Graduates walking through ceremony.

Glen Oaks to hold 49th Annual Commencement Ceremony on Fri., May 5; Nursing and Allied Health pinning ceremonies – Sat., May 6

Glen Oaks Community College will hold its 49th Annual Commencement Ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5, in Ken Shuler Court (Glen Oaks gymnasium). The Nursing Pinning ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 6 at 10 a.m. in Ken Schuler Court and the Allied Health Pinning ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 6 at 2 p.m. in the Nora Hagen Theatre.

There are 152 pending graduates with degrees and/or certificates. Their average age is 24.6 years—the youngest is 18 and the most senior is 58 years young. Their average GPA is 3.3. There are seven graduating via special graduation initiatives of Win-Win and Credit When Credit is Due initiative which reaches out to potential graduates who have transferred to four-year institutions. There are three dual enrolled high school students and one Early Middle College student who will all be graduating from Glen Oaks before graduating from their own high schools. There are 112 graduates participating in the ceremony.

Glen Oaks President David Devier will preside over the ceremony and will recognize recipients of several special awards including:

  • Distinguished Alumni Award – Mark C. Zona
  • Fellows Awards – Dr. Dennis P. McCarthy
  • Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award – Michael W. White
  • Outstanding Service Award – Kathleen M. Patrick
  • J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching Excellence – Sarah Simmons
  • President’s Award – Jeremy M. Gooch


President Devier will confer the degrees and Dr. Patricia Morgenstern, dean of academics and extended learning, and will serve as grand marshal for the ceremony. Tonya Howden, assistant dean of students, and Beverly Andrews, assistant dean of enrollment services/registrar, 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 “Reel in Your Success” will be shown and features Glen Oaks alumnus and television personality Mark Zona, of Centreville, MI, and host of “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” which airs on the Outdoor Channel.

Tickets are required for guests to attend the graduation. Each student participating in the ceremony is eligible to receive up to eight general admission seating guest tickets. Requests may be made for additional tickets by contacting Diane Zinsmaster at (269) 294-4233. Accommodations can be also made for those requiring wheelchairs at this number.

The College holds graduation exercises annually in the spring. A listing of the graduates will be available in June. Free parking will be available to all guests. The college is located at 62249 Shimmel Rd., in Centreville, Mich.

Background on award recipients

Distinguished Alumni Award – Mark C. Zona

This award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through professional excellence and personal service. This year’s award goes to Mark C. Zona.

Mark Zona is a 1995 graduate of Glen Oaks Community College with an Associate of Arts degree.

Although from Chicago, he started fishing when he was old enough to walk on the lakes between Sturgis and Kalamazoo. His first fishing derby was on Lake Templene with a friend when he was just nine years old and they won the tournament, splitting $1,100. It wasn’t long after that that he knew he wanted to be a professional bass fisherman when he grew up.

Although he didn’t see the need to attend college for this career, he reluctantly listened to the advice his parents and high school counselors to receive higher educational training. His CHOICE was Glen Oaks since it was near the lakes where he fished. He is said to have gone fishing before class, beach his boat, go to class and then back to his fishing spot.

Zona started fishing in professional tournaments after graduation along with holding many positions within the fishing industry including retail marine sales, professional fishing, corporate promotions and instructional seminars.

It was a call he received in 2004 from ESPN about auditioning to co-host “Loudmouth Bass,” then, the Bassmaster’s television, which changed his life. This was his entrance into the world of television.

Zona’s spontaneity and humor has made him one of the most recognizable fishing personalities. He now has his own television show, “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” which airs on the Outdoor Channel. He is one of those rare personalities who is unscripted, unpredictable, and humorous. Each new cast is a mystery – but it is always FUN. His genuine passion for life and his profession clearly shine through. His sponsors include the likes of some of the big name sponsors such as Chrysler/RAM, Carhartt, Bass Pro Shops, Mercury, and many others.

Zona and his family have a strong passion for St. Joseph County. He and his wife, Karin, moved back to St. Joseph County to raise their twins, Hunter and Jacob, who attend Centreville, High School and are currently also a part of the St. Joseph County Early Middle College program. The Zona family continues to work to make this area a better place to live. They recently served as honorary chairs for the St. Joseph County United Way Campaign.

Fellows Award – Dr. Dennis P. McCarthy

The Glen Oaks Community College Fellows Award recognizes a community member and/or institution for outstanding service to and/or in support of Glen Oaks. This year’s Fellows Award recipient is Dr. Dennis P. McCarthy.

Dr. Dennis McCarthy served as a full-time administrator on the Glen Oaks Leadership Team. He is highly regarded by all who worked with him, including students, staff, college administrators, community members as well as professional peers in most all regions of Michigan. He has also served on several boards and organizations in the community.

McCarthy worked in many capacities of leadership over the years he was affiliated with the college. The number of students, staff, and administrator lives he touched and mentored is countless. His leadership was instrumental in securing millions of dollars in grant monies to the institution in the quest for quality, improvement, sound decision-making and helping students and the institution succeed.

Adjunct Faculty Teaching Excellence Award – Michael W. White

This award is presented annually to a part-time faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching and who reflects the value of education to students of Glen Oaks Community College.

Michael White has been teaching for the college since the beginning of the Criminal Justice program three years ago. He teaches a variety of the Criminal Justice classes, is passionate about the subject and police work, and is said to be a true team player by his co-workers. White continuously displays respect for others, concern for students and he has a strong work ethic. This is how he operates on a daily basis for all his students and anyone who interacts with him. He is said to always go above and beyond the task at hand.
Outstanding Service Award – Kathleen M. Patrick
This award recognizes employees of Glen Oaks for outstanding performance and contributions to the College. This year’s award goes to Kathleen Patrick.

Kathleen Patrick is executive assistant to the athletic director. She has been an employee of the college for 29 years. Through the years, she has been nothing but extremely professional and always more than willing to help out in any way that she can. She is warm and welcoming to every student, staff and faculty member that she interacts with – greeting everyone with a willingness of “how can I help you?” Patrick represents Glen Oak positively both internally and externally. She is said to be a beacon of shining light and positivity with an infectious laugh and smile. The value and service she brings to Glen Oaks is unmeasurable.

J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching Excellence – Sarah J. Simmons

(Please note there is a separate feature media release on Sarah Simmons for a potential separate article.)

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 in promoting high quality education and education institutions, including Glen Oaks. This year’s recipient is Sarah J. Simmons.

Sarah Simmons is an outstanding person, faculty member and professor of chemistry. Simmons is a leader in educational innovation, always improving her techniques and assessing her effectiveness. One of her students stated, “Glen Oaks has so many awesome professors, but Professor Simmons has stood out as extremely professional, knowledgeable, and with the unique ability to really make her lectures have a deeper impact resulting in a greater understanding of chemistry. She recently “flipped” her classroom, which shifts instruction to a learner-center model in which class time explores topics in greater depth while online videos and other types of instructional content are delivered in a variety of formats outside the classroom. Simmons is said to care deeply about the success of her students, pushing them to do their best.

President’s Award – Jeremy M. Gooch
This award recognizes a student who has been nominated by the faculty for his/her high achievement in academics. This year’s recipient is Jeremy Gooch.

Jeremy Gooch is graduating with an Associate of General Studies degree. Gooch was home-schooled and entered the U.S. Marine Corps after receiving his high school diploma. While in the service, Gooch spent four years in administration and four years as a helicopter mechanic working on attack and utility helicopters.

Upon leaving military service, he enrolled at Glen Oaks as a non-traditional student. His plans are to attend a private college to finish his four-year degree in electrical engineering. He sees himself working in polytechnic robotics where he would work in design and construction of robots.

While at Glen Oaks, Gooch was a Phi Theta Kappa member, recently serving as the secretary to the chapter. He is a recipient of the Professor Emeritus Bernard Swartz scholarship for Excellence in Mathematics. Schwartz also served as a tutor in the college’s Tutoring and Testing Center. He is an avid reader and he enjoys running in his spare time.