FLINT — Mott Community College honored four alumni and one retiree at the college’s 14th Annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Retiree Awards program Saturday, Oct. 12.
Honorees represent a diverse group that includes community leaders, business professionals and educators. They are Curt Carr, former chairman of Lapeer County Bank & Trust; Bobby Crim, former speaker of the Michigan State House of Representatives; Sheila Gafney, adaptive physical education teacher for the Genesee Intermediate School District’s Elmer Knopf Learning Center; and Dr. William Kotowicz, dean emeritus and professor of dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
The Outstanding Retiree for 2017 is retired MCC Criminal Justice Coordinator and Professor Dr. Avon Burns.
Carter has served the Lapeer community for many years, retiring in 2014 as chairman of Lapeer County Bank & Trust after 48 years. He graduated with an associate’s degree in business administration from MCC, and attended Ball State University Independent Bankers School, University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking, the University of Michigan Graduate School of Banking and Harvard University Institute for Financial Management.
He served at the helm of Lapeer County Bank & Trust (now Lakestone Bank & Trust) as president from 1983 to 2006, and chairman from 2006 to 2014. He is a founding member of the Lapeer Development Corporation, the countywide economic development organization. Other awards include the Banker of the Year from Michigan Association of Bankers; the Lapeer Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and the Lapeer Jaycees Distinguished Service Award.
Carter’s community involvement is extensive. He has served as charter board member and chairman of the City of Lapeer’s Downtown Development Authority; Lapeer Economic Development Corp.; Lapeer Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and others. Carter remains actively involved with various organizations in his retirement, including the Lapeer County Community Foundation; Lapeer Optimist Club, The Economic Club of Lapeer County and Lapeer Development Corp.
As speaker of the house, Crim didn’t just concern himself with matters of state. He was constantly in touch with his constituency, which is how he learned about Special Olympics. Crim was so moved by a 1976 Special Olympics event that he decided to create an event to raise money and awareness for the cause. From that motivation, the idea for the Crim 10-Mile race was born.
Crim attended Flint Junior College following his service in the U.S. Army. His higher education led to a career as a teacher, state representative and speaker of the house, and as co-founder of the lobbying firm Governmental Consultant Services, Inc., which remains a successful organization today.
Through all the ups and downs that Flint has experienced, the Crim has consistently put our community in a positive spotlight. Now, with the Health Alliance Plan (HAP) Crim Festival of Races and the Crim Fitness Foundation, Crim’s legacy is truly widespread and long-lasting. In August 2017, nearly 10,000 people participated in the Crim’s 41st 10-mile race – fueling Crim’s vision of a community where health, wellness, and active living are priorities for families and individuals of all ages and abilities.
Gafney has made a huge impact in the lives of many special needs youth across the community. After earning a degree from MCC in 1976, she went on to Northern Michigan University where she received a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1978, then a master’s degree in adaptive physical education from Michigan State University in 1984. She has worked as an adaptive physical education teacher for the Elmer Knopf Learning Center since 1986.
In addition to her work as teacher and coach, Gafney serves as the director of Michigan Special Olympics for Area 13 (Genesee and Lapeer counties). Having coached Special Olympics for 34 years in gymnastics, swimming, athletics, bocce, horseshoes, basketball and volleyball, her teams have received many bronze, silver and gold medals. In 2015, her team won a gold medal in volleyball at the World Games in Los Angeles.
Her humanitarianism extends beyond her work and efforts with Special Olympics. She has taken players without safe, stable home environments into her home, becoming their legal guardian and making them part of her family.
She has received numerous awards, including two Coach of the Year awards in Special Olympics and the Julian Stein Award (the father of adapted physical education in the U.S.).
Kotowicz earned an associate of science degree from Flint Junior College in 1962, a doctorate of dental surgery from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1966, and a master of science in denture prosthodontics from UM’s Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies in 1968.
Kotowicz joined the University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty in 1969. In 1997, he became Dean of the School of Dentistry. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry and the Zahnarzliches Institut at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He has also served as a guest professor at the Universitat Bern in Switzerland and as a dental consultant.
He maintains both a dental license and a specialty license in prosthodontics and provides dental care in the school’s intramural Dental Faculty Associates practice. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Prosthodontics, a Fellow in the Academy of Prosthodontics, and a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU) and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies, serving as president and secretary of OKU.
He is also a member of the American Association of Dental Schools, the American and International Associations for Dental Research, the American Dental Associations, Michigan Dental Association, and the Michigan Society of Prosthodontics. Under his leadership, the UM Dental School launched several strategic partnerships with community based organizations to provide services primarily to the underserved, providing a major step in the School’s efforts toward expansion of community based education in the dental and dental hygiene programs. He remains active in community service.
Burns retired in 2013 with more than 29 years of service. She entered the law enforcement field at a time when it was dominated by males. While at MCC, she radically changed the demographics of the state and local law enforcement community by increasing the number of females and minority students who successfully completed MCC programs.
Burns implemented several innovative programs and initiatives at the college, including the Corrections Officer Academic Program, Criminal Justice Student Organization and the Criminal Justice Career Fair.
A Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice “Wall of Fame” inductee, Burns was appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the Corrections Officer Training Council where she served as chairperson from 2009-2012.
Burns holds a bachelor of science in human services from Ferris State University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from MSU. While at Mott, she completed a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at Wayne State University. During this time, she also created an approved curriculum to train corrections officers.
Her extensive work in the community has included service to Flint Area Crime Stoppers, New Paths Inc. Board of Directors and the MCC Bruin Club Board of Directors in addition to serving on many local boards and committees.
Distinguished Alumni honorees are selected by a screening committee based upon their achievements as role models, visionary leaders and community servants.
The five individuals to be honored will have their photographs included in Alumni Hall in the MCC Event Center.