Dr. Vonnie Hale Michali will be honored during a community reception at 5 p.m. Oct. 19 in Charles L. Suhr Library, Venango campus. Clarion University Alumni Association named Michali the 2017 Clarion University – Venango Distinguished Alumna.
Michali's life and career exemplify caring and compassion for others, a commitment to her community and humanity, and excellence in her career and in the example that she sets through her everyday work. She has demonstrated, through her extraordinary personal example, what it means to give back to others.
She earned a bachelor's degree in rehabilitative sciences with a concentration in substance abuse and minors in psychology and sociology in 2007, and a master's degree in rehabilitation sciences in 2009, both from Clarion University. She went on to attain a doctoral degree in special education with a focus in self-determination from Kent State University in 2014.
While working as a graduate assistant at Kent State, Michali developed a one-year program that offers a college experience for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program prepares them for adult life through academic pursuits, peer socialization and career discovery and preparation. From the success of the one-year program grew Kent State's current four-year Career and Community Studies program, which Michali directs and which is recognized as a premier program in the United States.
Michali attributes her success to the educational experiences and the caring faculty at Clarion University's Venango campus.
"I firmly believe that a person's ability to find success in their life is nurtured first and foremost by the love and support provided by their family, then by the teachers, professors and mentors they have encountered along the way," she said. "It is only by the encouragement and support that I found at Venango that got me where I am today, and I am very thankful for the solid educational foundation I received there."
Michali lives in Ohio with her husband, Denny. She has three sons – Eric and wife Tina, Chad and wife Gretchen, and Guy – and four granddaughters, Claire, Izzy, Natalie and Gracie.