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Two named as Heartland Distinguished Alumni

May 4, 2020

The Heartland Community College Alumni Association has honored Richard Casper and Dr. Seshanand Rao as recipients of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni award.

The award recognizes notable Heartland alumni who demonstrate exceptional achievement in their profession and make a positive impact on their community.

Casper and Rao will be recognized during the College’s Commencement ceremony to be held virtually on May 15, 2020. Awardees are selected from nominations by fellow Heartland alumni, faculty, staff, students and community members.

Richard Casper is a United States Marine veteran, Purple Heart recipient, artist, and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and executive director of CreatiVets, a non-profit that provides art, music, and writing programs for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. He is also the co-founder of two music companies, Casparr and We Should Write Sometime. As a songwriter, his work has been featured in more than 45 films and tv shows.  

Caspar was named one of TIME Magazine's Next Generation Leaders, is the feature of TIME’s documentary Evidence of Things Unseenand has been recognized by President George W. Bush and The Bush Institute for his passion and work helping combat veterans. 

Caspar served in the USMC from 2003-2007. After a tour in Iraq, left him with a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress, he discovered art and song writing as therapeutic forms of expression. He later went on to graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From his experiences, he created art and songwriting programs for CreatiVets to help other combat wounded veterans heal.

Today, Caspar teaches art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Southern California. He resides in Nashville with his wife Ashley and son Barrett. 

Dr. Seshanand Rao is a physician and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois.

After arriving emigrating from India, Rao attended Heartland Community College. He earned his Certified Nurse Assistant certificate from HCC in 2004. He later graduated from Illinois State University and Rush University Medical College.

His experience as a Heartland student, through a CNA practicum at a McLean County long term care facility, solidified his desire to become a doctor. Working with the population there taught him how fragile one becomes in old age. He learned then that he wanted to provide care for the elderly. 

Dr. Rao credits HCC faculty for helping him process and truly understand how to best care for the people he would see throughout his career. “It was a phenomenal experience. I had instructors who took the time and really explained and mentored me as a professional,” says Rao.

Dr. Rao lives with his wife and 2 children in the Chicago area.

Written by: Steve Fast