Supporters Like You
Read about supporters who help make students’ dreams a reality.
Dr. Tim Hodge
Dr. Tim Hodge, a 1983 Olivet College graduate, was appointed chair of the Olivet College Board of Trustees on Oct. 15, 2021. Hodge is a distinguished emergency medicine physician and U.S. Navy veteran whose commitment to Olivet College has remained strong. He has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 20 years and has been a consistent annual contributor. Hodge’s fond memories of his years spent at Olivet and devotion to the College’s mission have influenced family members and many others to attend his beloved college.
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Hodge was like many first-year students coming to Olivet College with a dream of preparing for something much bigger. He always wanted to be a physician but wasn’t sure how to make it a reality. Hodge and his nine siblings grew up in Bangor, Michigan. His family relocated from Detroit when he was a very young age. Hodge thought he wasn’t ready for a large university when he graduated from high school. “I wanted an institution that prepared me for medical school, that would allow me to continue participating in athletics and a place where I could have tremendous fun. After spending the weekend with a friend at Olivet College, I liked what I saw. I thought, ‘This has to be the place,’” said Hodge.
In 1979, Hodge began classes at Olivet College. He planned to spend two years at the College to get a solid academic foundation, learn the social expectations of college and then transfer to a larger university that would further prepare him for medical school. That all changed when he met Dr. Fred Gruen, Hodge’s chemistry professor.
If he was going to make it to medical school, Hodge knew he had to chart his course and make the most of his anticipated two years at Olivet College. Sitting in on one of Dr. Gruen’s organic chemistry classes made Hodge realize that he would have to ask for help outside of the classroom for his dream to come true.
“Dr. Gruen would be talking quickly while writing formulas equally as fast on the board, and at times, the sheer volume of the material felt overwhelming. Not wanting to miss anything important, I asked him to explain several key points from the previous lesson. He and his wife, Marian Gruen, lived in Olivet, so they invited me to their home to review lessons. I recall sitting at a small table in the kitchen while Dr. Gruen tutored me and Marian served fresh baked goods,” Hodge said. These visits became continuous open invitations for Hodge. “Dr. Gruen was always there with an encouraging word, a gift of a recent book he had read and enjoyed, and meaningful discussions on academics and life.”
“During one of my visits with Dr. Gruen, I told him I was going to transfer to another school so I could prepare for medical school. He looked at me and asked, ‘Why would you want to do that? We can prepare you; we’ve got you,’” Hodge recalled.
True to their word, Dr. Gruen and other professors at Olivet College did come through for him. When Hodge needed a course in human physiology as a senior and it wasn’t scheduled, Dr. Richard Flemming stepped in to help. He offered to be the sponsoring professor for an independent study in human physiology. The two outlined a new course and met every week to discuss that week’s material. Dr. Flemming also allowed Hodge to write the test questions for the course based on learning objectives. Each answer was then discussed in-depth to assure understanding of human physiology principles.
“Knowing I had to be prepared for our comprehensive discussions, I mastered the subject in a very different way than if I had been in the traditional classroom situation. So well, that I tested out of the human physiology course at medical school,” Hodge said.
Hodge graduated with degrees in biochemistry and biology from Olivet College. Then, he went to medical school at a larger university and achieved his dream of becoming a physician.
One of Hodge’s priorities as the new chair of the Olivet College Board of Trustees is to lead the board in its work to meet the strategic outcomes of “Olivet College 2030: Vision for a Prosperous Future.” Growth, quality and value are at the heart of the strategic plan, which Hodge believes will lead Olivet College to a more secure future.
“Olivet College has to continue to grow. We need to design programs that meet students where they are in the world and support them. We need to retain and grow quality faculty and staff who focus on the whole student — the social, emotional, mental and physical development of each student regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. We must prepare students for life — not just for testing,” Hodge said. “We must also create value for the students. I learned critical thinking and how to examine problems from multiple perspectives. In addition, my parents’ lessons of working hard, being of service to others and showing love of humanity were reinforced during my time as a student. These lessons lead me every day, even now,” Hodge said.
A small decision can make a large impact. Just ask Tammy Walters ‘80, Olivet College alum, employee and donor. She agreed to temporarily fill a job vacancy at Olivet’s Housing department, something she expected would only last for a season or so. She ended up in the position for nearly 20 years.
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Of course, that wasn’t Tammy’s only experience at Olivet. When she was just a high schooler in Delton, Olivet’s small size was appealing to her. She was very active as a student, participating in sports and several extracurricular events. She found outlets for her interests at Olivet, and she felt that it was a place where she could be noticed and make a difference.
Most of all, Tammy was interested in Olivet’s journalism program. That helped her make the decision to enroll, and she started attending classes in 1976. She majored in communications, with a concentration in public relations. Tammy joined the Sigma Beta sorority, forming connections that would last for decades.
Tammy was impressed with how much interest professors showed in her college career. “Dr. Willis Selden was my mentor,” she recalled. “He was amazing and taught me that I could pursue whatever goal I wanted. He also taught me that, in journalism, truth and honesty are incredibly important.” Given her interest in journalism, it seemed natural that she would forge such a strong connection with a journalism professor. Less expected was the impression that biology professor Dr. Speare left on her. Even though her major and career interests were far removed from biology, Dr. Speare helped instill a strong work ethic in Tammy. “I knew he would call on me every class period, so I better know my stuff! He also made me sit up front.”
After graduating from Olivet in 1980, Tammy worked for small publications. She balanced work with raising two sons. She remained connected with the college, largely due to her sorority relationships. In 1990, she returned to Olivet, finding work with audio and visual equipment. She got a job in the mail room shortly afterward. Professionally, she was trying to “put in (her) time,” as she said it, hoping to take on positions with more responsibility.
She moved on to Conferences and Scheduling in 1992. A few years later she learned of a temporary vacancy in the Housing department. A natural fit, Tammy ended up working in Housing for nearly 20 years. The job gave her more direct interaction with students. “I communicated with new and returning students regarding their housing, I enforced housing policies and matched up roommates,” Tammy recalled.
In 2014, Tammy moved to the Physical Plant. There, she manages student employees, works with finances and helps coordinate several of Olivet’s events and programs.
Tammy believes that maintaining a strong connection to your past is a valuable part of life. “Giving back is important. Being a member of a community and investing in that community is important. Never forget where you came from or how hard you worked to get where you are. Don’t forget to thank those that helped you.” Olivet gave her great opportunities, and she wanted to ensure it could do so for future generations. As an employee, she has seen the positive impact the college has had on many students, including her sons.
She also keeps in touch with Sigma Beta. She spent more than a decade as an adviser to its sisters. “I am kind of a link between old and new,” Tammy said. “It’s an amazing way to connect the past to the present.” Her connection with the sorority goes beyond any professional or volunteer position, however. She still meets up with her sisters, many of whom are her closest friends, and just recently returned from a trip with several that she has known since their undergraduate days.
Tammy certainly gave back to Olivet with her time and energy. But in the early ‘90s, not long into her employment at the college, she felt a desire to do more. That’s when she made another decision: donate what she could to Olivet. Others in her situation may have put off giving until they were working their “dream job,” but Tammy knew what she wanted to do, and saw no reason to wait. Experiencing Olivet as an employee had given her a new perspective. She had a greater understanding of the college’s many needs. She also gained a new appreciation for Olivet’s importance to its community.
Tammy is also a firm believer in the Olivet College mission of individual and social responsibility. “It’s seeing what needs to be done and doing it,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if that is picking up trash, reminding someone that they did not clean out the van or praising a student for their good work.”
And when deciding to support the college financially, she saw a need to support Olivet’s community service programs. Community service and volunteering have always been a part of Tammy’s life, and she believes it’s important for students to experience services opportunities in other communities, states and countries. “It gives you a sense that there is a broader world out there. Everyone is not the same nor do they live under the same circumstances. It helps to break down barriers and give you a clearer sense of what is beyond your back door.”
She observed that, while the college was always involved with the community, the amount of programs and their scope only grew over time. According to Tammy, the school has considerably more focus on community service now than it did when she first set foot on campus in the mid-‘70s. That trend is something she decided to help along.
Tammy knows that donating can seem like an intimidating commitment, but she encourages everyone interested in Olivet to give, regardless of amount. “Olivet College came from humble beginnings, and we are the first to understand that not everyone is able to give the same amount,” she said. “The reality is that every dollar adds up.”
Dr. Sharon Hobbs
To Dr. Sharon Hobbs, success is a combination of passion, skill and finding the right fit. Throughout her life, she has maintained passions for human behavior and helping others. She has put that to use in both her career and during her close involvement with Olivet College, which she has worked with since 2005.
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Sharon accepted the invitation to serve on the board of trustees because the Olivet College mission of individual and social responsibility aligns with her personal mission. “We make choices in our life that impact us as individuals and as citizens of the world. Individual responsibility means that you take ownership of your choices, what you do and who you are. Each individual needs to evaluate what role they play in their community and greater society. You are socially responsible if you make decisions for yourself that embraces the good of society. We cannot be self-absorbed so that we do not see our role as social beings and take the actions that make the lives of all better.”
A clinical psychologist, Sharon has dedicated her decades-long career to improving lives. She has a particular interest in children, young people and family relationships. That interest helped her connect with Olivet.
“I had visited Olivet a couple of times,” Sharon recalled. “But a friend who was on the board and knew my work and commitment to young people asked me to consider being a trustee of the college.”
Ever since becoming a trustee in 2005, Sharon has been involved with Olivet. In addition to her role on the board, she is a member of the Women’s Leadership Institute Advisory Council, which has helped to develop several programs and events, including the Cultivating Women Leaders Event, that provide resources, training and encouragement for young women seeking leadership roles.
“I have always been socially active. I look at the things in my surroundings that I do not believe are in the best interests of those who don’t often have a voice, and I ask, ‘what can I do,’ not ‘what should they do.’ I am not passive about my life or about my role professionally or as a citizen of the world. … I use my resources, time and financial gifts to do what I believe is true to who I want to be and is responsive to my community.”
As for why she has continued to work with the college for more than a decade, “I love Olivet and its values. It is committed to each student’s success, and it expects – demands – that each student think about how they can give back to the community. I have been able to meet and work with a lot of the faculty and they have been wonderful.”
Sharon said that she believes financially supporting Olivet is part of a trustee’s responsibility. But it goes beyond obligation for Sharon. She speaks of her contributions in a matter-of-fact, humble manner. “My gifts to the college are for humanitarian purposes. … I am not a large donor because I don’t have the finances to do so. However, I give what I can regularly.”
After earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Sharon made her way to Michigan from New York. Sharon found work at MSU, working as a psychologist in the Department of Pediatrics. She opened her own office shortly afterward, and has been working as a clinical psychologist at the Abbott Road Center for the Family in East Lansing since 1992.
Sharon manages therapy sessions for patients, working with individuals, pairs and groups. In addition to therapy, she works with family court cases. She offers her professional opinion and assists with evaluations regarding parental custody of children and visitation rights.
Sharon’s passion for her profession shows in the time she spends working. When discussing the biggest professional challenges she’s ever faced, she responded, “Not enough hours in the day. I have a big practice.” It also shows in the strong personality she displays while working. “I’m honest…I don’t permit myself to be bullied,” said Sharon, adding that she has particularly relied on that strength during court dealings.
Sharon said that her passion and refusal to back down helped her to a successful psychology career. But while those traits may suggest someone determined to go it alone, she also noted the importance of a strong support system. “I owe my success to the people that have pushed me forward and believed in my talents and skills.”
Although Sharon found her career path early in life, she said there’s more to success than feeling strongly about a subject or profession. Finding a practical use for talents and interests is an essential part of the equation. “Your goal is to appropriately assess your abilities and pursue an education and career that you are positive about that reflects your abilities and passions.”
And that’s why Olivet College is so important to her. “Olivet College sets in motion the development of moral character and a value system that is respectful of all people. This generation and all future generations need to be passionate about working for the good of mankind.”
Reflecting on my time at Olivet College, I’m reminded of so much – the casual and intimate-sized campus, friendships made with other students from all walks of life, and the one-to-one relationships developed with my professors. Combined with a challenging curriculum in a small class atmosphere, these things helped shape my
professional and personal character. All of this sits at the foundation of an Olivet College educational experience. I am who I am because of my time spent on that small campus in rural Michigan.
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I grew up in a suburban Detroit blue-collar town. With little or no desire to attend a large university, the transition from high school to Olivet College was a smooth one. I was looking for a personalized education that offered community, support, and growth – a place that I could call my own; a place to thrive athletically and academically; a campus with a strong reputation for accepting a diverse population. And that’s exactly what I found at Olivet College.
A proud Olivet College graduate, I’m grateful for what it has done to shape my life. I understand what it’s like to come from a large family in a small town with little financial support available to follow your academic dreams. Fortunately, the emotional and personal support was abundant! With the help of good grades, performance grants and financial aid, I was afforded the opportunity of not only a higher education at Olivet, but to play a sport I loved (football), become a member of a great fraternity (Phi Alpha Pi), and even experience a professional semester my senior year in Washington D.C. My English major has served me well in my professional life as a marketing employee, manager, and agency owner.
In owning a small business-to-business marketing agency specializing in the highly competitive and fast changing high-tech market, I often think back to those times at Olivet – the educational and personal lessons learned, the struggles I overcame, the opportunities provided. From a young man from a small town with hopes of playing football, getting a strong education, and untapping my passions to successfully running my own business – I owe a great deal to Olivet College and my experiences gained.
It begs the question: How can I give back to a place that gave me so much?
I choose to support Olivet College each year and have established a legacy gift to help future students accomplish their goals. My hope is to give to others the opportunities allotted to so few. My financial support is not a testimony to me but rather a testament to Olivet College and the education and life skills it offers. The real question is this: If alumni like us don’t offer financial assistance and support to current and prospective students at Olivet, who will?
Throughout our lives, our individual character and resolve is sure to be tested – especially with today’s cultural and socioeconomic divide. As alumni, we can provide financial stability to Olivet College – the same place that taught us values and instilled in us the role(s) we play as socially responsible adults and as citizens of a great country. We have the chance to pay it forward. May we continue to live the Olivet motto. May we be more and do good for our future Comets. Let’s make a difference. Support OUR college and its mission.
Join me in providing future generations with the opportunities that we, too, were once given. I encourage you to support Olivet College through annual gifts and consider making a planned gift to help our future Comets thrive in the years and decades ahead.
-Dr. Sharon Hobbs
Dave Cutler ‘65 is MAD. And he wants you to be MAD, too – motivated, ambitious and driven. “It’s surprising what you can achieve, both as an individual and as a team, if you dig in and work hard,” the long-time supporter of Olivet College said recently.
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Dave is revered throughout the computer industry for his development of several commercial operating systems, including Microsoft Windows NT. Most of the world can’t even comprehend the “what and how” of operating systems, but Dave’s work ethic and high standards have made him one of the world’s top programmers. It’s his time at Olivet College that he credits for much of his tenacity, drive and determination in life.
He is as committed to his philanthropic endeavors as he is his work. Focusing his giving on organizations that provide a worthwhile societal benefit, Dave has invested philanthropically in the students of Olivet College for more than 20 years.
“I grew up in the late 1940s and 50s in a family that worked hard to make ends meet. My father was a low-level employee at Oldsmobile and my mother worked as a nurse for a local doctor,” Dave said. “In 1949, we moved from Lansing to the country and everything changed. Suddenly I was working every day to help grow food for the table and I became the wood cutter for the family stove.”
It’s these early life experiences that taught Dave that if he wanted something in life, he had to work hard to get it. He started earning a paycheck in junior high school, working over the years for a fertilizer company, as a farm hand, and even building barns. His friends couldn’t wait to graduate and close the door on high school, but not Dave. “I knew that getting out of school meant a lifetime of work. I wanted to enjoy high school life as long as possible,” he said with humor.
By 1960, college was becoming more of an option for young men and women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but it was not an expectation, particularly with ample jobs in the auto industry and farming communities in and around Lansing. As a star athlete, however, Dave looked to college as a way to continue doing what he loved best – playing sports. But high school students did not receive the type of college counseling afforded students today, and with no guidance and little understanding of how to research college opportunities – let alone knowing how to pay for college – Dave accepted that he would go to work right out of high school. “My grades in high school were very good, but without a scholarship to pay for college I couldn’t go,” he said.
“That sounds grim,” Dave admits. “But, as fate would have it, the new football coach at Olivet College was Stu Parsell. He had been a coach at Dimondale High School, which was in the same league as DeWitt High School, and was impressed enough to recruit me to Olivet College.” Little did Dave know that an academic scholarship to a small college just 38 miles from home would be the first step down a path that would change his life – and the world we live in.
Dave appreciates the smallness of Olivet College, which allows for an inclusive and relationship-based community. This spirit of community makes it that much easier for students to experience firsthand the college’s mission of nurturing citizens who are individually and socially responsible. “I think 98 percent of going to college is the experience itself. It forms what you become the rest of your life. You can’t possibly learn all you need to know while attending college and the most important thing you can come away with is a life ethic for work, learning and the responsibility you have to take care of yourself,” Dave said.
Throughout high school, Dave was quick to learn that excellence in sports requires hard work, giving it your best effort and a dedication to winning. Unfortunately, he did not learn that same lesson in the classroom. A smart kid, Dave found he didn’t have to work very hard to make good grades. “I pretty much coasted through without ever having to crack a book or study after school,” Dave recalls. “That all changed in college where I quickly found I was starting out at a disadvantage, academically, having gone to a small, rural school. I quickly learned from my professors that they were there to help me learn and that I had to do a significant amount of work on my own without getting hand fed.”
One professor that had great influence on Dave was Louise Hanson. “I was a math major with a minor in physics. I took all kinds of mathematical courses from Louise in subject matters I didn’t even know existed in high school,” he said. “I had to dig out the answers and explanations from textbooks and other math students. I think learning this one skill is what made me so successful later in life.”
Dave’s favorite memory, however, is the 1961 football team that went 8-1. “In 1960, I showed up at the college in early August to play football and we suffered through a humiliating season with just a couple of wins and mostly defeats,” Dave recalls. “In the fall of 1961, we began an amazing journey to an unbelievable season. I was the starting quarterback and wouldn’t trade that year for anything.”
It’s this team – Dave’s lifelong friends – that turned him on to the idea of giving back to his alma mater. It started with a generous donation and his challenge to others to help fund what is now the Cutler Athletic Complex, which is dedicated to the 1961 football team. “Team sports are excellent teachers of life lessons on how to cooperate and get things done as a group,” Dave said.
Graduating in 1965, Dave eagerly began his professional career at DuPont in Delaware. Like most young graduates, his focus was on advancing his career. It would be 25 years before he would return to the Olivet College campus.
It was while at DuPont that Dave developed his lifelong interest and career in software and operating systems. He joined Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts in 1971, and in 1988 he found himself in Seattle leading the development of a portable operating system for personal computers that became known as Windows NT.
Over his 52-year career, Dave has produced more than eight commercially successful systems. In 2016, he was named a Fellow of the Computer History Museum for his contributions to computer architecture, compilers, operating systems and software engineering, and in 2007 President George W. Bush presented him with the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation for designing and implementing the “industry standard” systems for real-time, personal, and server-based systems.
It was a 1985 Homecoming event, however, that Dave ranks as one of his top life highlights, even above meeting the President of the United States: the reunion of the Olivet College 1960s football teams. “It was a short weekend, but it brought back many of the memories of the 1961 football season and how much I really enjoyed the company of friends and teammates,” he said. “I started going back to Olivet College every year at homecoming to see my old teammates George Pyne, Tom Nesbitt, Charles McPhail, Dominic Livedoti, Larry Spencer and many others.”
It was during these visits that Dave also got to know Olivet College board members, presidents, alumni and students, and learned how far the college had come since the early 1960s. It was coming home that reminded him of how special Olivet College is, and he decided he would do what he could to help advance the mission of his beloved alma mater. Over the years, Dave has generously helped fund athletic programs, the visual arts, the Adelphic Society, and student scholarships. He also established the The Cutler Fellowship in Math, Science and Computer Science. And his commitment to the current Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders campaign is the largest ever by a single donor.
“At homecoming 2018, I was asked to give a little talk about why I continue to give to Olivet College after all these years. In the form of a fictional story I come back to Olivet College and as I drive up the hill, I anticipate seeing the campus, but I find that the college is gone. I start thinking about why the college is gone and the only thing I can think of is that people had become complacent and had not supported the college to the level required to ensure its continued success,” Dave says seriously. “My experience at Olivet College was so positive and the lifetime friendships I formed were so strong that I don’t want Olivet College to cease to exist. I don’t want to look back 150 years from now and say to myself, ‘You jerk, if you’d only given a little more the college would still be there.’”
The success of the Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders: 2020 and Beyond campaign will ensure the future of Olivet College, and Dave understands its importance. As a leadership donor he knows how vital every dollar is to enhancing the strength, vitality and future of the college, which in turn benefits every student in immeasurable ways. “Every little bit helps. Small gifts tell the college and the students that you care.”
When asked what words of advice he’d give today’s college students, especially those who are first generation students, Dave said, “Be achievers and do your best in whatever you attempt in life. I like Fred Brooks’ words in the Mythical Man Month. He wrote, ‘There are thinkers and there are doers. Thinkers are a dime a dozen and very plentiful. Doers are rare and valuable. Thinker/doers, however, are very rare and the most valuable of all.’ So, I would also like to pass on a culture of people being doers.”
Without a doubt, Dave is a thinker and a doer – and he’s MAD – and that makes him a very rare gift to all who have the pleasure of knowing him.
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