John and Alexis Michael help prepare students for the hospitality and culinary arts industry
by Emily Beckman
From England to the United States, Executive Chef John Michael has continued his longtime passion for the culinary arts industry.
He recalls beginning to work at a place in England called La Patisserie at age 12. At 14 he moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he was unable to work in the industry until age 16.
Eventually, in his early 20s, he wound up at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. There, he would earn his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and meet his future wife, a Wichita native.
After marrying in 2006, John and Alexis Michael moved to Sonoma, California: California Wine County. He worked in Napa and she worked in Sonoma, both in the wine industry.
In 2009, after having their first daughter, they moved to Wichita.
Now, John is the chair of Butler’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Department, and Alexis is an adjunct instructor for the department.
They both enjoy working with students.
“Like most teachers, I love seeing students discover their passion for the subject matter,” Alexis writes in an email interview. “College is a great place to find your tribe and geek-out over a subject. I love witnessing that happen with food and hospitality.”
John says he talks to his students when he feels like he’s having a bad day.
“The things so much of them are overcoming to be here; to follow a dream, it’s humbling. It’s really amazing,” he says.
John notes that culinary arts classes aren’t just an “easy A.”
“The culinary program really exists for students who take it very seriously and are interested in pursuing a career in culinary arts,” he says. “It’s not just playing in the kitchen.”
Former president Jackie vietti shares her story at a connect & caffeinate event
by Emily Beckman
Jacqueline Vietti was the first female president of Butler Community College, serving from 1995 to 2012: a total of 17 years.
During her time as president, a number of expansion projects took place. These projects include The Hubbard Welcome Center, The Champions Training Center, The BG Products Veterans Sports Complex in collaboration with the city and USD 490 and more. In addition, while she was at Butler, a team of experts built the online learning program.
Vietti spoke at a Connect and Caffeinate event in February, sharing her story with members and business people of the El Dorado community.
What was the most rewarding aspect of serving as the president of BCC?
Oh, that’s such an easy answer … the people. The students, the faculty and staff, the people in the community. I wouldn’t have traded working with any of them for anything. It’s the people who make any organization and there really are none better than the people of Butler and those that support Butler. Butler has such incredibly talented faculty who are unwaveringly dedicated to students’ success. Everyone in support services roles are equally dedicated to students’ success. And we have such strong believers in the broader community in the difference that Butler makes that it was just a joy to work with those individuals.
What was the biggest challenge you faced at Butler?
My motto has always been ‘dream big and start small.’ I can’t think of any challenge we weren’t willing to take on. You have the usual challenge of limited resources, but we always found a way to do what needed to be done to serve our students and our community. I’m at a loss to pinpoint a huge challenge. It isn’t to say that it was always easy; it wasn’t, but we had such a can-do attitude that we had ways to get things done; things that made a difference.
What is your advice for women who want to pursue a career in leadership?
First of all, believe they can. Believe in their own self-worth and value, find mentors that will give them sound advice, and acquire the skills and knowledge they need to pursue particular positions. And last, always, always, always operate with integrity and authenticity. [And] to be open to opportunities and be willing to step outside their comfort zones. It’s okay to risk, it’s even okay to fail, what’s not okay is not trying.
What are your connections to Butler now?
I follow the great things it is continuing to do. I follow it on facebook, I get the foundation newsletter, I follow sports on facebook.
I was on the Butler Foundation for a term. The foundation is the private fundraising arm of the college. It has a foundation board of directors apart from the board of trustees, it is focused on raising funds for scholarships and program support and helping to meet other needs of the college that are beyond the college’s operating budget.
So now my association is less formal, but I will always, always be the staunchest of advocates for Butler. I am remembered for saying ‘you will never really leave Butler,’ and I will never really leave Butler.
Why did you want to speak at the connect and caffeinate event?
I am a firm believer in giving back, and Butler Community College and the community of El Dorado have been so very good to me that when I was asked if I would be willing to share my story it was that opportunity for me to give back a little to those entities that have enriched my life.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think in closing I just want to express my deepest and lasting gratitude for the opportunity to work beside people of the caliber at Butler, and I just encourage those people to continue to do their difference-making work.
When I prompted my Marriage and Family teacher in an email about what kind of animal she would be if she could choose, she replied a dragonfly. Who chooses dragonfly?
Of course my instructor, Monica Boknecht, admitted she was not sure if dragonfly really counted as an animal, but she also explained her reasoning behind her choice.
“I think that dragonflies are so intriguing because they start their lives under water and then eventually climb a reed and to breathe air and learn to fly,” Boknecht says. “I like the dual nature and the idea that we have to choose to breathe before we can take flight.”
I mean, come on, even I can find the beauty in that.
Boknecht has been teaching as an adjunct instructor at Butler since the 2015 fall semester.
She is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist with a B.S. in Psychology and an M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy, both from Friends University.
Some advice she gives aspiring educators is to show patience to students who are going through a big transition.
“I think that at this level of education the expectations are obviously higher, but for some of the students this is literally their first experience away from home and that is a chaotic time for a person,” Boknecht says.
As an educator she finds that forming relationships with her students is an important part of her job and enjoys the moments when she can see her students get curious about topics discussed within her class.
I myself have found being a student of Boknecht has helped me increase my knowledge in a subject I honestly thought I knew a considerable amount about. I mean I was wrong, obviously, but I am sure that surprises no one as I am 20 years of age, never been married or had any children. With that said, the class has definitely helped me consider what I hope my future to look like within those milestones in my life.
Class is set up where varying points are discussed within the chapter, but the floor is always open for students to contribute and open up about their personal stories. Boknecht also shares her own narratives with the class to further reinforce the information students are learning through their textbooks. I have found this further interests me in the class setting and keeps me engaged during lectures.
Former Butler student, Meredith Olds, can still recall how she engaged in her Marriage and Family class.
“I enjoyed how she made the class fun and interesting. When she was teaching she made it like she was having a conversation with us instead of lecturing us. She made the classroom a comfortable place to be and was always looking for ways to help her students succeed in school and in life,” Olds says. “[Boknecht] is hands down one of the best teachers I had my two years at Butler.”
Simon was born in California in 1925. He was one of nine children, and had four brothers and four sisters. Simon grew up on a farm where his family butchered their own beef for steakburgers. They also made their own frozen custard using a hand turned ice cream freezer.
Simon attended Wichita State University for accounting, and was a member of the WSU basketball team. He met his wife, Norma Jean Kerschen, in Kansas and married her at the St. Joseph Church in Andale. They were married Aug. 21, 1947 and will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this year. Simon and his wife have five sons and one daughter.
Simon served in the infantry branch of the United States Army as a sergeant, and fought in World War II in the Philippines. He is generous with donations to support the military today.
Simon and two of his sons, Bill and Randy, began their restaurant career in 2002 when they opened Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. They have opened over 246 restaurants in 30 states. Simon strives to attend every restaurant opening. Once he attended three openings in one day. He also makes surprise visits to his restaurants.
He has financially helped every city he has opened in by hiring construction crews as well as local people to work in his restaurants. He is a major supporter of veterans. He donated money to the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He has supported other organizations through fundraising events and challenges.
“Grindfather” tony Allen recalls his time at butler
by Charles Chaney
Tony Allen sauntered over to the media scrum awaiting his words at the University of Toronto’s Basketball Centre. He’s drenched in sweat and carried a familiar salty smell that anyone would recognize after an hour of hard pounding basketball practice.
Allen wipes his brow, takes a deep breath and hits the media with a “What’s happening, baby?”
“Butler isn’t like Chicago,” Allen says. “It’s a lot slower pace.”
Why does Tony Allen care about Butler Community College? Everyone who follows Allen’s career knows most of his history.
He’s a former drug dealer, turned dropout, turned barely graduated to NBA first team all-defense.
What most don’t know is where he was granted his first start: at Butler Community College.
“Man, I don’t ever forget Butler,” Allen says with a smile on his face. “I ate a lot of ice cream.”
He chuckled and peered to his right, imagining either the ice cream or his time at Butler.
“Before going to Butler, I had never even been on a plane or out of Chicago,” Allen says. “That was the first time I learned about the recruiting process.”
Allen had trouble in his neighborhood prior coming to Butler in 2000. If it wasn’t for Will Bynum, current NBA player for the Denver Nuggets, Allen would have never arrived in El Dorado.
“I remember asking him what he was doing for school,” Bynum says. “He wasn’t about school at the time. I talked him into coming to Crane [Prep] and the rest was history.”
“My grades were bad,” Allen says. “I didn’t think I’d ever go to college.”
Allen had been dealing drugs and didn’t go to school his freshman or sophomore years of high school. It wasn’t until his interaction with Bynum that everything changed.
“I didn’t start my junior year and it wasn’t until my senior year until things starting popping, you know?” Allen says.
That’s where James Peters comes in. Peters, who played for Butler, UNLV and many teams throughout the NBA Developmental League, says Allen had all the talent in the world. Anyone can see it; he just needed a little pushing.
“James was supposed to go the NBA, but because he was too old for high school ball that never panned out,” Allen says. “James said Butler would have a scholarship for me if I came down, so I did,” Allen says.
After playing in a scrimmage, former Butler head coach Dennis Helms told Allen he had a scholarship for him to sign.
“I owe so much to Coach Helms,” Allen says. “He and Butler taught me how to be a man.”
During his time at Butler, Allen shined. He was named the Jayhawk West Division Freshman of the Year and averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
For Allen, his time at Butler wasn’t all roses. He was dismissed from the team following the 2000-01 season.
Allen would go on to Wabash Valley College (Ill.) and then to Oklahoma State University. At Oklahoma State, he’d be named the Big 12 Player of the Year and lead the Cowboys to the NCAA Final Four.
“Before Butler, I could barely read or write,” Allen says.
Known as the “Grindfather” throughout Memphis for coining the phrase “grit n’ grind,” Allen is a staple in any discussion for the NBA’s top defensive players. He’s busy giving fits to everyone from his high school buddy Bynum to the Most Valuable Players of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
“I fooled around at Butler for real,” Allen says. “I don’t forget what I learned at Butler. My college degree, no Oklahoma State, no NBA. None of it would have ever happened if it wasn’t for the BCC.”