Terra College Foundation Honors Distinguished Alumni

Photo, right to left: President Schumacher, Tim Ellenberger, Tom Hoffman, Cory Stine, Jerri Miller and Tom Kern.
Right to left: President Ron Schumacher, Tim Ellenberger, Tom Hoffman, Cory Stine, Jerri Miller and Tom Kern.

The Terra College Foundation honored 115 scholarship recipients and over 100 donors at the annual Partners in Education banquet held Tuesday, April 16 at the Ronald L. Neeley Center on the campus of Terra State Community College in Fremont. Tim Ellenberger, Tom Hoffman and Jerri Miller were honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Tim Ellenberger, originally from Fremont, graduated from Fremont Ross High School. After graduating, he was looking for a place where he could learn more technical skills. “The reason I decided to attend Terra is because I saw a need for technology, my need to learn more technology, and at that point in the 80s, robotics were really coming into the forefront. Terra had probably the best program in hundreds of miles,” he said.

Ellenberger studied Electromechanical Engineering Technology/Robotics at Terra State.

Later on, he left Terra State to go work for GMF Robotics, which is now called FANUC. “Terra’s education provided me the ability to go to FANUC and start traveling for them without any training from them,” Ellenberger said.

In 1995, he started working at Motion Controls Robotics in sales. Now, he’s the Vice President. “Terra State provided me a lot of different opportunities for my career. Not just in the educational part of it, but also in the interaction with my instructors and hearing their knowledge of the industry and their ability to teach us how to communicate and network with other people in the industry. That was invaluable.”

Ellenberger is just as involved in the community. He is a member in the Safety Team at Grace Community Church, Rotary Club of Fremont where he helps facilitate the Student of the Month Program, Fremont City Schools, the Sandusky County Chamber of Commerce Board and the Sandusky County Board of DD. He is also on the Sandusky County Schools Business Advisory Council, Impact Team Director, is a Business Consultant and Business Partner AIM Industries at Vanguard-Sentinel Career & Technology Centers and he teaches REACH classes to Lutz Elementary School fifth graders.

Ellenberger is so grateful for the education he received at Terra State that he has even encouraged his kids to try a nontraditional education. His kids all attended Terra State classes through their high school programs at Vanguard in tech prep.

“I would, especially today, encourage anybody who’s considering Terra to look at it hard as a first choice—not choice to just move to another university or college—for a true long-lasting career.”

Tom Hoffman was born and raised in Fremont and graduated from Vanguard-Sentinel Career & Technology Centers. After attending Vanguard, it was a “natural step” for him to attend Terra State.

Hoffman studied Industrial Electricity at Terra State.

Since Hoffman, with his father, bought Valley Electric when he was 18 years old, it was important for him to go to a school that was affordable and allowed him to work. “What attracted me to Terra was, first of all, the low cost. I live in Fremont, so it was convenient. I could work during the day and go to school in the evenings,” Hoffman said.

He is a proud Terra State alum. “Terra is in our blood,” he said. His father was one of the first students at Terra State, graduating with a double degree, his oldest sister graduated from Terra State, his kids have all attended KidsCollege and he met his wife at Terra who also attended Terra State.

“I would highly recommend Terra State to anybody interested in going to college, especially in the technical programs,” Hoffman said. “It’s a good building block with good, solid teachers and good labs to work out of.”

After taking classes at Terra State, he went through a 4-year apprenticeship program through IBEW Local 8 while working out in the field. “I would work during the day in the field, go to Terra at night, and then, also, would come back in nights and weekends and learn the business,” he said.

Throughout Hoffman’s 39 years at Valley Electric, he has done a variety of jobs. Now, as the owner, he works as an estimator and project manager.

Hoffman’s involvement does not stop there. He is President and Founder of the Sandusky County Positive People. “This is my passion,” he said. After experiencing the impact of the Firelands Positive People organization had on the students in the Firelands area, he wanted to open an organization of his own in Sandusky County.

Sandusky County Positive People is a local 501(c)3 non-profit, organization made up of local volunteers that want to have a positive impact on our community. Each year, they accept applications from area high school seniors that have overcome unbelievable and all too often horrible obstacles in life. “To date, we have awarded $110,100 to 56 students,” Hoffman said.

In addition to founding this organization, he is involved in the community in a number of ways. Currently, he is a long-time member in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #8, the Toledo Electrical Contracting Association, the Chamber Of Commerce and Fremont Rotary. He is currently a Vanguard Industrial Electricity Adviser and has been for 38 years. Also, he has been a member on the Terra College Foundation Board for 16 years and the Memorial Hospital Operating Board for 15 years.

Jerri Miller grew up in Fremont and went to Fremont Ross High School. After she graduated high school, she was working at a job that paid her less than minimum wage. “I had no idea what I was going to do,” she said. “So, I went out to Terra and I ran into a wonderful counselor.”

The counselor had Miller take a test to identify what she liked, disliked and what she was good at. After viewing her results, Miller was advised to get a degree in accounting, so, she did.

Miller enjoyed the diversity within the programs as well as the fact she was able to get a degree at an affordable cost. “Even if Terra doesn’t have your degree, you can still get a lot of your electives out of the way and save money in doing that,” she said.

After graduating from Terra State, Miller enrolled at The University of Toledo and earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration majoring in Accounting. She also took the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA) exam to become a certified accountant.

Miller started off her career working for accounting firms in the public accounting sector. Then she decided to try working in nonprofits and worked at the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County as their Financial Coordinator for 13 years. After that, she was hired as the Executive Director of the Sandusky County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Finally, she landed her current career as Sandusky County Auditor and was awarded the position in March, 2015.

She is grateful for the education she received. “Terra gave me the skill sets to get me to the point where I am today,” she said.

In addition to all of the great work Miller does as part of her career, she is also heavily involved in the community. She’s a board member in the Impact Credit Union, member of the Fremont Kiwanis and the Treasurer of the Sandusky County Bicentennial Committee.  She is also a member of the Downtown Fremont Organization, Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, Friends of the Birchard Library, Fremont Ross Athletic Boosters and Rutherford B Hayes Center.

“My advice for students wanting to come to Terra is, definitely, look at the cost savings,” she said. “If you live in this area, you’re saving on room and board.”