.edu/hall-of-fame.
About the 2024 honorees
Thomas McDermott, Jr. (B.S. ‘96)
Thomas McDermott Jr. is the 20th mayor of the city of Hammond. He earned his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Finance from PNW in 1996. He then earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2000. As mayor, he has supported Purdue Northwest in its mission and growth. The city’s College Bound program has allowed hundreds of Hammond residents to attend PNW, achieving their goals of higher education and supporting the university. When the city planned the opening of its only charter school, Hammond Academy of Science and Technology (HAST), McDermott turned to PNW’s School of Education and Counseling to help write the curriculum. McDermott, an avid sports fan and supporter, has helped set aside land at Dowling Park for the benefit of several Pride Athletics programs, such as baseball, soccer, softball and tennis. Dowling Park is now a premier facility for both Hammond and PNW. The investment additionally helped Pride Athletics elevate to the NCAA Division II level. McDermott also serves on the PNW Chancellor’s advisory board. As he enters his sixth term, McDermott looks forward to continuing an outstanding relationship with PNW as Hammond’s mayor and as a proud alumnus.
The Honorable Diane Kavadias Schneider (B.A. ‘71, M.A. ‘74, M.A. ‘23)
The Honorable Diane Kavadias Schneider is a Northwest Indiana native and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from PNW in 1971. She earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Judge Schneider went on to become the first female judge of the Civil Division of the Lake Superior Court in 2000, and previously served as Court Administrator in the Juvenile Division and Magistrate in the County Division. She has served on boards of the Lake County Bar Association, Indiana State Bar Association and the Indiana WINGS Guardianship Task Force. Under her direction and in partnership with Franciscan Health, Lake County became the first Indiana county to have a volunteer guardianship program. Judge Schneider retired in 2019 after 33 years of service in the courts and now resides in Florida with her husband, David R. Schneider, retired Lake County Chief Public Defender. In spring 2023, Judge Schneider delivered the PNW spring commencement keynote address and was awarded her Master of Arts (M.A.) in English. Judge Schneider and David also established a scholarship at PNW that will support Criminal Justice students in perpetuity.
Jeff Strack (M.B.A. ‘00)
Jeff Strack is the president and CEO of Indiana Grocery Group, which does business as and operates Strack & Van Til stores. He received his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Purdue Northwest in 2000. Strack & Van Til has grown to 23 locations, with a focus on providing an exceptional shopping experience, clean stores, product variety and solutions that continually evolve to meet community needs. Jeff Strack’s leadership fosters a practice for management team members to be involved in civic and volunteer engagement. Beyond providing and supporting nourishment to local communities, Strack & Van Til stores have supported schools, veterans, first responders, local sports teams, women’s shelters and more. Jeff Strack has additionally given back to the community through service on boards such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana; One Region’s opportunity council; St. Catherine Hospital; Tradewinds Services, Inc.; and United Way Northwest Indiana. Strack also devotes time to his alma mater by mentoring PNW College of Business students, serving on the College of Business advisory board and serving on the PNW Chancellor’s advisory board.