Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association » Distinguished and Featured Alumni

Distinguished and Featured Alumni

Distinguished Alumni Award
(A Nomination Form and Instructions are located at the bottom of this page)

One of the goals of the Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association is to recognize graduates that have made a difference in the lives of others and have gone above and beyond in their chosen fields. They have earned significant distinctions and given back to their community and this school. The FIRST class of recipients were awarded their DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD at the 2017 Fall TK Homecoming (see the recipients below).







Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association continued their tradition of honoring Distinguished TK Alumni as part of Friday’s homecoming festivities. Former tennis coach Larry Seger and Dr. Christopher Noah received the honors this year in front of the packed stadium. Both were joined by family members as they accepted the honors.



You may view Larry's and Chris' full award bio's at TKSCHOOLS.ORG published October 11, 2022




 Robert Williams, Class of 1957 and Conrad Beeler, Class of 1942, received the Distinguished Alumni Awards.


Barry County Judge Michael Schipper, TK Class of 1981, was honored by the TK Alumni Association with the Distinguished Alumni at the 2021 homecoming game. Mike was honored for his work in leadership in the area of law and community service.
TK Alumni Association members Jeana VanderMeulen, Howie Gragg and Brenda Kimmey Seifert present the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award to Schipper in front of the crowd at the homecoming game.

His community involvement includes serving on the Barry County YMCA board, United Way Board of Directors and chairing two TK Bond campaigns. He served on the Thornapple Township Board of Zoning Appeals for six years.

He speaks at Page Elementary Career days, and middle school and high school government and leadership activities. He has served as the judge at the TKHS mock accident scenario and regularly speaks to schools in the county about the trouble teens can get into with social media, drugs, and alcohol.  He and his brother, Jim and his son, Isaac, have visited schools in the county to discuss diversity, racism and bullying.

At the college level, he shares his expertise in the legal field as an adjunct professor of business law at Davenport University and is a regular guest speaker at Hope College, Ferris State University and Kellogg Community College. He has also served as a mock trial instructor and guest judge for the Student Statesmanship Institute and Kent County Young Lawyers.

Outside of his expertise as a judge, he has been active as a swim and football team coach. He has served as the Hammerheads swim coach since 2009 to present and was the TK/Hastings/Delton boys’ varsity swim team coach from 2011-2019. He was a middle school football coach from 2004-2009.



Congratulations Mr. Gary VanElst, Class of 1968! Gary was honored during TKHS Fall Homecoming with the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.


Dist Alum

Presenting the award were Randy Eggers, President of the TKAA, and Cindy Middlebush, TKAA Trustee and Historian



At the May 4, 2019, 2nd Annual Alumni Spring Reunion Dinner, your TKAA was honored to present the Distinguished Alumni Award to Jody Helrigel Pratt, class of 1966. Presenting the award were TKAA Board members Howie Gragg '70, Brenda Kimmey Seifert '73, Jeana VanderMeulen '84, and Cindy Riva Middlebush '78.


Jody has been actively working in the field of education for more than 40 years with her career starting at TK where she taught elementary and middle school. She served as the president of the Thornapple Kellogg Education Association and of the Michigan Education Association for Region 9.

In 1990 she moved to Wayland Schools where she served as principal for both Moline and Steeby elementary schools and later to serve as the Director of Curriculum. Today, she continues her teaching career as an adjunct professor at Ferris State University, helping prepare the next generation of teachers.

In addition to her continuing work in education, Jody also volunteers with Junior Achievement of Grand Rapids, serves as a certified Lay Leader at Middleville United Methodist. She also continues doing mission work and was recently appointed as the state coordinator for Volunteers in Michigan for both domestic and international mission work. She has made five mission trips to Russia, 12 to Peru and continues to travel to Ecuador for women’s projects.


It is clear that Jody continues to use her gifts to educate, inspire and give back to this world! Please help us thank her for her contributions. Congratulations Jody!




At the September 14, 2018, TK Homecoming, your TK Alumni Association proudly presented TWO Distinguished Alumni Awards: Presenting the awards were TKAA Board Trustees: Howie Gragg ‘70, Brenda Kimmey Seifert ‘73 and Jeana VanderMeulen '84.



Mr. Walter Eavey​, Class of ​1952​, Leadership in the area of ​Community and Public Service
Walt has spent his lifetime serving his family, his community and his country. He served in the Korean War from 1953-55
and was honored as the​ Veteran of the Year in 2016 by the Middleville Veterans Committee.
After his time in the military, Walt came home to Middleville and served as a​ volunteer fireman, first responder and service photographer​ for the Thornapple Township Emergency Services. In 1996, Thornapple Township voters ​elected​ Walt to represent them as their ​Township Trustee​. He served two decades and was instrumental in ensuring that every veteran grave has an appropriate marker. Walt Eavey was a founding member of the​ Thornapple Area Parks and Recreation Commission​ and was always there to lend a hand or drag fields on hot summer days. He, along with his wife, Mike, volunteered at the ​Middleville United Methodist Church, Middleville Food Pantry, Barry County Cares Board and the National Parks Services​. In September of 2017, Walt was honored by the Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation and named ​HOMETOWN HERO.​ He continues to quietly volunteer his time. Please help us thank Mr. Walter Eavey for his many years of service to our community.

Congratulations Walt!

Dr. James Gibson​, Class of 1960, Leadership in the area of​ Agriculture and Education
Jim Gibson has devoted his life to agriculture and has a ​distinguished career in education. After graduating from ​TK in 1960,
he went on to earn his ​Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees from ​Michigan State University.​ When Jim and his wife, Kenna, moved from Michigan, he probably had no idea that his life would have so many experiences and touch so many lives. After getting his start in Pewamo-Westphalia School District as an educator and FFA Chapter Advisor, Jim moved forward as faculty member and administrator at the University of Minnesota-Waseca. ​ He served as​ President and CEO​ of the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council and was the ​Senior Regional Director ​for the National FFA Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. Jim was also the ​Education Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources​ at Wisconsin Technical College and served as ​Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center. ​ He has received several outstanding service awards. Throughout his exceptional career and association with many organizations, his peers have noted Jim’s dedication, determination and passion. He has inspired the minds of generations of students and adults to keep building the agriculture tradition and economy of the midwest.

Congratulations Dr. James Gibson!



At the May 19, 2018, TK Alumni Spring Dinner, your TK Alumni Association proudly presented TWO Distinguished Alumni Awards: Presenting the awards were TKAA Board Trustees: Howie Gragg ‘70, Brenda Kimmey Seifert ‘73 and Amy Pelli Porter ‘90.


Mr. Donald Geukes, Class of 1958,

Leadership in the area of Business and Community Service

  Don has been an active community member for over 4 decades in both the business sector as well as community service.  After graduating from TK and attending Michigan State University, he returned home to help run the family business. He owned and operated Geukes Market after taking over from his father, Chet, in the mid 1970’s.  Don enjoyed running the local business for over 35 years and especially liked getting to know his customers and sponsoring the TASTE of Middleville and the Relay of Life in Barry County.

  Don’s community service is extensive.

1995  Michigan Meat Association Outstanding Service Award

2001  Outstanding 4-H Leader Award at the Barry County Fair

2014  Senior Citizen of the Year Award from the Commission on Aging and Hastings City Bank

2016  Liberty Bell Award from the Barry County Bar Association for exhibiting outstanding community service.

  These are just a few examples of the many awards Don has received over the years for his outstanding contributions in business and community service.  His dedication to Middleville and Barry County through business, 4-H, Barry County Fair and church leadership are recognized and appreciated. Thank you Don, for your years of service to our community!


Mrs. Janet Solomon Geukes, Class of 1961,

Leadership in the area of Education and Community Service

  After graduation from Thornapple Kellogg High School and Western Michigan University,  Jan returned home to Middleville and taught kindergarten and first grade for over 30 years.  She dedicated her career to Thornapple Kellogg students. Jan served on numerous educational committees and was a contributing member to improving the lives of generations of TK kids.

  Janet, alongside her husband Don, has been co owner of Geukes Market. She too, has contributed to Taste of Middleville and the Barry County Relay for Life.  

Some of Janet’s awards include:

2001 Outstanding 4-H Leader Award at the Barry County Fair

2014 Senior Citizen of the Year Award from the Commission on Aging and Hastings City Bank

2015 Club Lamb Producer Award  Michigan Sheep Breeders Association(market lambs for 4-H kids)

  In 2016, Jan stepped up to help organize the newly formed TK Alumni Association.  She was elected Trustee and continues to donate her time and talents to move this organization forward.  Janet has been an inspiration and role model for her students, family and community. She has dedicated her life to improving the lives of others and given countless hours to TK students, 4-H children, Sunday school children and adults in Barry County.

Please help us thank Janet for her many years of service!


On behalf of the TK Alumni Association, we congratulate both Don and Jan for your many years of leadership and service to our community and Thornapple Kellogg Schools.



Thornapple-Kellogg’s First​ ​Annual​ ​Distinguished​ ​Alumni Awards:
Your​ ​TK​ ​Alumni​ ​Association​ is extremely proud and honored to have presented awards to the following individuals for their outstanding achievements after graduation from Thornapple Kellogg. Each honoree has gone above and beyond in their chosen fields. They have earned significant distinctions and given back to their community and this school.
Honored at the TKHS September 2017 Homecoming:
 Mr.​ ​Robert​ ​Wenger​, Class of 1950​, Leadership in the area of Agriculture
Bob credits his high school teachers Art Smalley, Elton Lawrence and the FFA program for launching his outstanding career. He went on after high school to earn his American Farmer Degree and was named Outstanding Young Farmer. Bob has received numerous leadership awards, served as Barry County Commissioner and on Thornapple Kellogg’s School Board. He has been with Farm Bureau for over 65 years and is a contributing life long member of the United Methodist Church. Bob was named HOMETOWN hero in 2010. Congratulations Robert Wenger!
 Mr.​ ​Robert​ ​Bender​, Class of 1954, Leadership in the area of​ ​Military​ ​and​ ​Public​ ​Service
Bob Bender graduated from Michigan State University in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Navy as a pilot, aircraft and mission commander. He was a staff officer at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and retired as a Navy Captain. Bob was elected six terms to the Michigan Legislature, was Chairman for the Michigan Aeronautics Commission and served as Chairman for Barry County Board of Commissioners. He was the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Coordinator for the State of Michigan. Bob, and his wife Carol, served in the Peace Corps in Russia and have made annual house building trips to Guatemala. Congratulations Robert Bender!
 Mrs.​ ​Sharon​ ​Myers​ ​Schondelmayer,​ Class of 1955, Leadership in the area of​ ​Community​ ​Service
Sharon worked for Thornapple Kellogg in the Library Department for 23 years with pride, enthusiasm and passion. She has a reputation for going Above and Beyond while working with TK’s staff and students. Sharon volunteered for over 31 years keeping score at the Boys’ Varsity Basketball games. She travelled to away games, worked at endless track meets and volleyball matches. Sharon was a founding member of the MIddleville Track Club and a lifelong runner. She exemplifies a zest for life and is a role model for students today. Please help us thank her for her many years of service to Thornapple Kellogg! Congratulations Sharon!
 Mr.​ ​Donald​ ​Williamson​, Class of 1957, Leadership in the area of The​ ​Arts
Don credits many TK teachers, coaches and administrators who affected the direction his life would take; However, it was his art teacher, Edna Bender who encouraged him to pursue a career in art at Kendall College of Art and Design. Don went on to become a professor of Art at Kendall College. He served as Dean of Faculty and taught for 29 years. Don’s most visible art is “The Reclaimed Spirit” sculpture & park in front of McFall Elementary. He served on TK’s School Board for 20 years, is the past president of the Middleville Lion’s Club and Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation. Don currently serves as president of the TK Alumni Association and we are honored to have his leadership. Congratulations Don!
 Mr.​ ​Bill​ ​Rich​, Class of 1969, Leadership in the area of Education
Representing Bill Rich today are his parents, Maggie and Keith Adams, his daughter, Courtney and her husband Brian and his grandchildren, Ebbie and Ryan. Mr. Bill Rich spent his entire educational career here at Thornapple Kellogg. He first was hired as a reading teacher and coached volleyball, track and cross country. Bill left the classroom to become Director of Reading and finally, Principal of McFall Elementary. Bill served as secretary for the Michigan Reading Association and held many leadership roles during his career. He was involved in the National Principals’ Association, gave presentations at the national level and always returned home to TK to share, teach, model and listen. We are honored to recognize Bill Rich as a Distinguished Alumni and extend our gratitude to his family.
Congratulations​ ​to​ ​all​ ​the​ ​honorees​ ​and​ ​their​ ​families
The Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association invites you to nominate candidates for the Distinguished Alumni Award.
This award honors and recognizes alumni who exemplify the values, the traditions
and the successes of Thornapple Kellogg High School.
Eligibility Requirements
  • Must be a graduate of Thornapple Kellogg High School
  • Graduated at least ten years from nomination date
  • Posthumous nominees will be accepted
  • Nominations may be made by anyone- colleague, teacher, coach, classmate         and/or community member
  • The nominee must have made a significant contribution to their community, field of work and/or have been recognized for an outstanding achievement, accomplishment, contribution or act that has had a profound and positive effect.

TKHS Alumni featured in The KEY, a publication of TK Schools


Nov/Dec 2021  Edition    Mike Bremer '68

Apr/May 2021  Edition    Benjamin Sevald '02

Feb/Mar 2021  Edition    Amy Ziccarello '16


May/Jun 2019 Edition    Tom Hamilton '15

Mar/Apr 2019 Edition    Adam Holsted '93

Jan/Feb 2019 Edition     Randy Eggers '80


Nov/Dec 2018 Edition     Stuart Aspinall '02

Aug/Sep 2018 Edition     Duane Weeks '76

Mar/Apr 2018 Edition     Cailley Howell-McLean '08

Jan/Feb 2018  Edition      Brenda (Swanson) Hess '85


Nov/Dec 2017 Edition     Mike Bremer '68

Aug/Oct 2017 Edition      Walt Eavey '52

May/Jun 2017 Edition     Dr Faith Heikkila '77

Mar/Apr 2017 Edition     Bruce Higgins '96    

Jan/Feb 2017 Edition       Kyle McClure '03


Nov/Dec 2016 Edition     Cindy Middlebush '78

Apr/May 2016 Edition    Tyler Coburn '04

Mar/Apr 2016 Edition     Abie Ezinga '14

Jan/Feb 2016 Edition      Don Williamson '57


Nov/Dec 2015 Edition     Bob Bender '54

Sep/Oct 2015 Edition      Cade Dammen '09

May/Jun 2015 Edition     Erica Carter '00 and Zia Shook '01

Mar/Apr 2015 Edition     Kevin Michael Schmitz '02

For the full article of the featured TKHS Alumni, see the monthly ALUMNI FEATURE in the TK Schools publication THE KEY. Simply go the TKHS website and look for the Publications heading. The Alumni Feature is usually toward the back pages. You can also go there from here by the following link:
Don't miss the outstanding ALUMNI FEATURE presentations found monthly in the TK Schools publication the KEY (a link to the site can be found at the bottom of this page). Amazing Alumni profiles are published bi-monthly.
Your TKAA Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients to date:
Larry Seger '63
Chris Noah '83
Michael Schipper '81
Gary VanElst '68
Jody Pratt '66
Walt Eavey '52
James Gibson '60
Donald Geukes '58
Janet Geukes '61
Bob Wenger '50
Bob Bender '54
Sharon Schondelmayer '55
Don Williamson '57
Bill Rich '69
Check out this story about one of our own.
Cari Corrigan (TKHS Class of 1990) is a planetary geologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
cari c 2022
copied from TKAA Facebook Jan 27, 2022
In addition to the Distinguished Alumni recipients shown, please scroll to the bottom of this page to view TKHS Alumni that have been featured in THE KEY, a publication of TK Schools