Sally Ann Welch-Spry receives MCC Distinguished Alumni Award
Montcalm Community College awarded its first Distinguished Alumni Award to Sally Ann Welch-Spry during the college’s 55th Annual Commencement Ceremony on May 6.
The award was created this year to honor an outstanding alumnus who has advanced their career and brought credit to themselves and to MCC through their accomplishments and community service, and who has embodied one or more of MCC’s value statements that spell SERVICE: student success, empowerment, relationships, visionary, inclusion, community and excellence.
Spry, of Belding, has been an educator for more than 30 years. She served as an adjunct Business Instructor at MCC from 1991 to 2015 and as a College Opportunity Prison Extension (COPE) Program Instructor and tutor from 1991 to 1997, as well as a variety of roles with other organizations.
Her journey began as a student at MCC. She graduated in 1989 with associate degrees in Accounting and Business Administration. She continued to earn two bachelor’s degrees from Aquinas College and a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University – a total of five degrees earned in just five years.
Spry credits her MCC instructors – Robert Campbell, Peter Moustaston, Les Morford, Special Populations Coordinator Charlotte Fokens and Dean Dennis Mulder – with helping her “become hooked on education. I am forever grateful that they saw the potential in me and encouraged me anytime I was ready to give up.”
She said while the journey was difficult as a single mom struggling to make ends meet, she learned to balance work, family and education.
“With mentors such as I had at MCC, I was destined to succeed,” Spry said.
“I found that I could watch a little league baseball game, a football game or a basketball game and work on homework at the same time,” she said. “I learned that some of my best papers were written at 2 a.m. I learned that my family was supportive, or afraid of me, when I would say, ‘Do not move any of the piles,’ as they were organized for the latest class research project I may have been working on.”
Her hard work paid off, as she embarked on a career helping others, through education and humanitarian work.
Spry spent part of her career working with incarcerated individuals in the Michigan Department of Corrections system, for which she is grateful.
“I was able to inspire others to choose a new path for their life,” she said. “I am proud that I have seen young men turn their lives around and seek higher education to rise above what they may have thought was their predetermined path of life. I still have a feeling of pride when I see past students from MCC or the Michigan Department of Corrections thriving and saying ‘thank you’ for words of encouragement I may have said to them so many years ago.”
In addition to her years of teaching, Spry has deep roots in the community, sharing her time and talents as a volunteer with a variety of organizations and causes.
“God grants to each of us special gifts and talents when we are born. At some point, we are called upon to return these gifts and talents through our life work. Education and humanitarian work are the means by which I am fulfilling the path that God has set for me,” Spry said.
“I am grateful that I have been able to be a part of several volunteer organizations and to provide life-changing services to those in adverse situations,” she added.
In 2016, Spry said her life took an unexpected turn as she retired to care for family members. In 2021, her role as a teacher took on a new look – homeschooling two of her grandchildren, and she found herself seeking more education, too.
Spry said she strives to lives by her grandmother’s motto, “Take from the high and add to the low.”
“Education is the key,” Spry said. ““Education is the plaster you can use to raise you up to your full potential. Education will open so many doors you may not even know exist. I will forever be grateful for all that education has provided and continues to provide for me as to development of my self-worth.
“Montcalm Community College was my stepping stone and door to so many opportunities that still are forthcoming today,” she added.