Alumni at Aquinas College

Distinguished Service Award

We celebrate individuals and partner organizations who have demonstrated significant service to Aquinas College at the annual Welcome Home Reception and Awards Celebration.


2021 Recipient

Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh

The Alumni Association Leadership Council honors Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh with the Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh is an award-winning, international scholar who is passionate about helping vulnerable children and parents who are often left out in the educational system. Her life embodies education, and she believes in using early childhood education and authentic parent engagement to ensure that our community’s children have access to quality, early learning opportunities.

Dr. Ezeh is professor of education at Aquinas College and the founder and pedagogical leader of the landmark Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) – a trusted, place-based, early learning collaborative that provides funding, innovative shared support services, and advocacy to partner organizations rooted in vulnerable communities. Through its successful dual-generational model, ELNC and its partners provide family support and high-quality, culturally competent, early childhood educational services to at-risk families. Her life purpose is to ensure that teachers are able to educate ALL children and that vulnerable children are ready for kindergarten.

Dr. Ezeh’s work has taken her across the globe to train teachers and empower parents and to the state government to testify and advocate for vulnerable children. She recently published her memoir – Nwaenyi: Child of an Elephant; Lessons Learned from My Father, a Nigerian Chief, about Child Development and Affirmations.


  • Individuals or partner corporations/organizations of the College shall be eligible for the award.
  • Time, effort, and monetary gifts on behalf of Aquinas College shall constitute the criteria in considering a candidate for the award. The award may recognize one, two, or three of these elements.
  • The Outstanding Alumnus/Alumna award shall be presented at the Awards Gala during Homecoming Weekend.

Past Recipients

Ray Bauer ’64
1971 Honoree

Philip Kernicki ’65
1971 Honoree

Lyle Morrision ’52
1971 Honoree

Sister Aquin Gallagher, O.P.
1972 Honoree

Sister Mary Gonzago Udell, O.P. †
1973 Honoree

C. Arthur Woodhouse
1974 Honoree

Peter Wege
1975 Honoree

Raymond Knape
1976 Honoree

Sister M. Aquinas Weber, O.P. ’58
1977 Honoree

Hugh Allen
1978 Honoree

Neil Colings
1979 Honoree

Carol Duba Holm ’61
1979 Honoree

Don Freeman
1980 Honoree

Ken Marin ’47
Mildred Jablonski Martin ’47

1981 Honorees

The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids
1982 Honorees

Sister Anne Keating, O.P. ’57
1983 Honoree

Jane Hibbard Idema
1984 Honoree

Richard Gillett
1985 Honoree

Monsignor Arthur Bukowski
1986 Honoree

Ella Sims ’87
1987 Honoree

Harold Davidson
1988 Honoree

Rosemary Murphy
1989 Honoree

The Raaymakers Family
1990 Honoree

John Cummiskey
1991 Honoree

George McAleenan
1991 Honoree

Fred Clancy ’40 †
1992 Honoree

Paul Pearson
1992 Honoree

John Veneklasen
1994 Honoree

John Jackoboice
1995 Honoree

Marge Byington
1996 Honoree

Marty Allen
1997 Honoree

Edward "Ned" Smtih, Sr. ’61
1998 Honoree

Edward Twohey
1999 Honoree

The Reverend Jim Cusack
2000 Honoree

David Weinandy, Ph.D.
2001 Honoree

Nancy (Murphy) Erhandt
2002 Honoree

John Wheeler
2004 Honoree

Estelila "Stella" Ferris ’88 †
2005 Honoree

Mike Lown ’86
Kathleen (Hieshetter ’87) Lown

2006 Honorees

Lee E. Jacokes, Ph.D. ’61
2007 Honoree

José Narezo ’75
2008 Honoree

Father Mark Pryzbysz ’83
2009 Honoree

Robert Boguslaski, Ph.D. ’62
2010 Honoree

Thomas Zwier, Ph.D. ’76
2010 Honoree

Patrick A. Miles, Sr. M.M. ’95
2011 Honoree

Robert J. White ’71
2017 Honoree

Paula T. Meehan
Spirt of Aquinas Award
2017 Honoree

Karen Palmore ’89
2018 Honoree

Thomas Czerney ’74
2019 Honoree