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Jasti Rao named The Peorian of the Year

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Dr. Jasti Rao, a world leader in cancer research who is based in Peoria, is the winner of the first The Peorian of the Year Award.

Rao, head of the Department for Cancer Biology and Pharmacology as well as senior associate dean for research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, was presented the award during a reception Aug. 1 at Par-A-Dice Hotel.

Also presented was a donation of $10,000 to the Children's Hospital of Illinois. As winner of The Peorian of the Year, Rao selected the Children's Hospital as his non-profit organization to receive the donation from The Peorian magazine and its parent company, AdCo Advertising Agency Inc.

The award was established by AdCo as a way to honor a person in the Greater Peoria community who has, through work or avocation or both, has contributed to the present and the future of the area.

"Think of it as a 'good egg' award for someone in the Peoria region. A way to honor good citizenship, an award we really don't have in Peoria," said AdCo President Julie Russell. "We wanted to honor somebody for what they are doing to make Peoria a better place, as well as contribute to a non-profit organization of the winner's choice as our way of giving back and recognizing our community accomplishments."

Paul Gordon, editor of The Peorian, said going through the process of choosing The Peorian of the Year was enlightening. "It really brought into focus the amazing talent we have in Peoria, people who don't know the meaning of the word quit and have done so much for the future of Peoria. In the case of Dr. Rao, the work he is doing not only helps our future, but likely the future of people around the world," he said.

Rao, a Ph.D. and native of India, has been recognized around the world for his research into cancer, including in the decade he has been at UICOMP. In fact, he and his team of researchers have patented a process that, in a nutshell, inhibits the growth of tumors and kills cancer cells. It is still awaiting clinical trials.

Rao was the key figure in bringing to UICOMP the new Cancer Research Center on the college campus, something that would have been unlikely if not for the work he has done. With that he will be able to recruit to Peoria some top researchers to join the team he has already assembled.

Other finalists for the inaugural The Peorian of the Year Award were Glen Barton, retired chairman of Caterpillar Inc. who was one of the founders of the local Quest Charter Academy; Carl Cannon, founder of the ELITE Peoria program that works with local youth to help provide stable lives and keep them in school; Jim McConoughey, former president of the Heartland Partnership who helped establish Peoria NEXT; and Bonnie Noble, executive director of the Peoria Park District who guidance brought completion of the Rock Island-Pimiteoui Trail and improvements to the Peoria Zoo.

The finalists were chosen by a committee of officials of AdCo, The Peorian and award co-sponsor Par-A-Dice Hotel. The winner was chosen by a vote of readers of The Peorian and visitors to www.thepeorian.com.  

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).