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.
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.
2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Shanese Pointer builds bridges. She did it with her career, and she’s doing it today as a leader at Ivy Tech Anderson. Shanese graduated in 2018 from Ivy Tech with her associate degree in criminal justice. She took her degree to Ball State where she completed her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Corrections. Later, she earned her Master of Science in Human Resource Management/Personnel Administration at Indiana Wesleyan University. And she earned each degree while working full-time at the Youth Opportunity Center in Muncie. Today, Shanese has built relationships with the academic advisors she leads at Ivy Tech Anderson, creating trust that produces a strong environment and a cross-functional approach to student success. Shanese ensures academics, career services, marketing, and student life are working together to revolutionize community college success. Shanese consistently makes herself available for mentoring and problem-solving to deliver the best results for the campus.
Erik Bare helps people living with cancer throughout Central Indiana. Erik, who studied radiation therapy at Ivy Tech Bloomington before graduating in 2009, is executive director of oncology services at Community Health Network MD Anderson Cancer Center in Indianapolis. He’s become a leader in the radiation therapy profession – having worked at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center and the radiation therapy department manager at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes before accepting a leadership role at Community Health. Erik is a big supporter of Ivy Tech’s radiation therapy program: he’s a member of the program’s advisory board and actively advocates hiring graduates of the program. Erik also belongs to many organizations that improve our communities: he is a member and past President of the Rotary Club of Greenwood, a member of the selections committee for Leadership Johnson County, and a grant evaluator for the Greenwood Schools of Education Foundation.
Tyshaun Allen, a vice president of Taylor Brothers Construction Company, provides scholarships and actively donates to programs at Ivy Tech. He graduated with an associate degree in applied science in computer information technology before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Western Governors University. He is continuing his education today at IUPU Columbus. Tyshaun was named Volunteer of the Year by the Columbus Young Professionals and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce – part of the NextGen Awards, which raises the visibility of emerging talent and highlights individual achievement in the area. He is a board member of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization (CAMEO) where he volunteers his skills as their president and their web master. He is a technology consultant to the African American Fund of Bartholomew County and the Columbus Enrichment Program and has been the keynote speaker for the Columbus Council for Youth Development.
Gelina Mascoe’s story, including the health care specialist degree she earned from Ivy Tech, is part of the American Dream. Gelina is from La Gonave, Haiti, and moved to Florida unable to speak a word of English when in the 7th grade. She quickly adapted and made friends and connections. After graduating from high school, Gelina relocated to Northern Kentucky to pursue a career in medical technology. Gelina, who now has two degrees, eventually founded Lumiere D ‘education Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free education to 170 children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Gelina also founded the Haitian Center of Evansville, connecting Haitian immigrants to support that will help them to achieve independence, increase their well-being, and enhance their community impact. Today, Gelina works as a top-producing, full-time real estate agent for F.C. Tucker Emge
Campus: Fort Wayne
Josefina Cervantes made her way to Indiana in 2005 as part of the new TRIO Student Support Services program at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne. Today, she is a substance use manager at Amani Family Services. Josefina was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, before moving to Los Angeles. After graduating from Ivy Tech as the Melvin L. Curtis Award Recipient in 2008, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in human services from IPFW (now Purdue Fort Wayne). Josefina worked for the TRIO SSS program as a Coordinator and program alumna and won the 2014 Bertha M. Jones Memorial Award from Indiana TRIO. Josefina is also a certified community health worker, certified in Prime for Life and Wellness to Recovery, and a certified Spanish Interpreter. She has more than 16 years of experience in social services.
Campus: Hamilton County
A graduate of Ball State University and Ivy Tech School of Nursing, Wendy has been a Registered Nurse in the emergency department for over 25 years. Wendy’s career started at IU Methodist and she is currently a Department Coordinator and Clinical Leader in the ER at Riverview Health in Noblesville, Indiana. Wendy has twice received The Daisy Award for recognition of extraordinary nursing care in her career. Wendy is involved in and advocates for Janus Developmental Services and the Epilepsy Foundation of Indiana and is a member of the Ivy Tech School of Nursing Advisory Committee. Wendy has two adult sons and enjoys reading, health and wellness, gardening, and watching her husband cook for family and friends while she enjoys a glass of wine.
Amber Coryell is changing lives from inside and outside her work. Amber was a first-generation Ivy Tech graduate in 2010 who obtained her associate degree in business administration and later her bachelor’s degree in tourism, conventions, and event management at IUPUI. In addition to working full-time throughout college, Amber took opportunities for internships and community experience to explore and enhance her skills. Her commitment landed her a career in finance (in business development) which enables her to sit on several boards, committees, and councils such as Friends of Riley, Ivy Tech Alumni, Indy CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), and others. These experiences allow Amber to help pave the way for others and to grow the futures of families, students, employees, and communities around her.
Catherine Hightower Valcke
Catherine Hightower Valcke’s higher education journey began at Ivy Tech, where she earned a technical certificate as a medical assistant. And for the last 25 years, she’s been part of the Indiana University Kokomo family where she has made many contributions to the college and her Howard County community. Today, Cathy is director of external relations and public affairs at IUK, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications arts. She has been integral in advancing her community through Indiana’s READI grant process, has worked on economic development boards, and the board of the United Way of Howard County. Cathy earned a master’s degree in higher education administration and student affairs from IU Bloomington. She has been honored with IUK’s Distinguished Service Award, IU’s Bicentennial Medal, and the IU Alumni Association President’s Award for her many contributions to the university.
Janet York faced a big professional challenge in 2009. She had earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana State University – following her start at Ivy Tech – and was working as a business analyst during the heart of a recession. She anticipated her job being eliminated and felt it was time to make a big move. Janet decided to pursue a career in IT so she re-enrolled at Ivy Tech to learn more about computer programming. Twice Janet chose Ivy Tech because it offered what she needed at the right price and the right schedule. Today, Janet works at a software company and credits Ivy Tech with the education she needed to find her career path.
Dr. Jessica Walker
Campus: Lake County (Gary, E. Chicago)
Jessica Howard has turned her interest in physical therapy into a passion – and long, successful career. Jessica graduated from Ivy Tech in 2006 with an associate degree in physical therapy assistant. She finished her Doctor of Physical Therapist degree in 2013 at The University of Findlay and became certified as an oncology physical therapist in 2021. Jessica recently has advanced to being the managing director of two outpatient clinics for Rush Physical Therapy. She also is the local coordinator for clinical education with the Ivy Tech Lake County physical therapy assistant program, offering clinical placements to PTA students. She also has been a clinical instructor – providing guidance, clinical education, and supervision of Ivy Tech PTA students.
Richard L. Richardson Jr.
Richard Richardson loves his Lawrenceburg community – and he’s using his skills to show it off to anyone who will listen. Richard is a 2005 graduate of Lawrenceburg High School, holds an associate degree in criminal justice from Ivy Tech, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana University. He was Clerk-Treasurer for the City of Lawrenceburg from 2018-2019 and enjoyed partnering with the various stakeholders across the city. Richard has seen Lawrenceburg change over the years, but he says it has never lost its small-town sensibility. It’s a place where everyone is welcome – and his goal is to make sure the same welcoming spirit comes from the Lawrenceburg Community Center, where he is the director, Richard is working to cultivate a facility that is welcoming and externally focused on all people regardless of where they are in life’s journey.
Tammy Allen focuses her work on improving the lives of people who face medical challenges. Tammy graduated from Ivy Tech Madison in 2005 with her LPN technical certificate before completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Governors University. Her early career focused on emergency care, medical/surgical, labor/delivery, and education. Since 2013, Tammy has worked for DNV, a leading certification organization where her focus is on healthcare. DNV provides hospital accreditation and certification and is the second-largest entity in the U.S. – behind the Joint Commission – to provide these services. Tammy started as a healthcare surveyor for DNV before advancing to director of program development and certifications (PDC) where she managed development and operations of several hospital certification programs. Under Tammy’s leadership, PDC partnered with their maritime colleagues to provide the first and most extensive global certification of maritime infection control operations during the COVID pandemic.
Ashlyn Pollard grew up in Grant County and was ready to become a registered nurse – so ready, in fact, she enrolled in the dual credit CNA program through Ivy Tech Marion. But the COVID pandemic got in the way – making it impossible for Ashlyn to complete her clinicals and take her board exam. But the setback didn’t end Ashlyn’s dream – it only changed it. She searched for a new program and landed in business administration, which offered numerous career opportunities. In December 2022 – less than two years after graduating from Mississinewa High School – Ashlyn graduated with an associate of science in business administration. In September 2022, she was hired as the College Connection Coach, a new role at Ivy Tech Marion where she serves five high schools and homeschooled students – helping them to learn about dual credit and dual enrollment, giving them more options after graduation.
Rheaunna Jones – known by some people as Rhea, or Rhea of Sunshine – is an early childhood education graduate of Ivy Tech, earning her degree in 2015. After teaching at a nationally accredited early learning center, she enrolled at Ball State to pursue a degree in elementary education – all while working with community partners to open a new childcare center in Muncie. But Rhea’s plans changed with the COVID pandemic. In 2021, she instead pursued her calling to work with youth in Muncie’s highest-need area: a 5th-grade teacher at Southview Elementary School where she engaged in numerous projects to ensure the needs of her students – both in and out of the classroom – were met. Today, through her work at the Department of Education, Rheaunna supports youth-serving and after-school organizations around Indiana. Rheaunna is a beacon of hope and an advocate for change in our community.
Dr. Rebecca Conley
Rebecca Conley has used Ivy Tech to make life better for people and communities around her. Rebecca is a 2009 graduate from the medical assisting program before earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on counseling. She became a full-time medical assisting faculty for Ivy Tech in December of 2011 and the program chair in 2014. Rebecca earned the
Glenn and Catherine Sample Award for Excellence in Instruction for the Richmond Campus in 2015 before completing a master’s degree in human services and executive leadership in 2015, and a Doctorate in leadership with a focus on higher education. Rebecca also serves her community as a marketing and management consultant for City Connect in Greenwood, Indiana.
Angie Wilson – a friend and mentor to many students while attending Ivy Tech as a non-traditional student – has used her experiences to excel and help build the community around her. Since finishing her education at Ivy Tech, Angie has earned her BS, MPA, and JD from Indiana University. Angie also runs a successful tax preparation firm and has volunteered her time and served on several nonprofit boards – including as Vice President of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, as President of Helping Hands, as recruitment ambassador for Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and at the YMCA.
Campus: South Bend/Elkhart
Harry Smyers has touched the lives of hundreds of students who have come through Ivy Tech over four decades. Harry has been affiliated with the college for roughly 38 years and he remains a strong advocate. He has helped to launch the automotive careers of more than 400 Ivy Tech students, and he’s more than a field instructor: he’s a role model, a Marine veteran, and a person who cares about and encourages the success of his students. Every student who shows their mettle is richly rewarded with Harry’s mentorship. He helps students work through fatigue, find resources, and do the extra work needed to succeed. And he always advocates for Ivy Tech as a college that leads students to the right opportunities. Rather than seeking accolades or riches, Harry lives the essence of what Ivy Tech provides students.
Campus: Terre Haute
Abby Noblitt, who graduated magna cum laude from Ivy Tech in 2021 with a degree in early childhood education, is making a big impact on her community. Abby is the owner and director of VIP Kinder College, a family childcare facility in Terre Haute. Abby earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and plans to earn her Master of Education in teaching, learning, and curriculum through Indiana University. While pursuing her education, Abby was the director of VIP Kinder College and managed the facility’s staff while juggling her own family and being active in her church. VIP Kinder College helps children to learn through play, concrete experiences, and interactions with their environment, peers, and adults. VIP Kinder College is rated as a high-quality childcare program and recently received a grant from United Way of the Wabash Valley to help establish a new center, VIP Kinder College South.
I’ve had many people over the past years ask me how I got into the job I’m currently in and why would I chose that profession. It was 11 years ago at the age of 47 that I found myself in a position to where I knew I needed to find a great paying full time job with benefits and I also realized learning a trade could help that. I enrolled in Ivy Techs Energy Program and was the first female to ever pass climbing class for my Electric Line Construction degree. The classes were challenging, exciting and I loved learning. After graduating, I was immediately offered a job with our local utility company Northern Indiana public service company and am currently a working Foreman in gas Construction as a Heavy Equipment Operator. I love my job and what I do and I know had I not gone back to school to get a higher education and learn a trade, I know I would not have the amazing job I have now. Thanks to Ivy Tech with its flexible schedule, awesome teachers and encouraging staff. I did have the opportunity this spring to be one of the presenters for the Energy Program and to meet First Lady Jill Biden. What an honor! I’m married and a mom of 4 adult daughters. I want to show through my actions that hard work and perseverance pays off.