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Ross and Barbara Bretz commit funding for Ivy Tech healthcare programs

Planned gift supports scholarships, healthcare specialist lab and classroom

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Barbara laughing

HAPPINESS — Barbara Bretz shares a laugh with Kelly Karickhoff and Connie Morgan in Ivy Tech’s new Healthcare Professions Center.

KOKOMO, Ind. – Their 32 and a half years of marriage have been full of challenges and blessings – and much joking and laughter – just like their emphasis on the “half year.” And Ross and Barbara Bretz are ready to share all their experiences and their good fortune with generous gifts to support the students of Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo.

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Barbara and Ross Bretz

Barbara’s rapid-fire wit was on full display recently as she bantered with Ross and Ivy Tech Kokomo staff members on a visit to the College’s new Healthcare Professions Center. There on the second floor, thanks to their kindness, is the Ross and Barbara Bretz Healthcare Specialist Laboratory Suite.

Along with the donation that has supported building and equipping the lab and classroom, the Bretzes have arranged a planned gift in their will to establish the Ross and Barbara Bretz Endowed Scholarship. This substantial donation will support multiple scholarships for Healthcare Specialist, Dental Assisting, Paramedic, Medical Assisting, Surgical Technology, and Nursing students for years to come.

For both Barbara and Ross, a family history in education and a multitude of personal experiences in the healthcare world combined in their decision to make these donations.

Ross grew up in Kokomo. His paternal grandfather was a physician in Huntingburg; his maternal grandfather was C.E. Hinshaw, who served as principal of Kokomo High School from 1915 to 1951. Ross and his father, the late Kokomo attorney W. Dan Bretz, built the Ross Dee Apartments in Greentown and later purchased The Waverly Dee Apartments for revenue to help offset the cost of Ross’s college education at Indiana State University.

Ross was working for the Boy Scouts of America when he and Barbara met at Madison Baptist Church in her hometown of Madison, West Virginia, in 1976. She became his favorite bank teller at Boone National Bank in Madison where she worked for 8½ years. The pair dated for 2½ years when Ross left for a new job with the Fuller Brush Company in Grand Bend, Kansas. Eight and a half years passed and Ross had moved backed to Kokomo to care for his ailing father before they saw each other again.

With oft-shared humor, Barbara describes their courtship. She had moved to a job in IT at Boone Memorial Hospital in Madison and one day in September of 1987, Ross showed up in the hospital cafeteria. Ross was back in West Virginia for a whitewater rafting adventure and decided to stop in and see if she was still there. She was, dating resumed, and two-and-a-half years later, he went down on one knee in front of 350 people at a New Year’s Eve party and proposed.

In the years since, back in Ross’s hometown, Barb worked at Big R in Kokomo for about a year and a half as a data processor; Ross worked at Big R too and later at IMMI in Indianapolis, where he retired 10 years ago. For years, Ross and Barb have operated the two apartment complexes in Greentown serving primarily older residents with limited means whom they enjoy entertaining and assisting.

With family histories that include diabetes and cancer, both have had their share of health-related issues that have expanded their respect and appreciation for those in the medical field. So when they were in discussions about their estate with local attorney Tom Trauring, the conversation turned to the opportunities Ivy Tech offers in preparing local residents for jobs in healthcare professions. An earlier visit to the Kokomo Campus, where they were impressed by the quality of the education and training the College offers, cemented their decision.

Describing education as her passion, Barb said the donation to the Kokomo Campus transformation and the endowed scholarship embodies their commitment to others. “I’ll support anything when it comes to health careers and education. I’ll pay for the wipes they use,” she said with a laugh. “I just want to see young men and women succeed. If I can provide the means that allow them to get the education they need, that’s what I want to do. We need nurses and EMTs and all of them so much.

“There’s no better way to use our money than to give it to students,” she continued. “If I can make it easier for one student, that would be worth everything in the world to me.”

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ivy tech healthcare program

LESSON — CNA instructor Penny Hinze, center, talks about the value of hands-on instruction with Dean Connie Morgan, student Destiny Stewart, donors Ross and Barbara Bretz, and Vice Chancellor Ethan Heicher.

The Bretz lab and classroom supports Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Healthcare Specialist program, including training of certified nursing aides as well as phlebotomy and ECG technicians, and also serves second-year students in the Paramedic Science program.

The Bretzes’ gifts are part of Ivy Tech’s #THETIMEISNOW capital campaign that seeks $3 million in community support to complete the $43 million campus transformation. For more information about how you can help, visit ivytech.edu/kokomotransformation or contact Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of resource development for Ivy Tech Kokomo, at kkarickhoff@ivytech.edu or 765-252-5501.

Healthcare Specialist program helps fill local workforce needs

Ivy Tech's Healthcare Specialist program offers a range of credentials, everything from a Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) certificate earned in one semester all the way through a four-semester associate degree in Clinical Support.

Connie Morgan, dean of Ivy Tech Kokomo's School of Health Sciences serving Kokomo, Logansport, and Peru, said the program based in Kokomo's new Health Professions Center is a great way to get into a financially and personally rewarding healthcare career.

"The new Ross and Barbara Bretz Healthcare Specialist Laboratory Suite gives us a space that simulates real-world working environments with equipment that prepares our students to move right into local medical offices, hospitals, and healthcare facilities," Morgan said. "We are very grateful for their generous donation."

She said there is a heavy demand in the local region for CNAs, phlebotomists, and paramedics. State employment data shows Indiana projects to have 4,317 annual job openings in the healthcare specialist field with average median salaries of more than $16 per hour.

The five-credit-hour CNA training can also open the doors to many other opportunities. "In the CNA class, students get introduced to the healthcare setting in long-term care, but while they are doing their clinicals, they get exposure to other healthcare occupations," Morgan said. "Many who complete CNA training go on to become phlebotomists, paramedics, or nurses; some decide to move into dental assisting. CNA training helps students understand there are health professions in addition to nursing and how Ivy Tech can get them on the path to those careers."

For more information on the Healthcare Specialist program, contact Morgan at cmorgan@ivytech.edu .

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering associate degree and short-term certificate programs, and trainings that align to the needs of the community. The College also offers courses and associate degree programs that seamlessly transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor’s degree.

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, and Tipton counties, including the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, Rochester, and Tipton.