Northwood University Holds Two Graduations Saturday, May 12

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Several graduating students shared interesting stories on their college experience.

MIDLAND, MI – Northwood University held two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12, at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. in the Bennett Sports Center on campus at 4000 Whiting Drive. The 10:30 a.m. ceremony was for traditional undergraduate students and the 3:00 p.m. ceremony was for students graduating from the Adult Degree Programs in Michigan. The graduates from the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management participated in both ceremonies.

A total of 744 students graduated from Northwood’s Michigan Campus.

Frank Beckmann, the host of The Frank Beckmann Show on News/Talk WJR Radio, gave the commencement address in the morning. O. Temple Sloan III, president and CEO of General Parts International, Inc., addressed the graduates in the afternoon. Both speakers received the doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Several graduating students shared interesting stories on their college experience:

Wade Hodge of Davison attended classes in Midland and then transferred to Northwood’s Florida campus two years ago to complete his BBA in Hotel, Restaurant & Resort Management. While he pursued his studies, his older brother Tim Trzil went back to school at Southeastern College in Florida and the plan was for the two of them to celebrate each other’s accomplishments together—in Florida—on May 3rd and May 6th respectively. But then life’s changes threw a “curveball” into their plans. Hodge decided he wanted to return to this campus to graduate with his friends, and Trzil began a new job that wouldn’t allow him to take the time off needed to attend his commencement ceremony in Lakeland, Florida. Their mother sprang into action and hatched a plan—both Hodge and Trzil received their degrees together.

When Megan Gonta of Howell arrived at Northwood in fall 2007, she had no idea how her determination and work ethic as a student-athlete would be challenged. As the younger sister of another Northwood basketball player, she was looking to make her mark on the program just like her big sister had. Unfortunately, in October 2007 she sustained an injury, had surgery and began the long road to recovery. Gonta made it back for the 2008-2009 season and helped the team reach the NCAA tournament. In 2009, she played in 16 games but in January 2010 Megan had a second injury and another surgery. Gonta made it back to play for the 2011-2012 season but was only able to play 20 games this past year because she was injured again in February. During the course of her career, she helped her team make four straight GLIAC tournaments, win a North division championship and made the NCAA tournament. Gonta’s teammates respected and admired her so much that this year she was voted to be a captain.

Yan Zhuang of Potterville came with her father to the United States in 2001 planning to visit her mother who was working in the United States. Upon her arrival, Zhuang was enrolled in elementary school and discovered she loved everything America had to offer. Her parents had to leave the U.S. in 2002 and return to China but she was hesitant to go. Zhuang wasn’t certain how her life would be better by staying in the United States but, at the ripe old age of 12, she convinced her parents to let her stay. Since then she has been on her own with the support of her American “family” and friends who provided a home and companionship; she always knew it was the right thing to do. Zhuang learned a lot about hard work, determination, independence and life in general. This knowledge put her ahead of her peers in many ways. At Northwood, she was elected president of Emerging Leaders, has been a member of Circle K International and been involved in a number of volunteer activities. In her junior year Zhuang earned the position of chief financial officer for the Northwood University International Auto Show and, most recently, was named a co-winner of the Four-Year Accounting Award at Northwood’s Honors Convocation. She graduated with NO debt! After almost nine long years, she was finally able to return to China to visit her parents in January 2011. Zhuang’s parents were not able to attend the commencement ceremony in person but they watched online in their home in China.

Jeffrey Crew is a Midland Daytime MBA student from London, Ontario in Canada. He is an avid automotive enthusiast and has worked in the automotive finance field for ten years. Crew had plans to attend Northwood University to complete his undergraduate degree in the Automotive Marketing & Management program in 1998 but life intervened and he wasn’t able to attend at that time. He didn’t give up on his dream of attending Northwood and, after two attempts to enter the DeVos MBA Program, he made the life-changing decision to quit his job, sell his home and join the Midland Daytime afternoon cohort as a full-time student. Crew says he was determined and focused to achieve his future goals through obtaining his MBA degree at DeVos and along the way has also come to realize how important alumni relationships are to this process. He will be returning to Canada to work in the automotive sector in a management role for an original equipment manufacturer.

Angela Artibee-Witwer of Lansing was only 18 when her father died and she left college to help her mom raise her younger siblings. Her father, a graduate from Northwood, was buried on May 12, 1981. Her graduation is an emotional and yet very extraordinary moment. In her own words, “There is a special angel walking with me today.”

Lorie Thome of Fraser and Catherine Schebil of Clinton Township are prime examples of teamwork and sticking to a plan. As good friends and co-workers, they decided to complete their BBA journey together and enrolled in Northwood’s Troy Adult Degree Program center and insisted on taking all the same classes together for the Health Care Management major. Not only did they take the same classes together at the same time but they also turned in their Blue Cross Blue Shield tuition vouchers at the same time. In fact, staff at Blue Cross Blue Shield said, “we knew when we received one voucher, the other was only moments away via e-mail.” Everyone in their office looked forward to seeing them and their smiling faces each day they came to class.

Mark Kloha of Midland entered the U.S. Army in 1982 and started his college career at Northwood as a student in 2001. But his plans were abruptly put on hold, as were so many things that fateful September day when our nation was attacked. Given his deployment, Kloha couldn’t continue his education while on duty. His service to his country took him literally around the world, including Germany, Kuwait and Iraq allowing him to amass an extensive list of decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. Today Kloha serves as Command Sergeant Major and spent the past four years as Acting Commander and First Sergeant of the 301st Quartermaster Company. As a city of Midland fire truck operator and acting lieutenant, Kloha was a recipient of the 2011 Carl and Esther Gerstacker Award given to deputy sheriffs, police officers or firefighters dedicated to leadership.

Damian Dawson of Detroit started his Northwood career on Northwood’s Midland campus in 2005. Having always had a passion for the entertainment business, he was presented with a job opportunity in the Detroit area that he simply couldn’t pass up. But Dawson was not about to pass on another passion of his—earning his college degree. So he enrolled in Northwood’s Livonia Adult Degree Program center where he pursued his studies, worked hard and traveled the country as director of promotions at a music venue in Detroit.

In 2010 Kari Stoutmeyer of Port Huron contacted Northwood’s Flint Program Center about the possibility of attending classes. She scheduled an appointment to come in and meet with an advisor and was scheduled for classes. Soon after, a second phone call was made to the Flint Center only this time the phone call came from a Jim Stoutmeyer, her husband. It seems Jim was not going to allow his wife to be the only Northwood graduate in the family and he too arrived at the Flint Center to register for classes. Jim graduated from Northwood University in December 2011 and celebrated his wife graduation on May 12.

Brandon Coleman of Brighton was on his way home from class back in January on a cold and icy evening when his vehicle started to slide. As he attempted to regain control his vehicle caught the edge of the pavement and sent him into a rollover where his car eventually landed in frigid water.  After 20-plus minutes of being 80% submerged in the freezing waters, Coleman's body temperature dropped below the level normally considered possible for consciousness. When the rescue workers were finally able to open his car with the Jaws of Life, Coleman was still able to communicate with the EMTs and even assist in his rescue. He was battered and bruised, black and blue—but he did recover and he didn’t miss a single class in the process.

Laura White of Pinconning is the manager of a local hair salon that is part of a nationwide chain of salons and is one of Northwood’s MBA evening graduates. Like many, during her two years at the DeVos Graduate School personal challenges came her way including the loss of her mother to cancer. While trying to keep up with her demanding classwork, White and her brother were caring for their mother throughout radiation and chemotherapy, trying to physically relocate her to a less demanding home. She also still successfully managed her business and, during the year of the struggles with her mother, was able to maintain record sales for the year at her salon, winning the Director’s Award from the parent company. White told her mother that she felt it was time to drop out of the program and re-enter at a later date. Her mother pushed her to finish what she started, saying she wanted to know her daughter was going to graduate.


Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.

Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in eight states with many course delivery options including an online option. The DeVos Graduate School offers day and evening programming in Michigan, Texas, Florida and Switzerland. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise in Midland, Michigan, specializes in creative thinking and innovation development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in Switzerland, China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.