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North Central Missouri College Foundation announces honorees for Distinguished Alumni Class of 2022

North Central Missouri College Foundation Announces Distinguished Alumni Class for 2022, Dr. Jennifer (Collier) Blacksmith, Jackie (Persell) Soptic and Barbara (Higdon) Spencer. The honorees will be recognized during the Pirates Ball on March 25, 2023, at the Ketcham Community Center on the North Central Missouri College campus. The Pirate Ball is in honor of distinguished alumni, donors to the Voyage Fund, and all of NCMC family and friends. The event is a fundraiser for the Voyage Fund, an annual giving campaign to raise unlimited funds to help fill the College’s unmet needs.

Dr. Jennifer (Collier) Smith

The North Central Missouri College Lady Pirates signed Jennifer Collier, a Novelty, Missouri native and then a Knox County High School senior, to play basketball in 2002. Highlights of Jennifer’s two-year athletic career at NCMC include winning of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Region 16 Championship, and the NJCAA ranks eighth in field goal percentage at 64.33.

When asked to share a favorite memory from her time at NCMC, Jennifer said, “My best memories were with the basketball team, especially when we won the Division II Region 16 championship game! Manager Mothersbaugh had a certain way of coaching which he brought out the best in each of us. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, she excelled academically, earning a bachelor’s degree following which she transferred to the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg. While attending UCM, Jennifer’s passion for working with her children and families led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in criminal justice and a master’s degree in psychology. She achieved her high school goals and received a PhD in School Psychology from the University of Missouri in 2014.

After returning to Missouri in 2017, Dr. Blacksmith served as director of behavioral health at the Northeast Missouri Health Council. In addition to her leadership role as principal, she provides counseling, psychological testing, and professional development services to schools and works closely with the University of Missouri through their Missouri Strong Kids ECHO outreach program as a mental health expert.

Dr. Blacksmith’s successful career in psychology could have taken her anywhere, but she chose to return to her northern Missouri roots. She and her husband Joe her live in La Plata, Missouri with their daughter Harper, where she serves on the local school board and coaches her daughter’s basketball and softball teams.

Jackie (Persell) Soptic

Jackie (Persell) Soptic, a pirate at Piper High School in Kansas City, Kansas, chose to stay true to tradition, return to her birthplace, and remain a pirate by attending Trenton Junior College now North Central Missouri College. Due to her father’s employment as a locomotive engineer, Jackie grew up in Kansas City KS. Unlike most high school students, she had a unique perspective of both big-city life and small-town life. Therefore, upon graduation, she married her high school sweetheart, Warren Soptic, and returned to Trenton in 1977 to attend college, work, and raise a family.

Wanting to complete her education and begin a professional career, Jackie returned to North Central Missouri College and completed her undergraduate degree in 1989. After graduation, she taught kindergarten for a year and began working part-time as an assistant partnership for the workforce development program with the Green Hills Planning Commission. Her part-time job soon became a full-time position which eventually led to her becoming the director of the workforce development program. Jackie remained with the Green Hills Planning Commission and within 13 years she became the assistant director. Jackie’s commitment to public service and the need to volunteer have never changed, even as the demands of her professional career have increased. She was elected and served three terms on the Trenton City Council.

Currently, Jackie is a volunteer for Bright Futures, Church Women United Thrift Shop, Grundy County Senior Center Meal Delivery and the Red Cross. Ever willing to serve and with retirement on the horizon, she helped prepare staff and board members for new leadership by serving as a transition director for the last two years of her employment. In 2022, after 33 years, she retired from the Green Hills Planning Commission.

Jackie and Warren Soptic have been married for 45 years; co-owners of ASAP Locksmith, they are the parents of Jeremy (Cindy) Soptic and Jenny (Lucas) Lewis and are proud grandparents of Cole Soptic and Jackson Lewis. With her roots still firmly planted in Trenton and her commitment to the community unchanged, Jackie has thrown her hat in the upcoming race for Trenton mayor.

Barbara (Higdon) Spencer

After graduating from high school in Princeton, Missouri in 1970, Barbara (Higdon) Spencer began her college career at Trenton Junior College, now North Central Missouri College. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1972 and transferred to Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University. While at TSU, she earned a Bachelor of Science in English Education, a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, and certifications in Speech and Theater in 1974. She returned to TSU to complete a master’s degree in English Education and a certification in Library Science in 1976.

After college, Barbara began her teaching career in Jameson, MO, and a year later moved to Trenton’s R-9 school district, where she remained for the remainder of her career. One who has never shied away from work, she has taught a variety of classes including English I, II and III, British literature, speech, theatre, composition and sociology. Additionally, she has performed several duties including serving as a yearbook sponsor, cheerleading sponsor, color guard instructor, competitive speech instructor, director of theater presentations, and curriculum committee chair for the English department. Barbara retired in 2004 after a 29-year teaching career.

Always available and active, Barbara has worked and/or donated her time to countless community groups and organizations. She returned to her alma mater, teaching composition and speech part-time for over ten years, as well as tutoring and assisting NCMC students until her retirement in 2017.

Barbara and her husband Steve were married in 1971 and have a daughter, Trisha, and son-in-law Scott Sharp and two grandchildren, Owen and Carly. Together they own Precision Machine and Welding in Trenton and enjoy spending quality time with their daughter and family, atlatl throwing, archery, hunting and fishing.

For ticket information or reservations for Pirates Ball, contact NCMC Foundation Executive Director Alicia Endicott at 660-357-6403 or at [email protected].

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