North High to Recognize Two Alumni with "Awards of Excellence"

North High to Recognize Two Alumni with "Awards of Excellence"

Downers Grove North High School has selected two alumni members to receive its “Alumni Award of Excellence” for 2016. Erica Lynette Edwards, Class of 1998, and Dr. Burr Eichelman, Class of 1961, will be recognized at the all-school homecoming assembly, parade and reception on Friday, September 23. Edwards and Dr. Eichelman will also visit classrooms to share their stories with students.

“Both Erica Edwards and Dr. Eichelman are truly remarkable people, and we are extremely proud that they had their start right here at DGN,” says North High Principal Janice Schwarze. “We’re grateful that they will be returning to our school during our homecoming week, and know they will both serve as an inspiration to our entire student body.”

Edwards photo

Erica Lynette Edwards graduated from Downers Grove North High School in 1998 and received an associate of arts degree from Butler University in Indiana on talent, academic and leadership scholarships. She danced with The Joffrey Ballet for 15 seasons, and was one of the first prestigious Arpino Apprentice program dancers in 2000. As a Joffrey dancer, she performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. Her vast repertoire includes Cinderella (Fairy Godmother), The Nutcracker, and Le Sacre du Printemps (Chosen One).

Edwards believes in the importance of sharing the experience of dance with others, and she teaches at various community, school, and outreach programs throughout Chicagoland. In 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times spotlighted Erica as a "Black History Maker," and in 2002, she was The Joffrey's nominee for the Princess Grace Foundation Award. Ebony magazine featured Edwards as a Young Leader of the Future in the Arts in February 2003. She is featured with The Joffrey Ballet in Robert Altman's movie, The Company. Her pictures serve as the face for many marketing campaigns and she is even presented in the children's book "Beautiful Ballerinas" as a famous ballerina.

After retiring as a ballerina in 2014, Edwards now serves as the Joffrey Ballet’s director of community engagement. In this role, she is responsible for managing all Joffrey educational programs throughout public, parochial and private schools in Chicago as well as in the Chicago Park District and the community. She also seeks to increase access, awareness, and appreciation for the art of dance. Her belief is that all students in Chicago Public Schools should have access to high quality arts programming, and that it is transformational for students of all ages.

When asked what message Edwards would share for current DGN students, Edwards advised them to “be creative, get involved, volunteer and be kind” and to be grateful for what they have and push for more.

Eichelman photo

Dr. Burr Eichelman is a distinguished physician, educator and neuroscientist. After graduating as valedictorian from Downers Grove High School in 1961, Dr. Eichelman received a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology, a master’s degree in medicine and a doctorate in biopsychology from The University of Chicago. He served his internship in pediatrics at The University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, and was a resident at Stanford University Medical Center. He has served on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was also a faculty member at the University of North Carolina and a department chair at Temple University. Throughout his long career, he has published hundreds of research articles for medical journals and served in numerous appointments at UW, UNC and Temple. Dr. Eichelman has also received abundant honors and awards, including being elected a “fellow” of the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He was named by the Consumer Research Council of America as one of “America’s Top Psychiatrists” and “Best Doctors in America.” He has continuously taught in college and medical schools, both in the classroom and clinical settings, for four decades, serving on numerous research and review committees at hospitals. Dr. Eichelman has consulted with organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, National Science Foundation, and Food and Drug Administration. He also served as a consultant for the Hollywood movie “Twelve Monkeys,” starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. He has served as a referee for the American Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Physiology, JAMA, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and other medial publications. Presently, Dr. Eichelman is emeritus professor of psychiatry at UW.

Dr. Eichelman shares that the accomplishments of which he is most proud include watching both his children and grandchildren grow into their lives, and the success of his students as their careers have matured and blossomed.

The “Alumni Award of Excellence” program was designed to recognize graduates of North High who have contributed in an exceptional manner to society, whether in the areas of science, government, community, humanitarianism, athletics or fine arts. This highest of Alumni awards recognizes those who have exhibited outstanding leadership, character and service.

Details about the program and a list of past recipients may be found at