ACE Names Illinois Resident Mario Sankis 2015 Student of the Year
February 24, 2016

​Mario Sankis, a former Marine, retired police officer and cancer survivor who attends Eastern Illinois University and plans a legal career, is ACE’s 2015 Student of the Year.

Sankis, 35, of Round Lake Beach, IL, will be presented with the honor at ACE2016, ACE’s 98th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, during the March 14 morning plenary session.

The Student of the Year Award, formerly the Adult Learner of the Year, is presented annually by ACE to an individual who has benefited academically or professionally from the use of ACE credit recommendations for workforce or military training. Recipients must demonstrate outstanding achievements in their community or workplace while successfully balancing demands such as family, career and education.

“I am fortunate to attend an institution such as Eastern Illinois University (EIU), which accepted the ACE credit recommendations I earned through my military training and experiences,” Sankis said. “I look forward to graduating this spring with my bachelor’s degree in General Studies and then pursue a law degree and ultimately achieve my goal of becoming a judge.”

ACE's College Credit Recommendation Service and Military Evaluations are forms of credit for prior learning. The programs evaluate employers' workplace education and training programs, or military courses and occupations, and recommend academic credit when that learning is college level.

Sankis served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999-2003, including as a military police officer assigned to the HMX-1 Presidential Helicopter Squadron under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He also was a police officer for more than a decade in Washington, DC, and Round Lake Beach.

He survived cancer after being diagnosed with the disease at age 30. He retired from the Round Lake Beach Police Department in 2014 because of a neurological disease that prevented him from physically performing his duties. Shortly before the onset of the illness, he was honored by the village of Round Lake Beach for using CPR to save the life of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

Sankis began his college career while a Round Lake Beach police officer, taking classes at the College of Lake County (IL). When he retired from the police force, he transferred to EIU, which accepted 51 hours of military credit recommendations. He was able to work to complete his degree while remaining in Round Lake Beach by completing his EIU coursework at the University Center of Lake County in Grayslake, the Harper College Professional Center (IL) in Schaumburg and online.

“Mario has selflessly served his country and his community, and his perseverance in the face of personal hardship exemplifies the qualities we seek in ACE’s Student of the Year,” said Deborah Seymour, ACE’s chief academic innovation officer. “Mario’s commitment to his education, desire to earn a degree and determination to set high goals should be an inspiration to nontraditional students everywhere.”

Sankis will receive a $500 scholarship to help continue his education.

The award was presented last year to Jeffery “L.J.” Gearhart II, a McDonald’s restaurant general manager and student at Ivy Tech Community College (IN).

ACE2016 runs March 12-15 and opens at 5 p.m. (PST) Saturday, March 12, with events that include an international welcome and networking reception, a reception for presidents and chancellors and the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner. It is the country’s premier higher education event, offering an environment of open dialogue where hundreds of senior higher education leaders will network, hear from newsmakers and share ideas for tackling common issues in practical ways.

Visit the ACE2016 website for additional information and to register. Join the conversation on Twitter at #ACEMeetSF.