Welcome to Peoria Magazine’s November edition, in which we again shine a spotlight on 40 of the most promising young leaders in the area and say, “Hey, central Illinois, hitch your wagon to these rising stars!”
Indeed, 2023 has produced another stellar crop of Forty Under 40s, ranging in age from 27 to 39, cutting across multiple careers and contributions. But what’s striking about this group is the admirable way so many have triumphed over the adversity in their lives.
Brynne Behringer lost her 36-year-old husband unexpectedly late last year, leaving her with three young children under the age 6 to raise. But as a working single parent who needed to cope not just with her grief but all of her other daily obligations, she put her head down and persisted at Central States Marketing, where she has risen to partner and senior project manager. As a descendant of Grace O’Malley, the so-called “Irish pirate queen” whose 16th century life inspired a 21st century Broadway musical, perhaps that resilience is in her DNA.
Others have not allowed physical disability or other health issues to derail them and their ambitions. Stephen Kouri, a Peoria attorney, was born with cerebral palsy, succeeded beyond all expectations and now advocates for others. Lisa Repper, a senior engineering team leader at Caterpillar, has excelled while managing her diabetes since age 4. Brent Cross, a director and innovation engineer at OSF HealthCare, has learned to live and work with his epilepsy. Caleb Wyss of CORE Construction suffered — and recovered from — a stroke at age 31. In so many cases, their personal struggles have given them the empathy and the tools to help others.
Others have stretched the definition of giving in ways that make it hard for mere mortals to compete. Andrew Kitterman, a physician assistant, not only works in an environment that requires uncommon compassion, he donated bone marrow to an anonymous cancer patient.
Carolina Huser, development manager at Peoria Riverfront Museum, and David Aduama, communications manager at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, left everything they’d known in Panama and Ghana, respectively, to come to America and ultimately Peoria, where they found cultures and languages that were largely foreign to them. That’s bravery, that’s risk-taking, and they have flourished here.
It never ceases to amaze how these young people juggle everything: demanding jobs and family commitments and the call of community service. They are inspirations.
One other thing: In answer to this year’s “Peoria needs” question, popping up repeatedly was … wait for it … a Trader Joe’s. The gauntlet has been thrown, Class of 2023. Succeed where your predecessors have failed. Get it done.
Finally, we have an announcement.
As many central Illinoisans are aware, WTVP is facing a very challenging time. In the last 30 days, the station has dealt with the loss of our CEO, increased financial challenges, and recent staff reductions.
As a result, the difficult decision has been made to put the magazine on pause. This is the final issue of Peoria Magazine for the foreseeable future. We appreciate all who have supported this endeavor by reading the stories we have told about the special people and places of central Illinois. WTVP is committed to continuing to tell those stories, as we have for the last 50 years.
Best to our Forty Under 40, and best to all of you.