Distinguished alumni awards 2012.04.04

Written by David Green.

Four Morenci graduates will be honored  with Distinguished Alumni Awards April 14 by the Morenci Education Foundation. The presentation will follow a catered meal at the high school.

Keith Beck—Keith attended a one-room schoolhouse before attending high school in town. He was the valedictorian of the Class of 1961.

Keith earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Adrian College and a doctorate in chemistry at Purdue University.

After teaching chemistry at Elmhurst College in Illinois, Keith joined the staff of North Carolina State University to teach chemistry and textile engineering. In addition to research projects in textile chemistry, Keith served for a decade as head of the college’s textile engineering, chemistry and science department and he remains part of the teaching staff.

In his spare time, Keith enjoys woodworking, growing roses, music and photography.

Bill VanValkenburg—The 1969 graduate was instrumental in creating the Morenci Education Foundation and guiding it through its first 10 years. He has also served as chairperson of the school alumni reunions.

Bill became acquainted with many Morenci students while serving as a bus driver for 18 years. In addition to a range of jobs and service projects, Bill has served as pastor of the Seneca Community Church. His 30th year at the pulpit will begin this fall.

Bill makes contact with many people from throughout the area by working as an assistant at Eagle Funeral Home in Morenci. He can also be seen at certain events with his ventriloquist doll “Gramps,” described as an 83-year-old with an attitude.   

Jack Mannscreck—Following graduation from Morenci in 1977, Jack earned a degree from Michigan State University. He completed additional studies at Boston University and Wayne State University.

Jack currently serves as pastor of the  Big Beaver United Methodist Church in Troy, Mich. He is involved in Rotary International, the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the Board of Discipleship for the Detroit Conference of the Methodist church. He serves as a mentor for pastors new to the ministry.

Jack is involved in music through playing the piano and saxophone, and with singing. He enjoys building dollhouse furniture.

Jennifer (Vanlerberg) Blaker—After graduation in 1995, Jennifer attended Michigan State University.

She joined the staff of the Bank of Lenawee, which later became First Federal Bank, and since 2007 she has served as the community banking center manager for the Morenci office.

She is active in the Morenci Kiwanis Club and the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce and takes part in the many activities sponsored by each group.

She has helped with the Lenawee Relay for Life and Lenawee United Way, and has presented informational sessions to students in finance and banking.

 She enjoys camping, fishing and biking with her family, and also spends time playing golf and exploring area wineries.

• Donations of items for the annual Morenci Education Foundation auction are still being accepted at United Bank and Trust, First Federal Bank and the Morenci Board of Education office.

The auction will begin following the alumni awards and serves as the major fund-raiser for the Foundation’s scholarship fund.

Van Valkenburgs—Each year the Morenci Education Foundation dinner and auction is dedicated to an individual or couple who have had a positive impact on the school and community. This year’s event is dedicated to William and Rosalyn Van Valkenburg.

Bill grew up on a dairy farm west of Canandaigua and graduated from Morenci Area High School in 1969. 

Rosalyn Chroninger graduated from Heath (Ohio) High School in 1967 and then earned a degree in elementary education from the former Fort Wayne Bible College (now Taylor University). She was hired to teach at the Gorham Fayette Elementary School in the fall of 1973. After teaching for several years, she took a job as a sales secretary at the Aget Manufacturing Company in Adrian has remained in the position for 22 years.

 Bill and Rosie met in 1977 when Bill briefly served as pastor of the Olive Branch Christian Union Church and Rosie was attending. They married at the former First Baptist Church in Morenci in 1978. The Van Valkenburgs are the parents of three sons: Billy (and Crystal) who works at a car servicing center in Virginia Beach, Va.; Andy (and Desireé) who is the network administrator for the LISD in Adrian; and TJ (and Lydia) who is a crew chief for a construction company in Portsmouth, Va. 

Bill and Rosie have led the ministry at the Seneca Community Church since October 1983. Rosie is very involved in both the women's and children's ministries.

 Bill previously served in the HOSTS reading mentor program at Morenci Elementary School and he has chaired the last two Morenci all-school alumni reunions. He is a dedicated blood donor and his next donation will reach the 100-pint mark.

  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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