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C onnection The Portage Portage Public Schools Alumni E-Magazine

December 2010 • Volume 1 • No. 1

Lindsay Tarpley Central ‘02

What’s Inside

• Alumni profiles • Campus news • Former faculty today • Class notes by decade • High School Spirit Shops

C onnection The Portage

On the Cover

Welcome Dear Alumni and Friends, Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Portage Connection, an electronic magazine featuring news and information about alumni from Central, Northern and Community High Schools. We hope this first publication finds you in good health wherever you may be. We all know how very easy it is to lose contact with former classmates, many of whom you went to school with for many years. Meanwhile, with our busy lives, we also know how easily we can lose touch with our school and hometown. With this publication and our other forms of communication (Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and electronic news via e-mail) we hope to help reconnect you with former classmates and faculty. And for those of you who regularly enjoy attending your class reunions, this will fill in those gaps between your celebrations. In this issue you will read about alumni who have won awards, started new businesses, and have excelled at the state and national levels. A publication of this type is not common for school districts, but we believe that the success of our alumni is a critical part of who we are as a school district. We are often bragging about our alumni’s achievements to new families coming to Portage, so why not share the news among the alum themselves? The electronic option also keeps the costs of bringing this to you very minimal, as we embrace the use of new technologies to communicate. We were among the first districts in Michigan to begin using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and with this issue, become one of the few districts anywhere with an alumni magazine. With the Holiday season upon us, we wish you a safe and happy time with friends and family. With kind regards, Marsha A. Wells Superintendent


The Portage Connection

Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and 2002 Portage Central graduate Lindsay Tarpley, finished her third season in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league this past summer. Tarpley started the season with the Saint Louis Athletica, but following the dissolution of the franchise she finished the year with the Boston Breakers. Tarpley tallied a goal in five games with the Athletica and four goals and three assists in 22 games with the Breakers.

Photo courtesy, Boston Breakers

Inaugural Issue

December 2010 • Volume 1 • No. 1 The Portage Connection is published for Alumni, Friends and Parents of Portage Public Schools by the Office of Community Relations. The publication includes information on graduates from Portage Northern, Central and Community high schools. We would greatly appreciate your assistance in our efforts to reach out to alumni by forwarding this e-magazine.


Kyle Herm District Information Coordinator

Contributing Writer Molli Templin Communications Specialist

Contributing Photographer Spencer Bridges

Special Thanks

Tom Spain, The Post and Courier Doug Witt, Grand Valley State University UCLA Athletics Major League Soccer/Getty Images

Questions or Comments

Please direct questions or comments to Kyle Herm at

Portage Public Schools 8111 South Westnedge Ave. Portage, MI 49002 phone: (269) 323-5167 fax: (269) 323-5001

Contents 2

Welcome Portage Public Schools Superintentent, Marsha Wells


Portage Alumni Making an Impact


Campus Scene

John Knific, Katie Munley, Aaron Stark, Blake Whyte and Ted Ely

News from Portage Central


Campus Scene


Alumni Profile


Alumni Profile


Alumni Profile


Former Faculty Today


Mustang Corral Spirit Shop


Huskie Den Spirit Shop

Tom Murray (PC ‘00)

Ashley (Edlund) Heidtke (PN, ‘95)

The Smith sisters: Ashley (PN ’02), Shannon (‘06) and Kristalyn (PN ’99).

Catching up with Erin Boes, Larry Kulcsar and more

Get your Mustang gear directly from PC


Get your Huskie gear straight from PN

18-19 20


News from Portage Northern

Class notes News from alumni by decade

Stay Informed with Portage Schools Resources to help you keep up-to-date with the District


December 2010


Portage Alumni...

John Knific

– Northern, ‘05 One of America’s best young entrepreneurs


magine working in the admissions office for a top collegiate music program. Each week,

hundreds of music samples flood the department from applicants. Those

numerous audition CDs or DVDs must be manually labeled, reviewed and stored, taking up time and space. John Knific, 2005 Northern

cess and review, negating the need for physical storage. What started as a social networking project, rapidly became the framework of a successful online company. With funding from angel investors and a state innovation grant earlier this year, Citizen Grove has taken off. Ten schools, including Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music, have signed up for the service, with prices ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000 per year. The quick success led Knific to turn down acceptance into medical school to serve as the Chief Executive Officer and he expects revenue to reach $100,000 by the end of this month. One of the investors saw the potential

graduate, along with three college friends came up with a solution to this overwhelming and painstaking process, and this solution landed him among “America’s • ‘05 Northern graduate Best Young Entrepre- • CEO of Citizen Groove neurs,” according to • Named one of America’s Top Entrepreneurs under 25 Bloomberg Business learn more at week magazine this early on in the company’s development past September.

John Knific

After graduating from Northern, Knific studied Biology at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite being in science, he is also an active pianist and his parents are both music professors at Western Michigan University. With his roots in music, Knific wanted to develop a way to help aspiring musicians get their music out into the open. In the vast world of music promotions, he had a better idea to streamline the process. Knific and his friends came up with a software tool for music uploading and named it Citizen Groove. They wanted it to be more professional, like Linked In, and began testing it with colleges. Right away they found out many of them wanted to use it as a way to screen applicants for admission to their music programs. Musicians could upload and label their own auditions for administrators to ac-


The Portage Connection

and submitted it for Bloomberg Business-

week’s contest, “Top Young Entrepreneurs under 25.” Out of about 1,000 entries, Knific and Citizen Groove ranked in the top 25 in the country. “We didn’t even know the investor had entered us into the contest,” said Knific. “It was an open contest, so we could have done it, but it was really exciting to make the top 25.” Now that the company has a foundation, Knific said they must find a balance between creating new growth and making sure current clients get what they need. “In the early stages we’ve kind of babied the first few clients,” he said. “It’s important to make sure you develop a good relationship and keep them happy, but you also want to continue to grow.” The way Knific explains the company it seems as though he has always had an entrepreneur vision, but that is not the case. “Most of my start in math and science came from attending KAMSC (Kalamazoo Math and Science Center),” he said. “That was a big part of my high school career and Northern was very supportive of it. I didn’t even do anything business related while in college. It just came about outside of the classroom.” In our economy today, graduates face a difficult task in finding jobs. Knific though falls into the small category of young innovators creating them.

(Below L-R) Citizen Groove founders Eric Neuman, Marc Plotkins and John Knific

...Are Innovators

Portage Alumni...

Katie Munley – Central, ‘00

Emmy Award-winner with ABC News


entral High graduate (2000) Katie Munley was a part of the ABC News production team that won an Emmy Award this past September in the category of Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story for President Obama’s Inauguration.

The Emmy Awards, given out by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, are the highest award in the field of broadcasting. For Munley, it meant a great deal to be recognized with her co-workers. Katie Munley in the ABC News control room in New York City. “It was such an honor to be a part of turn on the T.V.” “Tom Murray started the show ‘Good an Emmy Award-wining team,” she said. Munley started at ABC News in JanuMorning Sun Devils and there were about “The people who I worked with on that ary of 2004 as a freelance desk assistant six of us that worked on the show, “ she Inauguration were and are simply the in Washington, D.C. She wrote afternoon said. “It was on Monday through Friday best in the business.” news summaries, went out on shoots for from 7-10 a.m. We had so much fun with The Inauguration of President Obama news stories and greeted guests for differit.” drew record crowds, and Muley said it ent platforms and events. In addition to campus radio, Muntook extensive planning to be able to tell In September 2005 she moved to New ley worked with KAET Channel 8, the the event and capture its significance. York City to work with special events and Phoenix PBS affiliate located on campus. “What I loved most about the experiis now working in production for “NightShe served as a program coordinator for ence was that history was being made,” line,” ABC’s late-night award-winning a weekly political affairs show called she said. “We wanted to illustrate the news program. Munley cuts and edits “Horizon.” moment as best we could, and prior to voice overs for the show, prepares the “It (KAET) was a great opportunity bethat day we spent many hours brain“teaser” advertisements and produces the cause I was able storming and organizing how to tell that show’s opening. to learn more story as well as anyone.” Prior to winning awards Munley got about Arizona Munley said one of the most exciting her broadcasting and production exeripolitics,” she parts of the Inauguration was getting ence with another Central High alum said. “One of to work at 4 or 5 a.m., and seeing the and classmmate, Tom Murray (2000), at neat experiences crowds of enthusiastic people swarming Arizona State I had there was the mall University transcribing before the “It was such an honor to be a part of an in the Walter interviews with sun was Emmy Award-wining team. The people who Cronkite School a woman who even up of Journalwas making a yet. I worked with on that Inauguration were ism and Mass statue of Sandra “Huge and are simply the best in the business.” CommunicaDay O’Connor lights had tion. The two and an interview been set attended ASU with the Justice up on the grass and they illuminated from 2000-04 and were members of a daily herself. It was rethousands of eager people in the night.” morning show on the campus radio staally inspiring.” she said. “You wanted to pick up the tion, The Blaze 1260 AM. phone and call everyone you knew to Emmy Awards December 2010


Portage Alumni...

Captain Aaron Stark

Army helicopter pilot – Northern, ‘03


aptain Aaron Stark graduated from Portage Northern in 2003 and the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2007. Stark cur-

rently flies the AH-64D Apache Longbow in the U.S. Army.

The Apache is the world’s premier attack helicopter and has been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Captain Stark is both a pilot in Army Aviation, and a commissioned officer, responsible for leading American Soldiers. Pictured below is Aaron Stark and his wife, Captain Anne Stark, also a pilot, in front of an Apache helicopter. To the right is Aaron Stark at West Point.

“I’m proud to be a graduate of Portage Public Schools because my time at Northern High School gave me the skills necessary to successfully pursue my West Point education and serve as an Attack Helicopter Pilot in the U.S. Army.” - Captain Aaron Stark (Northern, ‘03)

...Serve our Country 6

The Portage Connection

Portage Alumni...

Blake Whyte and Ted Ely – Central, ‘00 & ‘04


Center stage with award-winning musicals ortage Central alum (2000) Blake Whyte is a walking example of how hard work and perseverance can pay off over time. Whyte, who

had been a member of the national tour for “Wicked” for nearly two years, made his debut with the show’s Broadway production in New York City this past August.

The news of being called up to Broadway – as if not exciting enough – came in a rather unique fashion. Whyte, along with his dad, John, and sister, Emily, were on a nine-day trip to Africa and had just finished climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Although it was difficult to get a cell phone signal in the Serengeti Desert, he decided to give his girlfriend, who dances in “Wicked”, a call at just the right time. “When I called my girlfriend back in New York City she told me to call my agent right away, because he had been trying to reach me,” Whyte said. “When I spoke with him he told me I was going

to Broadway. It was such an exciting moment and so nice to know I was coming home to a job.” Whyte had a quick turnaround from Africa to the stage as an ensemble member and understudy to the male lead Fiyero, as a result of an injury to one of the cast members. Despite the rapid chain of events, he said he felt so fortunate for the opportunity. “Everything kind of happened at once because it was unexpected,” Whyte said. “I’m just very thankful because it’s such a competitive industry and not everyone gets a chance like this.” Whyte was on Broadway with “Wicked,” through Sept. 22. But he received word shortly after his call up that he earned a role in the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia” that he auditioned for before leaving for Africa. “Sometimes it takes a long time, but I’ve always believed that when you’re doing what you love – a lot of good things can happen and fall into place,” Whyte said. He made his debut with “Mamma Mia” on Oct. 26 and credits the Portage community and schools for much of his success. “I really love Michigan and the Portage area and if it weren’t for the many people in the community growing up I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Whyte said. “The faculty and extracurricular opportunities at (Portage) Central are tremendous and I can’t say enough good things about my teachers I had going through the entire school system.” Whyte starred in a number of plays and musicals, such as

Blake Whyte with a cast member during his national tour of “Wicked”

“Blood Brothers” in 1999 and as the lead role in “Tommy” in 2000, for Central’s Performing Arts Director Kathy Mulay. While he credits the faculty such as Mulay for his achievements, Mulay was quick to say it was Whyte who had the necessary talents to make them possible. “Blake (Whyte) was one of my students who I knew had it,” Mulay explained. “I don’t always encourage students to pursue a career in theatre because I know how hard it is to make it. I usually encourage them to major in another curriculum so they will have something to fall back on if they don’t get that big break. But I knew Blake would make it as he had everything going for him and I’m thrilled for him.” In addition to his performing arts career, Whyte is working on a debut album featuring his vocal and musical talents. “When I finished on tour with “Wicked” in January I knew I wanted to start writing and creating my own music,” Whyte explained. “Music has always been a part of my life and I’m excited to share it and inspire people in their own lives.” Ted Ely Ted Ely (PC, ‘04) has also excelled on stage with both “Wicked” and “West Side Story.” He played Boq in ‘Wicked” in Chicago for the last three months and then went on to play the same role in the original second National Tour, the same tour that is currently in Kalamazoo this month. “It was a wonderful experience that was both educational and rewarding,” Ely said. “A real dream come true!” Now, Ely is with “West Side Story” as a swing. A swing is someone in the cast who covers many roles in the show (he covers five different characters including Tony). A swing’s duty is to be at the theatre every night ready to go on at a moment’s notice. When someone calls out of a show due to sickness or injury, either before or during the show, he steps in and performs the role.

...Are Performers December 2010


Campus Scene

Portage Central


n a little more than eight months, students will usher in a new Mustang era by flooding the halls of the new high school. Construction of the building has continued for a year and a half and will conclude this summer in time for the 2011 fall semester. In the meantime, the final year of the original Central High so far has been a great success. The following is a collection of news, information and stories from this past fall at your first aluma mater – Portage Central. School year began with “Mustang Drive” Students were greeted this fall with a new parking lot, which goes along with the new high school. The parking lot connects to Centre Ave. from a new street, fittingly named, “Mustang Drive.” Every student parks in the new lot, which has a traffic light to provide safety for those entering and exiting. The marching band also used the new lot to practice during fifth hour and evening rehersals this fall.

Athletic Hall of Fame inducted five new members on September 16 The Athletic Hall of Fame inducted five new members: Jim Hart (1948-65), Wendy Johnson (‘98), Roger Kramer (‘57), Tom Monroe (1972-’06) and Roxanne Rubleski (‘78) during a ceremony at the Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University on Thursday, Sept. 16. The five were also honored at halftime of the home football game on Friday, Sept. 17 against Niles. Homecoming brings out the best in student spirit and charity Fall homecoming traditionally ends up being a fun week with daily dress-up days, class competitions and the hoopla surrounding the pep assembly and football game. While this was all present again, student council added another element to help those who are less fortunate. For the first time, students clashed in a class competition called “Penny Wars.” Students


The Portage Connection

Construction of the new high school is coming along and set to open next fall. Above is the North view in October.

collected more than $4,300 in the five-day competition (Oct. 11-15) between grade levels for the Grand Rapids chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. For each penny collected, that grade received one point. For each silver coin deposited into that grade’s container, they received a one-point deduction. The class with the most points at the end of the week won the competition. The goal, according to senior student council member Lindsay Shafer, was around $1,000; however the students greatly exceeded all expectations. “We weren’t really sure how it (penny wars) would turn out because we hadn’t done it before,” said Shafer. “But after the first day we had about $400 and we (student council) were all like, ‘wow.’ There was even about $1,500 donated before lunch just on Friday and we had to start counting before school got out so that we could make it to the homecoming parade on time.” Students not only brought in spare change to school, but also spent time out in the community gathering donations. Teacher and student council advisor Mark Sutherland said it was an amazing sight to see the students and community come together to help others. “The students responded to this competition in ways that we never expected, truly waging a financial war against each other’s classes for the betterment of somebody else’s life experience,” said Sutherland. “People also helped support our efforts by donating at the football game. It was a great

week.” The floats had a Disney theme with the Freshmen representing “Toy Story,” Sophomores as “Finding Nemo,” Juniors as “The Jungle Book” and Seniors as “Monsters, Inc.” In the end after all the points had been tallied, the Seniors were the overall champions, followed by the Freshmen, Juniors and Sophomores. Marching band has great fall season The marching band performed “Crystal Images” music by Jazz Guitarist Pat Metheny and keyboard artist Lyle Mays this fall and earned 30 Achievement of Excellence and caption awards. They also earned the following awards at these events. Kenowa Hills- Best Color Guard Grandville- Tied for 1st Place, Best Marching, Best Visual Effect and Color Guard Stevensville Lakeshore- Best Music. They were also voted the Grand Champion of the final show of the season at East Kentwood and earned Class A winner, best marching and best visual effect award.

Students competed in “Penny Wars” between classes during homecoming

have walked its halls for years. All profits will go toward projects that will benefit students in the years ahead. One of the first projects will be the reintroduction of graduation composite pictures dating back to 1922 – our first graduating class – to the new building so that everyone can enjoy them. On the behalf of everyone who has valued Portage Central High School over the years, thank you for considering this opportunity. A 4x8 standard-size brick is $50 and 8x8 brick is $150. Please contact Kent White at (269) 323-6573 or by e-mail at kwhite@ to receive more information or to place an order. The brick sale will continue until the end of the spring in May 2011.

In addition to competitions the band performed at halftime at all the home varsity football games and during the homecoming parade. Mustang Athletics – A fall to remember Mustang athletics proved again why they are one of the top programs in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference and the state with another strong fall season. The following is a list of fall sports accolades. Football SMAC Champions (5th straight year) Men’s Soccer SMAC Champions & District Title Men’s Cross Country SMAC Champions (3rd straight season) & qualified for State Meet (2nd straight) Women’s Cross Country Sent freshman Ally Pierce to State Meet Women’s Golf SMAC Central Division Champions & sent Jessica Heimonen to State Tourney Swimming and Diving 3rd in SMAC, six went to the State meet Volleyball SMAC Champions Men’s Tennis SMAC Central Division Champions (8th straight) G-K Tournament Champions

Have you purchased your brick for the new Portage Central landscape feature? Portage Central High School will have a Grand Re-Opening in August 2011, and we would like to invite you to be a part the PCHS history that reaches back to 1922. To celebrate this event, we are going to build a lasting community area dedicated to all our students, faculty and community members – from the past, present and future. You have the opportunity to donate a specially inscribed brick to help build this outside centerpiece of the new Portage Central High School, which will be used for generations to come. This is an excellent way to recognize students, special achievements, memories, businesses and anything else that is important to you. Please consider being a part of this lasting contribution as it is a dedication to Portage Central High School’s history and a celebration of the people who

Jim Dean class of ‘59


Class of 1



You’re Invited!

To help us say goodbye to PCHS the way we said hello in 1953...with a Sock Hop!

Saturday, April 16, 2011 PCHS Gymnasium 6-10 p.m. The event will include Dinner by reservation • dance with live music • Silent auctions • “Then and Now” tours Stay tuned to the school’s website ( or contact Kent White at (269) 323-6573 for more information. December 2010


Campus Scene

Portage Northern


he beginning of the 2010-11 school year kicked off with a new crop of wide-eyed freshmen; however, they were not the only ones wide-eyed as they entered the building on Tuesday, Sept. 7. As part of the District’s bond project, Northern High unveiled The Commons, a 55,000 squarefoot space located between the Igloo gymnasium and the east wing of the school. The Commons is just one of the many highlights from this past fall at Northern High School. The Commons The Commons features a multi-level environment for dining, after-school events, intermission space during indoor athletic events, and new entrances to the school at the upper level (visitors) and lower level (students and faculty). The Commons also contains new school main offices, and offices for counseling and athletics. The upper area also has display cases for information and trophies. Students said their favorite part of the new area is the part that connects to the Igloo. They mentioned how relieved they were that they will be able to stay inside during the winter when walking to gym and strength classes. The Commons was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the community on Monday, Sept. 20. Principal Jim French, Superintendent Marsha Wells, Board of Education President Kevin Hollenbeck and Portage Mayor Peter Strazdas,

The stunning new Commons space opened for the start of the school year and was officially unveiled to the public on Mo

along with representatives from TMP Architecture, Inc., and AVB Construction, spoke during the event. Northern Learning Commons selected for national award During the summer of 2010, the Portage Northern High School Media Center was selected as the most outstanding library program in Michigan and was named among the top 35 programs in the nation by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). In honor of the recognition, the Media Center, or Learning Commons, was featured on the AASL Vision Tour on Thursday, Nov. 18. The Vision Tour is an initiative by the Association’s president, Dr. Nancy Everhart, to visit school media centers across the country in order to provide the public with examples of what excep-

tional school media centers offer students and communities according to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the National Educational Technology Standards. Breadlift helps March of Dimes Portage Northern students and community members continued their annual charity event, Breadlift, to support the March of Dimes. The students raised a total of $10,307.91 this year – and had over 300 students, parents, and staff that participated Saturday, Nov. 20. The grand total since Breadlift started in 1965 at P-Northern is now more than $331,000. The dedicated students reached their goal ($10,000) and did a tremendous job of raising funds for the March of Dimes, which helps to improve the health of babies. About 200 loaves of extra bread were also donated the Monday following the event to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes for distribution to help those in need. Student Senate advisor Rick Searing was nominated for Michigan’s March of Dimes Team Youth Award for his organization of Northern’s successful Breadlift event. Old yearbooks are for sale Did you lose your NHS yearbooks? If so, Northern High has extra copies of old yearbooks for sale. Yearbooks are available for most years dating back to 1970. For more information, or to place an order please e-mail Aimee Wendland at

The new Commons features an area that connects the school to the Igloo gymnasium


The Portage Connection

onday, Sept. 20.

Huskie Fall Athletics Huskie athletics had a very successful fall season in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference (SMAC) and in state competion. The following is a list of fall varsity sports accolades. Football SMAC Champions (made state playoffs) Set a school record for points in a season Men’s Soccer -SMAC Central Division Champs -#1 Seed, SMAC Conference Tournament -Shutout wins against PC (2-0), Plainwell (ranked No. 3 in D-II), Vicksburg (No. 10

in D-II), South Haven (No. 1 in D-III) Men’s Cross Country Sent junior Max Mizikar to the state meet. Women’s Golf Senior Laura Glass placed 6th in the state meet, which was the highest finish ever for a Northern women’s golfer. She was also Academic All-State first team. Swimming and Diving SMAC Champions Competed in state meet Volleyball Team was named Academic All-State. Men’s Tennis Sent Paul Oosterbaan to state tournament.

Senior Julia Braganini, Student Senator in charge of Breadlift this year, shows off loaves of bread that were handed out to raise money for the March of Dimes

Classes represented “The Decades” for homecoming.

We want to hear from you This is what’s happening at Portage Central and Northern...but what’s happening with you? E-mail The Portage Connection editor Kyle Herm at to have your information included in the next issue coming out this spring. Varsity football taking the field before the Portage Central rivalry game on Friday, Sept. 10

December 2010


Alumni Profile

Tom Murray A life on camera – Central, ‘00


his past winter at a Portage Central boy’s basketball game, someone approached the student doing public address announcing and asked him, “Where’s your tuxedo?” Confused, the student asked, “I’m supposed to wear a tuxedo to do the announcing?” The older-aged fan replied, “Well, that’s what a young man used to do in the past–he set the bar high.” That young

man, who went above and beyond to create a type of announcing legend for Mustang basketball, was Tom Murray. Murray, Central High class of 2000, has since continued his career behind a microphone and camera as a general assignment reporter for WTMJTV, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisc. He covers such topics as politics, accidents, crimes and disasters for the station. Prior to his current position in Milwaukee, he worked as a reporter and weekend anchor at KAAL-TV in Rochester, Minn. Although his career has blossomed, according to Murray, the roots and seeds were planted during his years at P-Central. “While taking theater and drama classes at Portage Central, I learned I was not a gifted singer or dancer,” said Murray. “My Broadway dreams shattered, Kathy Mulay (PC performing arts director) encouraged me to try broadcasting in forensics competitions. I did terrible my freshmen and sophomore years, but I stuck with it and won the state broadcasting championship my junior and senior years.”

12 The Portage Connection

Tom Murray interviewing Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle

In addition to excelling in forensics, Murray also benefited from other extracurricular opportunities in high school with a radio internship at WKZO-AM. “I went in for a news internship two hours before school each morning,” he said. “I wrote stories and made calls for the news department. After awhile, they let me report and anchor on the air. It was a great experience, but my friends never heard me broadcasting because teenagers don’t listen to news radio.” Murray has been focused on broadcasting ever since he first got behind a microphone in eighth grade to announce his younger brother’s hockey game, but it wasn’t always his first dream as a young hockey player himself. “I, like most young hockey players in Michigan, dreamed of being Steve Yzerman’s teammate on the Detroit Red Wings,” he said. “I stopped playing after middle school, but I’m still involved. I’m now a referee for college and high school games.” Murray’s father, Jim Murray, a former collegiate hockey player, is the new athletic director at P-Central this year after serving as a faculty member and hockey coach for the Mustangs. Despite not continuing as an athlete, his sports background aided him during his college experience at Arizona State University. In Tom Murray at the news desk for WTMJ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisc.

his first semester at ASU, Murray went into the athletic department and asked to be the football public address announcer for the Sun Devil football program. Even though he was completely capable of the task, the large, Pacific-10 Conference school already had an announcer and frowned upon the idea of turning the microphone over to an 18-year-old freshman in front of more than 60,000 fans at Sun Devil Stadium. Instead, Murray got involved with the Sun Devil Sports Network, which broadcasted all the football, basketball and baseball games. By the time he was a senior, he traveled with the football and men’s basketball teams, producing the play-by-play broadcasts. When Murray was not in class, or working with the SDSN, he also hosted a weekend radio show on KOOL-FM, the worldfamous oldies station in Phoenix, and was a staple on the campus radio station, The Blaze 1260-AM. It is fair to say Murray has accomplished a great deal since leaving high school, but no matter how far his career takes him, the image of Murray sitting at the scorer’s table, decked out in a full tuxedo will forever be ingrained in the memories of those tied to the school today.

Ashley (Edlund) Heidtke

Alumni Profile

Continuing a tradition of excellence – Northern ‘95


shley (Edlund) Heidtke must wear a success tracking device, because no matter where she has gone, success has undoubtedly followed.

Heidtke, a ‘95 Northern graduate, was a standout on the Huskie volleyball team during the program’s dominating run throughout the ‘90s under head coach Jack Magelssen. She won the state championship all four years of high school (‘92-’95) and set in place an astonishing run of six titles in eight years for Northern. Heidtke said the mind set for success was established during her high school years. “My high school experience put me on the right path for success,” she said. “It prepared me for college because we practiced and played at such a high level. I took a lot of what we did in high school with me and learned winning takes a lot of time and hard work.” After finishing high school Heidtke earned a volleyball scholarship at the University of South Carolina, and again, the success tracking device caught up to her all the way down in Columbia. She earned All-Southeast Athletic Conference accolades all four years and was named to the SEC All-Tournament team in 1995 and 1996. She stands 10th all-time in SEC history with 5,177 career assists and holds South Carolina’s career assist mark. Heidtke started every match of her career and was USC’s 1999 Athlete of the Year. This past September, she became the first volleyball player in the history of the school to be inducted into the athletic hall of fame. Following her stellar college career, she moved on to play professional volleyball overseas in Spain for two years. “It (professional volleyball) was such a neat experience,” Heidtke said. “The coach wouldn’t let my teammates speak English to me so I got to know the language very fast. It was just great to be able to play the sport I loved for a living.” She returned to South Carolina to serve as a graduate assistant coach for the volleyball team for two years, and got her first coaching position at the College of

Wade Spees/The Post and Courier Porter-Gaud head varsity volleyball coach and ‘95 Northern graduate Ashley (Edlund) Heidtke with former Portage Central athletic director and father Larry Edlund looking on during the 2010 State Championship game

Charleston. After a one-year stint at College of Charleston, Heidtke moved into the head coaching role at Porter-Gaud, a private high school in Charleston. She has coached and taught Health and Physical Education there for the last six years. Just like as a player, success inevitably followed her into coaching. In six years at the helm of the volleyball program, Heidtke has won two South Carolina Independent School Association state championships, her second coming this past October against their rival school, Ashley Hall. She has also guided the team to the state title game an incredible four times in six years. Despite winning multiple state championships as a player and coach, Heidtke has stayed true to the foundations she learned at Northern. “In high school I just knew nothing less than winning state was expected,”

she said. “I’ve tried to create that same winning atmosphere here that we had at Northern, where the kids expect that at the end of the season we’re playing for the state championship.” Helping along the way this past season was Heidtke’s father and former Portage Central athletic director Larry Edlund. Edlund, who retired after last school year, traveled down to South Carolina to assist with the team. “Having my dad help coach this year was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “I grew up with him as a college football coach, but I couldn’t be in practice to hear what he said to the players. So to see him in his element was really neat. The kids loved him and he was a great motivator for them.” The sky is the limit for where Heidtke’s coaching career will take her, but you can bet that wherever it goes, the success tracking device will be sure to follow. December 2010


Alumni Profile

Triple Crown – Northern, ‘99, ‘02 & ‘06

Catch t he nex ti The Po rtage C ssue of onnecti www.p o ortage n at coming out Ma y 2011 !

Smith Sisters excel in academics and athletics


his past spring, 2006 Portage Northern alumna, Shannon Smith, was selected for the 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America University

Division Softball Team and was also named Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Western Kentucky University for her performance as a softball player and as a student. Although these accomplishments are impressive in themselves, the accounting student with a 4.0 grade point average is not the first in her family to accept these awards. Shannon follows in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Kristalyn and Ashley, also Portage


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Northern grads, who received the same recognitions at Western Kentucky in 2002 and South Carolina in 2006. Being chosen for either of these awards is no easy task. For First Team Academic All-America, student-athletes must be nominated by their schools and named to one of the eight All-District teams. From there, 11 softball players in the country are picked as First Team Academic AllAmerican. Athletes are selected based on position, their stats at that position, and academic GPA. Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year is determined by the University Athletic Department and announced during the Athletic Academic Awards Banquet in the spring. Since their awards, the Smith sisters have continued their success on and off the softball field. Kristalyn is a health and special education teacher at Tecumseh High School in Michigan as well as the school’s varsity softball coach. Her teams have won two state championship titles. Following her completion of a master’s degree in construction engineering and management from the University of Michi-

gan, Ashley moved to Denver where she now works as a project engineer for PCL Construction. Shannon will complete the final two out of four CPA exams this fall and will begin her role as an auditor for Ernst & Young in Nashville, Tenn. in January.

Shannon Smith at Western Kentucky University

The Smith sisters: (from the left) Ashley (PN ’02), Shannon (PN ‘06), and Kristalyn (PN ’99).

Former Faculty Today

Erin Boes: Living and working in Spain Erin Boes was a former student of Haverhill, North Middle, and Northern High Schools. After graduation in 1995, she attended Western Michigan University for undergraduate and part of her graduate studies. She returned to Portage to work for 10 years as an intern, substitute, and Spanish teacher. Boes was at all of the secondary schools except for West Middle, but was primarily at Portage Central High School (4 years) and Portage Northern High School (5 years). “I could not have asked for a more wonderful place to be, both as a stu-

dent and employee,” said Boes. Today she is now living in Logroño, Spain. She moved here the summer of 2009 to marry her sweetheart and settle in La Rioja, the wine country of Spain. Her husband is a bank director and Boes has been working both in the public and private sectors as an Englaish as a Second Language teacher. “Life is certainly sweet here, but I relish my visits home,” she said. “Every time, without fail, I am sure to return to my alma mater to visit both former teachers and colleagues who have had such an impact on my life.”

Faculty Briefs Carl Latora was a teacher and coach at Walled Lake Central in 1964-65. He came to the new Portage Northern High School in 1965-66 as a teacher in the social studies department and j.v. football, varsity assistant baseball, and head wrestling coach. In 1981-82 he became the athletic director and retired from that position in 2006 after 25 years as A.D. He spent a total of 42 years in education. Today, he has a part time job at Michigan Commerce Bank and substitutes in the Kalamazoo schools (Principal or Assistant Principal). He recently took a trip to Italy for three weeks and found the small town in Sicily where his Dad was born. Otto Certa, retired in 1987 after serving 33 years as a guidance counselor at Portage Central. He and his wife still reside in Portage and have enjoyed traveling during retirement. Every year the two go to Austria to visit relatives and frequently take scuba diving trips to the Little Cayman Island and Chicago for the opera. He is also one of the few remaining former faculty members who served in World War II, and recently went to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial.

Erin Boes, former Portage student and teacher, now lives in Logroño, Spain. She is pictured above in Burgos.

Larry Kulcsar: Enjoying retirement Larry Kulcsar graduated from Portage Central in 1968. He went to Western Michigan University for a baseball and academic scholarship and played four years of baseball at WMU. In 1969 he married his wife Wendy and the two stayed in Portage. They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in Hawaii in the summer of ‘09. Kulcsar just retired from teaching mathematics this past June after 38 years, 37 of which were in the Portage school system. He started his first year in Portage

Mary Haab taught English at Portage Central from 1978-98, and now lives at a cottage on Lake Michigan with her husband. While at P-Central, Haab also served as the debate coach and advisor for the Montague literary and art magazine. In her retirement, Haab wrote a history book and published a collection of poetry with other authors. She has also taken visits to Vietnam and South Africa and spent time with her ten grandchildren.

at West Junior High (WJH) in the fall of 1973, the year WJH opened, and moved to Northern High School (NHS) in 1981 when the 9th graders moved to the high schools. He taught at WMS for eight years and at NHS for 29 years. Kulcsar has two grown, married children, Kelly and Ryan, and three grandchildren. “I love to spend time with my wife, play with my grandkids, travel, and golf, and I’m truly enjoying retirement,” he said. Larry Kulcsar with his wife at the top of the Haleakala Crater in Maui. December 2010


Mustang Corral

Get your Mustang and Huskie spirit

To make a purchase from The Mustang Corral, please fill out the order form below and mail to: Portage Central High School; Greg Chambers; 8135 S. Westnedge Ave..; Portage, MI 49002 or e-mail Greg Chambers at


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wear directly from your alma mater

Huskie Den

To make a purchase from The Huskie Den, please fill out the order form below and mail to: Portage Northern High School; Jeanine Patterson; 1000 Idaho Ave.; Portage, MI 49024 or e-mail Jeanine Patterson at

December 2010


Class notes News and information for class notes in The Portage Connection is compiled by Kyle Herm. In addition to featuring information provided directly by alumni, this section includes news gathered from a variety of public sources and included here to keep members of the Portage family upto-date and connected. News and information should be e-mailed to Herm at kherm@portageps. org, or mailed to: Alumni News, Kyle Herm, Portage Public Schools, 8111 South Westnedge Ave., Portage, MI, 49002. All submissions received by the Office of Community Relations by December 1 have been included in this inaugural publication. We welcome your news and information so that we may include you in the second issue coming out next Spring. The deadline for the Spring issue is May 1, 2011.

60s Pictured below on the left is Art Kramer (PC, class of 1960) with current Hope College president and former baseball teammate Dr. Jim Bultman, who taught and coached in Portage Schools and was the assistant principal of Northern High. Kramer was back in the area from Baltimore, where he currently resides, to attend a Hope banquet for his former basketball coach Glenn Van Wieren. Kramer has lived in the Baltimore area for approximately 20 years and is recently retired from Johns Hopkins University where he worked as a Director in the Center for Talented Youth.

70s Kathy Brown (PC, ‘72) and Dale Posthumus (PC, ‘74) celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past May. Kathy has been a cosmetologist for almost 32 years and opened Studio 24 SalonSpa (1413


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E. Milham / 269-345-0866), a full service salon and spa, in 2005. Dale owns EXFil, a filter and equipment distributor, with the home office on 9th Street in Kalamazoo. Their two sons, Patrick and Will, also graduated from PC in ‘94 and ‘05. Patrick had a successful career in baseball, pitching for East Carolina University and Auburn University and participated in the 1997 College World Series. After 5 1/2 years in the minor leagues he settled in Lexington, Ky., with his college sweetheart, Kim Robinson who was on the swim team at Auburn. They have two sons and careers in sports training and marketing. Will attended Western Michigan University and transferred to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is now working for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a Game Operations Coordinator.

for 4 1/2 years and traveled around the Midwest and country. Brayton was a member of PC’s debate team and along with his partner, Sara Van Rheenan (PC, ‘84), they were one of the top teams in the state.

Rick DeKam (PN, ‘79) is the Principal and Director of Asset Management for Midwest Realty Group. DeKam founded the company in 1998 after ten years with Preferred Carlson Realtors. He has been in commerical real estate for more than 20 years. Midwest Realty Group is a boutique commercial real estate firm serving all of Michigan as well as Northern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.


80s Kara M. Friedman (PC, ‘85) is with the law firm of Polsinelli Shughart in Chicago, Ill. Her practice focuses on general representation of health care providers. She also leads the service project program in her office, which supports a struggling Chicago Public School elementary school and a social service agency for abused and neglected children in Chicago. She was voted “class clown” of the senior mock elections. Ed Brayton (PC, ‘85) has a radio show called Declaring Independence, broadcasted online and on WPRR 1680-AM in Grand Rapids. He has also appeared on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC for his work on news stories and issues involving Michigan politics. He is also the editor of the Michigan Messenger, an independent news network. Prior to his current position, he did stand-up comedy

David “Charlie” Fuller (PC, ‘80) was named L1 Master Technician of the Year by the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. The lab manager in the automotive technology program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College recently earned the highest scores nationwide on certification tests assessing his knowledge of automotive systems. Fuller has worked for KVCC for 12 years and began the academy program for training automotive technicians.

Seth Rozanoff (PN, ‘95) was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study music for nine months in the Netherlands. After graduating in 1995, the pianist attended Western Michigan University where he received a bachelor’s degree in music. Rozanoff then continued his education in New York City at Mannes College The New School for Music. Stacy Hawkins, a 1994 graduate of Portage Community High School, has been married for 12 years, has two children, ages 12 and 17 and enjoys living in the country with lots of land. Stacy is currently Master Campus Admission Representative at Everest Institute. She has been in this position for four years and loves it because she can relate to the situations that most of her potential students find themselves in. Stacy is one of the top representatives in the region and is among the top 30 in the country. She also plays professional roller derby for the Killamazoo Derby Darlins, and is one of the best blockers in the state. She is pictured below in the middle wearing orange rollerskate laces.

B.J. Snow (PC, ‘95) finished his fifth season on the UCLA coaching staff, and second year as assistant head coach after being elevated to the position in February of 2009. He helped lead the Bruins to the sweet-16 of the courtesy, UCLA Athletics NCAA Division-I Tournament this past fall. Snow coached the PC varsity boy’s soccer team for four years (02-05) and played at Indiana University (96-99). Jeremiah Coe (PN, ‘95) has had three novels and 11 short stories published, and a web series that he created and wrote picked up by an indie film maker. His fiction novels are available on Amazon. com. He was also one of the first agents to work for Homeland Security after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Coe is pictured above with his nephew on Halloween.

00s Amanda Kocefas (PN ‘07), pictured on the left below, is a senior at Michigan State, majoring in Advertising. She graduates this May and will pursue a career in Media Planning with an ad agency. She also serves as the Vice President of Chapter Relations and Standards for Alpha Chi Omega and Vice President of Recruitment for Order of Omega.

Elizabeth Ulmer (PC, ‘07) is a senior at the University of Wisconsin and was able to meet President Barack Obama this fall when he visited Madison. DJ Jarrad (PN ‘07) is a senior shortstop on Oakland Univerity’s baseball team. Last season he batted .282 with 23 RBIs, 11 doubles and a pair of home runs. He was also named to the Summit League AllAcademic team. Brandon Ridenour (PN, ‘03), member of the Canadian Brass, traveled with Portage North Middle School choir and orchestra teacher Robert Jordan to Guatemala City to perform with the Ricardo del Carmen choir in The Great Hallelujahs. Ridenour joined the Canadian Brass in 2006 and was the youngest member in the group’s history. Since then, he was had many musical accomplishments, including soloing with the National Symphony Orchestra and graduating from the Julliard School. Aakash Gupta (PN, ‘08) is in his second year on the University of Michigan debate team. Gupta, along with a few other classmates, started the Detroit Urban Debate Education (DUDE) group to help develop debate in urban Detroit. The group is a registered student organization at U-M and works to get former debaters to coach high school teams and put on workshops and tournaments. They are currently supporting 15 inner-city programs in the Detroit area. Eric Alexander (PC, ‘05) represented Portage Schools in Major League Soccer this season. Alexander made his professional debut with FC Dallas and recorded two goals and three assists in 12 starts. He also played in the first ever MLS Cup Championship game on Nov. 20.

Class notes 10s Three Central Stampede alumni are writing for Big Ten newspapers this year. Andrew Krietz (PC ‘09) is writing for The State News at Michigan State, Nathan Ranns (PC ‘10) is writing for The Michigan Daily at U-M and Alex McCarthy (PC, ‘10) is writing for the Indiana Daily Student at IU. Shelby Humphries (PC, ‘10), a freshmen midfielder, and Jenna Wenglinski (PC, ‘06) a senior defender, won the NCAA Women’s Soccer D-II National Championship with Grand Valley Shelby Humphries State University on Dec. 4. Wenglinski was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Jenna Wenglinski Player this season. Ali Herbert (PC, ‘10), Emma Page (PC, ‘10), Shannon Cleveland (PC, ‘10) and Megan McQueen (PC, ‘10), all members of Portage Central’s varsity softball team last year, begin their first season of college softball this spring. Herbert plays at Wayne State University, Page at Hope College, and Cleveland and McQueen at Oakland University.

Meredith Ulmer (PC, ‘00) is in her second year of a Family Practice Residency at Resurrection Hospital in Park Ridge, near Chicago.

Grace Hill (PN, ‘10) led Marist College volleyball in kills (419) and was named Second Team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. She was also the league’s Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 7 and Rookie of the Week three times during her freshman season this past fall.

Corey Ulmer (PC, ‘03) is in her first year of teaching 9th grade honors English and 11th grade British Lit at Lane Tech HS in Chicago. She also is coaching the 9th grade women’s basketball team and the Women’s Varsity Water polo team, and led them to a City Championship last spring.

Six members of PN’s 2010 baseball team are set to begin their first year of college baseball. Jack Livingston (Northwestern), Jake Engels (Michigan), Brett Thomas (Kalamazoo College), Joe Allor (Kalamazoo Valley), Kyle Downey (Lake Michigan College) and Taylor Valler (Davenport).

MLS/Getty Images

December 2010


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