Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor given to recognize Ivy Tech Alumni. Selected through a highly competitive process, each recipient has made a lasting impact on their community and on Ivy Tech through outstanding professional, philanthropic, or volunteer accomplishments.

Each year, up to 19 alumni from across the state are honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the Distinguished Alumni Celebration in Indianapolis.

The alumni honored at this event represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online. Learn about the criteria and selection process before you nominate.

2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients



Angie Bowman
Campus: Kokomo
Technical Certificate, Practical Nursing, 1994

Angie Bowman is known in her community as a compassionate nurse practitioner who cares about her patients. This 1994 Kokomo alumna has taught as an Ivy Tech adjunct faculty member and continually goes above and beyond in helping future nurses by serving as a preceptor. Following her Ivy Tech education, Angie received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan and Master of Science in nursing from Ball State University, but she still credits Ivy Tech for launching her nursing career.



Tricia Hall Buchholz
Campus: Lafayette
Associate of Science, Criminal Justice, 2005

While studying at Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette, Tricia served as an intern in Tippecanoe County Juvenile Court, received the Dean’s Award for Criminal Justice, and represented her graduating class as the student commencement speaker. After graduating cum laude, earning her Associate of Science in criminal justice from Ivy Tech, Tricia received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University in 2008 and her law degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 2016. Currently Tricia works as an Assistant Director in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at Florida State University where she has received the Florida State University Division of Student Affairs New Employee of the Year Award.



Amanda Crowe
Campus: Evansville
Associate of Applied Science, Human Services, 2008

Amanda Crowe graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Evansville in 2008 with an associate degree in human services. Currently serving as the Vice President of Human Resources at the Evansville Rescue Mission, Amanda was nominated for the Distinguished Alumni Award by a previous client. Amanda’s story exemplifies the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed. Her experience at Ivy Tech gave her the chance to invest in herself, set an example for her children, and take pride in completing her degree.



Jennifer Defrees
Campus: South Bend/Elkhart
Associate of Science, Accounting, 2012

In 2012, Jennifer Defrees graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Elkhart with an associate degree in accounting, which she followed up with a bachelor’s in accounting from Indiana Tech. Today she impacts the lives of hundreds of children in her community through her work at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County and through her service at home as a foster parent. On top of her work with youth, Jennifer still finds time to give back to Ivy Tech and has served as a speaker at the Ivy Impact Gala where she shared her success story as a proud alumna.



Cheryl Ferwerda
Campus: Marion
Associate of General Studies, Associate of Applied Science, Healthcare Specialist; Certificates of Pharmacy Technician, Insurance/Billing Coding, Medical Assisting, and Elder Care, 2014

Cheryl Ferwerda returned to college after 38 years in the food industry. Cheryl went on to complete four certificates and associate degrees in healthcare sciences and general studies from Ivy Tech Community College Marion. In 2017, she received her bachelor’s degree in allied health science/health management from Indiana University-Kokomo. She currently works as an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech and as a Navigator at the Madison County Community Health Center. Focused on patients and continuity of care, Cheryl helps community members find access to health care and resources, regardless of income.



Gary Gee
Campus: Indianapolis
Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Fine Arts, Visual Communication & Fine Arts, 2013 and 2014

Gary Gee knows the importance of following one’s dream. The celebrated Indianapolis-based artist known for his vibrant, community-focused mixed media and ceramic work feels as if he’s living his “childhood dream.” A highly decorated Indianapolis artist and recipient of the Beckmann Emerging Artists Fellowship, Gary began his educational journey at Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis as a visual communication & fine arts student.



Blake Hartman
Campus: Terre Haute
Associate of Science, 1973

Blake Hartman credits getting into the welding field completely to his experience at Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute. The owner of Big Inch Fabricators and Construction, Blake accepted his first welding inspection job for a pipeline company before graduation. This job lasted 25 years and led to him becoming the manager of construction over five states. Blake remains involved with Ivy Tech through his endowment with the Parke County Community Foundation, which will fund three welding scholarships for Parke County graduates. He also helps support and fund the Rockville location through his board seat at the Rockville Parke County Learning Center.


Jennifer Patterson Nolan
Campus: Madison
Associate of Science, Nursing, 2011

Jennifer Patterson Nolan was the first person in her family to go to college. Jennifer received her first degree, an associate in nursing, at Ivy Tech Community College Madison. She went on to receive her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Currently serving as the Manager of Clinical Operations at IU Health Saxony in the emergency room, Jennifer’s passion for advocacy and care is reflected in her emergency department, ranked highest in patient satisfaction among the entire IU Health system. Beyond her professional achievements, Jennifer is a member of the Ivy Tech Foundation’s League of Ivy Young Professionals Council.



Desiree Polk-Bland
Campus: Richmond
Associate of Science, General Studies, 2006

Desiree Polk-Bland had already received a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees before she received her associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College Richmond. The Executive Dean of Student Affairs at Columbus State Community College in Ohio says her time at Ivy Tech provided perspective on her professional goals and enhanced her professional abilities in the field of higher education. Desiree established the Desiree Polk Endowed Scholarship to support Ivy Tech students in achieving their goals of higher education.



Tony Pulley
Campus: Fort Wayne
Associate of Applied Science, Accounting, Business Management, 1977

In 1977, Tony Pulley received two associate degrees from Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne: one in accounting and one in business management. Currently the President of Crossroads Bank’s Investment Center, Tony believes his level of success can be achieved by “anyone that has the entrepreneurial spirit.” Beyond his professional achievements, he has served his community through years on boards like the Wabash Advisory Board, Wabash Child Abuse Prevention Council, Ivy Tech Advisory Committee, United Fund, and many others.



Donna Riley
Campus: Sellersburg
Associate of Applied Science, Office Administration, 2008

In 2008, Donna Riley earned her degree in office administration from Ivy Tech Community College Sellersburg. “I got the college degree that I always wanted at the age of 55!” Donna says. “Ivy Tech made that possible!” As the retired Executive Director of Leadership Southern Indiana, Donna has received recognition for her leadership and active role in the community, including Leadership Southern Indiana’s Servant Leader Award in 2014 and the Distinguished Toastmaster Award from Toastmaster International in 2011.



Allison Newell Risch
Campus: Columbus
Associate of Science, Nursing, 2002

Allison Newell Risch graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette in 2002 with an associate degree in nursing. Allison’s nursing career exemplifies her commitment to her community, her excellence in patient care, and her ability to educate those in her field. She is a shining example to future and current nursing students of what they can accomplish in the medical field. Allison continues to be involved with Ivy Tech Columbus through her family’s creation of the Gladys Pitt Educational Endowment, a scholarship that supports nursing students.



Steven Schroers
Campus: Lake County
Associate of Applied Science, Computer Information Technology, 2016 graduate

As the IT Manager for Lake County’s 911 Center, Steven Schroers uses his Associate of Science in computer information technology from Ivy Tech Community College Lake County to serve 15 communities and their public safety agencies. A volunteer and District EMS Element Vice Chairman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Steven is active in the Lake County community and loves sharing information about the new Ivy Tech center.



Frank Scott
Campus: Muncie
Associate of Applied Science, Human Services, 2011

Frank graduated with an associate degree in human services from Ivy Tech Community College Muncie and is currently the president of the Whitley Community Council, a neighborhood organization that has won two national awards. His neighborhood association opened a food pantry which has served hundreds of people in the community. He has also become the precinct committee man for his district and serves as Vice Chairman of Operations for the Muncie Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. He believes his time at Ivy Tech gave him the motivation he needed.



Brenda Stellema
Campus: Michigan City
Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Fine Arts, Technical Certificate, Human Services, Health Sciences, 2014

Brenda Stellema has received multiple certificates and degrees from Ivy Tech Community College Michigan City, including an associate degree in human services and another in health sciences. After graduating from Ivy Tech, Brenda joined Family Advocates, an agency working with children who have been abused and neglected. During that time, she developed the Court Appointed Youth Advocate (CAYA) Program to assist youth struggling with delinquency and behaviors impacting their academic and personal progress. Over the past five years, CAYA has helped over 90 teens, a number Brenda hopes to increase as she works toward state funding for a statewide launch.



Jessica Strunk
Campus: Bloomington
Associate of Applied Science, Office Administration, 2005

Jessica Strunk knows the value of education. Currently serving as the Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Services at Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington, Jessica began her journey with Ivy Tech almost 13 years ago while working on her associate degree in office administration. Jessica plays an active role in the Lawrence County community. She is part of the Circle of Ivy women’s philanthropy group, where she also involves her nine-year-old daughter in raising funds to support Ivy Tech students.



Joel Troxel
Campus: Valparaiso
Associate of Applied Science, Accounting, 2004

Joel Troxel was 16 years old when he dual enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso as a high school sophomore. Joel is now a Certified Public Accountant who owns JET Consulting Services, Inc., a business consulting, financial services, and technology company. Joel is an active volunteer in his community and continues to give back to Ivy Tech by assisting in fundraising events for the Ivy Tech Foundation.



David Wismann
Campus: Lawrenceburg
Associate of Science, Criminal Science, 2013

David Wismann graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Lawrenceburg with an Associate of Science in criminal justice. While pursuing his degree, David worked at the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Office. David went on to receive his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in criminal justice. Today he works as the Security Chief at Hidden Valley Lake and he remains connected with Ivy Tech as an adjunct criminal justice professor.



Jordan Wolfe
Campus: Anderson
Associate of General Studies, 2017

Jordan Wolfe was only 14 years old when he enrolled in Ivy Tech Community College. Although he was a freshman in high school, Jordan was able to register at the Anderson and Muncie campuses due to his homeschooling. Determined to knock out as many college credits as he could, Jordan completed an associate degree in general studies before graduating high school. Currently studying meteorology at Ball State University, Jordan hopes to go on to work for a local news station or the National Weather Service.

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