Diverse talents of Benedictine alumni converge at Naperville-based professional services firm

September 19, 2017

Photo: (from left to right) James Sullivan, C81; Mike Suglich, C82; Dan Berg, C83; and Bob Shields, C81.






Lisle, Illinois ~ Running into old friends at events like Homecoming is a pleasant experience for many Benedictine alumni, but for Mike Suglich, C82, Accounting; James Sullivan, C81, Sociology; Bob Shields, C81, Mathematics; and Dan Berg, C83, Accounting, it’s just an average day at work.

After making their mark in the professional world, the career path of these alumni eventually led them to Sikich LLP, a professional services firm specializing in accounting, technology, advisory and managerial services. The firm’s corporate headquarters is located in Naperville.

Suglich launched MAS Consulting in 1989, a small business which implemented accounting software for small, medium and enterprise companies including Arthur Andersen and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios.

In 2010, the company merged with Sikich and today Suglich is a partner in the firm’s technology practice, providing leadership and direction for other partners, managers and staff in finance, project management, customer service and business development.

Suglich came to Benedictine after hearing great reviews and meeting with former baseball coach John Ostrowski.

“My goals were simple: play baseball and keep that dream alive, get an accounting degree in four years, a job and then pay back my loans,” Suglich said.

Some of his greatest experiences at Benedictine included a summer internship that allowed him to travel to Los Angeles, Calif., and New York, N.Y., to work on audits for Consolidated Foods (now Sara Lee), and the opportunity to play in the 1980 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament hosted by the University.

“I remember former major leaguers Chet Lemon, Eric Soderholm and Jimmy Piersall working out with us and helping in practice too,” he said. “That was cool. My fondest memory though was meeting my beautiful wife, Colleen (Collins) Suglich, C82, Health Science. Thirty-three years and three beautiful children later, we remain Benedictine sweethearts.”

After graduation, he took a job automating the InterAmerican Insurance Company of Illinois manual general ledgers with Solomon III accounting software and saw an opportunity to start his own business providing a similar service as computer automation began to reshape the industry.

Today, Suglich enjoys helping to position Sikich as a top professional services firm while working alongside some of his old classmates. Both he and his wife also stay in touch with their alma mater by attending different Benedictine events and by making contributions in support of Athletics.

“I stay connected at Benedictine alumni gatherings including Homecoming football games and baseball alumni events,” he said. “I recently attended coach Ostrowski’s retirement dinner and the Athletics Golf Outing. We continue to have many friends and family who are Benedictine alumni.”

Sullivan enrolled at Benedictine after being impressed by the University’s strong faith-based community and commitment to academics.

“I had a great experience, both academically and socially,” Sullivan said. “The strength of the University was providing a great education and training people for life as productive adults.”

Outside of class, Sullivan successfully ran for senior class president and organized other social activities throughout the year, such as the Friday Afternoon Club, providing relief to students and faculty alike after a stressful school week.

He joined Sikich after serving for 12 years as inspector general for the Chicago Board of Education where he investigated allegations of waste, fraud, financial mismanagement and employee misconduct. Today, he does similar work as director of Forensic and Valuation Services at Sikich performing risk assessments for clients that help reduce the risk of fraud or the misappropriation of funds.

“What I most enjoy at Sikich is the team of professionals and our vast array of experiences that we utilize to provide best-in-class services,” Sullivan said. “Much like Benedictine, I am surrounded by good people trying to achieve a variety of goals while remaining friendly and collegial, and building off each other’s experiences and talents.”

Sullivan stays in touch with a group of Benedictine classmates annually to reminisce and occasionally volunteers his services by sharing his professional experiences with students.

Before coming to work at Sikich, Shields worked for the FBI for more than 20 years and was assigned to a newly created cyber squad. He is now director of Forensic and Investigative Services at Sikich where he leads investigations of cyber intrusions, fraud, insider threat, employee misconduct and computer forensics.

Shields decided to enroll at Benedictine after visiting the University and learning more about the advantages the small, liberal arts University could provide him.

“To my benefit, I had several outstanding instructors,” Shields said. “All of them made the subject matter and attending class enjoyable, were approachable and encouraged me to work hard. My instructors, courses and computer science internship prepared me well for my career.”

After retiring from the FBI in 2016, he reached out to Suglich for advice on working in the private sector. After completing a round of interviews, he was hired at Sikich in January.

“Working alongside James and being able to talk to Mike has made the transition very smooth,” Shields said. “We also get to reminisce about our time at Benedictine.”

In April, Shields attended the University’s College of Science reunion.

“It was a great experience to go back to campus and see all of the changes,” he said. “I had the chance to meet with one of my professors and thank her for everything she did to help me as a student. I also sat with two math professors, and it was nice to see their excitement and commitment to the program and the University.”

Berg decided to major in Accounting at Benedictine after taking a class at Benet Academy that ignited his interest in the discipline.

“I found that accounting simply made sense and I had an aptitude for it,” Berg said. “The program also included a professor who had been a practicing accountant and I felt it brought a lot to the classroom.

“I really liked the size and the accessibility of the faculty,” he added. “Living on campus also allowed me to participate in a great deal of activities. I still get together with many of my classmates from my years at Benedictine.”

After working for a mid-sized accounting firm for one year, Berg took a full-time position with the same smaller firm he interned with while he was a student at BenU. After several mergers, the firm was acquired by Sikich, providing Berg with an opportunity to grow its governmental and audit accounting practice.

“We do more than 480 audits annually in Illinois and we also do a significant amount of accounting service work as well,” Berg said. “In addition, we have consulting engagements that include internal controls and processes, evaluating various aspects of operations.

My role is to supervise these engagements or bring in other divisions and partners within Sikich to utilize their specialized talents.”

While he doesn’t get to work with his fellow Benedictine alumni as often as he would like, they occasionally share leads and updates on potential new projects.

“Having the shared history definitely helped break the ice as we all met up again,” Berg said.

In addition to Suglich, Sullivan, Shields and Berg, Sikich also employs several other Benedictine alumni.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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Ryan Blackburn
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(630) 829-6070
rblackburn@ben.edu