Mesa Community College inducts honorees into Hall of Fame Nov. 2

MESA, Arizona — Nov. 1, 2023 — Thirteen notable alumni, employees, athletes, coaches and faculty members are being inducted into the Mesa Community College (MCC) Hall of Fame in recognition of their professional and personal accomplishments, and significant contributions to the college and the community, on Nov. 2, 2023 at the MCC Southern and Dobson Campus, 1833 W. Southern Ave., Mesa 85202.

The traditional induction ceremony begins with a reception at 6 p.m. on the MCC Art Gallery patio followed by the ceremony at 7 p.m. in the MCC Theatre. The event will be live streamed at

2023 Hall of Fame Inductees

The following Alumni Achievement honorees have each accomplished distinguished levels in their chosen professions and were selected based on professional success such as leadership and impact; innovation; mentoring; awards and honors; and service and volunteerism.

Gary Ernst (1968) coached Arizona High School Boys Basketball for more than 38 years, leading teams to state titles and being inducted into the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame.

Michele Johnson (1995) is chair of the Litigation Department at Latham & Watkins and was named a U.S. Top Trial Lawyer with global clients including Apple, Peloton, Pinterest, J.P. Morgan, Allergan, Puma and Kohl’s.

Mike VanZutphen (1977) made a career of coaching and directing sports organizations such as the United States Professional Tennis Association and Arizona Special Olympics, receiving humanitarian awards for his volunteer work.

Distinguished MCC Staff honorees are non-faculty employees recognized for sustained, outstanding contributions in areas such as development of programs at MCC, enhancement of the college’s reputation, excellence in serving students and their commitment to shaping the future.

Marisa Estrada, as Box Office Coordinator, has been integral to the success of the MCC Theatre Arts, Music and Dance departments for more than two decades promoting and supervising production events.

The Excellence in Teaching category recognizes residential (full time) faculty members who, over a number of years, have distinguished themselves as exceeding expectations in their contribution to the classroom, the college, the Maricopa County Community College District, the profession and the community.

Carole Drachler, Ph.D., earned a stellar reputation as an arts professor and acclaimed art historian over more than three decades and is renowned for her participation with Arizona arts councils and art galleries.

Kara Thomson, M.F.A, brought to MCC years of art direction, scene design, production and consulting experience from Hollywood, major theaters across the nation, television and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre.

Outstanding MCC Athlete honorees are chosen based on their contributions to MCC including earning All-American, All-Conference and All-Region honors and championships; helping the Thunderbirds to national honors and earning NJCAA All-Academic recognition; and for athletic accomplishments post MCC.

Douglas Lewis, M.A., was an MCC basketball player for the 1985-86 season and the starting point guard for the 1986-87 team winning conference championships becoming one of the top five point guards in the country.

Sarah Moravitz, M.Ed. Admin, played soccer at MCC in the inaugural 1996 and 1997 seasons, was named Junior College All-American, team captain, MVP, 1996 First Team All-State, and tied for leading goal scorer as a defensive back. The team won the 1996 regional championship.

Keith Smith (1973) was on the MCC 1973 National Football Championship team, earning First Team All-Conference and First Team All-American honors and then coaching youth football and literacy programs.

Thomas Watkins, the all-time leading scorer in MCC basketball history, earned ACCAC honors during his 1997 and 1999 seasons, was an All-American and on the ACCAC 1998 First Team when MCC was the Region 1 Champions.

Brandi Steinke White was MCC Female Athlete of the Year in 2005 as she led the basketball team in points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. Captain of the team, she was First Team All-American and First Team All-Conference.

Outstanding MCC Coaches honorees are individuals accomplished in areas such as national championships, a large number of conference and regional championships, development of All-Conference and All-America players, as well as NJCAA All-Academic recognitions plus accomplishments earned after leaving MCC.

John Guerrero coached the 2001 MCC women’s golf team to a run of 17 wins from 18 Region I title competitions, capturing 83 consecutive conference tournaments over 12 seasons. He took the men’s team to the 2017 NJCAA Division II National Championship win.

The Service honoree is an alum or member of the community who has provided significant and exemplary service to MCC and/or the community.

Monica Torres (2010) is founder of the global company NXT Generation Mortuary Support and one of the funeral industry’s most sought-after speakers and one of the only Latinas recognized as an international expert in her field.

Learn more about the MCC Hall of Fame at

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer, MCC,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for university transfer, career and technical programs, civic engagement, service-learning and innovative approaches to education. Host to more than 24,400 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. On average MCC students provide 23,000 hours of community service annually. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for education, workforce development and lifelong learning. MCC is transforming student success through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution. Nearly 50% of MCC students are the first in their families to attend college. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges. The American Indian Institute serves students from 22 federally recognized Arizona tribes and out-of-state tribes. Our diverse student body includes hundreds of international students from around the world. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to attain their goals. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit to learn more.

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) --

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit

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Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 1, 2023