FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2019
Contact: Martha Parham
Recipients are examples of community colleges’ ability to change lives
Washington, DC—Community colleges provide a pathway to educational and career success for millions of students. This year, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is honoring three outstanding community college alumni who have made a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world.
They will be recognized for their achievements at AACC’s 99th Annual Convention on Tuesday, April 16 in Orlando, Fla.
“Community colleges shape the lives of millions of students, no matter their background, helping them reach their educational and career goals. The AACC Outstanding Alumni Awards honor just a few of those students who left our institutions and went on to make an impact on the world,” said AACC President and CEO Walter G. Bumphus. “This year’s Outstanding Alumni are as diverse as community colleges. From a successful businessman, to a selfless health care worker, to an immigrant sharing his culture with the Midwest, these alumni are truly deserving of the term ‘outstanding.’”
Hubert “Charles” Ahovissi grew up in the African nation of Benin where he was one of 23 children. Due to a lack of financial resources, Ahovissi only attended school until he was 15. He attended a dance school on scholarship and began touring the world in 1986 as a member of the Ballet National of Benin, performing and teaching traditional African dance and drumming. During a 1999 visit to Omaha, Ahovissi met the woman who would become his wife. He moved to Omaha permanently in March 2000. He soon began to recognize that his passions and skills filled a unique niche in Omaha. No one was providing performance and instruction focused on authentic, traditional African drumming, dance, arts and storytelling in Omaha. Ahovissi became an approved teaching and performing artist with Nebraska and Iowa Arts Councils and began sharing his cultural arts throughout the community.
Ahovissi sought opportunities to complete his formal education to improve his knowledge and turned to Metropolitan Community College in March 2002. He started taking English as a Second Language classes which led to his completion of an associate degree. In 2006, he founded the nonprofit African Culture Connection, which blends a cultural arts curriculum with the expertise of teaching and performing arts, taking African dance, drumming and culture to performance venues, schools and other organizations throughout Omaha and across the state. Ahovissi inspires the students he works with, bringing his passion for African cultural arts and serving as a positive presence in the lives of these students.
George A. Kalogridis was hired as a busboy at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1971. His busboy position allowed him to pay for courses at Polk State College, where he earned an associate degree. He became part of the original team of Cast Members who opened Walt Disney World. Today, this 46-year veteran of the company serves as president of Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Through Kalogridis’ visionary leadership, Walt Disney World Resort has embarked on an unprecedented expansion of both attractions, sporting events and philanthropy. In May 2017, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened Pandora—The World of Avatar, which is the largest expansion project since this park opened in 1998. And Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park has two additional lands under construction that take guests into the worlds of two of the most successful franchises in the movie industry: Star Wars and Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story. Additionally, Kalogridis and his team oversaw the completion and reimagination of Walt Disney World’s retail, dining and entertainment district known as Disney Springs, a four-neighborhood, completely themed area, reminiscent of rustic Florida waterfront towns.
Among the company’s many philanthropy efforts, Disney donated $1 million to the One Orlando Foundation in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub tragedy and provided support for first-responders and survivors. Kalogridis serves on the board of trustees of onePULSE Foundation, the nonprofit that works to create a memorial for the tragedy and honor first responders, as well as grants for survivors and victims’ families, and scholarships in the names of the 49 innocent lives lost in the tragedy.
Kalogridis has never forgotten the education he received at Polk State. He is a member of the Polk State College Foundation President’s Circle, and in 2017 presented Dr. Eileen Holden, president emerita, with the Mousecar, Disney’s version of the Academy of Motion Picture’s Oscar.
Kelly Suter is a 2008 graduate of the North Central Michigan College nursing program—one of 15 nurses in her immediate family to have attended the college. She continued her education, earning a master’s degree in 2017. She’s also earned considerable experience as an emergency department nurse and has worked as an emergency response nurse for the International Medical Corps and a medical coordinator and clinical director for Samaritan’s Purse.
Suter functioned as a nurse team leader and emergency staff nurse in a field hospital during the 2010 earthquake response in Haiti and a regional cholera treatment site manager in Northern Haiti during the 2011 cholera response. In 2014, she was the primary health care coordinator and clinical staff educator in the Malakal refugee camp at the height of the civil war in South Sudan. Most recently, she served as a medical coordinator in Ethiopia and an Ebola treatment unit clinical director in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She received the Silver Medal, Special Ebola Award from the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone in 2015. She’s also worked as an emergency health manager of mobile medical units following the earthquake in Nepal and as the program manager of the Ebola preparedness program in Guinea Bissau. Closer to home, Suter worked at the International Medical Corps’ corporate office in Washington, D.C., as the senior nurse for the medical planning and preparedness unit and has volunteered with other humanitarian organizations in the Amazon, Mexico, East Timor and Haiti, as well as providing hurricane relief for flooding in Louisiana, Texas and Florida.
Suter has garnered significant national attention. She was featured in the 60 Minutes report, “The Ebola Hot Zone” (November 9, 2014), in the cover story “Journey to West Africa” to the January 2015 issue of Nurse.com magazine and as the subject of “Brave New Girl” in the September 2015 issue of Vogue.
As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for 12 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s nearly 1,200 member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all.