Wall of Success

CAC’s Alumni Come Together to Celebrate Achievement

Wall of Success

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Editor

On Nov. 5th Signal Peak Campus played host to Central Arizona College’s annual Wall of Success event. Every year, members of the CAC community nominate college alumni who have achieved personal or professional success. As a way to thank these alumni for being amazing examples, recipients are given the Alumni Achievement Award. The 2016 Wall of Success recipients are William H. Allen, Matthew D. Bertsch, PharmD, Shaun O. Brown, Udo S. Cook, Erika V. Flores, Manny Flores, and Daniel Ramos, PA-C. Manny Flores was unable to attend the event, but CAC intends on honoring Mr. Flores at next year’s Wall of Success. This year’s inductees further demonstrate the diversity of our college and shows no matter your background or field of study, CAC can accommodate your needs.

First to be inducted was William Allen. Graduating from CAC in 1973, Allen went on to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree and a Masters of Arts Degree in Secondary Education from Arizona State University. Now a retired educator, Allen has held social sciences and history teaching positions in Sacaton and Casa Grande as well as at CAC and ASU. While at CAC, Allen ran cross county; he and several other locals were the first group to run for now retired CAC athletic director and four time Olympian, George Young. The experience was positive one. “George taught us how to be collegiate runners. We taught George how to be a collegiate coach,” Allen reflects in his speech. Between 1978 and 1997, Allen served at Casa Grande Union High School as coach to the Division 1 boys and girls track teams. Instead of focusing on the big picture, Allen chooses to do what he can in a day. Allen is very involved in community outreach, especially with the Gila River Indian Community.

Next to receive recognition was Dr. Matthew Bertsch.  In 2006, Bertsch graduated from CAC with honors and an Associate of Science degree; he also earned an Associate of Arts two years later. He credits Professor Diane Beecroft and Dixie Kullmen for providing him with a good foundation in science. Following CAC, Bertsch continued his education at the University of Arizona, earning a Doctor in Pharmacy in 2012. Bertsch works for Sun Life where he serves as Director of Pharmacy and overseas pharmacy services to all Sun Life sites in Pinal County. To help others achieve their goals, Bertsch offers internship opportunities to pharmacy students. For Bertsch words could not express the gratitude he felt. As a way to say thanks, he encouraged his fellow recipients to help lay the ground work for the next generation.

Shaun Brown, the third recipient to be inducted graduated in 1999. Brown graduated with an Associate of Arts from CAC. Brown received two degrees from the University of Arizona, a Bachelors of Arts degree in Geography with a minor in African American Studies (2005) and a Masters in Land Use and Community Planning (2009).  For nine years, Brown has worked for Tucson Unified School District as the Planning Technician. Recently, Brown became an Alumni Board Member for the SALT Center at the U of A. The program focuses on helping students with learning disabilities become successful and in their careers. His involvement with the community stems from a personal obstacle — throughout his life, Brown had to learn to overcome dyslexia. Brown insisted during his speech, “it’s a lot of work to get done but it’s possible.”

The fourth Wall of Success recipient was Udo Cook. A native to the Casa Grande area, Cook graduated from CAC in 1980 with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering. While at CAC, he wrote for the Cactus under the watch of Professor John Sawyer. His article on former basketball, volleyball, and softball coach Lynn Larson earned him the Rocky Mountain Newspaper Feature Writing Award. In the 1990s, Cook returned to CAC to take several certification classes. Having had a rewarding career as an electrician, one of his proudest accomplishments was overseeing the electrical installation of the Grace Inn Hotel in Chandler.  Currently Cook serves as Sr. Technician Trainer for Abbott Nutrition in Casa Grande. A member of several boards, including the Pinal Country Workforce Innovation and Opportunity, Cook is also a founder of Honoring/Hiring our Heroes of Pinal, a nonprofit organization which offers services to Pinal County veterans and their families. ”I’m not successful, I’m a work in progress,” Cook tells the audience. He’s simply an individual who cares about his community.

CAC’s fifth Wall of Success inductee was Erika Flores. She received an Associate of Arts degree in Journalism from CAC in 2006. While at CAC, Flores was an active member of the Cactus. There she met her mentor John Sawyer. “He was one of the first to encourage me to reach out to other newspapers.” She transferred to ASU after being accepted to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism [where she helped start a Spanish newscast]. In 2009, Flores earned dual degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communication and Sociology. Her reporting career took her to 4News, Tucson’s NBC affiliate, Phoenix’s CBS affiliate, and 3TV. Flores currently works as a Digital Journalist for Maricopa County, her position allows her to produce video stories about programs that help the community. Coming from the small town of Kearny, AZ, “CAC was a godsend.” Involved with several organizations, such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists [which pushes more diversity on the field]. Flores plans to pay her gratitude forward by mentoring youths.

The last to be inducted was Daniel Ramos. In 2009, Ramos graduated with an Associate of Science from CAC. After having back surgery at the age of 19, Ramos decided to major in Biology. Following CAC, he attended U of A eventually completing a BA of Science in Physiology and a minor in Chemistry. After spending several years in Florida, working in clinical research with the University of South Florida, in 2009 Ramos was one of 36 students accepted into the Yale Program, where he earned a Masters of Medical Science. At this time, he serves as a Family Medicine Provider for Sun Life. He also works as a biology professor at Rio Salado College. Ramos departs with a few encouraging words, “Don’t let obstacles or physical limitation stops you.”

While each recipient comes from a different background, they all share one thing in common: CAC. The foundation this college provides students, gives them the opportunity to thrive and flourish and of course, gain success. As Master of Ceremonies Rick Gibson says, “Education is a means or way to change lives.”