Alumni Notes

May 18, 2015


Several MSU alumni were honored in 2015 for their use of educational technology by the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL):

  • Outstanding Technology-Using Pre-K to 12 Teacher: Joanna Van Raden (Educational Technology Certificate, ’09)
  • Outstanding Technology-Using Educator: Andrew Steinman, B.S. ’07, M.A. ’11 (Educational Technology)
  • Runner-Up for Outstanding Technology-Using Educator: Jillian Johnson, M.A. ’12 (Educational Technology)
  • Technology Coordinator of the Year: Shannon Degan, B.A. ’94, M.A. ’05 (Educational Technology)

Melody Arabo, B.A. ’01 (Education), M.A. ’04 (Curriculum and Teaching), served as Michigan Teacher of the Year in 2014-15. During the year, she published a children’s picture book, “Diary of a Real Bully,” spoke at various conferences, met Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at the Education & Economic Summit in March and met President Barack Obama in April with the nation’s other Teachers of the Year.

Ellen Closs, B.A. ’01 (History), M.A. ’07 (Education), became president of the Detroit Spartans in January 2015. Closs was one of the founding members of the organization in 2010. She also serves on the MSU Alumni Association National Board as part of the recruitment and retention committee.

Mary-Beth Cooper, Ph.D. ’97 (Educational Administration), is serving as the first female president of Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. Cooper is committed to shared governance, diversity and inclusion at the college. Previously, Cooper was senior vice president of student services and campus life at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Photo credit: Paul Schnaittacher


Vicki Essenmacher, M.A. ’08 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), was promoted to director for customer relations management (CRM) training and support in the MSU Alumni Association. Essenmacher supervises the implementation of CRM tools for alumni clubs and MSU’s academic colleges.

Mitch Fowler, B.A. ’05 (Elementary Education), became director of school data services for 20 school districts in Michigan in January 2015. Fowler works in three counties in the Calhoun Intermediate School District, using tools to collect, analyze and act on various types of data to provide the best possible education for students.

Daniel Mathis, M.A. ’09 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), was promoted to associate director for alumni engagement in the MSU Alumni Association. In this position, Mathis oversees alumni engagement efforts around the globe.

MSU’s first starting black quarterback and College of Education alumnus, Jimmy Raye, B.S. ’71 (Physical Education), was on campus during Homecoming 2014 as part of Project 60/50 events honoring the university’s legacy in civil rights. Raye helped MSU win the national title in 1966, and served on coach Duffy Daugherty’s staff.

Alumna Ann Keese Thomas, Ph.D. ’76 (Counseling and Personnel Services), has received a host of awards in her professional life, most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award from Southern Arkansas University’s Alumni Association in March 2014. Thomas, professor emerita of psychology and counselor education at SAU, was celebrated for her nearly 30-year history at the university, as well as her distinguished counseling work.

Remembering Ian Render


Ian Render, B.S. ’12 (Mathematics-Secondary Education), unexpectedly passed away in November 2014 in Colorado. Render, who grew up in Haslett and Pinckney, Mich., was enrolled in the online Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum (MATC) program, with a concentration in educational technology. He worked as a seventh-grade math teacher at Green Valley Ranch Middle School in Denver, where he often shared his love for Michigan State University. To commemorate the beloved teacher, more than 3,000 students at Green Valley and other campuses of the Denver School of Science and Technology wore green and white for one day last fall.

Honorary Degrees

This academic year, two individuals with ties to the College of Education were nominated to receive and accepted honorary degrees from Michigan State University.

Clark-RobertRobert G. Clark, M.A. ’59 (Administration and Educational Services), received an honorary Doctorate of Laws in fall 2014 for his years of service in politics. In 1967, he was the first African American to be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Until his retirement in 2003, Clark served on and chaired many committees dedicated to education, ethics and policy.

Walls-Lanier-CarlottaCarlotta Walls LaNier received her honorary Doctorate of Laws in spring 2015. LaNier visited campus previously in spring 2014 as the keynote speaker for the College of Education’s undergraduate commencement ceremony. At 14, LaNier (then Carlotta Walls) was the youngest of the Little Rock Nine, the first group of African American students to enroll in Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. LaNier attended MSU for two years, and to this day, she still retains a “soft spot for all things Spartan.”