Two Noorthoek Academy students to receive honorary degrees



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


April 27, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College is awarding honorary Associate of Arts degrees to two Noorthoek Academy students who share a lifelong friendship and a love of learning.

Sue Udell and Betty Malmyga are best friends who have attended Noorthoek Academy together for more than two decades.

“They have each been dreaming of the day when they would be able to receive an honorary degree,” said Sandy Barraza, Noorthoek’s director. “This is an unforgettable moment in their lives and also a testament to the success that can be achieved through hard work.”

Noorthoek is a private organization that works in partnership with GRCC to provide a post-secondary, college experience in the arts and sciences for people with special needs. Both Udell and Malmyga have attended since 1992.

Udell first attended Coldbrook School and then went on to Kent Occupational High School, which she completed in 1974. She began employment training programs and held numerous jobs at Family Fare and the Pantlind Hotel. She now works at a Hope Network Industries job site. Barraza said Udell enjoys learning about different countries or regions of the world and art. She recently learned how to do latch hook and is working on her first rug.

Malmyga attended St. Isidore and Sacred Heart Catholic schools and then completed Coldbrook School’s program in 1966. She attended employment training programs and worked at the Pantlind Hotel, the Department of Human Services and Kohl’s department store. She now participates in a day program for seniors at Hope Network. She is particularly interested in environmental topics and passionate about photography and writing, Barraza said.

“These students come from a time when there was little support that was available to them in the public schools,” Barraza said. “However, they decided that continuing to learn was important, and they didn’t let obstacles stand in their way. I am incredibly proud of them.”

President Dr. Steven C. Ender will award the honorary degrees to Udell and Malmyga during GRCC’s commencement at 7 p.m. May 1 in the Van Andel Arena, 130 Fulton St. W.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.