MCC-Longview honors distinguished alumni at 50th anniversary event

Distinguished alumni honored at the MCC-Longview event included (from left) Brian Wenninghoff, Valaree Smith, Rafael Garcia, Jennifer Audsley-Moore, Charlie Shields, Amber Maggard and Bryan Compton. (Photos by Clay Bussey/MCC)

Metropolitan Community College-Longview in Lee’s Summit honored 11 distinguished alumni at a reception Jan. 29 at the Mel Aytes Education Center on campus. A poster featuring each honoree was revealed at the event, which was part of a yearlong celebration marking MCC-Longview’s 50th anniversary.

MCC Trustee Ellen Martin

MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty welcomed guests, including honorees, their families and current and retired faculty members. Kathy Aytes, wife of the late Mel Aytes, the Longview instructor for whom the education center is named, and MCC Board of Trustees members Ellen Martin and Cindy Adams also attended.

Martin, a retired longtime MCC administrator and faculty member, expressed pride in Longview, saying, “This has always been a joyful campus and is just as welcoming and accepting now as it always has been.”

The posters featuring each distinguished alum will be displayed around the Longview campus.

Honored at the event were:

Jennifer Audsley-Moore attended MCC-Longview from 2001-03. She is now an archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration, working with historical bankruptcy case files and appellate case files from the federal courts.

Bryan Compton attended MCC-Longview beginning in 1991, earning an associate in applied science degree and General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program certification in 1993. Compton has loved working on cars, motorcycles, boats and all powered transportation since he was young; he now passes on what he learned at Longview as an instructor at the Fort Osage Career and Technology Center.

Posters featuring each honoree (including Rafael Garcia) were unveiled at the event.

Rafael Garcia attended MCC-Longview in 1976, earning the degree of associate in architecture, then transferring to the University of Kansas. He is now the president, CEO and creative director of Garcia Architecture, LLC, and Garcia Construction Management, LLC.

Laura E. Hurse attended MCC-Longview from 2003-09 and earned an associate in arts degree. She continued her education by earning undergraduate degrees in political science and sociology and her master’s in higher education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is an academic advisor and student liaison for UMKC’s Propel program and hopes to pursue an advanced degree to become a professor and/or a student affairs professional.

Tom Lewis attended MCC-Longview beginning in 1996 and earned an associate in engineering degree with honors. Lewis oversees the electrical, instrumentation, controls and automation for Clorox’s only cat litter manufacturing plant, which is in Spring Hill, Kansas.

Amber Maggard attended MCC-Longview from 1999-2011 and from 2013-15.  She went on to earn a bachelor of science from the University of Central Missouri and a B.S. in nursing degree from St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences. She is now a cardiac nurse with St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City.

Stephen Person, D.O., attended MCC-Longview from 2005-07 and earned an associate in arts degree with honors. He is now a hospitalist at Centerpoint Medical Center.

Charlie Shields attended MCC-Longview from 1977-79, earning an associate in arts degree. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in marketing and an MBA in production and operations management from the University of Missouri. He is the president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers/University Health.

Valaree R. Smith, D.O., attended MCC-Longview beginning in 1987 and earned an associate in arts degree in 1999. She is now a hospice physician and medical director at Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, where she provides and directs oversight of patient care and support to the care team for terminally ill patients.

Brian L. Wenninghoff, P.E., attended MCC-Longview from 1994-97 and went on to earn a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Missouri. At Bartlett & West, Wenninghoff is an internationally experienced lead project civil engineer with nearly two decades of design and construction field experience in the energy and infrastructure industries. He is licensed as a professional engineer in four states, has lived in four countries on three continents, and also speaks Spanish and Chinese.

Vera Wilmore-Willis attended MCC-Longview from 1980-87, earning an associate in arts degree, and owns and operates the Peach Tree Buffet, the Peach Tree Cafe’Teria, and the Peach Tree Catering Company, specializing in soul and American foods.

MCC learning specialist Bridget Gold (left) nominated civil engineer Brian Wenninghoff.

At the event, honoree Charlie Shields told a favorite story about how history instructor Aytes inspired him. Shields explained that Aytes shared knowledge he gleaned as a lobbyist in Jefferson City to give his students an invaluable, real-life perspective of “how government really works.” Shields said it was as a student in Aytes’ class that he decided he would one day seek elective office. Shields went on to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives from 1991-2002, then in the Missouri Senate from 2002-10 (including as president pro tem in 2009-10).

“It goes back to one teacher that could build a passion in a student . . . to say ‘This is important’ and ‘I want to show you how to do that,’ ” Shields said. “It happened 50 years ago, and it happens today on this campus.”

The quality of teaching at MCC was a common theme. Architect Rafael Garcia said he learned from licensed architects at MCC-Longview who were “more practitioners than academicians.”

He added: “In my transfer to the University of Kansas, I had such high regard for my education and my skill ability — that I could do anything. It inspired me, frankly, to double major” in engineering and architecture.

More photos from the event:

Kathy Aytes (center), wife of the late MCC instructor Mel Aytes, with daughter Teresa Feagans and MCC Trustee Ellen Martin
MCC instructor Jan Rog (left) nominated honoree Bryan Compton.
MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty with honoree Rafael Garcia
MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty with honoree Charlie Shields
MCC instructor Lavon Tonga (right) nominated honoree Amber Maggard.
MCC learning specialist Bridget Gold (right) nominated honoree Valaree Smith.
MCC counselor Gretchen Blythe (right) nominated honoree Jennifer Audsley-Moore.
Longview Vice President Dave Oehler emceed the event.