Chamber of Commerce honors Northwestern official, names new executive director

Eugene Sunshine, NU senior vice president for business and finance, accepts an award from the Evanston Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting Wednesday night.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Eugene Sunshine, NU senior vice president for business and finance, accepts an award from the Evanston Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting Wednesday night.

Manuel Rapada, City Editor

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A Northwestern official was honored and a new executive director was named Wednesday night at the Evanston Chamber of Commerce’s annual celebration.

Leaders from major businesses and organizations around the city mixed and mingled at restaurant 27 Live, 1012 Church St., the site of the Chamber’s 93rd annual meeting. John Cahill, president of John J. Cahill, Inc., had some humorous advice to offer those aspiring to future versions of the award he was accepting.

“As you know or may not know, being businessperson of the year, you better have a business — or you’re not going to be businessperson of the year,” he said.

The Cahill business, which offers plumbing, heating and cooling services, is entering its 123rd year in Evanston, Cahill said. More than 20 current or past employees have each worked for the company for more than 30 years, according to a news release.

Cahill received the businessperson award with Eugene Sunshine, NU senior vice president for business and finance, who was named community leadership/public service person of the year.

Sunshine, a past member of the Chamber executive committee, cracked many jokes about Chamber president Dick Peach, general manager of Dempster Auto Rebuilders Inc., throughout his acceptance speech.

On behalf of the University community, particularly the students, Sunshine thanked the city’s business leaders for the recognition. Sunshine said “it takes a village” to succeed as an Evanston business.

Earlier that night, Chamber officials announced to much fanfare Elaine Kemna-Irish as the organization’s new executive director. Kemna-Irish has worked for the Chamber since 2007, according to a news release, most recently as the director of chamber operations.

As someone whose family “lives, works and plays in Evanston,” Kemna-Irish said she hoped at some point to meet all of the organization’s members.

“The Evanston Chamber of Commerce is 93 years young. It continues to be a catalyst and connection to thriving new businesses and established businesses that have gone the distance,” she said.

Susan Du contributed reporting

— Manuel Rapada

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