As a fresh-faced student at New Trier High School in the mid-1960s, Bonnie Stern Miller understood that she had a special mission in life.
"I realized we lived a very privileged life with great education both in Glencoe and at New Trier," Miller said. "Pretty much from then on, I started working with disadvantaged kids, low-income kids." She went on to work in war-torn countries to try and end human trafficking and improve life for children.
Miller is one of 10 New Trier Township High School graduates chosen to join the third annual Alumni Hall of Honor, which honors those who embody the New Trier motto: "To commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of humanity."
The class of 2013 will receive their Alumni Achievement Awards at a dinner hosted by the New Trier Educational Foundation on March 14 at the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston.
"The 'service element' is a key part of this award," said Niki Dizon, NTHS director of communications. "What we hope to do is to inspire our students. We want them to know that fellow New Trier graduates have really accomplished extraordinary things in their lives and they are walking the same halls these alumni walked."
She said a selection committee of alumni, New Trier staff, two current students, and representatives of the New Trier Educational Foundation met several times to choose the 2013 honorees from among more than 100 nominations.
Miller, class of 1966, has devoted her life to promoting peace and helping women and children around the world, according to the school. She established the Youth for Peace program in Bosnia, publicized and worked to end human trafficking in Bosnia and Greece, and has trained educators and mental health specialists in war-ravaged countries from Iraq to Sri Lanka.
"I felt like I was among the very lucky, and wanted to go out and help people who weren't," Miller said.
Steve Fickinger, class of 1978, is a theatrical producer and a creative consultant to several major entertainment studios. He is also the former vice-president of creative development for the Disney Theatrical Group, and helped Disney launch a program to bring teaching artists and materials into schools that do not have arts programs. In addition, he works with the Los Angeles Food Mission, the Los Angeles Public Library Adult Literacy program, and the Spiritual Care Department of Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
"I don't know what wise man said it, but, 'to those who are given much, much is expected,'" Fickinger said. "When you come out of a school like New Trier, you are really set up for success. How you use that opportunity is up to you. There is a responsibility to give back."
He credits the school with allowing him to pursue a career in a field he loved even as a young man.
"What New Trier did was provide a spectrum of opportunities for you to, figuratively speaking, try different hats, coats and shoes until you actually could find one that fit you...and take it to a degree that I think another school would not have let you," he said. "It was that way that I found theater."
CNN executive vice president Susan Grant, class of 1972, also credits her time at New Trier with helping shape who she is today. She said she was very involved in the school's social service program and tutored Native American children in Bucktown.
"It was just a way to connect to places outside of the wonderfully privileged opportunities that we had to go to a school like New Trier," she said. "That's probably my favorite thing I did while I was there, along with working really hard."
Grant oversees the global news organization's digital and affiliate businesses. She is also a member of the board of Heifer International, a leading anti-hunger charity, and on the board of trustees for the Morehouse School of Medicine.
"Service was part of my life then, and it's still part of my life now," she said.
This year's honorees join 20 others inducted into the Alumni Hall of Honor since 2011, Dizon said. Some of those honorees have shared their stories with students at school-hosted discussions during the week of the awards. "
"I think the education going on at New Trier now really prepares kids for the real world, gets them involved in the real world," Miller said.
She noted that her homeroom teacher, Elizabeth Sproat, was a great inspiration because she talked about helping others and that the class even adopted a foster child.
"She was the one who said we should be thinking about people who are less fortunate, who are outside of our country," Miller said. "That was kind of a progressive thing to do, I thought."
Grant said she hopes students understand that they are living in a world where "transformative change" is happening on a daily basis. "My advice is simply to experience it all and do it without fear," she said.
Fickinger credited good teachers with out the best in students.
"They really held a high degree of expectation because the level of talent was very high," he said. "They would take burgeoning and emerging talent and they would create and foster an environment where it could really grow and blossom."
Other NTHS alumni being honored:
Bruce Alberts, class of 1956, an internationally recognized biochemist, editor of the journal Science, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, and one of the first Science Envoys appointed by President Obama. In addition to his contributions to the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology, Alberts has worked to improve science education in elementary and secondary schools.
Bobbi Brown, class of 1975, is the founder and CEO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, whose cosmetics are sold across the United States and in more than 50 countries. Brown began as a makeup artist and created her own line of lipsticks, which grew into the successful global brand. She devotes her time and funding to causes including Dress for Success and Broome Street Academy in New York.
James Hackett, class of 1972, is executive chairman of the board of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world's largest independent oil and natural gas companies. He is former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and serves on numerous charitable and corporate boards. He and his wife, Maureen, a fellow '72 graduate, have been recognized for their contributions to mental health, hospice, and other organizations.
Mary-Claire King, class of 1963, is a leading human geneticist whose accomplishments include identifying the BRCA1 gene that marks susceptibility to breast cancer. She also is credited with applying the use of genomic sequencing to identify victims of human rights abuses. King is a professor at the University of Washington and president of the American Society of Human Genetics.
W. James McNerney Jr., class of 1967, is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company, the Chicago-based aeronautics giant. McNerney, who served as CEO of 3M before joining Boeing, was appointed by President Obama as chairman of the President's Export Council, an advisory committee on international trade. He also chairs the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of major U.S. companies.
Thomas Miller, class of 1956, is a senior partner in the law firm Miller Washington & Kim, chairman of the board of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and co-founder of the Green Cities Fund, whose projects include micro-financing in war-torn Afghanistan. In 1966, he set up a reconstructive surgery hospital to treat war injured children in Vietnam and more recently helped establish the Vietnam Green Building Council.
Scott Turow, class of 1966, is a practicing attorney and best-selling author whose works include "Presumed Innocent," "One L," and "Reversible Errors." He is involved with a number of charitable causes promoting literacy, education, and legal rights and performs much of his legal work pro bono. Turow was the first chair of Illinois' Executive Ethics Commission and served on the 2000 Illinois commission to consider reform of the state's capital punishment system.