Fierce Devotion

uzieGonzalezWhat a blessing that Kalamazoo College’s 17th president, Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, did not decide to retire a year earlier than she did (her last day on the job will June 30, 2016). Her successor, K’s 18th president (elect), Jorge G. Gonzalez, who currently serves as dean and vice president for academic affairs at Occidental College (Los Angeles, Calif.), may possibly have been ready to make a career change and relocate sooner, but in that hypothetical case his spouse, K alumna Suzie (Martin) Gonzalez ’83 would likely have remained in L.A. Why? Because of her children. Not the couple’s daughter and son (Kristina, a recent University of Southern California graduate who works in commercial real estate in L.A. and Carlos, a sophomore majoring in computer science at Rice University), but instead the kids with whom Suzie works as a school psychologist at the El Monte City School District.

“Adults are more equipped to understand a relocation based on a job change—one’s own or one’s spouse’s,” says Suzie. “But an adolescent may feel it is a violation of the trust we’ve worked so hard to build and share. Last year I had a group of eighth graders with whom I’d worked a long time. I wouldn’t have left them just before they started high school. But this year was fine, so the timing for Jorge’s selection as K’s president worked out perfectly.”

That kind of fierce devotion to the well-being of school aged kids has long been a fundamental element of Suzie’s character. She came to K from Puerto Rico. (Some back story on that fact. Suzie was born in Kalamazoo, shortly after which her family moved to Mexico City and, several years later, to Puerto Rico. Her father worked as an executive for The Upjohn Company and managed company operations in both places respectively.) In fact, Suzie’s first return to Kalamazoo was for her first year at K.

She majored in psychology and earned a minor in political science  as well as her teaching certification. During her career service term she worked with three-, four- and five-year-olds at the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Head Start program. She studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, and for her Senior Individualized Project she taught history at Paw Paw (Mich.) High School. Her SIP experience influenced her decision to earn her Ph.D. in  educational psychology (1989, Michigan State University). “In my high school classes there were so many students with needs that could not be effectively addressed by a classroom teacher,” explains Suzie.

She has worked as a school psychologist in San Antonio, Texas, and in Los Angeles. When she returns to Kalamazoo this July Suzie plans to take a year to assess how busy she will be as K’s “first lady.” But don’t be surprised if she becomes a school psychologist at a nearby district, which certainly will be a blessing for those kids with whom she’ll work.

Like her husband, Suzie is a great sports fan. Soccer tops his list, college football hers. Both are passionate about the Spartans and, of course, the Hornets. BeLight is grateful to Suzie for making time for its “Lighten Up” interview.

What’s the best song ever recorded?
Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of my Life”

What’s your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?
The Little Engine That Could

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“I love that you followed your passion and did well.”

What’s your favorite word?

What’s your least favorite word?

What turns you on?
Living each day to the fullest

What turns you off?
Limits, boundaries

What sound do you love?
Beach waves

What sound do you hate?
Automobile horns

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I originally came to K intending to major in political science.  So I guess a lawyer specializing on educational issues.

What profession would you not like to participate in?
A computer scientist. I don’t have the passion, or probably the aptitude.

What’s been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning?
Going to the Grand Rapids United Methodist Community House and being greeted by the smiling faces of the eager Head Start youngsters ready to play and learn during my K career development.

Who’s the person (living or dead) with whom you’d most like to spend a lunch hour?
Lev Vygotsky. He was a developmental psychologist who believed that social and cultural context significantly influence a child’s development.

What memory from childhood still surprises you?
All the moves my family made when I was growing up. For some this may seem counter-intuitive, but I have very good memories associated with changing homes. I think the experience fostered great flexibility.

What is your favorite curse word?
Well, my colleagues at work would probably tell you that the word is “shoot.”

What is your favorite hobby?
Reading. Right now I’m in the middle of a romantic comedy.

What is your favorite comedy movie?
Home Alone

What local, regional, national, or world event has affected you most?
The attacks on September 11, 2001

Alexander (Sandy) Lipsey ’72

Since 2007 Sandy has served as a Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge. On May 25 the Michigan Supreme Court appointed him to the Kalamazoo County Business Court. As a business court judge, Sandy will oversee the court’s specialized business docket, which includes any case that involves a business or commercial dispute. All circuit courts in Michigan with three or more judges are required by law to have a business court. Statewide, there are currently 16 business courts and more than 900 opinions posted in a searchable online database. A bankruptcy attorney with more than a decade of experience, Sandy served as State Representative for Michigan’s 60th District from 2000 through 2006, where his committee work focused on economic and business issues. Sandy was the Vice Mayor of Kalamazoo from 1993 to 1995 and Kalamazoo City Commissioner from 1989 to 1993. At K he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics, and he currently serves on the College’s board of trustees. He earned his law degree from the University of Michigan. Sandy presides over the 9th Circuit Court’s Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program as lead judge and is an alternate judge for the drug treatment court.

Rob Davidson ’93

Rob recently announced his candidacy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He will run as a Democrat in the Michigan 2nd Congressional District in 2018. Rob is an emergency room physician in Spring Lake, Michigan. At K he majored in biology and studied abroad in Caen, France. He earned his medical degree from Michigan State University.

Kathleen Sly ’12

Kathleen SlyKaty spent several weeks in Ecuador coaching a refugee youth rock climbing team and teaching English classes for Colombian refugees soon to be resettled in the United States and Canada. She has returned to the United States and is in the process of applying to graduate schools to earn a master’s degree in public policy or public affairs. The picture shows her in Ecuador on the Imbabura Volcano. She earned her bachelor’s degree in international and area studies, and she studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal.

Jacquelyn Scott ’86

Jacquelyn is principal lecturer and honors faculty fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. She received the 2015 Arizona State University Centennial Professorship, an award created by the Associated Students of A.S.U. that recognizes exceptional teaching, leadership and community engagement. Last year, the A.S.U. Commission on the Status of Women awarded Jacquelyn its Outstanding Contribution and Achievement Award for her longstanding commitment to mentoring, diversity and inclusion at Arizona State.

Kim Yourchock ’05

Kim was appointed president of the Barristers Section of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. The Barristers Section, comprised of attorneys who have been practicing for less than 10 years, provides new lawyers with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills, become involved in community service projects, attend educational seminars and participate in networking activities. Kim is a partner in the Labor and Employment Department’s Wage and Hour Practice Group at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP. At K she majored in political science and studied abroad in Bonn, Germany.

Lor Vang ’14

Lor is one of some 550 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. Department of State. CLS participants spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes in one of 13 countries. Lor spent the summer in China focusing on the study of Chinese language. CLS Program participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.