Glen Oaks Community College will hold its 52nd and 53rd Annual Commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 7, in Ken Schuler Court (Glen Oaks gymnasium). The Nursing Pinning ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m. and the Allied Health pinning ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 8 at 2 p.m. with both pinning ceremonies also taking place in the gym.
All three events will be livestreamed and take place without guests in attendance due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Participants will wear masks and will be seated socially distanced on the gym floor. They will have the opportunity to have their photos taken following the walk across the stage.
For the combined years, there are 286 pending graduates with 343 degrees and/or certificates being awarded. The average graduate’s age is 24-years old – the youngest is 18 and the most senior is 55-years young. Their grade-point average is 3.29. One dual enrolled high school student will be graduating from Glen Oaks with an associate degree before he graduates from his own high school. There are 65 Early Middle College graduates. A total of 118 graduates will participate in Friday evening’s ceremony to receive their degrees and/or certificates.
Glen Oaks President Dr. David H. Devier will preside over the ceremony and will recognize recipients of several special awards including:
- Outstanding Service Award – Julie Cottin
- Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award – Nick Shultz
- E. J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching Excellence – Kevin Conner
- Distinguished Alumni Award – Rod Lopez
- Fellows Award – Aaron Miller
- President’s Award – Alyssia Hudson-Grayer (2021), Edna Yoder (2020)
President Devier will confer the degrees and Dr. Michael Goldin, vice-president of academics, will serve as grand marshal for the ceremony. Tonya Howden, vice-president of student services, will read the names of the candidates as they walk across the platform to receive their degrees.
The Vintage Brass will provide music for the ceremony.
A short video, “Meeting the Challenges of a Pandemic,” will be shown.
Family, friends and members of the community will be able to view the commencement ceremony and the pinnings live on three different platforms: the Glen Oaks website (glenoaks.edu); the Glen Oaks Facebook page or the Glen Oaks YouTube channel.
Background on award/recipients
Outstanding Service Award – Julie Cottin, Digital Solutions Administrator – This award recognizes employees of Glen Oaks for outstanding performance and contributions to the college.
Julie Cottin joined Glen Oaks in 2016. She is said to be extremely driven, eager to accept challenges and is always looking for better ways to meet the needs of faculty, staff and students. She is the campus expert in a variety of software programs that she manages at the college – and for the most part – she is self-taught.
A Sturgis High School graduate, Cottin studied at WMU receiving a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, and a Master of Arts in Education Technology.
Part-Time Faculty Teaching Excellence Award – Nick Shultz, Instructor of Agriculture Technology – This award is presented annually to a part-time faculty member or adjunct who demonstrates excellence in teaching and reflects the value of education to students.
Nick Shultz started at Glen Oaks in 2020 and he teaches electrical/computer systems and engine performance classes for the Agricultural Technology program. He also teaches similar classes as an adjunct professor at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio.
Shultz is a retired faculty member from Owens, retiring in 2019. He is currently pursuing a degree in physics.
E. J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching Excellence – Kevin Conner, Professor of Information Technology – The E. J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching and Excellence Award was initiated in 1984 with a generous donation from E. J. Shaheen, one of the original Glen Oaks board members. Shaheen, a college professor, lawyer, and business owner, placed a high value on education and spent much of his later life promoting high quality education and educational institutions, including Glen Oaks.
Kevin Conner is said to be a captivating and caring instructor who works hard to make sure his students fully understand concepts and succeed in their classes as well as in their future. He has continuously worked to expand the range of Information Technology programs and course offerings. Above and beyond the classroom, he began the Gaming Club a few years ago, and pre-pandemic, he spent 3-4 hours on weeknights, as well as Saturday mornings, to provide times for like-minded students to come together to advance not only their gaming skills, but their social skills.
While attending Glen Oaks as an adult student in 1994, Conner was offered a part-time job in the college’s Media Center. That position marked the beginning of his 27-plus years of service. A Sturgis native, he received the President’s Award during commencement in 1997 upon receiving an Associate of Applied Science in Business.
Conner went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Applied Science specializing in E-Commerce from Davenport University. He became a full-time faculty member just prior to earning a Master of Science degree from Capella University.
Distinguished Alumni Award – Rod Lopez – This award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through professional excellence and personal service.
Rod Lopez, of Sturgis, has taken to heart the college mission by serving on the Glen Oaks Board of Trustees. He came to St. Joseph County in the mid-1990s as a teenager from Mexico in search of a better life. He had to learn English while finishing high school in Sturgis before advancing his education part-time at Glen Oaks while working full time.
He earned an Associate of Business in 2003 and went on to pursue both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Davenport University in Kalamazoo.
Lopez is an independent insurance agent at Preferred Insurance Service of Sturgis, where he writes policies and works to find the best coverage and premium match for his clients. He sells policies for property loss including natural disasters and vandalism and provides customer support for his clients.
In 2016, he was elected to the Glen Oaks Board of Trustees where he serves as secretary and is a significant contributor to the oversite of the college.
Fellows Award – Aaron Miller – This award recognizes a community member and/or institution for outstanding service to and/or in support of GOCC.
Aaron Miller, of Sturgis, served as state representative for the 59th district for six years and left office in January due to term limits. While there, he was a tireless advocate for Glen Oaks Community College as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee. Today, he is a mortgage lender at Sturgis Bank and Trust in Sturgis.
Miller graduated from Western Michigan University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education and he taught high school math in both Middlebury, Ind., and Sturgis. He graduated from Bethel College—now Bethel University – with a Master of Education in School Administration in 2014.
While having little steady involvement with organizations over the last six years due to the nature of his position, Miller is already in the process of joining a few local boards and looks forward to continuing to serve his community.
President’s Award – Alyssia Hudson-Grayer (2021) and Edna Yoder (2020) – This award recognizes a student who has been nominated by the faculty for high achievement in academics and excellence, and contributions in the classroom.
Alyssia Hudson-Grayer, of Adrian, Mich., is the 2021 recipient who is receiving her Associate of Arts and graduating summa cum laude. She was recently inducted into Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honorary Society for Professionals in Technology, in recognition for high academic performance. She plans to pursue a degree in a science field or criminal justice. Her professors say she has sheer determination and a great work ethic that is rarely seen. Her dream job would be to join Ocean 4. In her spare time, she enjoys exercise and running and loves to learn new things.
Edna Yoder, of Shipshewana, Ind., was a non-traditional student who always wanted to be a nurse. She received her Associate of Science in Nursing from Glen Oaks in 2020. Her professors say she worked extremely hard, always actively participated in class, and she was an excellent leader for the Nursing Class of 2020. She currently works in the Oncology Department at Goshen Health and says Glen Oaks provided her with a solid foundation. She is currently working on her Bachelor’s of Nursing with Indiana Wesleyan University.