I Define Success: Jennifer Nolan

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Distinguished Alumna, Jennifer Patterson Nolan was the first person in her family to go to college. Jennifer received her first degree, an associate in nursing, at Ivy Tech Community College Madison. While she went on to receive her bachelor’s and master’s degree, her first steps towards higher education weren’t easy.

“I had to pay for everything on my own,” she explained. “Attending Ivy Tech gave me the ability to pay for my own tuition while I worked and raised my son.”

Jennifer had aspired to be a nurse since she was a little girl and says her time at Ivy Tech helped her to become a nurse advocate. During her experience at Ivy Tech, Jennifer felt completely supported in her goals, but still able to be a mother. She applauds her Ivy Tech instructors for encouraging students to consider careers they may not have known about previously.

“The instructors really pushed us to learn what we loved about the nursing profession while we were in school,” she said. “They helped us to think long-term about what we wanted to do after graduation.”

Currently serving as the Manager of Clinical Operations at IU Health Saxony in the emergency room, Jennifer’s passion for advocacy and care is reflected in her emergency department, ranked highest in patient satisfaction among the entire IU Health system. In addition to her professional achievements, Jennifer remains connected to the College as a member of Ivy Tech Foundation’s League of Ivy Young Professionals Council. She participates in community service and educates others about the significance of the opioid crisis.


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Jennifer’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Cheryl Ferwerda

cheryl ferwerdaIvy Tech Distinguished Alumna, Cheryl Ferwerda returned to college after working in the food industry for 38 years. She was without a job and living with her mother. When she began to search for jobs, she worried that her skills were lacking. After the unemployment office encouraged her to develop new skills, she knew it was time to make a change.

“I went to my local Ivy Tech campus and the Office of Student Affairs was so encouraging,” she said. “I was able to get registered for classes and completed financial aid that same day!”

Cheryl went on to complete four certificates and associate degrees in healthcare sciences and general studies. In 2017, she received her bachelor’s in Allied Health Science and Health Management from Indiana University = Kokomo. She currently works as an Adjunct Professor at Ivy Tech and a Navigator at the Madison County Community Health Center. Focused on patients and continuity of care, Cheryl helps community members find access to healthcare and resources, regardless of income. Cheryl’s time at Ivy Tech allowed her to grow personally and professionally while teaching her how to help others navigate the healthcare system.

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“Education is life changing. I would never dream that I would have the experiences that I’ve had because it opens so many doors,” she said. “I think that what Ivy Tech does is remove barriers if you believe in yourself.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Cheryl’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Tricia Buchholz

tricia buchholzTricia Hall Buchholz’s educational journey began at West Lafayette High School.  At graduation, she was unsure of what direction she would go with her education.  Immediately after high school she took several courses at Ivy Tech and in her mid-20’s began her serious study at Ivy Tech, intent on pursuing an associate degree in criminal justice.  During an introductory criminal justice course, the professor took notice of her abilities and suggested Tricia genuinely consider law school.

“She had seen something in me at that moment that completely changed the trajectory of my future.  I thought the idea of my going to law school was ridiculous, but her believing in me stayed with me.”  After that conversation, Tricia’s plans for her future changed.

While studying at Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette, Tricia served as an intern in Tippecanoe County juvenile court, received the Dean’s Award for Criminal Justice, and represented her graduating class as student commencement speaker.  After graduating cum laude and earning her associate degree in criminal justice from Ivy Tech, Tricia received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University in 2008.  After a five-year career with Tippecanoe County Youth Services, Tricia returned to school and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 2016. During her time at McKinney, Tricia was named to the Moot Court Society’s Order of the Barristers, represented McKinney in two national moot court competitions, and served on the Moot Court Society Board as the Assistant Chief Justice for National Competitions.  As a result of her pro bono work throughout law school, Tricia received the Norman Lefstein Award of Excellence.

In August of 2017, Tricia began her current position at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.  As Assistant Director in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, a few of her many duties include: serving as an administrator for student conduct hearings; delivering Title IX hearing officer training for students, faculty, and staff; advising hearing officers and panels during student conduct hearings; and providing supervision and support for graduate assistants and interns. In May 2018, Tricia received the Florida State University Division of Student Affairs New Employee of the Year Award.

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Tricia is described as “a champion” by Mary Mitchell, the Ivy Tech staff member that nominated her for the Distinguished Alumni Award. “Tricia stepped onto the Ivy Tech campus as a student, unaware of her exceptional intellect and drive,” Mary said. “Tricia rightfully garnered numerous awards and accolades along the way for her exceptionalism and largely credited her experiences at Ivy Tech as one reason for her personal success.” As an Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumna, she has another accolade to add to her impressive collection.

Tricia has remained connected to the Lafayette Ivy Tech criminal Justice program.  She has been able to return and speak to criminal justice students and considers it a highlight that she was able to attend the 2018 reunion of the criminal justice program. She looks forward to more opportunities to work with students and faculty.

“The impact Ivy Tech has had on my education, life, and career cannot be overstated.  The instructors in the outstanding Lafayette criminal justice program unlocked previously unrealized talent and potential in me, laying the foundation for the success I have since experienced.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Tricia’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or College.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Tony Pulley

tpulley1In 1977, Tony Pulley received an associate degree in accounting and an associate degree in business administration from Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne. For him, there was no need for a four-year degree because he knew that he wanted to run his own business. Tony achieved this goal, becoming the owner of a financial services business – a company he eventually sold to Crossroads Bank.

“That’s what Ivy Tech did, it gave me the tools to build a business from scratch,” he said. “It gave me the tools to build and run my own business, which ultimately the bank bought 18 years ago. I was self-employed for 18 years before that.”

Currently the President of Crossroad’s Bank Investment Center, Tony believes his level of success can be achieved by anyone that has the entrepreneurial spirit. He encourages students to have a plan, but prepare for that plan to change. “What I am doing now in financial planning is a profession that did not exist,” he said.

“You have to be able to change because the world is always changing. Ivy Tech helps you get there. It helps you prepare for the first job and for the next job.”

Beyond his professional achievements, Tony has served his community through roles on boards like the Wabash Advisory board, Wabash Child Abuse Prevention Council, Ivy Tech Advisory Board, United Fund, and many others. Participating in various church boards and committees, Tony has also acted as an elder, teacher and youth group leader. Ivy Tech staff member Pam Guthrie described Tony as an “outstanding person” when she nominated him for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

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“[Tony] has used his education to excel in his field. He exemplifies what we hope all our graduates will become in their communities.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Tony’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Brenda Stellema

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Brenda Stellema has received multiple certificates and degrees from Ivy Tech Community College Michigan City, including associate degrees in human services and in health science. Brenda, who is an honors graduate and member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, was nominated to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award by her former professor, Daniel Mallon.  “From the first week of having Ms. Stellema in one of my classes, I knew she was going to make an impact on the world,” said Mallon, “Her drive and ambition is unparalleled.”

After graduating from Ivy Tech, Brenda joined Family Advocates, an agency working with children who have been abused and neglected. During that time, she developed the Court Appointed Youth Advocate (CAYA) Program to assist youth struggling with delinquency and behaviors impacting their academic and personal progress. As a court-ordered intervention being used by the local Juvenile court, CAYA matches appointed teens with advocates, mentors and role models. Over the past five years, CAYA has helped over 90 teens; a number Brenda hopes to increase as she works towards state funding for a statewide launch. Brenda even brought the first CAYA graduate to Ivy Tech to enroll in classes.

“For me to bring her to the campus where I started my journey was surreal,” said Brenda, “That’s how much I believe in Ivy Tech. It can be a launching pad and to help you get where you want to go.”

Brenda’s time at Ivy Tech pushed her to step out of her comfort zone and become a servant leader. Her experience helped her understand the importance of helping others and in her community. Brenda continues to be grateful to the Ivy Tech faculty that “mentored, coached and guided” her toward reaching her goals.

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“The reason why I am here is because people invested in me and it gave me a reason to give back,” she said, “I came to Ivy Tech as a nontraditional student at 48 years old and I was provided with the tools and the resources to change my life and create a career that I love.”

As an alumna, Brenda has pursued her bachelor’s in social work and has remained connected to Ivy Tech as a member of the Circle of Ivy. Circle of Ivy is Ivy Tech’s women’s giving circle, which is open to all women who wish to become members of a powerful network of philanthropists who collectively give back to local Ivy Tech campuses and students.


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Brenda’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Frank Scott

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In celebration of his professional success, community involvement, and continued support of the College, Frank has been honored as an Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumni.

Frank Scott decided to enroll at Ivy Tech Community College Muncie after the plant where he worked closed. The company offered the option to attend Ivy Tech for free and Frank seized the opportunity to make a career change. Ready to try something different, Frank decided to study human services.

“I had been in manufacturing for 28 years and really wanted a change. I enjoyed learning about the community. It changed my life.”

Frank graduated with an associate degree in human services and is currently serving as the president of Whitley Community Council, a neighborhood organization that has won two national awards. Under his leadership, the neighborhood association has opened a food pantry which has served hundreds of local community members. Frank also serves as the precinct committeeman for the district. He believes his time at Ivy Tech gave him the motivation he needed.

“I saw the community and things that needed to be done, but Ivy Tech helped me see how I can contribute to making a difference in improving issues in society,” he said.

In addition to his work in the community, Frank stays connected with Ivy Tech through the Whitley Community Council, local fundraising committees, and by encouraging others in the community to enroll. Most notably, he encouraged his own son to enroll at Ivy Tech at 33 years old.


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Frank’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Joel Troxel

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Joel Troxel accepts Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech president, and John M. Murphy, Ivy Tech Foundation president at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration in Indianapolis, December 2018.

Joel Troxel was only 16 years old when he first enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso. His journey at Ivy Tech began his sophomore year of high school when he decided to pursue dual credit at Ivy Tech. Joel is now a Certified Public Accountant, runs a successful consulting business, and is an Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumni.

“I was able to complete my associate degree concurrently with my high school diploma,” he said. “Ivy Tech was convenient, affordable, and a solid stepping stone.”

During his time at Ivy Tech, Joel was Student Body President, a peer tutor and member of Phi Theta Kappa. After receiving his associate’s degree in accounting, Joel transitioned to Valparaiso University, where he continued to volunteer, was the President of the Accounting Society and served as an assistant to the Dean. Joel received his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2006 and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Joel founded a consulting firm, JET Consulting Services, LLC, which provides business consulting, financial services, and technology planning to clients throughout the United States. He is also active in his community where he is a member of the Indiana CPA Society Innovation Task Force, an active member of his church, Treasurer for the LaCrosse Volunteer Fire Department, and a member of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. He remains connected to Ivy Tech through his assistance with fundraising for events like his local campus’ capital campaign and his continued support of the Ivy Tech Foundation.

Joel TroxelJoel says his current career is a fulfillment of the dream of serving small business owners that he had when he began at Ivy Tech. He hopes future students pursue an education at Ivy Tech and utilize it as a pathway to fulfilling and dynamic careers.

“I have advised and urged many young people that the value you receive at Ivy Tech is incredible,” he said. “Focus on developing yourself to serve in the calling you’ve been given, and opportunities will open up.”

He believes Ivy Tech was able to give him a unique education, where he was able to interact with other students of all ages. This environment allowed him to become “a more questioning and engaged learner.”

Joel credits his pathway to success to his “effective and efficient education at Ivy Tech.” Overall, Joel is deeply grateful for his time at Ivy Tech and is a fantastic example of how Ivy Tech can help students achieve their educational dreams.

“It was a valuable education and opened the door to a host of opportunities,” he said. “I was 16 when I enrolled in Ivy Tech. Two years later, I graduated with a good education, a growth perspective, and experience that has helped me reach my goals.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Joel’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Donna Riley

donna rileyDonna Riley graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Sellersburg in 2008 at the age of 55, with an associate degree in Office Administration. Donna is passionate about sharing her Ivy Tech story and letting people know that “I got the college degree that I always wanted. Ivy Tech made that possible!”

After working in the insurance field for 30 years, Donna transitioned to a second career in the non-profit sector, as the Executive Director for Leadership Southern Indiana (LSI) where she served her local community until 2012.

“The office of the nonprofit I was working for was on an Ivy Tech campus. Getting to know the people at Ivy Tech inspired me to transfer,” she said. “There was a major difference that I saw with the care, the faculty, the cost, all of it.”

Throughout her career, Donna has received recognition for her leadership and service in the community.  Highlights for her include receiving the Servant Leader Award from LSI in 2014, attaining the Distinguished Toastmaster Award from Toastmasters International in 2011, and serving on the Women’s Foundation of Southern Indiana (WFSI) board. While serving as President of the WFSI, she helped implement the International Impact 100 program in Clark, Floyd, and Harrison counties. This program awarded a $50,000 grant in 2017 and a $100,000 grant in 2018 to non-profit organizations that serve women and children in the community. The WFSI board also provides scholarships to local colleges, including one to Ivy Tech Sellersburg.

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Donna Riley accepts Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech president, and John M. Murphy, Ivy Tech Foundation president at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration in Indianapolis, December 2018.

Now retired, Donna remains active in her community and continues to be an advocate of Ivy Tech. She is a proud recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award and plans to continue spreading the word about Ivy Tech as the Sellersburg campus’ self-proclaimed biggest cheerleader.


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Donna’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Jennifer Defrees

Jennifer Defrees is no stranger to overcoming adversity. The Ivy Tech Community College Elkhart alumna and Distinguished Alumni Award recipient overcame many hardships before even beginning her journey in higher education. In her speech at the Ivy Impact Gala, she shared her Ivy Tech story.

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“When I was 12 years old my father left me and my disabled mother,” she said. “By the age of 14, my mother and I were living in a homeless shelter in Goshen.”

After a few months in the shelter, she says they “bounced around from trailers and apartments for four years,” until Jennifer’s mother was placed in a nursing home. “After graduating [high school] in 2004, I enrolled at a local four-year college, but the need to simply survive became a top priority, so my dream of pursuing higher education was put on hold.”

Jennifer says those around her doubted that she would return to college, but deep down she knew they were wrong. After jumping from job to job, Jennifer found one she cared about at a nursing home. As she grew within the company, she felt it was time to go back to finally get the education she desired.

“In 2008, I enrolled at Ivy Tech in Elkhart County. It was a perfect fit for me as I needed to work full-time while taking evening classes toward my degree.”

By 2012 Jennifer completed her associate degree in accounting and four years later completed her bachelor’s degree at Indiana Tech. She currently works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, the same place where she interned while studying at Ivy Tech.

“My teacher at Ivy Tech encouraged me to contact the Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County. Fast forward six years later and I am STILL working at the Boys and Girls Club!”

Today, Jennifer remains connected to Ivy Tech through her membership in Circle of Ivy, the Ivy Tech Foundation’s women’s philanthropy circle that raises funds to support Ivy Tech students. Jennifer’s success story and her dedication to serving youth in her community have earned her recognition as an Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumna.

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Her advice for those considering enrolling at Ivy Tech is simple:

“Just do it. It’s a great way to get a career with an associate degree and then to go on to get your bachelor’s. You’re not going to be able to find anywhere as affordable and accommodating as Ivy Tech.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Jennifer’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.

I Define Success: Blake Hartman

Blake Hartman credits his career in welding to his experience at Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute. The 1973 alumnus and co-owner/founder of Big Inch Fabricators and Construction, Blake was offered his first welding inspection job for a pipeline company before graduation. He worked at that job for 25 years, becoming the Manager of Construction over five states.

“Eventually I started a pipeline construction company, Big Inch Fabricators and Construction. I worked with my education from Ivy Tech every day for 45 Years, until I retired in March 2018.”

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Blake Hartman accepts Distinguished Alumni Award from Dr. Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech president, and John M. Murphy, Ivy Tech Foundation president at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration in Indianapolis, December 2018.

His professional success, commitment to his community, and his dedication to Ivy Tech have earned him the Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumni Award, which he accepted in December 2018.

Blake remains involved with Ivy Tech through his endowment with the Parke County Community Foundation, which will fund three welding scholarships for Parke County graduates. He also supports and funds the Ivy Tech Rockville location through his board seat at the Rockville Parke County Learning Center. He believes that Ivy Tech provides students with a “top-quality education” and gives them the tools to pinpoint which direction they want to go with their careers.

“It’s a good place to go, work hard, and get good grades. That’s what helped me get the job in the field I was going to school for. Pick a profession that you want to go into and steadily go in that direction.”


Ivy Tech Community College is proud to celebrate Blake’s success and achievements with the Distinguished Alumni Award. This annual award honors alumni for their commitment to the College and to their communities. The awardees are leaders in their professions who make significant contributions benefiting their community, state, or college.

The alumni recognized with this award represent the very best of what an Ivy Tech education makes possible. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends are all encouraged to submit nominations online.