For more than 25 years, the College of Liberal Arts has recognized the outstanding achievements of its graduates through the Distinguished Alumni Awards program. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to society, and their accomplishments, affiliations, and careers honor the legacy of excellence at Purdue University and the College of Liberal Arts.
MA 1988, Organizational Communication
Thomas Christopoul brings more than 20 years of executive management experience at international public and private growth companies to his current role as operating partner at Falconhead Capital LLC, a private investment firm in New York City.
Among Christopoul's previous positions are chairman and chief executive officer of the Marketing Services Division of Cendant Corp. Before retiring from that company in the fall of 2005, he led the strategic divestment of the division (now Affinion Group Holdings) in a sale to private equity firm Apollo Management LP for proceeds in excess of $1.8 billion. He also worked as chairman and chief executive officer of the Financial Services Division of Cendant and was director of Labor Relations for Nabisco Brands Inc.
He is an active venture capital investor through Somerset Shore Associates Inc., a private investment company he founded in 2006, and has served on a variety of boards, ranging from the September 11th Children's Fund to Rutgers University.
BS 1959, Political Science
The Honorable Jon Holstine's career in public affairs has included service to academia and government, both at home and abroad. After completing a doctorate in history at Indiana University, he taught U.S. and Asian history at Russell Sage College in New York and Thiel College in Pennsylvania. He also has taught in an adjunct capacity at numerous other institutions.
Holstine served as a professional staff member on the House International Relations Committee, headed the Asia Bureau at the Agency for International Development, taught at the National War College, and was an investigator with the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. He also served as a special advisor to the National Council of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava, Slovakia. He is president of Holstine and Associates Inc., a consulting and marketing firm. He has twice been honored for service by the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.
BA 1984, Communication
In 2011, the Chicago Tribune profiled Cheryl Pearson-McNeil as a "Remarkable Person," a moniker derived from her work both in the office and beyond. As senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen, a global leader in analytics about what consumers watch and buy, she is responsible for widening the scope of the company's government, community, and corporate social responsibility programs. She also oversees the company's philanthropic commitment to multicultural communities and leads its multimillion-dollar diversity advertising strategy and external African American Advisory Council.
Pearson-McNeil writes a humorous and informational, biweekly consumer-oriented column that showcases the $967 billion buying power of the African American consumer. The column appears in more than 200 African American newspapers across the country. She was also responsible for the development of "The State of the African American Consumer Report," Nielsen's first comprehensive compilation of trends and insights of a multicultural demographic group, created in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
BS 1966, Political Science
Over the course of her career, Marjorie Randolph drew on her legal education during her work in human resources, most recently as senior vice president for human resources and administration for Walt Disney Studios, a post she held for 15 years. Prior to her work with Disney, she was senior vice president and general counsel of Mervyn's, the California-based department store chain. During her tenure, she was responsible for risk management and human resources.
Randolph entered law school as a night student at a time when women in law school were a bit of a novelty. She received her degree from Golden Gate University in 1977. She is a member of the National Advisory Panel of Stanford University's Institute for Research on Women and Gender and is a board member of the Western Justice Center Foundation and California Trout, an environmental organization. She is president of the Board of Trustees of Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She is also a past president of California Women Lawyers.
BA 1992, Sociology
Building on a career as a strong safety and defensive captain for the Boilermakers, Rick Smith moved to football management as a defensive backs coach at Purdue and then Texas Christian University. He has continued to blend his football and people skills on a tough playing field — the gridiron. As general manager of the Houston Texans since 2008, he oversees the club's football operations, including the annual college draft.
Previously with the Denver Broncos, Smith was responsible for evaluating players from around the NFL as well as those in the Arena Football League and other professional leagues. He also was one of the Broncos' primary negotiators for player contracts. Before moving into thefront office, Smith spent four years as the Broncos' assistant defensive backs coach and earned two Super Bowl rings.
Smith was appointed to the NFL's prestigious eight-man Competition Committee in 2008 and was honored with the 2008 Tank Younger Award for outstanding work in an NFL front office.