Alumni Success Story – Eric Killough ‘06

Retired Coast Guard Chief Eric Killough ‘06 has had several lifetimes of achievements already and is now setting his sights on a business platform he created in Slovenia to help young people reach their highest potential. Learn more about Eric’s story as a mentor, entrepreneur and coach below.


Tell us about yourself!
I am originally from Seal Beach, California. I am a retired Coast Guard Chief. I live full time on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in the small Central European country of Slovenia. In 2008, I created the concept “Navdih Amundsen,” which means maximizing human potential through dedication, endurance and persistence. I seek out opportunities to assist people in achieving self-fulfillment or opportunity.  For example, I help young Slovenians find academic and athletic success through attending college and taking advantage of opportunities in the USA. Some of the activities involve 1-on-1 mentoring geared towards “life path projecting”, goal setting, personal financial management, or meeting physical fitness objectives. My desire to help young people is rooted from my time as a Coast Guard Chief and in a position of influence over younger men & women. I have assisted and guided many towards earning their college degrees.

Along with my Navdih Amundsen project, I am an English tutor and the facilitator of a Conversational English program at Srednja Tehniška Šola, a college preparatory high school in Koper, Slovenia. Perhaps my most rewarding work has been as an American football coach. In 2015, I started the American Football Klub at Srednja Tehniška Šola Koper. Aside from being a retired Coast Guard Chief, tutor, teacher, coach, real estate investor and mentor, I am also a certified personal trainer which fits perfectly with my coaching and mentoring responsibilities.

As a graduate of DU, when you think of your experience what comes to mind?
My first thought is always how grateful I am that the program I wanted was available when I needed it. I’ve always been a traveler and interested in the global community. While pursuing my MBA it was awesome to have fellow graduate students from Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Serbia, Canada and, of course, the USA. It really added to my understanding, as a student of global business, of foreign cultures and ideas. With 11 years gone since completing my MBA, I am still close with my number one collaborator from school and that means a lot to me. And as these years have gone by I’ve become prouder and prouder of the direction that Davenport University is going. I’m proud to be part of a growing legacy.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Personally, I have been on all seven continents, circumnavigated the globe twice, swam in four of the five oceans, and crossed the Atlantic on a ship. I have been a competitive weight lifter and earned my way onto the Wall of Fame at Aviano Air Base, Aviano Italy. In 2010, I placed 3rd in the Slovenian Open National Bench Press Championship for males over 40 years old. I earned my MBA from Davenport University, which is my proudest academic accomplishment. Professionally, making Chief in the Coast Guard. I was a member of a four man crew of awesome Coast Guardsmen at Coast Guard Recruiting Office Detroit. We were selected, out of 104 recruiting offices in the entire USA, as 2006 National Recruiting Office of the Year – the same year I received my MBA from Davenport. I also feel that starting the American Football Klub at Srednja Tehniška Šola Koper and succeeding with my rental property and equity trading is a huge accomplishment.

But if there was one thing I’d say, if I had to say just one thing and label it “biggest accomplishment” I’d say it is being financially independent and in a position to help others and having the results to show for it.

What has inspired you to serve others?
Because so many people have helped me. My biological mother lived in a car. I was placed for adoption at birth and adopted by an awesome family. I went from the back seat of a car to Seal Beach, Orange County, California. I often tell people that the reason I don’t play the lottery is that I already won it. My parents gave me an incredible life. They instilled in me the importance of education, reading, and financial discipline. My father, Hadley William Killough II, my former Little League baseball coach, Jack Snow, and John Landers, who recruited me to the Coast Guard, taught me so much about respect, effort, and confidence, which lead me to the right path. Also while working as a recruiter myself, and second in command of recruiting for Southeastern Michigan, I worked under the leadership of Fred Napoleone. He showed me how to play cool under pressure, think outside the box, and connect with people in a way that inspires. Helping others is what I am wired to do.

What is your dream job?
My dream job would be to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Regrettably, I’m terrible at baseball.

I would eventually like to work for a small university or community college and share my experiences with students. Help them dream a little bigger by setting the goals that will lead to making those dreams come true.

What do you do when you are not working?
I read, swim in the sea, hike, weight lift, drink a bit of beer, go to church, and spend time with my two daughters.

Introducing the 2017 Alumni Award Recipients

The Alumni Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2017 Alumni Award recipients. The following alumni have exemplified the vision and values of Davenport University through their professional and community service. Introducing the 2017 Alumni Award honorees, pictured above from L to R:

Distinguished Alumni Award
Mike Nelsen, Class of 1987

Mike earned his BBA in Business in 1987 and was quickly was recruited to help launch QVC.com as employee number two. Mike built fulfillment operations from the ground up focusing on one of the industry’s first drop-ship networks of 300+ suppliers that powered sales of $100+ million in 1999. After QVC.com, Mike helped start craftopia.com, which was sold to HSN. Now, the Chief Development Officer at CommerceHub, Mike is responsible for business and client development efforts for both online and brick and mortar retailers, distributors, and supplier companies such JCPenney, Best Buy, Dell, Home Depot, Costco and QVC.

When Mike is not working, he spends most of his time with his wife and three sons, who have all been very active in athletics. Between football, lacrosse and hockey games, Mike has traveled thousands of miles a year to watch his son’s sports and now focuses on getting them through college. He was our first speaker in 2016 when we launched our annual Neighborhood Business and Friends luncheon.

Donald W. Maine College of Business Alumni Award
Wendy Morrow, Class of 1993

Wendy is the Chief Financial Officer of Grand Haven Custom Molding (GHCM), a privately held plastic injection molding company in Grand Haven. Prior to GHCM, Morrow spent 16 years at The Stow Company in Holland, where she was the first woman to be named Vice President of Finance in the company’s history. Wendy started at The Stow Company as an accounting supervisor. Four months later, she was promoted to controller, then to corporate controller. She is also a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a member of the Institute of Management Accountants. Wendy is an active volunteer at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA.

Hy Berkowitz Outstanding Alumni Award
Pat McPherson, Class of 2006

From stump grinding to mopping factory floors, Pat McPherson ’06 was especially determined to earn the money to get his Davenport degree.  Looking back, Pat says that he does not know what was the hardest: sorting bottles from plastic bags at Lakeport Market, cleaning pop can machines at Meijer, or cleaning bathrooms and showers at Lakeport State Park. All of this while working at the family stump grinding business in high school to make money to pay for college. However, once it was time to head to college, the hard work did not end. Pat attended classes Monday through Thursday, and drove to Detroit to mop factory floors Friday through Sunday.

Nonetheless, thanks to his interest in IT, Pat pursued education at Davenport University where he earned his BS in Computer Networking. Now, Pat works on a team at ITS Partners as a senior sales engineer solving IT problems for clients all over the world.  Pat works with organizations that have anywhere from a few thousand devices into the hundreds of thousands. Pat assists organizations in determining if there are tools that can solve their problems, architect how the solution would be configured and implemented within their environments.

College of Technology Alumni Award
Josh Serba, Class of 2011

In 2014, Josh was hired as the Network Manager of AHC+ Hospitality.  In 2015 he was promoted to Chief Information Officer (CIO), where he oversees the daily operation of the IT department, and steers the technology decisions for AHC.  AHC+ Hospitality owns the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott Grand Rapids, and Peter Island Resort & Spa in the British Virgin Islands; and also operates the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids.  In his short time as CIO, they’ve upgraded the network infrastructure, WiFi, server environment, TV systems, and much more. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his two son’s baseball and hockey teams.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Leslie Winkle, Class of 2011 & 2016, Traverse City Campus

 

Leslie is a second-generation Davenport graduate who followed her father’s footsteps in attending DU. She received her BBA in 2011 and completed her MBA if 2016. She is the owner of Studio 415, a full-service salon for men, women and children in Traverse City, which she purchased in 2014. Studio 415 has a simple, yet purposeful mission: ‘work hard and be nice.’ Leslie’s ‘be nice’ ethic means giving back to the community as well.

In 2016, Studio 415 was selected as the recipient of the Hagerty Small Business of the Year presented by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.  Leslie is also an adjunct instructor at the Traverse City campus teaching accounting.

College of Health Alumni Award
Joseph Rodriguez, Class of 2011

Joseph graduated from the Midland Campus in 2011 with an Associate in Nursing. He currently is a Nurse Case Manager at SouthernCare Hospice in Saginaw, where in 2016 he was recognized as the Regional Clinician of the Year for his outstanding performance and delivery of care. He is a strong healthcare advocate and actively shares and teaches his communities about available health care services, not just for end of life care and hospice, but also in preventative care, palliative care and long-term care.

In his spare time, Joseph supports and advocate for The ROCK (a center for youth development); The Diaper Alliance, providing diapers for those in need in the bay-area, and American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Relay for Life.

Kat Paye ’14 Alumni Success Story

This Saturday, the 91st Annual National Cherry Festival kicks off in Traverse City. We sat down with the festival’s biggest cheerleader, the executive director and alumna Kat Paye ‘14, to learn more about her nearly 25 year journey with the festival. Read her alumni success story below.



Tell us about yourself!

I have lived in TC since I was six years old. I got involved with the National Cherry Festival at a young age as a volunteer in the wheelchair mile event. As an eight year old, I got the important job of folding t-shirts, putting stickers on boxes and pinning tags on the race participants. By the time I was 16, I had the starting gun in my hand and I  was in charge of actually starting the race. My good friend Jeff, a quadriplegic who managed the event, made this possible for me. Jeff was instrumental in keeping me involved in the festival. By the time I was 20, I was the youngest board member. I was the event director and managed six events in just a few short years. Then, I left my volunteer board position and joined the festival staff. I was the operations and volunteer manager role for five years and last year, I was named the executive director of the National Cherry Festival!

The Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival seems like an awesome job! What do you do in a nutshell?

As an executive director, I am the festival’s biggest cheerleader. I am also doing strategic planning, looking at the five and ten-year plans and seeing where are we headed. I manage staff and budgets. We have 150 events in eight days. The events range from kids events to senior events, air shows, concerts, parades, carnivals, diaper derby, toddler trot, pit-spit contents, pie eating, and song competitions. Those eight days are the most fun, and exciting days of my year!

Is this your dream job?

Absolutely! My dream job was to work for the festival and I did that. Then my dream job was to become the executive director. When I got my new role, I was ecstatic!

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Being the executive director is my biggest accomplishment right now. In my last role, one of the biggest accomplishments for the festival was when we won the International Festival & Events Association’s award for the ‘Emergency Preparedness & Risk Management Plan.’

How do you feel Davenport played a role in your success?

I wanted to go back and finish my degree. I met with the campus director in Traverse City, Alyssa Irani. She helped me figure everything out. DU had night and weekend classes that fit my schedule. I also enjoyed the small class sizes that helped me get the personal attention I needed. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in business. Alyssa was the reason why I had such a great experience at DU.

What do you do when you are not working?

I love events! My husband and I love volunteering at local community events. My husband and I joke saying that he gave me a ring and I gave him a radio. He is my right –hand man.

Last question, do you love cherries?

I love cherries! Cherry-pie is a food group for me! I own everything cherry related. I have a cherry-themed kitchen!

Alumni Success Story: Randy Goodyke ‘85

True Success Is Trusting Your Team

Randy spent 20 years building his dream business- one that he drafted business plans for at Davenport University. Today, it’s a successful company and he has team that he is proud to call family. Read more about Randy’s inspiring view of success below.

Tell us about yourself, Randy!

I was born and raised in Jenison. I started at Davenport after high school with goal of earning a degree in hospitality management and accounting. I earned my associate degree in 1985 and I started working for an accounting firm in Grandville. Thanks to some great advice from Davenport staff and faculty, I returned to school to pursue a bachelor degree in accounting and passed the CPA exam. My partner and I started our own accounting firm in 1991 called DeBoer, Goodyke, Kahler & Tuttle P.C.

Why did you pick Davenport?

I originally picked Davenport because I was interested in hospitality management. My parents owned two ice cream shops, one in Holland and one in Zeeland, so I was interested in pursuing a career in food service and restaurants. I quickly learned that the hours of working in a restaurant industry was not the best for raising a family, so I gravitated to accounting. Many professors also pushed me in that direction.

Tell us about your experience at Davenport.

I really enjoyed attending classes at the Fulton Street Campus. I will never forget how tough it was to find parking, but once I did find a spot, I loved it! I loved the professors, all of whom had hand-on experiences and helped me get where I am today. I feel like the professors really cared about the students. Some of my management and accounting professors even helped form our business plan. But one of the best experiences at Davenport was meeting my wife of 31 years, Brenda. We were both participating in the college internship program at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. She was a legal secretary and I was in the accounting and hospitality program. Naturally, the program fit my education path, but I don’t know how she got an internship at Disney being a legal secretary. God put us in the same place at the same time for a reason.  We became friends and dated during the Disney program. Once we came back home one thing led to another and we ended up getting married.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

I work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and manage a firm of 16 staff. Our company, DeBoer, Goodyke, Kahler & Tuttle P.C., provides accounting services, payroll services, corporate, partnership and individual tax services, business consulting, and technology consulting. We all work really hard between January and April and we have a nice schedule between May and November. I enjoy the quality of life and work balance that I have as a public accountant. My passion is working one on one with business owners. We have built our business by building long-lasting relationships and friendships. We get to know our clients’ needs and customize our approach for individuals. While working with people’s finances, you get to see it all. We joke sometimes that we should have psychology degrees!

Tell us more about your firm.

The 25 year evolution of our CPA firm came with hard work and dedication, but the people we are surrounded with here each day is what makes this a success. We like to have fun and work hard. True success can be only measured in the team, not one person. Each day I am so blessed to be surrounded by outstanding people who are not my/our “employees,” but are my colleagues and friends.

What is your dream job?

I have my dream job now. It was a lot of work building the business the first 20 years. But looking back, it was worth it. I love the flexibility I have as a business owner. One of the best parts of this career is that my kids all played sports in high school and I do not remember missing any of their events. I would not let my job get in the way of raising my family. It was stressful, at times, but I learned to make it work.

What do you do when you are not working?

I enjoy spending a lot of time with my family. I have three children who are now all grown up. I enjoy hunting, golfing, spending time outdoors and being in my church. My wife and I travel frequently and love to see different places of the world.

Alumni Success Story – Sara Eschels ’84 ’97 ‘06

As a three-time alumna of Davenport, Sara Eschels ’84, ’97, ’06 believes in paying it forward, just as her former bosses and mentors have done for her. “Leading and helping others is my way of paying back the people who helped me get where I am today.” Learn more about Sara Eschels and her role of the “HR Quarterback” at Hylant helping others grow below.

Tell us about yourself, Sara!

I grew up in Scottville, Michigan in a tight-knit family. I was the youngest of a family of four – three boys and me. We were raised on a farm, but my family did not farm – we leased it out. My dad was a real estate agent and my mom was a bank branch manager. I grew up in a non-traditional family, where my mother had the steady income and my dad took care of the family and household duties. I really enjoyed my upbringing. After high school, I headed to college thinking I wanted to go into accounting. Thanks to some great advice and bosses who really took the time to get to know me, I learned that the human resources field was more in my wheelhouse. Today, I work in human resources as Talent Manager for Hylant.

Why did you pick Davenport?

I was familiar with Davenport because my Uncle Carl Eschels graduated from Davenport a while back. Uncle Carl had nothing but wonderful things to share about his experience at Davenport. I liked how all the classes were relevant and directly related to the business world. I loved Davenport so much that I returned for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Share with us your professional career journey.

Soon after graduating with my associate’s degree, I moved to North Carolina and worked at a bank.  The town was a military town, so there really wasn’t a lot of career opportunities.  When I moved back to Michigan, I was able to secure a position at the Perrigo Company in Allegan as the Executive Secretary to the Vice President of Human Resources.  Perrigo was such a great place to work because my boss was so supportive and wanted me to learn and grow. He encouraged me to take promotions and roles that were out of my comfort zone, so I could learn something new. When I was at Perrigo they had a full tuition program, which I took advantage of and ended up going back to school and getting my bachelor’s degree. I worked my way up at Perrigo, with the help of a few great mentors along the way. I was a HRIS administrator where I was in charge of the HR systems, next I moved to an office manager role for the department, and then managed the company store, and the last position I held at Perrigo was the manager of the compliance training group. Then, thanks to a former manager and friend, I landed a position at Fifth Third Bank where I worked as Professional Development Facilitator and eventually the Professional Development Manager. My job was to work with employees to help them develop the soft skills they needed to grow as professionals. The position was awesome and I had such a great staff that I could mentor and lead. I moved into a HR Business Partner role, a few years later where I worked with the retail leadership team on strategic HR needs.  Fifth Third also offered a great tuition reimbursement program so I was able to finish my MBA at Davenport while I worked there.

In a nutshell, what do you do now?

I work at Hylant as a Talent Manager. The best way to describe my position is the “HR Quarterback.” I am the point of contact for everything HR-related for ten of the Hylant offices, including Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Indianapolis,  Bloomington, Nashville, Orlando and Jacksonville. I travel a lot more now to develop employees. I am able to ask people what they want to do to grow and not just laterally within the company. I think of employee development as the growth of the person – personally and professionally. If it is not at work, what do they want to do to better themselves – volunteer, mentor, have a better work-life balance? I am here to challenge and help people grow.

Your recent positions have been all about helping people. Is this where you see yourself making the most impact?

I have been extremely fortunate to have some amazing bosses and mentors along my professional and personal journey. I am just paying it forward. I am passionate about people and helping them grow and develop. I love being a leader and manager. It is so rewarding to know that I have positively impacted someone’s life by helping them get a promotion or coaching them through a challenging situation in their lives.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am a 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo. In 2012, I decided to do something to get myself into shape. I gravitated towards martial arts instead of a traditional gym and fell in love with the first taekwondo class I took. I am a certified taekwondo instructor, as well. Not only do I love attending taekwondo, but teaching classes is even better.

What do you do when you are not working?

I spend a lot of time with my two Siberian Huskies (Jax and Nikko).  Spending time with my family and friends is number one.  I also enjoy golf, skiing, bike riding, of course TaeKwonDo.  I love to travel and visit new places.  I am always trying to plan my next adventure.

DU Review Sneak Peek: Bonnie ’84, ’94 and Ron ’88 Kopp and Melanie (Kopp) Reilly ’13

For more than 25 years, Bonnie Kopp ’84, ’94 has worked to create legacies for others through her work as senior trust advisor at Northern Trust. Bonnie works with families to help build wealth, create estate plans and manage funds for those who have created trusts. About her philosophy, she says, “It isn’t the number of years you spend on earth that matters; it is the legacy you leave behind for those that follow you.”

Bonnie is also part of a proud a legacy family at Davenport University. Both she and her husband of 32 years, Ron Kopp ‘88, attended Davenport after high school. “I worked full-time at a bank during the day and went to school at night, while Ron worked in the factory at Steelcase at night and went to school during the day. Our companies had tuition reimbursement so it was only natural for us to pursue our degrees.”

Bonnie graduated with an associate degree in 1984 and bachelor’s degree in 1994 while Ron graduated with his associate degree in 1988. Davenport continued to be a part of their life as their careers flourished and they started a family.

Nearly 30 years later, Bonnie’s oldest daughter, Melanie (Kopp) Reilly ‘13 needed a school that offered a flexible online program to earn an MBA while she worked in New Zealand. Bonnie recommended Davenport. DU’s online program was exactly what she was looking for. “Studying online at Davenport worked really well for me because of the flexibility offered,” said Melanie. “It didn’t matter that I was in a different time zone. The instructors were supportive and genuinely interested in my experience overseas; they were happy to help cater my homework and essays towards how it would apply to New Zealand. I enjoyed interacting with students all over the U.S.”

Now, as an alumni board member, Bonnie shares her passion with fellow alumni who want to give back to the University. “As an alumna and now parent of a student, I have a more well-rounded understanding of what Davenport has to offer. I hope that our story motivates others to share their experiences and passion for Davenport.”

Did you know?

Davenport’s academic programs available through the online Global Campus are receiving accolades from various organizations based upon a variety of criteria, including cost, value, accreditation, experiential training and curriculum. “We are excited about the growing recognition for Davenport’s high quality academic programs available through its online Global Campus,” said Brian Miller, Dean for Davenport’s Global Campus. “Online learning allows many students to better manage their time while pursuing their higher education degree while also working. The Global Campus brings more than 50 high-quality programs to students wherever they may live.”

DU Review Sneak Peek: Sue Nemmers ’85 and Rachel Payne ’10, ’12

For Susan (Kitzrow) Nemmers ‘85, Davenport University is a special place for two generations of her family. “Both my daughter, Rachel, and I started at Davenport in pursuit of a business education but gained so much more. Though we attended 25 years apart, we gained very similar experiences, friendships and a foundation for our success. It is our home.”

Sue started at Davenport after high school to pursue her associate degree in the executive secretarial program, with the help of grants and scholarships. She worked on campus as a work-study student to help in the alumni and development office. After graduation, she accepted a full-time role as the first alumni director of Davenport College. She admits, “It was amazing that Davenport took a risk, hiring me as a 20 year old.” Sue was responsible for growing the alumni association, running the phonathon program, hosting alumni events, creating marketing materials and managing the alumni board.

“It was the best job,” Sue recalled. “It was truly a grassroots effort and the University supported me one hundred percent. We had an alumni holiday party in my parent’s basement.”

Sue worked in the alumni office at Davenport for five years and was concurrently a member of the first class at Davenport to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1985.

Sue married Dave Nemmers in 1984 and settled in Caledonia. Four years later, they welcomed their first child, Rachel.

Almost 18 years later, Rachel (Nemmers) Payne’s ’10, MBA ’12 journey at Davenport mirrors her mother’s. Rachel started at Davenport in the fall of 2006 after receiving the W.A. Lettinga Full-Tuition Charter Scholarship. “At first, I was interested in becoming a collegiate cheerleader and I knew Davenport didn’t have a program yet. I knew my mom had a great experience at DU and realized how impactful the full-ride scholarship was to my future. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Almost immediately, Rachel became an advocate for a new DU cheer program. As a sophomore, she created proposals, wrote plans and met with the Athletic Director, Paul Lowden, about starting a cheer program. Rachel recalled, “Looking back, I can’t believe I was that persistent!”

Her persistence paid off in February of her senior year when the head cheerleading coach position was posted. She interviewed and earned the head coaching role in early spring. During this time, Rachel was a work-study student in the Human Resources department working in training and development.

“It was perfect. After I graduated with my BBA in 2010, the HR department hired me as a student worker. I was able to earn my MBA as a full-time student, hone my HR skills as a part-time intern and grow the program from the ground up as the cheer coach.”

Rachel spent much of her time promoting the program and recruiting cheerleaders, taking time to be selective and build the legacy of the program effectively. Rachel enlisted her mother to help her with the program too. “Mama Sue” traveled with the cheerleading team as they competed regionally and nationally.

During Rachel’s six-year tenure as the cheerleading coach, she led the program to three national championships. “The best part about my time coaching at Davenport was seeing all of the athletes continue their passion for the sport of cheerleading at a school that was extremely supportive of the program.  Davenport took a chance on me when they hired me to start the program from the ground up.  I am so proud to see the legacy and success of the program continue on with some of the most talented coaches and athletes in the country.”

Today, Rachel is a human resources professional at Spectrum Health and Sue is an active community volunteer. Both serve DU in mentoring roles as well as staying active with the Alumni Association by attending events and activitiesBecause Davenport was such an integral part of Sue’s formative years, she and her husband, Dave, decided to leave a portion of their estate to Davenport in their estate plans.

“It is amazing how alike Rachel and I are,” Sue said. “Our relationship has grown stronger because of our ability to relate and reminisce about our similar paths at Davenport.”

DU Review Sneak Peek – Regina Moore ’83, ’90

Regina Moore was born in Boston into poverty, turbulence and uncertainty. Statistically, her odds of breaking out of the cycle of poverty were slim, but determination and grit were on her side. Regina found promise at Davenport University and changed not only her own life forever, but the lives of her entire family and the next generation.

At age 5, Regina became the ‘only parent’ to her siblings when their mother abandoned them. They were taken in by a previously unknown grandmother. Instability marked her early childhood as she moved from home to home. At times Regina cared for her younger brother and sister while a guardian worked. By age 8 and for the next five years, her and her siblings were in foster care. Through the chaos of multiple homes, Regina found serenity and purpose in school.

“School became my haven at an early age. Whenever there was turmoil or uneasiness at home, I would go to the library and read book after book. Then I would go home and make my brother and sister play school with me,” Regina said. “I was the teacher and we went through many math problems, as it was my favorite subject. I sought refuge in school.”

Regina excelled in her studies. In the tenth grade, she was selected to be in the advanced honors English course. One of her assignments was to write a story about her life. “I was only 15 at the time,” Regina recalled. “My teacher pulled me aside after reading the paper and asked me if it was true.” Her story was honest. Regina wasn’t sure why he had asked. It was just the story of her life.

The teacher encouraged her to share her story to inspire others. Regina said, “That was the first time I realized my story was not like anyone else in the class.”

The next year, Regina became a teenage mom. She graduated from high school one year early and held the title of highest GPA among minority students which helped her receive a full-ride academic scholarship to college. Sadly, when administrators discovered that she had a baby, her scholarship was revoked and she was unable to begin.

Now 17 years old and one month after graduation Regina moved out of her adoptive parent’s home and got a job working as a nurse’s aide making $2.65 per hour. “Though, it paid the rent, I realized that job wasn’t going to provide for my daughter the way I wanted to. I knew I had to go to college. My adoptive parents never talked about college. If it wasn’t for my high school counselor, I would have had no idea what college was.”

A year later, at 18 the universe handed her a sign. She received a Davenport College pamphlet in the mail and told her two-year old “let’s pursue computer programming as I think computers are going to take over.” Regina also added a major with accounting.

“I called the number and spoke with admissions representative, Mary Kay Bethune of Davenport College. She helped me fill out the paperwork and find financial assistance through grants and scholarships. She was my saving grace.”

In her first semester of college, Regina gained custody of her 15 and 16 year old brother and sister. While maintaining a steady 3.07 GPA, she worked full-time and raised her daughter, as well as her 15 and 16 year-old siblings.

Regina’s conviction to her education spilled over into her personal life. She remembers two conditions she set down before she married her daughter’s father, “First, I told him that no matter what, I am going to finish school on time. And secondly, I don’t iron.”

She earned her associate degree in computer information systems and programming in 1983. Six years and three more children later she separated from her husband.

Regina, states she made the conscious decision to not raise her kids on public assistance but decided to earn her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Davenport to support her family. She worked full-time during the day, went to school at night, and tutored other students.

“Education was my family’s escape. I remember us studying as a family together. I learned at a young age that no one could take my knowledge away. They could take my home, my stuff, and everything else I had, but not my knowledge. We found our purpose in knowing that knowledge would allow us to take care of ourselves.”

After Regina graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she moved her family to Atlanta to pursue a career as Staff Accountant at National Linen Service, a Fortune 500 company. She was promoted to Systems Manager (combing both degrees) after speedily learning the companies’ new financial system. Next, she was recruited by The Home Depot corporate headquarters to be the Senior Financial Systems Analyst. Where she managed the Financial Systems Department, which included supporting nearly 2,000 accounting personnel.

“My job at Home Depot was the best job I had ever had. But, but the dedication to work conflicted severely what was best for my family.” Regina moved back to Michigan so the boys could participate in sports with help of their dad. She started working at Meijer as an internal auditor and then moved to the IT department in which she helped to write the programs for the first gift card system. Concurrently, Regina started her own accounting and tax preparation company called Accurate Accounting to earn extra money for her family. Her business boomed and she left Meijer to pursue entrepreneurship full-time.

Regina made sure to teach her four children the value of the education that she had received. One by one, she watched as they graduated high school and pursued higher education. Her eldest daughter, Tari earned an academic scholarship to the University of Michigan and graduated with a Psychology degree, and worked as a foster care worker in the same county that Regina had been a foster child. Her second daughter, Mari, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Textile Design and moved home after college and work for Regina’s accounting business. She fell in love with accounting and decided to earn a Master’s in Accountancy from DePaul, her CPA license and most recently earned a Master’s in Tax from Illinois University and now works at Ernst Young in Chicago. Donte, her third child, earned an Associate’s degree from Harold Washington College in Chicago, in his 12th year at UPS and a Sunday school teacher. Emmanuel, who recently married DU alumna Kelsey Chambers, went to Western Michigan University and is currently in his 10th year at West Michigan’s Stanley Steemers as a Senior Team Leader. He also aims to attend seminary to become a youth pastor.

Regina’s heart for educating children spilled over into the community as well. Her youngest child, Emmanuel, best friend RaSaun Knight needed a more stable home life and moved in with them while in high school. He was encouraged and inspired by seeing that all his friends’ siblings went to college. He graduated from the GR Police Academy through GRCC. He is a current student at Davenport majoring in Business and Technology Project Management.

“The morning that I realized I was taking, Emmanuel, my last one, to college, I cried happy tears. I fell to my knees in joy and thanked God. I did it… I broke the cycle.”

Alumni Success Story – Tom Hazen ’99

Today, you might find Tom Hazen ’99 loading a plane with product bound for Portugal, managing distributor relations or traveling to Milan to oversee operations, but his passion for traveling and adventures started at an early age. After college, Tom landed a job working for Materion Performance Alloys. Working his way up, Tom is now a Global Project Manager for plastic tooling. Learn more about Tom below.

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Tell us about yourself!
I was born Grand Rapids and raised in Ravenna, Michigan. Ever since I was little, I enjoyed traveling. My father was a schoolteacher and had an industrial painting company. During the summer, I would travel the state with my dad to help him paint. Traveling is a part of my DNA – I started at an early age and still do to this day. I worked full-time while I finished my degree. I earned my associates in 1989 and earned my bachelor degree in 1999 from Davenport. As soon as I graduated, I landed at the company I am at now, Materion Performance Alloys. I have held a few different sales positions but today I work as a Global Marketing Manager for plastic tooling business unit.

Why did you pick Davenport?
I picked Davenport because of the hospitality and management program. Davenport helped me get my first job working the front desk at the Holiday Inn South on 28th Street. I soon decided that I would change into a sales and marketing curriculum. After leaving the hotel industry I worked during the day at a metal casting foundry, went home and got ready, then headed to class at night at the Fulton Street campus. The foundry job helped me realize that I really wanted to pursue a career in sales and marketing.

What shaped your experience at Davenport?
The professors and staff are who really made my experience at DU great. One staff member in particular, Bob Orlikowski, who worked in student services, really helped me every step of the way. Bob was a great sounding board and assisted me through my studies. When he passed, I saw that the foundation started a scholarship in his honor. I have supported the scholarship ever since.

In a nutshell, what do you do?
I work as a Global Market Manager for plastic tooling at Materion  Performance Alloys. Our company makes many different products related to the use of beryllium. I have been working in the tooling division since I started. In my current role, I am responsible for selling the mold materials that Materion produces and ensuring they are available globally. I build relationships with our distributors to ensure we are delivering on what we promised for all of our customers. For example, if a company specifies our mold materion in the United States and they are manufacturing in Germany; I work with our distributors overseas to ensure that the customer who wants our mold material can walk into any distributor in Germany with our blueprint to guarantee they are getting the same product we make in the United States. I work remotely when I am not traveling. I was recently in Portugal to visit with a distributor to negotiate a pricing and shipping project. Then went over to Milan to work with the distributor in Italy, then to Germany to do the same.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I am proud that I have established a good reputation and presence at the company that I am at now. I feel respected and valued. Of course, being married to my wife of 21 years and raising two boys is a huge accomplishment too. I am proud that I have maintained a steady, adventurous job while being able to raise my family in West Michigan.

What is your dream job?
I feel like I am in my dream job now.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
You are going to make a mistake and you’re going to fail but it’s the way you respond to it that will define you.

What do you do when you are not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family. My wife and I spend a lot of time watching our son’s plays sports. I also enjoy being outside, running, and exploring Grand Rapids.