Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Trevor Zimmerman of Niles, student speaker

Trevor Zimmerman of Niles, student speaker

Emma Beckman, Gabrielle Blake, Maggie Hadl

Emma Beckman, Gabrielle Blake, Maggie Hadl

Layla Elrod, Jonathan Feece, Alex Foster

Lyla Elrod, Jonathan Feece, Alex Foster

Long-haired guy

Joseph Kissane

Jessica Heath

Jessica Heath

Ryaira Hester

Ryaira Hester

‘It’s Never Too Late for a New Beginning’

Published on May 9, 2024 - 9 a.m.

Trevor Zimmerman was a COVID-19 casualty, his life, along with countless others, disrupted by the global pandemic.

“Southwestern Michigan College has not only provided me with a different path, but also equipped me with the necessary tools to redefine myself and embark on a new career,” Zimmerman told SMC’s Outstanding Graduate Reception May 2 in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus.

“Equipped with an associate degree in accountancy, I eagerly anticipate the chance to apply my newfound skills in the local community while continuing my education at Ferris State in preparation for my CPA exam,” Zimmerman said.

“Interacting with classmates and listening to their stories made me realize I’m not alone. COVID  has had a profound effect on us all. It is safe to say that regardless of whether you came fresh out of high school or from another institution or career, the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century has been traumatizing.”

“But at SMC,” Zimmerman continued, “we have channeled that traumatic experience into growth and transformation to build a new future for ourselves. You are here tonight because you had persistence, determination and commitment not to let any setback, temporary obstacle or any other circumstances get in the way of your success, your goals and your future.

“At SMC, you are never alone. You are never without hope for a better tomorrow. With affordable education, a flexible approach to classes, stellar instructors and deep roots in the local community, SMC is your open door to new professional horizons and a springboard to further learning. At SMC, it is never too late for a new beginning.”

President Dr. Joe Odenwald introduced Zimmerman, his student in the business communications class he teaches at the Niles campus.

Odenwald said Zimmerman grew up in and now owns a home in Niles. “Trevor also intends to pursue a master’s degree in either accounting, finance or business analytics” now that he has added an associate degree in accounting to his bachelor’s degree from Andrews University in medical laboratory science, in which he enjoyed a six-year career.

“While at SMC,” the president said, “Trevor has been very active in the Honors Program, the Honors Club, NoTED Talks, the What Not to Wear Fashion Show and Feeding America food trucks. Last semester, Trevor completed an internship at Scarpone and Co., a tax-preparation service in Niles. He and his wife also welcomed their first child in December.”

Provost Dr. David Fleming and Alumni Relations and Development Coordinator Emily Schrock read honor graduates’ names and presented certificates and portfolios.

“I want to recognize the generosity that helps many of these students on their path to success,” Schrock said. “We rely on the philanthropy of our alumni and community to support student scholarships. We are grateful donors share the motivation to provide affordable, local access to high-quality, post-secondary career preparation and college education.”

“Donors provided more than 1,000 students with more than $1 million in scholarships in the past year,” Schrock said, “and access to life-changing SMC education, which is a passport to the future.”

The 117 students graduating with honors at SMC’s 57th Commencement were recognized for earning cumulative grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher: Heather Adams, Ambrelyn Alwine, Nathan Andrina, Joshua Bae, Elena Barkman, Jason Becht, Emma Beckman, China Bendiner, Gabrielle Blake, Madeline Brennan, Kyle Brock, Tahneal Brooks, Ethan Brown, Ethan Brown-Low, Lea Cardella, Amy Carroll, Cooper Christner, Courtney Clowers, Olivia Converse, Ariana Cooper, Maggie Crawford, Andres Davila Lopez, Arielle Davis, Meghan Deckard, Caylie Dibble, Lyla Elrod, Megan Evans, Jonathan Feece, Alex Foster, Michelle Frazier, Nicole Fuller, Frank Furst, Christian Galvan, Hector Garcia, Sara Garrod, Logan George, Tyhe Glenn, Marshall Grathwohl and Abigail Griffioen.

Also: Maggie Hadl, Hannah Hartline, McKenzie Hassle, Jessica Heath, Julie Henderson, Hailey Heppner, Juan Hernandez, Ryaira Hester, Liseti Hola, Andrew Ickes, Andrew Jackson, Christian Johnson, Kelly Johnson, Alexis Kunyah, Mason Keller, Benjamin Kinder, Joseph Kissane, Brianna Kolberg, Cassandra Krieger, Allyson Kron, Caston Kusarawana, Morgan Labis, Elizabeth Lahti, Logan Lampe, Macey Laubach, Owen Lingle, Alexia Lopez, Shannon Losee, Sydney Lubinski, Hanna Lutz, Audrey Marrs, Anna Martinez, Nicholas Martinez, Evelin Mejia, Ashley Minnick, Evelyn Morales, Elizabeth Moreno, Kali Morris, Riley Mott and Marcus Olson

And: Micah Ordway, Morgan Pieczynski, Riley Pifer, Seth Pompey, Leah Pulling, Matthew Rescoe, Thomas Sapletal, Brooke Schaap, Sydney Schiele, Juliette Schroeder, Gabrielle Sexton, Daniel Shane, Carrie Shephard, Lari Simon, Benjamin Stratton, Travis Strong, Connor Stull, Killian Sullivan, Lisa Sutton, Daniel Tackett, Cameron Thomas, Roberta Tonkin, Addison Tripp, Jin Mei Tusin, Ross Vaickus, Phonsawanh Vanhphoumy, Courtenay Varvel, David Wadley, Stephanie Wares, Nicholas Weston, Layne Whitaker, Davis Williams, Caleigh Wimberley, Victoria Yates, Lilly Yeater and Trevor Zimmerman.

SMC Choral Scholars, conducted by Director of Choral Activities Professor David Carew, performed the alma mater by Robert Briggs, the madrigal “Fire Fire My Heart,” Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” featuring a trio of Madi Sutherland  on guitar, Claire Robinson, Trenton Smith and pianist Christine Seitz, paired with a Stephen Foster song, and “Wanting Memories,” dedicated to retiring 40-1/2-year Professor Dr. Mary D. Young-Marcks, who received a standing ovation.

Director of Bands and Assistant Professor Mark Hollandsworth’s Jazz Ensemble performed before the ceremony.

Odenwald also introduced Trustees Becky Moore, Tracy Hertsel and Skip Dyes.