Alumni Award of Excellence recipients speak at DGN

Vanessa Kamman, Feature Editor

Each year, DGN awards the Alumni Award of Excellence to alumni who have demonstrated outstanding contributions in society. This year, two of the three alumni that received the award came back to speak to students about their experiences at North and their current jobs, Dr. Christine Todd and Staff Sergeant Kristen Bowers.

Dr. Christine Todd graduated from Downers Grove North in 1985. Todd did not know that she wanted to be a doctor until taking a career test her sophomore year of high school and receiving “doctor” as the first match. There were no doctors in her family, but she really liked science and helping people, so it seemed like a good fit. After high school, she attended the University of Chicago and graduated with an English degree. She then attended medical school at Southern Illinois University. Todd’s specialty is internal medicine, focusing on diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases.

In addition to practicing medicine, Todd is also a professor and Head of the Department of Medical Humanities at Southern Illinois University, where she focuses on patient safety, allowing her to combine her interest in humanities and medicine.

Staff Sergeant Kristen Bowers graduated from Downers Grove North in 2002 and then attended Indiana University, earning a bachelor’s degree in music and later a master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Bowers says that not everyone in her life was always supportive of her decision to study music.

“There were people in my life at school, at church, outside in the community, who were like, ‘you’re gonna be a music major?’,” Bowers said during her presentation at DGN.

Bowers herself questioned if she was good enough to play the clarinet professionally. It was not until a music college prep camp at Indiana University when Bowers played for a professor in a mock audition, and he assured her that she was good enough to pursue music.

After graduating, Bowers found herself questioning her music career again as she continued to attend strenuous auditions with no success.

To pay the bills, Bower taught music lessons to 30-40 students a week, until receiving a position in the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.

“Mentally, I needed to know that I could win one [a job],” Bowers said.

Getting that job gave Bowers the confidence to try out for the U.S. Air Force band in another strenuous audition process. She got the job, and later auditioned for the U.S. Marine band, playing at Arlington National Cemetery for veteran funerals and providing music at the White House.

Though Bowers struggled at first to find a job, she believes that she now plays for the best band in the world and encourages others to follow their passions.

“If you know that you want to do music or art or one of those fields that’s a little bit riskier… go for it,” Bowers said.