3000 Blake Road
Jackson, Michigan 49201
Jason H. Valente
Jason Valente, President, JC Foundation, wants to help JC students find success at each stage of their educational journey.
“We are convinced that education is the key to the future success of our community and our state,” Valente said. “We are making every effort to make as much funding available for students as we possibly can. We are focused on student success, and that begins with access to a JC education, which financial aid and scholarships address.”
The JC Foundation and Office of Advancement is the fund-raising and legislative affairs arm of the college, working with donors, alumni and friends to help support student scholarships and College initiatives.
“We are also focused on helping students stay in school once they have access,” Valente said. “That is done through student emergency fund support, access to learning and support services and continued scholarships. We also want to see them through after graduation, through our alumni relations program which provides opportunities for networking and support services.”
Before coming to JC in the spring of 2008, Valente worked five years as director of development at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, and before that spent five years at Concordia University in Ann Arbor serving as the director of institutional advancement.
Originally from Novi, Valente has lived in Jackson since 1999. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Concordia University, and has held the designation of Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2003.
Valente is the president and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the disAbility Connections Foundation, serves on the Jackson County Hospital Financing Authority Board of Directors, and the Jackson County Parks Board of Directors. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Jackson County, and the American Red Cross. Valente is a member of the Family Centered Care committee of the Holden Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health System.
His wife, Elizabeth, is a teacher at Trinity Lutheran School. They have one daughter, Abby.
John A. Ortega
Director of Philanthropy
John Ortega began working at Jackson College in September of 2013. Before that, he was an assistant director of special gifts at Michigan State University for four years. His job at MSU was preceded by a 3½-year stint as a donor relations manager in The Nature Conservancy’s Michigan field office in Lansing.
John was drawn to Jackson College because the school is engaged in critically important work in the communities it serves. “My wife and I feel Jackson College is a gem of our community that is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Our work matters. Studies have shown a strong correlation between the economic strength and well-being of a community and the percentage of individuals in it who have an educational degree or certification beyond high school. By opening our doors to a variety of students, we give them an opportunity to further their education and become part of a more highly-educated work force.”
A native of the Los Angeles area, John has a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge. He was a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Times for nearly 19 years before making a career change.
John is married to his wife, Brenda, a teacher at Vandercook Lake High School. They have two children, Carmen and Isaac, who are enrolled in the Western School District. An avid sports fan, John is particularly fond of cross-country and track and field. He also has a great appreciation for nature and enjoys reading and attending Carmen and Isaac’s extracurricular activities.
John C. Karkheck, Sr.
John Cully Karkheck moved to Jackson, Michigan during the mid-70’s from East Durham, a small town in upstate New York. Karkheck received his bachelor’s degree from Niagara University in Transportation, Travel and Tourism, majoring in Hotel Restaurant Management, Theatre and Education. He spent his early days after graduating in the hotel business, moving across the United States, living and working in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, North Dakota, Colorado and Indiana. He returned to Michigan in the early 80’s and spent the next twenty two years in the auto business in various sales and management levels. The auto business was followed by a career in the sale, manufacturing and merchandising of licensed apparel.
Since returning to Michigan, and purchasing a home at Clark Lake, he has been very active in the Clark Lake community. He has been on the board of the Clark Lake Community Center, co-chairperson of the Raft-O-Rama committee, and on the board of the Sons of the American Legion, Brooklyn. He is a parishioner and contributor at St. Rita’s Catholic Church. John is married to, his wife, Dotty and they have one son, John, an alum of Jackson College.
Capital Campaign Assistant
Brigette Robinson began working at JC in August 2012 and joined the Foundation’s Staff in November 2012. She is serving as an Executive Assistant to the Foundation’s president, Jason Valente, as well as working as a Capital Campaign Assistant, maintaining and updating donor database and records, to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. She provides fundraising support to the Foundation’s staff and coordinates special events and meeting preparations, including correspondence materials and venue arrangements related to the President’s office.
“The Foundation is creating opportunities for students to attend college when they may have not been able to otherwise. I can’t think of a better way to support my community than by investing in the life of a child through education, because after all, they are our future.”
A native of Jackson, she holds her Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. She has worked in Customer Service for 10 years and enjoys building relationships with community members.
Robinson is married to husband, Brian, and they have five children. She spends time volunteering at her children’s schools; Western, Parma, MI and Lyle Torrant, Jackson, MI.
Rick Smith began his journey at Jackson College in August of 2006, as the Head Baseball Coach and Adjunct Faculty in the health and physical fitness department. Since then he has advanced into Administration as the Facilities Director at JC in 2008. He took a new position in the Foundation Department as Director of Athletic Development in July of 2012 along with Assistant Athletic Director duties and still as the Head Baseball Coach at JC.
Coach Smith enters his twenty fourth year as a Head Baseball Coach in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and is the senior coach within the conference. He left his duties at St. Clair County Community College where he compiled a winning record during his sixteen years as coach. His Coaching career started as an assistant at Grand Valley State University. During his five years at GVSU, the Lakers won two conference titles and finished as high as sixth in the nation.
A graduate of Marysville High School, Rick received his Bachelor of Science degree from GVSU and continued his education at Western Michigan University where he received a minor in health education and his teachers’ certification in health education and physical education. In 1998, he completed his master’s degree in athletic administration from Wayne State University.
He is married to Dr. Elly Teunion-Smith, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice; Director, Criminal Justice Program; Chair, Behavorial and Social Sciences Division at Siena Heights University. They reside in Adrian, Michigan and have two wonderful children attending Adrian Madison Schools. Laura, (12) and Hunter (17).
Special Events &
Sandra Phelan has worked at Jackson College for over 15 years as an administrative assistant for the Community Relations and Performing Art Office and recently began assisting in the JC Foundation Office. Along with coordinating Potter Center performances and planning special events for the college, Sandra helps to plan Foundation events and assists with donations.
Sandra enjoys the many people she gets to meet and work with in her job each day, especially the students. “It is very fulfilling to work in the Foundation Office and know that we are making an impact on our student’s lives whether it is with a scholarship or emergency financial funds.”
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Sandra is a lifelong resident of Jackson County. She is married to her husband, Joe, and they have one son, Collin, who is a student in Northwest Schools. In her free time, she enjoys reading, walking and spending time with her family.