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Distinguished Alumni 2006

Great Oaks' First Distinguished Alumni Awards

Ten individuals were recognized in the first class of Distinguished Alumni.

Karla Addington-Smith
Live Oaks Animal Science and Management Program, 1976

From her very early days, Karla Addington-Smith had such a love for animals that she wanted to have a career that involved working with them. As a student in the Live Oaks Animal Science and Management program, she developed a passion for grooming. She enjoyed the hands-on time with the dogs and the work appealed to her artistic side. When she placed third in the Ohio FFA Dog Grooming competition, she was hooked.

Karla started a dog grooming business in her mother’s basement right after high school graduation. She opened the first Bow Wow Boutique – a grooming shop that also offered upscale accessories – in 1978. Two more shops opened soon after. Karla hired her first Live Oaks student just three years after she graduated from high school.

Karla continued to expand her knowledge of grooming various breeds. She has shared her expertise in the Maintenance Grooming Workbook, which was published by the Ohio Agricultural Education Curriculum Materials Service. She has competed in and judged grooming competitions at the national and international levels and has won many prestigious awards.  She has received other awards as well, including the 1988 Outstanding Young Entrepreneur in America Award from the US Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Karla has continued to give back to the Animal Science and Management program and the Live Oaks Campus as a coach, guest speaker, a member of the Advisory Committee for the program and a member of the campus Business Partnership Council. She has also served on the Board of Curriculum Development for the Ohio Department of Education.

In addition to speaking, writing and judging competitions, Karla operates an e-commerce site,, and Stray Dog Sales Wholesale Company. She is also planning to open a new pet salon and retail store in the future.

David T. Daniels
Laurel Oaks Farm Management Program, 1975
Greenfield McClain High School

David Daniels leveraged the lessons he learned in the Farm Management program at Laurel Oaks into a successful career as a farm owner and a public servant.

In 1984, Dave began his public service on the Greenfield, Ohio City Council, where he served eight years as Mayor. Voters then elected him to the position of Highland County Commissioner. He held this position for six years – three of these as President. In 2003, the citizens with whom Dave had lived and worked elected him to the Ohio House of Representatives. As State Representative of the 86th Ohio House District, Dave has served his constituents well. He serves on several House Committees and holds leadership roles as Vice Chair of the Insurance Committee and a member of the House Republican Caucus Policy Committee.

Dave has always remained close to the citizens in his community. He is a member of the Greenfield Rotary, Family Recovery Services Board and Highland County Cattlemen’s Association.

For his efforts, Dave has received the Watchdog of the Treasury Award and the Public Servant of the Year Award from the Ohio Association of Career and Technical Education.

Chad Eastham
Live Oaks Marketing Management and Operations Program, 1990
Clermont Northeastern High School

As a student in the Live Oaks Marketing Management program, Chad Eastham was very active in DECA activities. He participated in the International DECA Career Development Conference in both his junior and senior years and served as president of Ohio DECA during his senior year.

After graduating from high school, Chad became a manager for Thom McAnn, where he hired several Great Oaks marketing co-op students. He later went into industrial sales and is currently the national sales manager for Technicote, a company that develops, manufactures and distributes products for the label converting industry. He is responsible for leading the company’s Midwest sales operations and working with company representatives in eight territories to implement the growth strategies.

The father of two sons, Chad is very involved with youth sports programs in his community. He is the treasurer of Tealtown Ballpark and also serves on the Board of Directors; he is president of Tealtown Little League Baseball; and he also coaches baseball and Milford Football Club.

Robert Giesman
Scarlet Oaks Culinary Arts Program, 1992
Norwood High School

Robert Giesman earned an associate's degree from the Culinary Institute of America after completing the Scarlet Oaks Culinary Arts program and he worked in top restaurants and country clubs in the Cincinnati area and in Texas. He is currently the chef at the Sheraton North in Cincinnati.

Highly regarded by his peers, Robert was named the 2001 American Culinary Federation Member of the Year, and he received the Chef of the Year Award from Les Chefs de Cuisine in 2003. He has appeared as a guest chef on many local TV shows.

As busy as he is, he still manages to support the Culinary Arts program. He serves as a member of the Advisory Committee, evaluates projects, keeps instructors and students informed about industry trends, and coaches students who are preparing for FCCLA competitions. He has mentored and hired numerous graduates of the Culinary Arts program.

Gary Grubert
Live Oaks Sales and Marketing Program, 1986
Loveland High School 

After high school graduation and completion of the Live Oaks Sales and Marketing program, Gary Grubert earned an associates degree in Marketing Management and Industrial Sales from Cincinnati Technical College. He also earned various certifications from Wharton School of Business.

Gary first stepped on the career ladder as an industrial sales and distribution associate for Gasket Resources, Inc., an international fluid-sealing manufacturer. He is now the vice president of sales and marketing for the company and produces all of GRI’s literature as well. He has successfully negotiated strategic alliance agreements with major companies such as General Electric. The Material Technology Institute and other organizations have recognized his efforts to eliminate hazardous chemical leaks through promotion of Bolted Joint Best Practices.

While in the Sales and Marketing program, Gary was the vice president of the Southwest Region of Ohio DECA, and earned a Leadership Scholarship. He has continued to support the Great Oaks Marketing program by doing class presentations, participating on the Milford High School Guidance Committee and establishing a scholarship fund for outstanding achievement.

Mary Kay Hansen
Live Oaks Secretarial Program, 1974
Clermont Northeastern High School 

As a member of the Class of 1974, Mary Kay Hansen was in the first group of students to attend Live Oaks. She spent her senior year in the Live Oaks senior-only Secretarial program. The business and organizational skills she learned in the program were helpful as she developed DesignOvations, which is a wallpaper and painting business.

Mary Kay is also an inventor. Frustration with blades that break during wallpapering led her to develop the BLADEater® Safety Holster, a device that permits people to dispose of sharp, broken blades faster, easier and more safely. Mary Kay designed the device and traveled to China to have it manufactured and packaged. She also markets the BLADEater® through retail outlets and her web site,

Mary Kay’s invention received the Handyman Club stamp of approval and she has been recognized by the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio General Assembly.

Christy McMurry
Scarlet Oaks Radio/TV Production Program, 1986 
Clermont Northeastern High School

The skills that Christy (Pennington) McMurry learned in the Scarlet Oaks Radio and TV Production program helped her achieve success as a congressional campaign coordinator, political consultant, corporate spokesperson, investment banker, and assistant vice president of Fifth Third Securities, Inc.

Christy earned a BS in Economics from the University of Cincinnati and an MA in Strategic Communication from Seton Hall as well as licenses required in the investment banking industry. Her current responsibilities at Fifth Third Securities include new business development and client retention. She structures and develops complex multi-faceted finance alternatives for public and non-profit issuers. She recently worked on the financing of the Great Oaks School Improvement Bond, Series 2006.

Christy serves on many trade and industry association boards in an educational capacity and has received recognition for her many contributions.

Attesting to career and technical education’s ability to change lives, Christy said, “You can still go to college or continue to work on your trade. The options are endless. Great Oaks does a wonderful job of preparing any child for life outside of high school.”

Danny Sims, Ph.D., Esq.
Diamond Oaks Park Services and Resource Conservation Program, 1981
Oak Hills High School

Danny Sims used the skills he acquired at Diamond Oaks to earn a degree in geology from the University of Cincinnati. Degree in hand, he went to Nevada where he explored for gold. Danny entered the University of Arizona to pursue a MS and a Ph.D. in structural and economic geology. As a senior geologist for Call and Nicholas, Inc., Danny spent several months each year traveling throughout the world. He designed safe and economical high walls for open pit mines, which resulted in saving the lives of many miners.

The traveling life was a barrier to starting a family, so Danny decided that a career change was in order. He returned to the University of Arizona and earned a law degree and passed the bar exam. He served as a specialist in mining law for a Phoenix law firm, after which he became executive vice president of a small mining company. When he realized that this position was not a good fit, he left and started a company with a friend. The company, Archipelago Bat Guano, LLC, imports and sells organic fertilizer.

Danny is a fellow of the Society of Economic Geologists and a member of the Geological Society of Arizona.

Lois Woodward-Shuler
Live Oaks Animal Science and Management Program, 1986
Batavia High School 

Lois Woodward-Shuler began her career at the University of Cincinnati Department of Laboratory Animal Medical Services in the second semester of her senior year in the Live Oaks Animal Science and Management program. She started out as an animal caretaker/student helper. By taking advantage of educational and training opportunities provided by UC, she has become the manager of the facility.

Lois is responsible for the design and implementation of the husbandry program for all UC research animals and assures that the program meets or exceeds the requirements of the US Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. She maintains the up-to-date operations and safety standard operating procedures for all species and caging systems of animals housed in the facilities. She also hires and supervises facility staff.

A member of the Live Oaks Animal Science and Management Advisory Committee for more than ten years, Lois has achieved many professional certifications and awards. One of these was the prestigious B&K International Travel Fellowship Award, which enabled her to attend a conference in Spain in 1999.

Tim Young
Live Oaks Data Processing Program, 1976 
Batavia High School

Tim Young began his career at Cincinnati Milacron as a data processor in the Plastics Machinery Division. He worked for the Clermont County Board of Elections for a while and then returned to Cincinnati Milacron where he is currently a senior analyst/programmer.

Tim has been a strong advocate for career technical education since his high school days. In 1982, Tim was elected to serve on the Batavia Board of Education. The Batavia board appointed him to serve on the Great Oaks board, which he did through 1985. He returned to serve on both boards from 1998 through 2005. He served as the chairman of the Great Oaks Board of Directors from September 2002 through December 2004. Tim was very active in the Ohio School Boards Association, where he served on the Southwest OSBA Executive Committee in 2004-05. He was also involved in the Ohio Association for Career and Technical Education. In 2006, he received the Ohio ACTE Outstanding Board Member Award.