Catherine Hightower Valcke, a member of the Ivy Tech Kokomo Class of 1981 and a long-time leader in higher education in the Kokomo area, is being honored this year with the Ivy Tech Community College Distinguished Alumni Award for the College’s Kokomo Service Area. The awards will be presented Nov. 10 at a gala event at the J.W. Marriott in Indianapolis celebrating the College’s 60th anniversary.


The awards are presented annually by each of Ivy Tech’s 19 service areas to honor a graduate who exemplifies an appreciation of lifelong learning, a dedication to work, and a commitment to community.

“We are proud to honor Cathy Valcke as she truly has exemplified these values throughout her career,” said Dr. Ethan Heicher, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Kokomo Service Area. “In her 25 years on the staff at Indiana University, she has distinguished herself in service to higher education and to the community.”

As director of External Relations & Public Affairs at IU Kokomo since 2014 until her recent retirement, Valcke has been a vital figure in advancing the community through the State of Indiana’s READI grant process and other work on economic development boards, Heicher noted. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including a recent effort focused on food insecurity in the Kokomo community. She is, he said, a great ambassador for higher education and a great partner to Ivy Tech, joining in many of the College’s community events.

Ivy Tech played a pivotal role in Valcke’s long journey in higher education.

In her 25 years on the staff at Indiana University, she has distinguished herself in service to higher education and to the community.

– Ethan Heicher, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Kokomo

As a child, Valcke’s family moved often, but she returned to Kokomo, the city of her birth, after graduating from high school in Mount Morris, Ill., in 1976 and completing a year of college in Chicago. She soon started taking classes at IU Kokomo.

Among her goals was to earn her bachelor’s degree without student loans. So, while attending IUK, she also enrolled at Ivy Tech; she figured if she needed to work, she might as well get the skills she needed for a good job through a short-term program at the community college. In May 1981, she earned a technical certificate as a medical assistant and moved directly into working fulltime for the doctor’s office where she served her externship.

For the next 13 years, she worked for Kokomo podiatrist Dr. Ted Clarke, who encouraged Valcke’s educational goals. While working for Dr. Clarke, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from IU Kokomo in 1989, 11 years after she began … and with no student debt. She later earned a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration & Student Affairs from IU Bloomington.

Valcke began her career in higher education as director of placement at Indiana Business College from 1996 to 1998. She joined IU Kokomo as director of alumni relations and public affairs in April 1998, a position she held for 13 years, and served as the campus’s human resources director for three years. She has been honored with IU Kokomo’s Distinguished Service Award, IU’s Bicentennial Medal, and the IU Alumni Association President’s Award for her many contributions to the university and its students.

About Ivy Tech Community College

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 degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.