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Becoming A Germanna Student

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Educational Foundation - Distinguished Alumni

alumni

These individuals attended Germanna Community College and have obtained notable achievement within their careers and made notable contributions to their community. They are recognized as Distinguished Alumni and have been invited to be keynote speakers at commencement ceremonies.

  • Devon Geary (Speaker, May 2014)

    commencement speaker

    Office of Disability Services, Germanna Community College

    It wasn’t that long ago and Devon Geary, Germanna Community College’s Spring 2014 commencement speaker, has come so far.

    She was so sick in 2006, when she was a sophomore at James Monroe H. S. in Fredericksburg that she had to drop out of school.

    She suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can be debilitating. Worse, Devon’s case of POTS is accompanied by Ehler-Danos syndrome, which affects connective tissue between joints and can make movement agonizing.

    At 16, she was faced with the prospect of being bedridden or in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

    She refused to give in.

    In 2008, she came to Germanna in a wheelchair and earned her GED. She began classes at GCC, using a walker, and frequently losing consciousness.

    She thrived on the kind of one on one attention students receive from the faculty at Germanna.

    Her condition gradually improved, and though there was still pain, by 2010, she was able to walk on her own.

    Geary did so well at Germanna she was awarded nearly a full scholarship to Amherst College, one of the top liberal arts schools in the country.

    She has since graduated from Amherst, where she was chosen as an Amherst-Folger Undergraduate Fellow and worked as a teaching assistant.

    Now she’s giving back by coming back to Germanna, where she works in the Disability Services Department, helping others.

  • Mike Ivory (Speaker, December 2013)

    commencement speaker

    At first Mark Ivory considered Germanna Community College a way station—a pit stop on the way from high school to a university degree.

    It turned out to be the place where he found his way.

    “It’s a good place to figure out what you want to do in life and not spend an inordinate amount of money” Ivory says

    He had planned to go straight from Spotsylvania High School to Virginia Commonwealth University and go on to med school to become a doctor.

    “I always wanted to be a surgeon,” Ivory says.

    In May of his senior year in high school his parents told him they didn’t have the money, for college. He put himself through school. Germanna was affordable and its flexible schedule allowed him to work.

    He eventually decided to enter Germanna’s nursing program. Early on an instructor asked the class “Why are you here?”

    Others were saying it was their lifelong dream to become a nurse.

    “ I said, ‘I’m just doing this so I can become a doctor,’ ” he recalls with a chuckle. “ And you could hear crickets.”

    During the fall semester of his first year in the program his class had an operating room observation day at Mary Washington Hospital. He went in and was standing at the foot of the bed and the nurse anesthetist said, “ Come up here.”

    The nurse anesthetist told Ivory: “ You might want to think about this. It’s a pretty cool job. You make a decent living and you get to do some fun stuff.”

    “ I changed my whole plan right at the point,” Ivory says.

    He graduated from Germanna, passed the state nursing board exam and went on to George Mason’s RN to BSN program.

    “ I thought the nursing classes at Germanna were harder than the ones at George Mason,” he says. “ Germanna was more hands on.”

    He works at Mary Washington Hospital. And now whenever a class from Germanna comes into the operating room, he tries to pull a student aside just as he was pulled aside.

    “ I always like to bring them up and give them that experience,” Ivory says.

    As a member of the U.S. Army reserve, he was deployed in 2003 to Landstuhl, Germany, near Ramstein Air Base, the medical center for all of the European command.

    He lives in Spotsylvania with his wife Danya Kriskovich Ivory and their four children.

  • Virginia Van Valzah (Speaker, May 2013)

    commencement speaker

    Deputy First Class Stafford County Sheriff’s Office assigned to Court Security

    Virginia Van Valzah has turned a learning disability into what she calls an

    "addiction to learning.”

     

    The determined 26-year-old has battled ADHD and dyslexia since she was a child. When she enrolled at Germanna Community College, she applied advice from one of her teachers at James Monroe High School to break courses down into easily digestible chunks and spend a lot of time in the Tutoring Center.

    “Class sizes at Germanna are small enough that you get that one-on-one attention you need to thrive,” she says.

    After earning her associate’s degree at Germanna in 2006, she went on to a bachelor’s in administrative justice at George Mason University in 2008 and a post bachelor’s certificate and master’s in criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. Using flash cards to study, she compiled a 3.7 grade point average at VCU.

    She’s now a court security deputy for the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office and a training officer. This summer, she will begin teaching criminology at Germanna as an adjunct faculty member.

    “I’m addicted to learning and I’m trying to pass on my addiction to other people,” she says.

    As a training officer, she‘s already helped students one-on-one who might have struggled without that attention."

    “People do things differently and they learn differently,” she says. “I want to be the person who understands a learning disability. They could be the best at the job. They don’t know how to do it unless you help them, but they could be the best.”

    She grew up in Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fredericksburg. She currently lives in downtown Fredericksburg.

    Her mother, Cathy Van Valzah, has been a history teacher for over 25 years at Brooke Point High School in Stafford. Her father, Stuart Van Valzah, is an accountant who owns his own business.

    She said she has known she wanted to work in law enforcement since she was 7 years old. “When other girls were playing with dolls, I was playing cops and robbers,” she said. “I’ve always been kind of a tomboy.”

  • Anita Newhouse (Speaker, December 2012)

    commencement speaker

    Welcome Center Manager, Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center, Germanna Community College

    Anita Newhouse didn't believe she was smart enough. She was wrong.

    She says she came up with every excuse she could think of not to enroll at Germanna Community College.

    "I have a child."

    "I work full time."

    "I wasn't a good student in high school."

    "The truth is," she says, "my self-esteem and confidence were so low that I honestly didn't think I would be successful. I thank God I listened to a friend who convinced me to enroll at Germanna in 2000. She suggested taking one class at a time until I was used to that and then taking more than one class each semester. As time passed, I became more confident and I held my head higher."

    She was 29 years old when she started at GCC. Her goal was to earn a bachelor's degree by the time she was 40. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington when she was 34.

    Now, at 36, the Lignum resident is manager of Germanna's Welcome Center at the Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper, which brings together counseling, financial aid and admissions resources to help students in that area find the answer to any questions they have, overcome any doubts they have, and get off to a flying start.

    She says she can identify with "the hesitation, the anxiousness, the worry and the fear" some students feel as they enter college.

    "If you have the burning desire to do it, follow your dreams and don't let age hold you back from what you want to do. Believe me, you can."

  • Beth Turner (Speaker, May 2012)

    commencement speaker

    Professional Marriage and Family Counselor

    Beth Turner found exactly what she needed at Germanna Community College.

    The professional marriage and family counselor who lives in Warrenton was part of GCC's first class when the Locust Grove Campus opened in 1970. She transferred from Mary Washington College to Germanna as soon as the school opened.

    MWC had no nursing program and the University of Virginia wasn't accepting nursing students who didn't already have two years of study in the field behind them.

    "Germanna was ideal for me," says Turner, now 70. "I could live at home with my children and go to school and also work. It opened the door for me."

    When she finished her nursing studies at Germanna, she was not only able to pass the state nursing boards, she was able to challenge them, meaning that she only had to take one more year of nursing in the B.S. program.

    "I passed over a whole year of nursing and I went into the fourth year of nursing at UVa," she says.

    Turner, who lived in Culpeper when she was attending GCC and now resides in Warrenton, says, "Nursing was a springboard for me to do anything I wanted in the health care field."

    She went on to get her master's degree at George Mason University and work with substance abuse victims before moving on to family and marriage counseling.

  • Kevin Jackson. (Speaker, December 2011)

    commencement speaker

    Director, Bon Secours, St. Mary's Hospital

    As a young child growing up in the rural county of Caroline, Kevin Jackson was always a dreamer. The oldest of three siblings, he dreamed big enough dreams to lift him from the loneliness of a childhood separated from a single mother struggling to care for her children.

    By the age of 17, Mr. Jackson was working three jobs, providing for his siblings, as well as excelling on the Caroline's High School track and field team. Mr. Jackson admits that he was a mediocre student who did not apply himself to his maximum potential. He credits exposure to Saturday barber shop debates ranging from sports to social disparities with creating a desire to go to college.

    After graduating from Caroline High, Mr. Jackson enrolled at Germanna Community College. He learned about an incentive being offered by the Medical College of Virginia in conjunction with J. Sargent Reynolds Community College that paid for students' education. He transferred and received an A.A.S. degree in Respiratory Therapy.

    He then enrolled at VCU while working full-time at St. Mary's Hospital as a Registered Respiratory Therapist. Mr. Jackson earned a B.A. in Political Science. Working in the healthcare environment opened his eyes to the challenges facing America's health care system.

    He currently holds the position as the Director of Respiratory Care, Pediatric Pulmonary, and the Pulmonary Lab at St. Mary's Hospital, and has earned an M.H.A. degree from Seton Hall University.

    His education has given him an understanding of how public health policy impacts the lives of people, especially the disadvantaged.

    Mr. Jackson is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Health Policy at Walden University. His primary objective is to promote social change. Mr. Jackson resides in Richmond, and is married to Courtney Jackson. They have one son, Dallas Jackson.

  • Kenny Dotson (Speaker May, 2011)

    commencement speaker

    Owner-Operator, Titan Construction

    Kenny Dotson grew up in a single-wide trailer in Orange County's Burr Hill.

    That didn't deter him from becoming one of the most successful business people in Orange County, working side by side with his wife, Lora Dotson, 48, the owner-operator and sole proprietor of Titan Construction, calls his wife "my right and left hand." They were high school sweethearts at Orange High School and have been married for 26 years. The couple lives in Locust Grove.

    He is a 1983 graduate of Germanna Community College and gives GCC much credit for his success, saying it opened many doors for him and taught him to be a leader. In both 2007 and 2010, he and Lora were voted businesspersons of the year by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. In 2008, he received the Ken Stanley Award for Excellence from the Orange Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Germanna Educational Foundation Board.

  • Steve B. Jones (Speaker May, 2010)

    commencement speaker

    Executive Vice President/COO The Fried Companies

    Steve B. Jones graduated from Germanna Community College in 1979 with an Associate Degree in Business Management. He soon joined Eastern International, an industrial and office park developer out of Virginia Beach, as a Marketing Representative working with the Stafford Industrial Park project on Route 17 in Stafford County. In 1983, Steve joined WJ Vakos & Company as a Facilities Manager where he oversaw the company's existing commercial real estate portfolio until he was promoted to Vice President of WJ Vakos & Company in 1985. In his role as Vice President, Steve was involved in many aspects of the company as it grew to become one of the region's largest commercial development companies.

    In 1995, Steve accepted the position of Executive Vice President of WJ Vakos & Company. He continued his leadership and involvement in all of the company's development, construction, marketing, leasing and management activities as the company further expanded into Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia. In the spring of 2005, after 22 years with W. J. Vakos & Company, Steve was recruited to become the Chief Operating Officer of the Fried Companies, Inc., a regional residential and commercial real estate development firm located out of Fairfax County, Virginia with offices in Springfield, Spotsylvania County and Greene County, Virginia. As COO, Steve has been responsible for managing all aspects of the company's operations and real estate portfolio. Further, he oversees the management of several operating businesses in Virginia to include a Best Western Hotel and Suites, and the operation and expansion of Fried Companies luxury pet hotel, Olde Towne Pet Resort.

    Through the years, Steve has generously given his time and talents to many community boards and committees including Germanna Community College's Educational Foundation board.

    Steve resides in Spotsylvania, Virginia with his wife and two children.

  • Lisa Seay, RN, BSN, MSN (Speaker May, 2009)

    commencement speaker

    Vise President of Development, HCA St. Mary's Hospital

    A native Virginian, Lisa Seay is the Vice President of Development for HCA's new Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, a planned 126 bed acute care facility opening in Spotsylvania County in 2010. Lisa is directly involved in physician recruitment, forming clinical service lines, developing new services, and pre-opening management activities. Lisa joined HCA in 2005 and served recently as Director of Business Development and Management Engineering for HCA's Capital Division, which has offices in Richmond and Reston, Virginia.

    Lisa began her nursing career as a Critical Care nurse at HCA's Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond. Since then, she has practiced nursing in a Post Anesthesia Unit, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Intensive Care Unit and in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. In addition to an extensive clinical background, Lisa has held leadership positions in nursing, healthcare education and healthcare operations. Prior to joining HCA, Lisa held both clinical and leadership positions for MediCorp Health System in Fredericksburg and as Administrator for the Surgi-Center of Central Virginia, an out-patient surgical hospital located in Stafford County.

    Lisa played a key role in HCA's successfully receiving a Certificate of Public Need (COPN) for the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, the first new hospital to be built in 40 years in the Commonwealth of Virginia. While working on the development of the new hospital, Lisa also served as an internal consultant for 10 HCA hospitals throughout Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Virginia. Using performance improvement methodologies along with her clinical knowledge, Lisa was responsible for improving the efficiency and productivity of Emergency Room, Operating Room, and Imaging areas for HCA's Capital Division hospitals.

    Lisa received her associate's degree in Nursing from Germanna Community College, her bachelor's degree in Nursing from Medical College of Virginia, and her master's degree in Nursing/Health Systems Management from the University of Virginia.

    Along with several other committees, Lisa is a member of the Regional Chamber of Commerce's Healthcare Council Board, District 1 Advisory Council for Healthcare Reform, serves as secretary for Rappahannock Health Advisory Council, Planning District 16 and a current member of American College of Health Care Executives, Caroline Alliance, Virginia Organization of Nursing Executives, and University of Virginia Alumni Association.

    Lisa lives in Spotsylvania County with her husband Marc of 28 years. They have two children, Brian (graduate of WVU) and David (graduate of VT). Needless to say, football season is often very "spirited" at the Seay household!

  • Robert D. "Bobby" Orrock (Speaker May, 2008)

    commencement speaker

    Delegate

    Delegate Robert D. "Bobby" Orrock has served in Virginia's House of Delegates since 1989, representing the 54th House District, which includes parts of Caroline and Spotsylvania Counties.

    He is Vice Chairman of the House Finance Committee, while also serving on the Committees of Health, Welfare and Institutions; Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources; and Counties, Cities and Towns.

    As a teacher at Spotsylvania High School, Del. Orrock says he is keenly aware of the importance of creating a Virginia where coming generations will have better opportunities to compete in a world economy, while being better able to live, learn, work and raise their families.

    Del. Orrock has supported legislation that would reduce the sales tax on food, eliminate the estate tax, increase the per-child tax credit for educational purposes, and create long-term tax credits for health insurance for senior citizens.

    He is active in local civic organizations. He is an EMT with the Ladysmith Volunteer Rescue Squad, a trustee for the Spotsylvania Volunteer Rescue Squad, a board member for the Moss Free Clinic and a hunter safety instructor with the Virginia Game Commission. Del. Orrock serves as a deacon and trustee at Bethany Baptist Church and also works part-time as a radio announcer at WFLS radio in Fredericksburg.

    He has three adult children: Robert D., Jr, Lila Joanna and Welford Thomas. He lives in Woodford, at historic Medway Farm in Caroline County.