Captain Zenneth A. Pond Emerging Alumni Award

“He Likes his Fellow Man”

Jackson Junior College alumni Zenneth Arthur Pond dreamed of flying. As a child of the Great Depression, that wish seemed out of reach, but JJC’s Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) helped make those dreams come true.  Pond was a popular student who made life-long friends at JJC, including fellow CPTP peers, Elwood Bailey and William J. Maher. The JJC yearbook defines one part of Pond’s character by placing this quote by his photo:  “He likes his fellow man.”  For two years at JJC, Pond excelled in his studies and was active in sports—always with his eyes on the sky.  Zenneth worked hard to be a pilot.  Under the tutelage of the CPTP’s director, Frank Dove, Pond became the first student to receive his pilot’s license.

In June of 1941, Pond enlisted in the Marines, and seven months later found a permanent home as a “Bulldog” of Squadron VMF-223. On Aug. 24, 1942, the Bulldogs became the first squadron to base out of Guadalcanal. Over the next 12 days, Zenneth Pond brought down a total of six enemy fighters, thus achieving the status of “fighter ACE.” LIFE Magazine highlighted the courage of  “the fighting 223,” making particular mention of Zenneth Pond.  On Sept. 10, 1942, after just 17 days on the island, Pond took off in an F4F-4 to repel yet another Japanese air raid. He and three other pilots opposed 46 enemy planes; his aircraft disappeared during the dogfight, and Lt. Pond was never seen again. Pond was granted a posthumous promotion to Captain and was awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession.”

What is a hero? Jackson Junior College alumni, Dr. Douglas Benn ’55, answers this question when asked about his uncle, Captain Zenneth Arthur Pond:  “You lead a life of outstanding example; you’re honest; you take on new adventures, striving to learn more. You exhibit goodwill. You have good humor. You must like people and ultimately have a desire to make things better. Uncle Zenny dedicated his short life to serving others. He was my hero.”

A lasting tribute

Jackson College has created the Captain Zenneth A. Pond Emerging Alumni Award in honor of this extraordinary, young Jackson (Junior) College alumni.  The award recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals who have distinguished themselves through professional accomplishments and who have demonstrated the qualities of integrity and character early in their careers.

Emerging Alumni Nomination Form


Emily HoffmanEmily Garcia Hoffman

Class of 2010

Emily Hoffman, a dedicated leader, business professional, and devoted mother, is making significant strides in Jackson and beyond. As the co-president of Garcia Laboratory, a renowned women and family-owned business recognized nationally by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, she plays a pivotal role in its success and growth. Alongside co-president Mary Garcia, Hoffman oversees operations that span 550 facilities across 40 states.

Born and raised in Jackson, her journey to leadership was not a straight path. After graduating from Jackson High School in 2008, she initially pursued higher education but soon found herself back in her hometown. She attended Jackson Community College from 2009-2010, then continued her education at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., graduating Summa Cum Laude with honors from Ball State in 2013 with her bachelor’s degree. Hoffman joined Garcia Laboratory in 2014.

Driven by a passion for community engagement and mentorship, Hoffman has actively contributed to initiatives aimed at nurturing emerging leaders and fostering positive change. She was instrumental in establishing Jackson Young Professionals, a group dedicated to empowering young professionals and promoting diversity, local activism, and career development. Additionally, Emily’s involvement in the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Jackson planning committee underscores her commitment to cultivating future leaders. Her dedication extends beyond professional spheres, as she has served on the board of directors for the John George Home.

Despite her busy schedule, Emily finds fulfillment in her roles as a wife and mother. Married to Philip Hoffman, she is the proud mother of two young children, a 4-and-a-half-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.

Recognized as a recipient of the 30 and Under Award in 2015 and a graduate of prestigious leadership programs, her impact reverberates throughout the community.


Ridge Bollheimer

Class of 2016

As a recent Jackson College graduate, Ridge Bollheimer ’16 has founded three businesses and keeps busy building them all.

Lane View Farm LLC in Cement City specializes in farm-raised beef, pork, chickens, goats and lambs. In the farm store, customers may choose from their selection of all-natural,
antibiotic-free selection of meats and eggs. The farm supplies a few restaurants and has sponsored community events, including an Easter Egg Hunt.

Hunter’s Ridge Services, LLC, is Bollheimer’s auctioneering service. The 2023 Michigan Auctioneering Champion got his start in auctioneering after participating in 4-H animal auctions when he was a child. He has served as auctioneer at the Jackson College Sportsman’s Banquet which raises funds for baseball and athletics. He is also chair for the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau Young Farmers. Hunter’s Ridge services food plots – like clover – to attract deer for hunters.

With his fiancé, Lindsay Meckley, they operate Sunshine Acres Trail, LLC, a farm with 14 acres of sunflowers for photography, exploring the sunflower trail, and offers country concerts.

Between the three businesses, Bollheimer employees seasonally, about 10 part-time employees. If that is not enough, in the fall, he serves as a hunting guide for the Legends Ranch north of Grand Rapids.

“I like the flexibility of having our own businesses; the harder we work, the more reward. I love what I do and am very thankful for that,” he said. He credits his fiancé Lindsay – whose family owns Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm – for helping in all aspects of the business. Their partnership is part of their success.

Bollheimer is a Napoleon High School graduate who earned his Associate in Business Administration from Jackson College.


Dr. Brianne E. Mezo

Class of 2005

A Jackson native, Brianne graduated with honors with Western High School and earned her Associate of Applied Science from Jackson Community College in 2004-05, with the goal of becoming a meteorologist. After continuing her studies at Central Michigan University, she sought a career with more personable contact. 

She earned her associate degree in dental hygiene from Kellogg Community College, where she served as vice president and president of the dental hygiene class. In 2010 she earned her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from the University of Michigan and worked full-time as a dental hygienist. 

She opened her own practice, Northwest Dental Excellence, from scratch in September 2018 and has immersed herself as a supporter of the Jackson community since. She served as clinical dentist with JC’s dental hygiene program for a year. 

Her passion to provide comprehensive dentistry and help her patients discover the root problems to their oral health concerns is undeniable. She prides herself in developing her team, patients and self through positive experiences and treating others as if they were her family.  


Kyle Leighton

Kyle Leighton is an accredited investor, business executive and entrepreneur with over a decade of collective experience. He is the founder of First Building Solutions, Leighton Property Management, and Tapestry Girls and features an extensive background involving global distribution, international relations, sales, and marketing management. Native to Jackson, Michigan, Kyle holds an Associate Degree of Arts from Jackson College, and a bachelor’s degree in Professional Communication from Siena Heights University. To date, Kyle’s successes have earned him the 30 Under 35 Award from tED Magazine in 2013, the Recent Graduate Award from Siena Heights University in 2014, and the Captain Zenneth A. Pond Soaring Young Alumni Award in 2021.  


Courtney McIntosh

Class of 2011

Now the nursing administrator for Henry Ford Jackson Hospital, Courtney McIntosh’s career has progressed rapidly. The Jets basketball alumna continues to play on recreation leagues and volunteers with Michigan Center High School basketball. Educating about the dangers of distracted driving, she presents at local schools with the Think First trauma program. 


Dr. Jonathan Curtis

Class of 2010

Curtis has demonstrated those qualities admirably in his young career. He operates his own practice in Chelsea, Curtis Chiropractic, managing everything from patient care to day-to-day operations. He loves what he does because he loves to help people. 

Caring for his community, Curtis serves on the Board of Directors of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce an ambassador for the Chelsea Chamber and previous ambassador of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. 

“When I learned that I had been recognized with the Zenneth Pond Soaring Young Alumni Award, I was humbly honored,” Curtis said. “I personally know so many great young Jackson College alumni and with this honor, I hope to inspire and continue to be a positive role model in our community.”