2018 Alumni Hall Of Fame Winners

 

This year, the Distinguished Community Service honor recognizes the contributions of Thurston “Smitty” Smith.  Smitty is a former Mayor and Council member for the City of Hesperia.  His leadership, dedication and commitment to his community earned him the support of his constituents and the friendship of his peers.  After relocating from Long Beach in 1988 with his wife and two sons, Smitty became involved in the community through coaching Little League. Years later, he still runs into kids that he coached. “When I see them in the market with their wives and kids and they acknowledge me as Coach Smitty, it truly warms my heart and brings back great memories,” Smitty said of his time coaching. There is rarely an event which Smitty doesn’t attend but he is not just another face in the audience, rather, he takes an active role for the betterment of the Valley. “I love the High Desert and I want to be involved,” Smitty said.  “I want my community to be the best it can be.”  Smitty’s proudest accomplishments while serving on council include; the completion of the Hesperia Civic Plaza Park, the Ranchero Underpass and the Ranchero Bridge project. When asked about the award, Smitty said that he was both humbled and proud. “I am, and continue to be, a strong supporter of the Victor Valley College Foundation,” Smitty added. “After the loss of our Son in 2007, the Foundation assisted my wife and I with setting up a scholarship in his honor, the Brandon E. Smith Memorial Scholarship. I am proud that this scholarship has helped many high desert college students and continues to this day.”  Although he is retired from his concrete pumping business and service to the council, Smitty is still a constant in the community.  He can be found serving pancakes for the local high school wrestling team, staging entrants for local parades, chairing the Victor Valley Bicycle tour and serving on numerous non-profit boards.  Currently, he serves on Mojave Water Agency’s Board of Directors.  It’s a position he calls intriguing and important to our region. “Water is life and it is important that we have good quality for lasting generations,” Smitty said.

 

Receiving the Distinguished Education Service Award is former VVC Administration of Justice Director and Department Chair, Michael Visser.  Mike’s career in law enforcement spans over three decades before retiring as an Assistant Chief of Police.  During his long tenure, his background included teaching law enforcement at the Riverside Sheriff’s Academy, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Academy, University of Hawaii, National University, Imperial College and Fort Irwin.  Early in his life, Mike learned the martial arts of Judo and Karate.  It was an art he loved to share and pass on to others, especially his students.  Over the years, he encouraged thousands of students to also focus on obtaining careers in law enforcement and suggested tips and pathways to achieve their goals. The award came as a shock after Mike was invited to breakfast by VVC Foundation Vice President Norm Hurst. “I was completely surprised when my family and several Foundation staff members entered the restaurant with balloons and a large sign with my name on it,” Mike said of the experience. “I was and am, very humbled that the Victor Valley College Foundation would bestow upon me this coveted award when I know there are many other very qualified and deserving professors at this fine institution of learning.” Some of his notable achievements include: being instrumental in helping Victor Valley College open the Regional Public Safety Training Center (RPSTC) in Apple Valley in 2012, assisted VVC Campus Police with obtaining new firearms and training and lent his support to help the campus with emergency drills such as “The Great Shakeout” and “Active Shooter Training”. He passed the love of teaching to his son John, who is now an adjunct faculty member in the program. “People helped me when I was in community college as well as my peers when I entered law enforcement.  I felt it was important to give back and help as many students as I could,” recalled Mike.

 

The Presidents’ Award for 2018 recognizes a person(s) or organization for their impact on the College.  This year, Chief Executive Officer of Desert Valley Hospital/Desert Valley Medical Group, Fred Hunter rose to the top of the list due to his personal investment in Victor Valley College’s (VVC) Nursing Program. In 2016, Desert Valley Hospital brokered a contract with VVC to pay for 64 students to enter the nursing program, thus reducing the program’s lengthy waitlist.  As an additional benefit, the students are offered three year employment contracts at Dr. Reddy’s flagship hospital in the High Desert.  Although his time is stretched thin, Fred goes above and beyond to ensure his students are making the grade. He not only personally checks in with every student but holds group study sessions to provide extra tutoring.  “Dr. Reddy set the culture of giving back, and I knew I had the responsibility to uphold his legacy,” said Fred. “I am very humbled to receive this recognition. I am doing what I think is the right thing for the students. I am all about their success and there are no words to express my gratitude.”  Fred was selected by a joint selection from the College’s three presidents – VVC Superintendent/President Roger Wagner, Board of Trustees President Brandon Wood (during his 2017 term on the board) and the Foundation Board President Eric Schmidt. Fred currently serves as a Vice President on the Victor Valley College Foundation Board of Directors and is a strong supporter of many community events and non-profits throughout the High Desert. “Victor Valley College provides a great opportunity for students to attend higher education when life circumstances may not allow them to attend a 4 year school,” Fred stated. “As the Vice President of the Victor Valley College Foundation Board of Directors, I have witnessed the passion that Victor Valley College has for their programs and success of their students. I am honored to be a part of this great organization.”

 

The Alumni Hall of Fame is proud to honor and award this year’s inductee, Sid Hultquist. Sid served as the Fire Chief for the Apple Valley Fire Protection District and is proud to have been a part of re-opening two of its closed fire stations.  Together with a team of individuals, they successfully passed a tax measure in 2016 which secured permanent funding to add additional firefighters and reduce critical response times. “Improving the quality of life for the citizens of Apple Valley was one of the last and most important things I wanted to accomplish before I retired,” said Sid.  He graduated with his degree from Victor Valley College in 1993, but took his first EMT class ten years prior. “I think what really makes this special to me is that I have worked side by side with so many members of the Victor Valley College Foundation officers and directors and I have so much respect for what they contribute to our communities here in the High Desert,” Sid said of the award. “This award coming from what I consider to be my peers will always be a highlight of my 38 year career.” Sid says he considers VVC to be a big factor of his success in the fire service industry.  “VVC plays an important role in giving citizens of all ages the opportunity to enrich their lives whether it’s to pursue a degree, certification, a new skill or hobby or just make you a better employee, “ said Sid. “It gave me the tools I needed to be competitive and to advance in a career where public safety is on the line. VVC offers the ability for all of us to pursue our dreams.”