AKRON – The Tippecanoe Valley High School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2014 has been named.
The nine members of this year’s class join a group of TVHS graduates who have “led successful lives while making substantial contributions to their chosen field of work or have provided outstanding service to their community, state or country,” according to the provided press release. The Class of 2014 stands as a “vivid example for all current and future students of what is possible for TVHS graduates.”
A formal dinner – to which the public is invited – will be held in honor of the inductees Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Tippecanoe Valley Middle School Commons. In addition to the meal, local radio personality Rita Price will interview the inductees. Each inductee will also recognize a kindergarten to 12th-grade Valley educator that made a significant impact in their life.
The TVHS Distinguished Alumni Class of 2014 will participate in Induction Day activities at TVHS Sept. 19. Induction Day will begin with a welcome breakfast, introductions, group pictures and an orientation to the day ahead. Inductees will spend the morning meeting with students to share information about their lives and chosen careers.
The inductees will eat lunch with the students, providing opportunities for individual interactions. In the afternoon, Rochester Telephone Company will conduct and record individual interviews with the inductees. Induction Day will conclude with the introduction of the Class of 2014 at halftime of the football game. At that time, a commemorative plaque will be presented to each inductee.
Teachers Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of this year’s TVHS Distinguished Alumni Dinner and Induction Day activities.
The Class of 2014 includes:
Brooke Eileen Smalley
Smalley, a 2000 Valley graduate, made her first mission trip when she was 15. On her return, she told her parents that God had revealed a baby in a Panamanian orphanage who was intended to be part of their family. Two years later, she found a second sister waiting to be adopted. She has since led the two, now teenagers, on mission trips in Haiti where, as a full-time missionary nurse, she typically spends mornings in a medical clinic and afternoons playing in the dirt with children while teaching them to read and write in Creole.
She graduated from Goshen College in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After living in Indianapolis for seven years where she worked at Methodist Hospital, owned a car and a home and served in her church, she stepped out on faith, leaving everything behind to serve in Haiti.
“Taking a trip to volunteer to work in another country for a week or two is uncomfortable enough without facing the fact you are not returning to what is familiar and safe,” she said. “I’m not here to save Haiti or fix the country’s problems; I am here to show love and to walk alongside of my Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The Kosciusko County Community Foundation recently presented her the Heart of Gold Award for excellence in nursing.
DeShawn VanDeWater-Wert
VanDeWater-Wert, a member of Valley’s class of 1982, learned attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can affect adults as well as children when she was diagnosed with the disorder late in life.
“It allowed me to recognize and develop my own action plan and leverage my strengths,” she said. It also allowed her to become an expert in that field.
With a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Purdue University, a master’s degree in curriculum design plus administrative certification from Indiana Wesleyan University, she has presented at the International ADHD coaching organization and was contributing expert for Laurie Dupar’s best-selling book “More Ways to Succeed with ADHD.”
A resident of Sweetser, she developed training for at-risk high school students moving on to college for the 21st Century Scholars project in Grant County.
After years of teaching in public schools and her ADHD diagnosis, she launched a business of her own, “Your ADD Answers Coaching and Consulting,” in 2013.
“I am able serve clients all over the world understand their own unique brain and how it functions for them,” she said.
She addresses ADHD on her website and writes for ADD Student, a blog that supports parents as they work with schools in supporting their ADHD students.
Diana Erp Nettleton
Nettleton, a 1989 Valley graduate, never feels sorry for herself, no matter what obstacle she encounters.
In her first high school track meet she was greeted with a chorus of boos and shouts of “get off the track” when she was dead last, but she didn’t stop.
“I was determined to finish, no matter what,” she said. The next year she placed first. She went on to run track for two years at Manchester College until progressive multiple sclerosis sidelined her.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Manchester in 1993 and a master’s degree in education from the University of St. Francis in 2004.
Between degrees she earned a minor in mild disabilities from Indiana University. She previously taught third grade and special needs classes in the Manchester school system and now owns Nettleton Educational Services. Estimating she has tutored over 200 area students, she describes herself as “a very active lady” in spite of needing a power chair and disability van.
Diana and her husband, Matthew Nettleton, live in North Manchester with their sons, Harrison, 16, and Wilson, 14. They currently are hosting a Norwegian exchange student. Both are active in their church and in the Kiwanis Club.
Heckaman siblings
This year, for the first time, three members of a family have been selected as an entity for distinguished alumni recognition. They are Adam Heckaman, Amy Heckaman Parker and Andrew Heckaman, owners of Splendor Boats, Silver Lake.
The company, best known for its powered catamaran deck boat, has been featured in many boating magazines. One of their boats was used in expeditions for a series called “MysteryQuest: The Lost City of Atlantis,” which was featured on the History Channel. Locally, Splendor Boats is known for its charitable giving and for employing many TVHS alumni.
The siblings were in their 20s in 2007 when they went into debt to purchase the multi-million dollar company. A year later, the country went into a recession and many “pleasure” industries went under. However, through a lot of hard work, ingenuity and prayer, the three made it through.
“We’ve come out stronger because of it,” they said in response to a questionnaire. “The main thing we’ve learned is that it takes all three of us together to be successful.”
They noted, too, that they are a third generation family business that does everything factory direct.
“We do not use dealers like other manufacturers,” they said. “We like to have a one-on-one relationship with each of our customers, whether locally, nationally or internationally.”
Adam Heckaman, a 2001 Valley graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in small business management from Manchester College in 2005. He is president of Echoes of the Past tractor club and a member of the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club.
Amy Heckaman Parker graduated from Valley in 1997 and earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at Grace College in 2001.
Andrew Heckaman, a 2003 TVHS graduate, graduated with honors from the American Marine Institute in Daytona, Fla., as a certified boat mechanic. He takes special pride in the company’s patent on the catamaran deck boat that all three feel is unique because it delivers a smooth and stable ride with one engine as opposed to the normal two.
The trio’s father, Jaime Heckman, was a member of Tippecanoe Valley’s first graduating class in 1975 and his father, Doyle Heckaman, was a Burket High School graduate well before that.
Dr. Katti Stroup Sneed
Sneed, a full professor and director of the Social Work Program at Indiana Wesleyan University, was Katti Stroup when she graduated from Valley in 1988.
“I was an average student in high school,” she said, “and I was in remedial reading classes in elementary school.”
The first generation of her family to graduate from college, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, a master’s degree from Indiana University and a doctorate from Capella University, Minneapolis, Minn.
Sneed’s research interests and clinical practice primarily have been in the area of addictions counseling and the therapeutic relationship, including spirituality, self-help, burn-out among counselors and self-disclosure in the counseling relationship. She has conducted marriage and family counseling, worked with adult and child sexual abuse survivors, people with eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. She currently serves as dissertation chair on several PhD committees and on the board of directors for Bridges to Health, Grace House Recovery Home and the Fairmount Counseling Center.
A resident of Fairmount, she is married to Dr. Randy Sneed.
Richard Terpstra
Terpstra, a 1998 Valley graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Ball State University with a minor in studio design.
His nominator, a former teacher, recalled him being harassed and bullied in school because his creativity was not accepted among his peers.
“I remember how painful it was for him,” she said, “yet he consistently would ‘rise above’ the social derision. He has been faithful to who he is and the world is blessed to have such talent.”
Now a resident of Celebration, Fla., Terpstra began his career designing toys for Dreamworks Animation, Nickelodeon, Sony Animation, Pixar and Walt Disney. He also worked with Walt Disney Imagineering in the development of new attractions for the Disney resorts.
As a member the Disney design group, he currently designs theme park merchandise for Disney resorts worldwide.  
“Ever since I was 12, I knew I wanted to work for the Disney Company,” he said. “Through countless rejection letters and numerous interviews over a 12-year time frame, I never gave up. I finally made my way into the company and have never been happier, proving that dreams can come true if you work very hard, are very passionate, have a little faith, trust and pixie dust.”
Michael Yazel
Yazel, a lifetime artist described by his nominator as a “modern day Michelangelo,” graduated from Tippecanoe Valley High School in 1977 with all the art training he’s ever had, thanks to teachers Jan Mills and the late Polly Finney.
While still in high school, he completed multiple frame-up restorations of ’50s and ’60s English roadsters, became an accomplished Sunfish class sailor, cross country skier and bicycle touring rider.
Since then, he’s taught himself watercolor, oil and pastel, woodworking, blacksmithing, glass and metal engraving and become a member of Hoosier Salon.
For 17 years he owned and operated MedTool, a machine shop that designed and manufactured medical instruments for the orthopedic industry. During that time period, 1990-2007, he brought internet service to Mentone by starting Medt.com, which he later sold to Rochester Telephone Company.
He has participated in muzzle loading shooting sports for most of his life, holding numerous national titles as well as participating in international competition. He has been on the board of directors of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association since 1997 and served as president from 1999-2002.
A member of the Mentone Fire Department for 35 years and chief for the past seven years, he’s been named Fireman of the Year many times.
He and his wife, June, have two children.