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Distinguished awardees attribute success to positive Clarion experiences

October 15, 2021

Susie KeeferFive Clarion University alumni were named distinguished at an awards ceremony Friday, Oct. 8, and all of them credit the university for their good career starts and fostering a sense of commitment to others and their respective communities.

Five Clarion University alumni were named distinguished at an awards ceremony Friday, Oct. 8, and all of them credit the university for their good career starts and fostering a sense of commitment to others and their respective communities.

"They just kept instilling in me that I could be a leader," said Distinguished Venango Alumna Karen "Susie" Beebe Keefer '77, '80G of her time at Clarion.

After receiving her undergraduate and master's degrees in special education, Keefer went onto to become a special education teacher and then open a piano factory with her husband in Venango County. Meanwhile, she participated in mission trips which would later open her life to other possibilities. One of her mission trips was to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa where her eyes were opened to the hunger there.

She and her husband would later adopt an orphan named, Miriam, from the DRC and open a nutrition center named Miriam's Table.

Mark TrumboOther distinguished alums agreed with Keefer's sentiments.

Distinguished Young Alumnus Mark Trumbo '07 said Clarion gave him the genesis of his purpose, began his love story with his wife and formed the foundation of his faith. Clarion, he said, has an "ecosystem to build healthy leaders."

Trumbo works at Syracuse University where he created S-Project, a student-athlete development program that equips student-athletes with the skills and knowledge to be successful at Syracuse University and beyond. Additionally, he travels to universities, colleges, high schools and middle schools, where he presents "Purpose Design" which helps others discover their skill, identity and purpose.

"I may have left Clarion 14 years ago, but Clarion has never left me," Trumbo said.

John BrionDistinguished Alumnus Dr. John Brion '89 said when he first came to Clarion he wasn't ready, so he left for a time. When he returned he said he "wanted a college education" and faculty members took the time with him to give him one.

He recalled handing in a paper to former faculty member, Dr. Eldon Somers. Somers told him he was not going to grade the paper until Brion turned in what he was capable of.

Brion not only succeeded in obtaining a degree from Clarion but went on to obtain a B.S., an M.S. and a Ph.D. in nursing from The Ohio State University, B.A. degrees in psychology and sociology and a certification as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He is on the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing, where he teaches in the psychiatric nurse practitioner program, and maintains a clinical practice focused on substance abuse and addiction.

Ruth Montenegro"I'm very grateful for all the gifts Clarion gave me," Brion said.

Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro '89, who is from California, said Clarion "became my home and my family" and introduced her to another famous aspect of Clarion – Bob's Sub Shop."I've been there twice already," Montenegro quipped.

Montenegro said she believes Clarion lead to her personal and professional successes and two faculty members, in particular, fostered her achievements at Clarion and beyond including Dr. Ngo Tu and the late Dean John Shropshire.

Montenegro said Shropshire drove her to her LSAT exam and took her to a women's conference in Washington, D.C., which cemented her desire for a life of public service. Both Tu and Shropshire continued to support her throughout her career, writing letters of recommendation on her behalf.Montenegro serves as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

She is the sole magistrate judge in Imperial County, the first female to do so and the first Latina judge in the history of Imperial County. She maintains chambers in El Centro, California.

Kent KretzlerLike Montenegro, Distinguished Service Alumnus Kent Kretzler found Clarion to be another home having grown up attending homecoming every year.

He received a teaching degree and taught for five years. Later he would start a successful travel agency and join the Shriner's organization becoming the third youngest potentate in history. As potentate, championed various ideas for fundraising, all geared toward supporting the Shriners Hospital for Children.When Kretzler's business became successful, he began adding to a college fund his parents had started for his nieces.

At Clarion, the Kretzler Family Athletic Endowment benefits football, men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball team members who maintain a certain level GPA, are involved on the team and contribute to the community.

"I read a quote years ago: 'What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world, what you do for others lives on forever.' I've always followed that idea of doing something for someone who can't," Kretzler said.

To nominate stand-out individuals for Distinguished Awards go to the online nomination form

Last Updated 10/18/21