Davenport announces 2023 alumni award winners

This fall marked the 21st annual homecoming at Davenport University. As part of the celebration, we honored a special group of alumni who have been awarded Davenport’s 2023 Alumni Achievement Awards. Alumni, faculty, staff, friends and family were in attendance to applaud this year’s awardees at the annual brunch celebration as they shared their stories of success at the Donald W. Maine College of Business followed by the homecoming festivities.


NEW College of Urban Education Alumni Award

Recognizes a College of Urban Education graduate who has shown outstanding professional accomplishments in a related field and engaged in the vision and advancement of the College of Urban Education and its respective alumni community while exhibiting a commitment to public service.


Principal, Campus Elementary, GRPS | Class of ’17

As a child, Yamaka attended an urban school district, which prompted her to acquire her Master of Urban Education from Davenport University, graduating in one of the first cohorts in 2016. Yamaka received her undergraduate degree from Aquinas College. As a school leader, she exemplifies what the College of Urban Education is about: helping urban students reach their fullest potential. She is committed to students on the southeast side of Grand Rapids and wants them to succeed in whatever they do. In 2016, Yamaka, a fourth-grade teacher at the time, was recognized by the Michigan Lottery as the Excellence in Education award recipient. She has been an educator for 15 years and is currently the principal of Campus Elementary in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.


College of Health Professions Alumni Award

Recognizes a College of Health Professions graduate who has shown outstanding professional accomplishments and leadership,  while remaining engaged in the advancement of the university and  committed to public service.


MD, Henry Ford Health | Class of ’08

Dr. Hamed has been the medical director of Emergency and Hospital Medicine at McKenzie Health System in Sandusky, MI, since 2011. He served as president of the Michigan Academy of Family Medicine in 2020-2021. He is currently a delegate to the National American Academy of Family Physicians Congress of Delegates, has been the medical director of eight rural Michigan county health departments since 2018 and has served as associate EMS medical director of Sanilac EMS since 2014. He was recently appointed to the Federation of State Medical Boards and the Michigan Board of Medicine in 2021 and to the Board of the Michigan Trauma Coalition in 2022. He remains a staff physician with Henry Ford Health, where he completed his family medicine residency in 2011.


Donald W. Maine College of Business Alumni Award

Recognizes a College of Technology graduate who has shown outstanding professional accomplishments and  leadership,  while remaining engaged in the advancement of the university and  committed to public service


Client Advisor — Vice President, JP Morgan Chase Bank | Class of ’10

Jeremy has been a longtime supporter of Davenport. He was the captain of the D1 hockey team while he attended DU and has, in recent years, taken on the head coaching position. Jeremy and his wife have a young family and recently opened a new business, StretchLab, in two locations: East Grand Rapids and on Beltline Avenue. They have plans to expand to other areas of West Michigan. Jeremy feels passionately about giving back to the community. He currently sits on the JPMorgan Chase Midwest region DEI council and helps facilitate nonprofit requests through the Chase Foundation. In addition, he and his wife are heavily involved in the community, supporting many charities.


Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Recognizes a young graduate who has earned significant achievements early in their career, has demonstrated innovative and responsible  leadership, and has successfully engaged in community service


Executive Director, Hispanic Center of West Michigan | Class of ’21

Evelyn Esparza-Gonzalez is the executive director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. She completed a Master of Accountancy degree from Davenport University in 2021. Because her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was 15, Evelyn is passionate about providing the Latinx community with a place where they are treated with respect, equity and dignity. Working at the Hispanic Center, she has restructured and stabilized the Accounting, HR, Fund Development and Language Services departments of the Center. Her leadership has brought financial stability to the organization. Because she has built a strong, loyal and committed team, Evelyn knows the Center is providing the community with the best services for their needs.


Hy Berkowitz Professional Excellence Award

The Hy Berkowitz Professional Excellence Award recognizes graduates of Davenport University who have persevered through challenges and achieved exceptional professional and personal accomplishments


Founder, i Understand | Class of ’84

After the loss of her husband, Rob, in 2003, Vonnie Woodrick’s life was forever changed, as she was forced to live a life without her loving partner and the father of their children. Feeling as if no one understood suicide, the effects mental illness can have, and the judgment attached, Woodrick set out to change attitudes and the conversation. These efforts led to the formation of i Understand in 2014. The first initiative was to create a petition to change the definition of suicide — updating the stigmatizing definition about intentionally taking one’s life to one about suicide’s role as a terminal side effect of mental illness. Under Woodrick’s leadership, i Understand continues to advocate for open conversations, better resources for loss after suicide and a stigma-free society.


Distinguished Alumni Award

This award is presented to a Davenport University graduate who has made notable achievements in his or her field, exemplified the mission and ideals of Davenport, and who is a distinguished person in public life, business or service to others.


President, Zeeland Farm Services | Class of ’81

Cliff Meeuwsen is the CEO of Zeeland Farm Services (ZFS), a family-owned agribusiness company founded in 1950 by his father, Robert Meeuwsen. ZFS is the only large-scale soy processing facility in Michigan and has grown exponentially over the past 20-plus years, employing more than 600 people.

Under Meeuwsen’s leadership, ZFS has focused on reducing waste and finding a market for all products and by-products produced. Meeuwsen has also been heavily involved in raising awareness and funds for Ottawa County Farmland Preservation.

In 2015, Meeuwsen was awarded the Leaders & Legends award by the Michigan Agri-Business Association. He is credited with growing and diversifying ZFS’s businesses, creating new uses for soybeans, and establishing ZFS as a national leader in grain handling, food products, feed ration ingredients and biofuels.


No Responses