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Class Notes—Spring 2014

Doug Mello
Doug Mello


Carroll (Mont.) College named Siena Heights Athletic Hall-of-Famer Doug Mello ’86/MA the school’s first men’s soccer head coach in March 2014. Mello has coached a national collegiate record 1,154 soccer matches (men’s and women’s combined) and has won over 700 games (712-384-58 overall). Mello helped start both the men’s and women’s programs at Siena Heights as well as at Luther (Iowa) College. In his six years as the Saints’ men’s coach, Mello led Siena Heights to five district titles, one regional championship and their first appear- ance at the NAIA national championship tournament in 1985. After starting the women’s program in 1986, Mello’s team won three district titles and were nationally ranked from 1986-88. In his final season in 1988, the women’s team was ranked first in the country and made its first appearance at the NAIA national tournament, where they placed third.

Connie Binsfeld
Connie Binsfeld

Former Michigan Lt. Gov. Connie Berube Binsfeld ’45, the first woman to hold leadership posts in Michigan’s House, Senate and executive branch, passed away Jan. 12, 2014. She was 89. Binsfeld was a 1945 Siena Heights graduate who got her start in politics by serving in student government during the war years of 1941-45. According to an Associated Press article, Binsfeld championed chil-dren’s issues during her time in politics, serving in the state House and Senate before becoming a two-term lieutenant governor under John Engler from 1990-98. According to the AP, the former schoolteacher was first elected to the House in 1974 and won a Senate seat in 1982. During her time in politics she led the fight to ban surrogate pregnancy for pay, sponsored bills on domestic violence and protection of environmentally sensitive sand dunes and served 10 years on the Great Lakes Commission, according to the AP. She wrote in the 1945 Siena Heights yearbook, “The Valiant Woman,” that, “We face a chaotic world that has wandered far from standards of Christianity, a world where modern sophistication has supplanted virtuous life. The motive of hate has replaced the driving force of love and a greed for power has caused individual and national strife. Man in the shadow of confusion is groping blindly for security. The security he seeks unknowingly is the priceless gift that we possess. We rise to the challenge that is offered and face the future unafraid. We shall go forth with the torch of truth lifted high.”

From The Sites:

SHU—Benton Harbor

Felix Clarke is currently employed as a mechanical planner with Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. He and his wife, Tamara, and their three children live in Great Mills, Md.


Jeff Evans was promoted from fire marshal to fire chief at the Trenton (Mich.) Fire Department in Novem-ber 2013. Evans has worked as a firefighter more than 20 years at the Trenton and Riverview (Mich.) fire departments, and is certified in fire inspection and investigation. He also is a state certified paramedic.

SHU—Port Huron

Robert Schmelzer
was recently named chief of the Washington Township Fire Department. He was formerly promoted to captain in 2009, and joined the department in 1992. He became the first EMS instructor/coordinator for the department as well as a certified fire inspector. Schmelzer recently fin-ished the Michigan State Police Fire Investigation School.


Audrey Mistor was promoted to executive vice president and wealth manage-ment group manager at Monroe Bank & Trust in November 2013. In her new position, Mistor will guide all facets of wealth management operations and lead a staff of 30 investment, trust, estate planning and retirement professionals. She has 30 years of experience in the banking business, including 20 years at Michigan National Bank. She also held senior management positions at Republic Bank and Main Street Bank, and has participated in several global executive leadership programs. She also is the vice president of the Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra and a Northville Community Foundation board member.

Anthony Ashford
Anthony Ashford

Anthony Ashford and his family won a mortgage-free home from Quicken Loans in December 2013 during a promotion for military families at halftime of the Little Caesar’s Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit. Ash-ford is a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Click here to see a video of the event.

Les Morrison/MA is currently a clinical therapist and the director of Marriage and Family Services at Perspectives of Troy. He also leads marriage seminars and retreats. He resides in Clinton Township, Mich.

Dellonnie Shelby is employed as an executive producer at WADL TV in Detroit. He produces a talk show entitled “Transforming Detroit,” and another show he’s created and executive produces called “Matters of the Heart” that aired in January 2014. He also runs the My Sister’s Keeper Foundation with his mother. The organization provides various services for battered women and children in shelters in Michigan and Pennsylvania. On Dec. 8, 2013, the foundation hosted its first human-itarian award banquet to honor Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, minister and radio talk show host Angelo Henderson.

Thomas Rogers was recently sworn in as one of the newest members of the Westland (Mich.) Police Department. Rogers previously worked for the Detroit Police Department for 15 years.

Main Campus:

Sister Alyce Van Acker, OP had her painting exhibit “Sharing Color,” featured by the Chicago Tribune. “Sharing Color” ran April 17-May 23 in the Kavanagh Gallery at Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Ill. All paintings in the exhibit were created in 1974 or later and included a variety of sizes. She also has served as a painting teacher for Fine Line since 1980. For more information about the exhibit and Van Acker’s work, visit

Tom and Jeannette Meyers
Tom and Jeannette Meyers

Thomas Meyer/MA and his wife, Jeannette, were the recipients of the 2013 Musgrove Evans Award, which is the City of Tecumseh’s (Mich.) highest award. The honor recognizes those who have contributed to Tecumseh’s quality of life. The Meyers were recognized through their teaching careers, volunteer work and participation in the arts.

John Caknipe/MA is an author and historian who is expected to release his latest book, “Preachers, Teachers and Confederate Officers: Randolph Mason College—The Early Years, 1830 to 1868,” this fall. Since 2007 the disabled Vietnam War combat veteran has researched and written about the evolution of the Piedmont area. His work was selected by the Library of Virginia for inclusion in a volume of the Virginia Biography series. His work has also appeared in the credits of Ark Media for the PBS TV show “Finding Your Roots,” and in the NBC TV show “Who do you Think You Are?” He presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Old Brunswick Circuit Foundation, which educates and preserves three primary Methodist historical sites in the area. He has served as a college professor for more than 30 years, and is currently employed at South-side Virginia Community College, South Boston, Va. He and his wife reside in Clarksville, Va.

Karen Krempa Smallets ’78 reports that her husband, Stephen Smallets ’76 passed away Sept. 1, 2013. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Toledo, he had a 34-year career in the Navy Industrial Hygiene community starting in 1979. His last position was as director of the Regional Industrial Hygiene Program for Navy Medicine East. He was also an adjunct professor of Environmental Health in the College of Health Sciences at Old Dominion University. Karen works as the assistant director of University Publications at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The couple has one daughter, Sarah.

Allan Rodewald had 17 of his works featured in a February 2014 art exhibit at the Imperial Gallery in Rosenberg, Texas. Rodewald, a SHU alumni award winner, is known internationally for his abstract art. He resides in Houston.

Rick Girodat was recently featured in the Legal News. The former East Detroit police officer is now an attorney specializing in insurance litigation defense. He is a partner at Girodat & Marienfeld in Jackson, Mich., and completed his law degree at Cooley Law School in 1991. Girodat is also a state approved facilitative mediator and case evaluator. He and his wife, Cammie, and their four children reside in Jackson.

Debbie Rynell Ridgway has been serving as Kansas City’s (Mo.) first bicycle pedestrian coordinator since 2007. She oversees several initiatives, including the Trails KC, Bike KC and KC Walkability Plan, as well as manages education and outreach. She’s currently helping develop a master plan for a more than 800-mile trail and on-street bikeway system. According to the city’s web site, in 2010 she established the Active Living KC initiative to make biking and walking to school a safe and healthy choice and address policy changes to support healthy, vibrant neighborhoods. Before joining the KC’s Public Works Department, she worked in the nonprofit sector specializing in volunteer management, board development and fundraising. Click here to read the rest of her story.

Bruce Webb
Bruce Webb

Bruce Webb has been serving as the community bank president of the National Bank of Commerce in Duluth, Minn., since moving from Adrian, Mich., in 2011. The bank is the Twin Ports largest community bank. He and his wife, Kimberley, and their two children reside in Duluth.

Robin Wagner won a bronze medal in the solo free routine finals at the U.S. Master’s Synchronized Swimming Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., in October 2013.

Kathleen Guilbault Decker received the Terrel H. Bell Award for outstanding leadership in December 2013 at a Blue Ribbon Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Decker was also recognized for being the 2013 National Principal of the Year by Magnet Schools of America, and was featured in the fall 2013 edition of Reflections for her efforts as principal of the Walter Bracken STEAM Academy in Las Vegas.

Julie Goll was named the president and CEO of the Blissfield (Mich.) State Bank on March 1, 2014. She has worked at the bank since 1982, and was most recently its executive vice president and chief lending officer. Goll and her husband, David, reside in Blissfield Township.

LuAnn Sawdey-Roberts
LuAnn Sawdey-Roberts

LuAnn Sawdey-Roberts earned the 2014 Carl J. Latona Distinguished Service Award for leadership and dedication at Highfields. She currently serves as director of Community Services at Highfields and was recognized for her integrity, passion to help others, perseverance and commitment to excellence. She oversees five counties and 10 programs as well as 40 staffers from the mental health and child welfare system in her current position. Sawdey-Roberts has been with Highfields since 2001.

Kristin Baty Watts and her husband, Jay, announce the birth of a daughter, Colby, on Dec. 5, 2013. She is the couple’s first child. Kristin is employed as director of Admissions at Trinity School in Atlanta, Ga., where the family resides.

Emily Gray Catrell authored her first book, “Meanmna: Book One of the Daearen Realms,” in January 2014. The digital book uses the Adrian and Irish Hills areas as a backdrop, and Gatrell said in an Adrian Daily Telegram news story that her love of the Adrian community and Siena Heights were the primary reasons. “Meanmna” is a Scottish Gaelic word for “spirit” and “courage.” Gatrell said the book combines a coming of age story and the paranormal. The book is a kickoff for a planned series of six. The book is available on and through her web site, Catrell and her family reside in Georgia.

Seth Bortonwas named the head coach of the new Adrian College bass fishing team in February 2014. Bass fishing will compete as a varsity sport in 2014-15, and Borton will be in charge of building the team, which will be co-ed. Borton, a competitive angler, tied for first at the 2013 National Bass Anglers Association National Championship at Kentucky Lake. He lives in Adrian.

Lisa VanderPutten
Lisa VanderPutten

Lisa VanderPutten married Kevin Justusson June 1, 2013, in Detroit Mich. The bride is employed in media finance with Aegis Media in Detroit. After a honeymoon to Bora Bora, the couple resides in Keego Harbor, Mich.

Damon Sloan was promoted to vice president of Student and Alumni Affairs at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill., on Dec. 1, 2013. He resides in Chicago.

Nancy Karanja has been assigned as a deputy to the principal as well as teaches English in a girls’ high school in Africa. She said she is “glad to have gone through Siena Heights that exposed me to so many challenges.” She added that she especially enjoyed the insect collection for her project in the entomology course while at SHU. “Just the other day I saw a wonderful but strange insect, which I kept at least for two days thinking of how I could pin it down, as I used to do at Siena, and mail it to Siena to be added to the insect collection. I am grateful to the Siena community, and …my dream is that one day I’d visit.”

Patricia Thomas started a new position as a volunteer coordinator at A Just Harvest, a non-profit organization located in the north side of Chicago. A Just Harvest has been fighting hunger for over 30 years, and is the same organization that she interned with during her graduate studies. She lives in Chicago.

Megan Dandrow/MA is currently employed as a case manager and mental health therapist with Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers in Ypsilanti, Mich. She lives in Ypsilanti.



Sister Mary Frances Coleman, OP ’43
Sister Mary Dougherty, OP ’44
Connie Berube Binsfeld ’45
Rosemarie Van D’Elden Birman ’47
Frances Bork Nowakowski ’48
Sister Francesca Bartos, OP ’50
Sister Mary Anthony Marelli, OP ’53
Sister Catherine Henry Schmid, OP ’53
Sister Sean Therese Halpin, OP ’54
Josephine “Pat” Finn ’61
Sister Bernadette Vozobule, OP ’62
Sister Mary Eileen Sullivan, OP ’69
Janet Walter Klein ’70
Annette Herr Lerner ’74
Stephen Smallets ’76
Louis Wamsher III ’79
George Wagner II ’88
Carol Ann Forbes ’89
Donald Saul ’98
Linda Marutz ’99
Kathleen Tarr ’00
Randy Collier ’08
Dane Conyers ’13


Lois DeMots—former adjunct faculty member.
Dr. Michael Pratt—adjunct music faculty member.


Rosemarie Van D’Elden Birman ‘47—Born in Germany, Rosemarie and her American parents barely escaped the country in 1942. As head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt, her father had helped many in the Jewish community to leave, for which he spent two months in an internment camp prior to their departure. A few years later, Rosie came to Siena Heights sight unseen from New York City, where her family had settled. “I felt very accepted, very much at home at Siena. My English wasn’t very good but every-one helped me,” she said, remembering Sisters Mary George, Marie Grace and Philomena.

After first working for a Catholic fundraising organization, Rosemarie entered the then-new field of computers in the early ‘60s, becoming a senior systems analyst at UNIVAC. Later she ran her own computer consulting business. She shared her interest in computers with her husband, Paul, an electronics engineer and early adopter of computer technology in marketing complex electronic instruments.

At her 50th Siena Heights reunion—which she helped organize—Rosie said “I inherited my lust for travel from my father.” In retirement, she and Paul traveled extensively, and adventurously. She was also an avid boater, gardener and contract bridge player; an active community volunteer; a generous friend to Siena and a leader in her Siena Heights class of 1947.

Rosemarie died February 24, 2014, in Fort Lauderdale. Her husband, Paul, survives.

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