Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Region to present three honorary degrees

Annalee Benedict, Jean Cole and Larry West to be honored

KOKOMO, Ind. — Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region will recognize three individuals with honorary degrees during commencement Saturday. Annalee Benedict of Wabash, Jean Cole of Logansport and Larry West of Peru will be honored for their contributions to the College, its students and the communities served by Kokomo Region.

Annalee Benedict

Annalee Benedict

Annalee Benedict

Annalee Benedict’s commitment to Ivy Tech Community College goes back 20 years, when a fellow union leader asked if she’d take his place as the labor representative on what was then the College’s Region 5 advisory board. Since Gib Walker’s retirement from the board in 1995, she has become one of the College’s most dedicated and enthusiastic supporters.

Benedict was born in Kokomo, raised in Converse and has spent much of her adult life in Wabash. She attended a state beauty college in Marion, Indiana, but she made her professional mark during the 37 years she worked at General Tire, later GenCorp. She started as a factory worker making such products as refrigerator gaskets and brake bushings but for the 17 years before her retirement in 1996, Benedict served as the full-time treasurer of Local 626 of the United Rubber Workers International (later merged into the United Steel Workers).

Her commitment and service to organized labor was recognized; she was the first woman elected to the United Rubber Workers International Executive Board, covering union members throughout the United States and Canada, and served two terms between 1990 and 1995. She also served as president of the Wabash County Labor Council and traveled through Central America on a labor fact-finding mission with the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council based in Indianapolis. She still serves as vice president of the local’s retiree group.

Benedict’s civic contributions in Wabash County have been extensive, including service as treasurer of the American Red Cross for 15 years and a member of the United Fund board of directors. In May, she’ll once again work the polls on Primary Day. She attends First Congregational Church in Manchester. She cherishes her family life, including son Joe, who passed away in 2002, and son Jim, who lives in Tulsa, Okla.; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild with another due this month.

In presenting Benedict with the honorary degree, Ivy Tech leaders noted she has been a supporter of the College at every level but that it is at the regional level that she has had the greatest impact. She’s an active participant in all important events and fundraisers and a vocal supporter of Ivy Tech students, always at the ready to meet a request for her participation. Her hand-painted glassware has become a popular item at Monopoly Night, the annual fundraiser for the Wabash Campus, as well as fundraisers in Kokomo.

A woman who calls Ivy Tech her family and who treasures its service to students and the community, Benedict says her fondest wish is to see a new Ivy Tech facility for its students in Wabash.


Jean Cole

Jean Cole

Jean Cole

Logansport businesswoman, community volunteer and benefactor Jean Cole has shared her resources, enthusiasm and boundless energy for many good causes that have benefited the people of Logansport and Cass County. Among these is her service to Ivy Tech Community College. She is a frequent participant in College events and has been a valued member of the Ivy Tech Kokomo Region Board of Trustees since 2011.

A native of Tennessee, Cole came to Logansport in 1956 when husband Milt joined the John I. Shafer Hardwood Company, a company that became Cole Hardwood Inc. in 1986. She has worked in physical therapy, as a clerk in city court and at the license bureau and has completed training in clinical pastoral counseling. Jean and Milt Cole are the parents of two sons, Keith (wife Carmella) and Randy (wife Candy); they have four grandchildren.

Cole is known as a visionary who avidly works to improve her community. In 2011, she was honored with the Beacon Award, presented by the Logansport Pharos-Tribune to recognize someone who has a vision for the Logansport community and who has worked to make that vision a reality. Among contributions cited in the award: the annual Cole Christmas Forest to benefit the Salvation Army, the hospice program she helped to start and that she served as a chaplain, the Cole Clothing Museum she developed in a restored Victorian home, and her donations to support Reading Railroad’s reading program for Cass County youngsters. She is a former elder and deacon for Calvary Presbyterian Church, serves on the board of the American Red Cross and is a former president of Sigma Phi Gamma, an international women’s social and service organization.

Cole’s work with the Logan’s Landing organization and the creation of Cole Park in Logansport’s Bankers Row Historic District was honored with a 2009 Indiana Main Street Award. She also serves on the Indiana State Museum Board and, with her husband, has been a major contributor to Indiana University Kokomo.

High on the list of the Cole family’s impact on the quality of life in the Cass County area is its great support of Ivy Tech’s new Logansport Campus, opened in 2009, and of the students it serves. In 2010, the Coles were honored with Ivy Tech Foundation’s Philanthropic Leadership Award in recognition of their $1 million pledge toward the Logansport Campus construction and their three-year service as honorary chairpersons for the Kokomo Region’s extremely successful capital campaign.


Larry West

Larry West

Larry West

Larry West is a long-time active member of the Peru Ivy Tech Advisory Council. His service to the College includes making friends and raising funds as a leader not only for the Peru Capital Campaign but the earlier Holman Campaign as well.

West is retired from Square D in Peru, Ind., where he worked as the quality assurance manager. A graduate of Noble High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in business at Indiana Wesleyan University, summa cum laude. He and his wife, Sheryl, have been married for 43 years. They have two children, Alyson and Scott, and one granddaughter.

A 26-year member of the Peru Community Schools Board of Trustees, West served 13 years as president and seven years as vice president. He currently serves as vice chair of the Miami County Commissioners, board member of the West Central Indiana Region 4 Workforce Investment Board on both the finance and personnel committees, and member of the board of the Miami County Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the Miami County Community Economic Development Strategies Committee, Peru Parks Board, Peru Utilities Board and the Hometown Federal Credit Union Board.

As an employee of Schneider Electric (which acquired Square D in 1991), West was instrumental in securing a substantial donation to support the opening of Ivy Tech Community College’s Peru Instructional Site and then helped secure donations to support the remodeling and equipping of its classrooms. He has continued to support higher education in Miami County by his regular donations to the College.

West’s commitment to education goes beyond his monetary support of Ivy Tech Peru students and his service on the Peru Ivy Tech Advisory Council. While participating on the Miami County Community Economic Development Strategies Committee, he joined other stakeholders in Miami County in developing regional strategies that addressed the county’s strengths and weaknesses, including education, to attract and retain employers and employees in Miami County. As a member of the Region 4 Workforce Investment Board, he actively works with leaders throughout a 12-county area to develop innovative strategies that promote and support skills development and lifelong learning as a means of achieving economic success and improving the quality of life of the region’s citizenry.


About Ivy Tech Kokomo Service Area

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, Pulaski and Tipton counties, including the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, Rochester, Tipton and Winamac. Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering associate degree and short-term certificate programs, and trainings that align to the needs of the community. The College also offers courses and associate degree programs that seamlessly transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. For more information, visit www.ivytech.edu.
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