PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Seven hundred forty candidates for graduation, including 133 from the Findlay-area Campus, will receive their degrees during the 47th annual Owens Community College Spring Commencement on Friday, May 3. The commencement will begin at 7 p.m. in the Student Health and Activities Center on the College's Toledo-area Campus.
Robert W. LaClair, President and CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), will serve as the keynote speaker for the College's Spring Commencement. Owens' commencement ceremony is free and open to the public.
In his current role at Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio), LaClair is responsible for the growth and strategic direction of the four lines of business including: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending and Investment Advisors for the affiliate.
LaClair joined Fifth Third Bank in 1999 as Vice President of Mortgage Lending. He was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2001 and was named Senior Vice President of Consumer Lending in 2002. LaClair served as Senior Vice President of Retail Banking from 2003 until being named President and CEO in April 2005.
He began his banking career at First National Bank of Toledo in 1982 and held various positions, including manager of the Consumer Credit, Bankcard and Business Development areas. He moved to Mid American National Bank in 1990 and served in several managerial positions in Consumer Lending, Mortgage Lending, Retail Banking and Health Care Finance.
LaClair attended the University of Toledo and Heidelberg College.
LaClair is a member of the Board of Directors of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio). He also serves on the boards of ProMedica Health System, Wildwood Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital, Regional Growth Partnership, Lourdes University and the Toledo Symphony. He currently is the campaign chair for the Ohio Theatre renovation, was the 2011 capital campaign chair for the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo, the honorary chair of the Salvation Army's 2010 and 2011 Red Kettle Campaigns and chair of the 2011 March of Dimes March for Babies. He also served as the 2011 corporate chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes, the 2008 board chair and the 2007 campaign chair for United Way of Greater Toledo.
Bradley W. Higgs has been selected as the Owens class representative and will address the graduates during the Spring Commencement ceremony. The Toledo resident is earning his associate's degree in criminal justice.
Higgs grew up in Toledo and was kicked out of his house at the age of 10 along with his three younger siblings. They were homeless and made money washing cars and pumping gas. Eventually, the four children were picked up by the police and placed in foster homes.
At the age of 15, Higgs was adopted along with his 14-year-old sister by their oldest sister, who was 21 at the time. By the time he was 16, he started to get into trouble and by 19 he had been arrested and was serving time in prison.
After serving his sentence, he became reacquainted with religion and changed his life in a Volunteers of America halfway house. Soon after, he enrolled at Owens Community College.
Higgs, who holds a GED Diploma, never forgot his experience at the halfway house and went back to volunteer at Volunteers of America. Eventually, he was hired and promoted by the outreach organization. He is now the Front Desk Security Supervisor at the Chestnut Hill Apartments in Toledo.
"I want to be a light of inspiration to my children and to anyone else who had a past similar to my own. There is light at the end of the tunnel, if you just don't give up," Higgs said.
The 35-year-old has a 3.8 grade point average and is graduating Magna Cum Laude from Owens.
"Bradley is a fine young man who has touched me as an instructor. He is truly one of the future leaders in our profession," said Wayne Seely, Associate Professor at Owens and retired police chief.
Higgs credits his success to the support and encouragement of the faculty at Owens, especially Seely and Angela Ondrus. The support of his family was also a critical part of his success, including his daughter, Alasha, who is also an honors student in middle school.
Higgs plans on continuing his education and transferring to a four-year college or university this fall with the goal of obtaining a bachelor's degree in social work. Ultimately, his goal is to work with juvenile offenders.