Kent Smith named Wayne College 2020 Distinguished Alum


The University of Akron (UA) Wayne College Alumni Association is proud to announce Kent Smith as its 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The award recognizes graduates who have shown leadership in the workplace and community and will be formally presented when events safely return to campus.

Smith, a 1978 graduate of Orrville High School, is currently the director of the Rittman Academy School, where he works with at risk high school students in obtaining a diploma. Before this role, Smith retired from Orrville City Schools as the athletic director and business teacher after 27 years, with a total of 37 years in education.

In addition to being an athletic director, teacher and administrator, Smith coached boy’s tennis for 30 years, girl’s tennis for 26 years and basketball for 14 years and reached the 500 win total as a head coach in tennis. Smith continues to coach for Orrville and assists in the athletic department as needed.

Knowing it would be affordable and a great start to his college education, Smith arrived at UA Wayne College immediately after graduating from Orrville. Always having an interest in business, Smith pursued his bachelor’s degree in business administration. “It seemed like a good major that could lead into a variety of careers,” said Smith.

After transitioning to The University of Akron’s main campus to obtain his degree in business, he also received a business education degree, and then a master’s in athletic administration from Ashland University.

When asked of favorite memories at UA Wayne College, Smith reflected on his time with biology professors, Scott Hagen and Forest Smith with whom he got to know well. “I loved the teachers and how everyone took an interest in each other,” stated Smith. “Everyone was so nice and made you feel important.” Smith was active during his time on campus, playing basketball, on student senate, on the former tennis team and even worked on campus in buildings and grounds.

An Orrville High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Smith goes above and beyond donating his time to help the youth. In the area of athletic administration and work within Orrville City Schools, there has been a wide variety of activities and awards, including sectional tournament director for over 25 years in tennis, district track manager, playoff football host, playoff soccer host, NEOIAA co-chair for the spring conference for over 15 years, twice named co-chair of the State Athletic Directors Conference, coaching education instructor, Ohio Cardinal Conference Leadership Coordinator for the last 13 years, Frank Kovaleski  Professional Development Award, Athletic Director of the Year for both the NEOIAA and the OIAAA, Sportsman Integrity and Ethics Award Winner, Outstanding Service Award from the NEOIAAA, OIAAA Citation Award, along with Orrville High School Outstanding Alumnus, Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Teacher and advisor to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for over 30 years.

Smith advises students to take a look at UA Wayne College. “It’s a great place to get the education you need to compete for your desired career,” stated Smith. “The staff always go out of their way to assist and work with you. It’s just a really relaxed atmosphere for students.”

A resident of Orrville, Smith and his wife, Judy have three adult daughters. Jena is an athletic director at a high school outside of Nashville, TN. Jill is a special education teacher at Rittman High School, and Julie works in the marketing department at The J.M. Smucker Company.

Photo caption: Kent Smith, director of the Rittman Academy School is the recipient of The University of Akron Wayne College 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award.

John Lorson named Wayne College 2019 Distinguished Alum



The University of Akron Wayne College Alumni Association is proud to announce John Lorson as its 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The award recognizes graduates who have shown leadership in the workplace and community, and will be formally presented at the Wayne College Graduate and Academic Recognition Ceremony on May 10.

Currently a district technician for the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District, Lorson works to help land owners conserve and improve the quality of land and water resources. Having previously worked as a machinist, an engineer and a college administrator, Lorson found his way back to conservation 29 years after earning his bachelor’s degree in biology.

As a recipient of the Orrville Campus Foundation scholarship, Lorson arrived at Wayne College fresh out of Orrville High School. By attending Wayne College and living at home, Lorson was able to keep his job at a local machine shop, which enabled him to pay his own way through college, along with the help of the scholarship, which covered half of the first year’s tuition. “It was really my only option,” stated Lorson. “Though it quickly became evident that Wayne College was the perfect place for me.”

Inspired by John Wiandt, an outstanding ecology teacher at Orrville High School, Lorson decided to major in biology right from the start. “I’d been a science geek all my life and spent most of my days as a kid outside,” continued Lorson. “Mr. Wiandt really lit a flame in me to learn as much as I could about the natural world.” Later, when transitioning to The University of Akron’s main campus to complete his degree, Lorson would add an education minor, with the intent to teach science.

When asked of favorite memories at Wayne College, Lorson felt blessed with a pair of incredible biology professors, Scott Hagen and Forrest Smith. The two professors took Lorson’s entire biology class on a field study to Assateague Island National Seashore. “They sent us off in pairs to carry back anything we wanted to learn about, and then they lectured right there from a picnic table,” stated Lorson. “We slept in tents and fished for blue crab in the bay, and then cooked it over a campfire. It was the single best educational experience I’ve ever had.”  Lorson still has the notes that he took on that trip and still consults the field guide that he bought to take along. 

Hagen also served as faculty advisor to Student Senate and encourage Lorson to run. He served as both vice president and president, while at Wayne College, and that experience encouraged him to become involved in volunteer organizations, non-profit boards and eventually local government.

Other Wayne College professors also helped to shape Lorson into the person he is today. Carl Huston (English) helped him realize that he actually liked to write and could be good at it, if he was willing to put in the work. Sue Politella (history/humanities) made him appreciate history, and finally, later in life while he worked at the College, John Kristofco, who was serving as dean at the time, was a huge influence and mentor not only in his career, but with his writing career too.

Having been involved as a Charter Board Member of the Wayne College Alumni Association since it began in 2001, Lorson has served both as chair and vice chair. He has volunteered at many Wayne College events as an emcee and guest speaker. Lorson truly enjoys promoting Wayne College and all it has to offer.

Lorson continues to give back to his community and serves in many leadership roles. He’s a member of Orrville City Council, the UA Millersburg Advisory Group and a board member of Goodwill of Wayne and Holmes Counties. Additionally, Lorson has penned a weekly humor column that has appeared in The Daily Record and other local newspapers for over 22 years.  

Lorson advises current and future students to take advantage of the incredible opportunities Wayne College has to offer. “Wayne College is small enough to comfortably let you figure out who you want to be, and at the same time, big enough to afford you the opportunity to dig deep and become that very person,” stated Lorson.

Meeting his wife of 31 years, Kristin, at The University of Akron, the Lorson’s are truly a Zip family. All three of their children have attended Wayne College. Oldest daughter, Charlotte (Andrew) La Belle is an alumna who is now a Captain in the US Army. Their son, Ben attended Wayne College, and finally, their youngest daughter, Sylvia is an alumna, who is now a student at Kent State.

Photo caption: John Lorson, district technician at the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District is the recipient of The University of Akron Wayne College 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Kimberly Huffman named Wayne College 2018 Distinguished Alum


KimberlyHuffman-1The University of Akron Wayne College Alumni Association is proud to announce Kimberly Huffman as its 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The award recognizes graduates who have shown leadership in the workplace and community, and will be formally presented at the Wayne College Graduate and Academic Recognition Ceremony on May 4.

Huffman, a 2015 Ohio Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher Award winner, is a government and economics teacher at the Wayne County Schools Career Center (WCSCC) in Smithville, where she has been since 2000. As an adjunct professor for Stark State College, Huffman teaches political science as a dual-enrollment class at the Career Center.

As one of five children, growing up with a single, legally deaf parent on government assistance, Huffman didn’t think college was in her future. After taking a little time off from school after high school graduation, Huffman eventually enrolled at Wayne College. As the first in her family to attend college, she immediately fell in love with Wayne. “It just felt like home,” stated Huffman. “They immediately took me under their wing. Everyone was so warm and friendly.”

Originally majoring in psychology, Huffman had exhausted all of the classes she could take at Wayne College and was working with her academic advisor on her plan to complete her degree on the Akron campus. This is when she quickly discovered she was going to have to switch her major from psychology. “I did not want to take a foreign language class,” exclaimed Huffman. “If I was to remain in psychology, I was going to have to eventually take it, so I switched to education, which didn’t require a foreign language,“ continued Huffman. “It was a perfect fit!” After seven years of classes, while working full-time at Pizza Hut, Huffman graduated with her degree in education.

When asked of favorite memories at Wayne College, Huffman really enjoyed hanging out in the library, her study groups and her history class with Dr. Paul Weinstein, professor of history. “It was just the best class with the best of friends,” stated Huffman. “I had Dr. Weinstein in his first year of teaching at Wayne. I challenged him all the time and asked a lot of questions.”

To provide knowledge, skill development and experiences necessary for a lifetime of personal and professional growth is the mission of the WCSCC, and Huffman seems to follow suit. In 2008, she was named a James Madison Fellow and was awarded a $24,000 scholarship that allowed her to go back to school. This included a summer studying the US Constitution at Georgetown University. Huffman expressed how this situation gave her access to other teachers, whom she learned from and changed the way she taught her classes. In 2013, Huffman was awarded the James Madison Congressional Fellowship, which is awarded to 1 James Madison Fellow from across the country. This award provides housing, financing and access to work in a US Congressman’s office for a month in the summer. She was able to learn about Congress first hand from US Representative James Ranacci’s office.

Huffman is a true believer in lifelong learning, receiving her Master of American History and Government from Ashland University in 2011. “Huffman has dedicated herself to teach and to be a mentor for high school and college students,” said Steve Thornton, Wayne College Alumni Association member. “She has been a leader in the classroom and within her professional ranks.”

Along with the James Madison Fellow and Congressional Fellowship, Huffman was selected as a TOPP Fellow and provided an educational travel experience with educators across the country on a two-week tour of Germany with Trans-Atlantic Outreach Program from the Geothe Institute (2015), has been nominated for the Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher award (2014), is a Mind-Spark Partners Exceptional Educator (2014), had the opportunity to participate in the Liberty Fund Constitutional Convention (2012), one of 16 social studies teachers chosen to attend the Philadelphia Ratifying Convention Seminar of 1787, the Presidential Academy (2011), one of 60 social studies educators chosen from across the country to study the Constitution over three decades, and the Street Law Summer Institute for Teachers, one of 30 educators selected to attend a week at the US Supreme Court ending with a dinner with the Chief Justice.

Huffman advises current Wayne College students to find a career they’re passionate about and love. “If you can find a job you truly enjoy, it never feels like work,” stated Huffman. “Your job/career should fulfill your purpose in life.”

Going back to Huffman falling in love with Wayne College, Huffman also started dating her husband, Mick, her first semester at Wayne. Residents of Smithville, Huffman has two daughters. Alyssa is a senior at Smithville, and Emerald, a sophomore at Wayne College majoring in education. Both daughters have participated in the College Credit Plus program.

Also active in the community, Huffman currently serves on the board of the Wayne County Historical Society, has served as the Green Local Music Booster president for three years and is a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.

Photo caption: Kimberly Huffman, teacher at the WCSCC is the recipient of The University of Akron Wayne College 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.