Lakeland University senior Michael Whitley, an accounting major from Vidalia, La., has been named the winner of the 53rd annual Clarence H. Koehler Award, the university's top award for undergraduate students. The award was announced at the annual Honors Banquet on April 11.
Whitley, perhaps best known for his achievements on the football field, translated that notoriety into an impressive resume of leadership and involvement during his time at Lakeland.
The Koehler Award is presented each year to a Lakeland senior who best exemplifies "The Lakeland Spirit" by his or her participation in and support of the university's programs and activities. To be eligible, graduates must complete all four undergraduate years at Lakeland and maintain a high level of academic achievement.
Whitley worked six on-campus jobs during his four years, many of them related to his major, including accounting assistant and accounts payable assistant in the LU business office, and preparing and filing tax returns as part of Lakeland's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This spring, he has been serving an accounting internship with Sheboygan North and South High Schools.
Through those connections, Whitley has been mentoring North High students through their at-risk program. His work involves helping students with anything from academics to general life skills such as time management, professional communication and handling adversity. He's also become an assistant track coach at North and he's spoken to students at Howards Grove and Oostburg high schools.
"I'm working on creating a program to connect the kids of Sheboygan North with the students of Lakeland," Whitley said. "My goal is to show the youth they can do outstanding things with a great work ethic and attitude. I feel blessed to have been at Lakeland and want to share that blessing."
Whitley completed his football career at Lakeland as one of the best players in program history, breaking numerous game, season and career records and becoming among the most decorated athletes in Lakeland history. He served as president of the Gentlemen of Virtue group, vice president of the Student Government Association and was a student leader in Lakeland's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.
"I want to be looked at as a leader more than a football player," Whitley said. "Every student here can impact Lakeland, especially if you demand yourself to grow, and I did here. I came here as a shy kid and I've become a confident man."
The award is named for the Rev. Clarence Koehler, who graduated from the college in 1937 and from the seminary in 1939. He later became a member of the college's board of trustees and was chairman of the board in 1957 when he passed away at age 48.
The Rev. Koehler was an outstanding student and participated in numerous activities on campus, including music, athletics, student publications and managing the campus bookstore. He maximized his college experience, and this award honors that spirit.
Other winners at Wednesday night's banquet included:
School of Business & Entrepreneurship
- Outstanding Student in Accounting: David Del Ponte
- Outstanding Student in Business Administration: Marlyn Caballero
- Outstanding Student in Hospitality Management: Patrick Webster
- Outstanding Student in Management Information Systems: Alexia Janz
- Outstanding Student in Marketing: Hannah Scherer
- Outstanding Student in Sport Management & Leadership: Charles Apostolik
School of Humanities & Fine Arts
- Outstanding Student in Art: Heather Kirby
- Outstanding Student in Communication: Jennifer Schwartz
- Outstanding Student in English: Brianna Johnson
- Outstanding Student in History: Zar Chi Soe
- Outstanding Student in Music: Melissa Landgraf
- Outstanding Student in Religion: Adrienne Guarnieri
- Outstanding Student in Spanish: Allison Stauber
- Outstanding Student in Theatre: Zachery Mock
School of Science, Technology & Education
- Outstanding Student in Biology: Maddy Doll
- Outstanding Student in Computer Science: Devin Equitz
- Outstanding Student in Criminal Justice: Kendra Zipperer
- Outstanding Student in Ethnic & Gender Studies: Elizabeth Hahn
- Outstanding Student in Mathematics: Matthew Seider
- Outstanding Student in Psychology: Mai Lor
- Outstanding Student in Sociology: Elizabeth Hahn
- Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Award: Jennifer Lee
- Ellen J. Kregel Athletic Award: Maddy Doll
- Outstanding Student at Lakeland University Japan: Anjyu Higo
- Senior Honors: Brook Bignell, Megan Hellmer, Jacob Nault