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Alumni Council

Alumni Council members serve as ambassadors of The University of Olivet and the Office of Alumni Engagement by volunteering during events such as Homecoming, reviewing Alumni Council Scholarship applications, hosting events, contacting fellow alumni and making lifelong connections.

Frank Barretta '05

Frank graduated magna cum laude from Olivet College with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. Upon graduation, he moved to South Carolina to pursue a master of science in genetics from Clemson University. Frank has spent over 10 years in agricultural commodity testing; he currently serves as the director of quality and compliance for a multi-state analytical cannabis laboratory. While on Olivet’s campus, Frank met his wife, Katie (Edick) ‘06. They have lived in Ovid, Michigan, for the last 15 years, raising their family of four daughters. Frank is quick to voice his Comet pride. He is one of the newest members of the Alumni Council and is excited to see how he can give back to the Comet community.

Lydia (Allen) Brennan '98

Lydia R. (Allen) Brennan is currently serving as a legislative aide for a Councilman in Harford County, Maryland. She is responsible for overseeing district initiatives, maintaining positive community relations as well as office management. Prior to this position, she was the president of The Allen Brennan Group (ABG), a government affairs consulting company specializing in legislative affairs management, identifying and securing tax savings, and reputation management for businesses. The ABG also provided consulting services to political candidates, including development of campaign strategy, speech writing, and image consultation.

Prior to founding the ABG, Lydia worked as a government affairs manager for Visteon Corporation, a global automotive supply company, where she managed government affairs at the local, state and federal levels. She also served as a legislative aide in the Michigan House of Representatives for two State Representatives.

Lydia received a B.A. in communications from Olivet College, with a minor in psychology. In 2005, she was a Fellow in the Michigan State University, Institute of Public Policy and Research, political leadership program (MPLP), which is a multi-partisan program that brings together a diverse group of select individuals to engage in a public policy and leadership curriculum.

Lydia resides in Maryland with her husband of fourteen years, Dr. John K. Brennan, and their three children.

Wendy Copenhaver-Skidmore '11

Nicole (Gregory) Durga '09

Nicole Durga ’09 is the clinical quality manager for the Mary Free Bed healthcare system’s homecare division. She is responsible for the development and implementation of process improvement strategies, guides company outcomes and facilitates value driven connection and collaboration initiatives. In addition, Nicole is a licensed physical therapist. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2012. In her 20 years of working in health care she has contributed to organizations in a variety of ways, including as a practicing physical therapist, clinical instructor, team mentor, learning and development resource, new hire trainer, clinical field staff supervisor and regulatory and compliance resource.

Nicole was a biology pre-med major and minored in physical and psychological wellness. She graduated, magna cum laude, while participating in a multitude of opportunities available at Olivet, including being a member of the Global Citizen Honors Program, vice president of Soronian Literary Society and assisted with new student orientation. She was on the cheerleading squad for four years, played softball, was nominated to be on the Homecoming Court and was a Shipherd Hall RA.

“Olivet provides an immersive experience for what being in community, with people who have different experiences and perspectives, looks like. It’s an opportunity to try new things, expand skill sets and innovate, while providing an environment for young adults to begin to identify their values and start to establish the foundation for who they may become. Being a part of the Alumni Council is an opportunity to continue to be actively engaged in the Olivet community.”

Nicole resides in her hometown of Grand Rapids, with her husband, Mike Durga ’08, and their two children, Mike Jr. and MacKenzie.

Alexander Miller '00

Alexander (Alex) R. Miller ’00 is an experienced scholar-practitioner in higher education administration. A proud native of Chicago’s westside, Alex has devoted his life and work to fostering environments that help young people thrive and meet their full potential.

Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Olivet College, a master’s degree in college student affairs administration from Michigan State University, and a doctor of education in higher education administration from Northern Illinois University.

He currently serves as the vice president for student life at Denison University. Previously, Alex held two roles at Harvard University, serving as the associate dean of student engagement and the acting associate dean of students for inclusion and belonging. With over 20 years of experience in higher education as an administrator and adjunct faculty, Alex has held leadership positions at Syracuse University, Tulane University, DePaul University and the University of Chicago. His research examines the intersection of transformational learning theory and identity formation among college students between the ages of 18-24.

Dan Pantaleo '85

Dan graduated from Olivet College in 1985 with a political science and history degrees. While at Olivet, he was the captain of the wrestling team. Upon graduation, he attended the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant in December 1985. During his 20-plus-year career, his assignments included duties in the Pacific and European theaters and state-side assignments. In his final tour, Dan was working in Washington, D.C., when the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11. He led critical recovery efforts at the Pentagon after the attack, which he chronicled in his book, “Four Days at the Pentagon.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2005, Dan served in various senior executive positions for private firms supporting the Department of Defense. From March 2012 until May 2016, Dan was a sought-after keynote speaker on leadership. He spoke on four continents (Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America) and at numerous leadership forums throughout the United States.  Dan fully retired in 2017 and is now very active in his church as a teacher, missionary and speaker. He remains active as a high school wrestling referee and competitive golfer. Dan was inducted into the Olivet College Hall of Fame in 1991 and received the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award.

He is married to his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline, and they reside in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They are the proud parents of Joseph, Amanda, and April  and are grandparents to seven wonderful grandchildren. Dan credits his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the wonderful blessings he’s enjoyed and has taken to heart The University of Olivet motto: “Pro Christo et Humanitate.”

Michael Ryan '07, Chair

Michael Ryan ’07 is a native of Eastpointe, Michigan and is a 2004 graduate of East Detroit High School. He graduated from Olivet College’s bachelor’s degree in music. Michael was also an early participant in the Global Citizen Honors Program and worked with the new student orientation program during his college years.

Michael has worked in the automotive industry since graduation. He is currently General Sales Manager at Livonia Chrysler Jeep in Livonia and resides in Brighton.

Michael joined the Alumni Council after serving in the Class Captain program in hopes of giving even more back to The University of Olivet. He hopes to help foster greater cooperation between the Alumni Council and Class Captain program and become better connected with alumni of all ages.

Brad Thomas '19

Brad, a native of Battle Creek, attended Olivet from 2015-19. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in insurance. He was an active member of Olivet’s cross country and track and field programs and can confidently say he ran every street within eight miles of campus.

Brad spent a year in San Diego in a business development program with other college graduates nationwide upon graduation. This experience led to his passion for financial planning, which led him to return to Michigan as a financial advisor serving families in the Grand Rapids area. His most recent endeavor is in private banking, specializing in business succession planning, multi-generational wealth planning and partnering with non-profits and foundations.

Brad enjoys spending time with his wife, Cassie, and their two dogs and two cats. They are avid DIYers, always finding new projects for their home and garden. In addition, Brad is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist, whether rain or shine.

Brad said of his opportunity to serve on the Council, “It’s an honor to give back to the community of Olivet and continue to share the impact UO has on students with a greater audience. I’m thankful for the relationships and experiences I made and had at Olivet and look forward to contributing to the Alumni Council.”

Sue Topping '77

Sue was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan and is a 1973 graduate of Jackson High School in. She graduated from Olivet College in 1977 with a degree in economics and business administration, with a concentration in accounting and finance.

Sue has been licensed as a certified public accountant since 1982. She retired from the City of Lansing is 2011, where she served as deputy city treasurer. Presently, she run an active tax and accounting practice.

Sue enjoys playing the euphonium in the Lansing Concert Band and the Michigan State University Alumni Band. She is active in the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival.

Sue has been a member of the Alumni Council for more than 15 years.

“The Olivet Alumni Council is important to me for the continued relationships it builds. It also allows me to have firsthand knowledge of activities taking place on Campus and updates on students, faculty, administration, alumni and friends.”

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