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 Michele Koch, who started at Northwestern Bank in Chippewa Falls as a receptionist and rose to the position of chief operations officer, has been honored by the Chippewa Valley Technical College Alumni Association with the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

The award was presented Thursday, April 8, at the Alumni Association’s virtual Spring Gala. Also honored were WIN Technology as the 2021 Proven Business Partner and Anthony Nied, owner of Safe & Simple Organic Lawns, as the Outstanding Recent Alumnus.

Koch, a Chippewa Falls native now living in Bloomer, was director of human resources for Northwestern Bank when the COO position became available five years ago. She asked bank President Jerry Jacobson if he had found someone for the position. She vividly remembers his answer, “Yes, I think I have found someone for the position. You!”

The answer stunned her, as the position normally requires a four-year degree. Koch graduated from Chippewa Valley Technical College in May 1984 with a Financial Services program degree. She started at the bank a few weeks later. That CVTC degree and Koch’s 30-year reputation for work ethic and job performance convinced Jacobson that she was ready for the COO position.

“My most noteworthy accomplishment is working myself from receptionist to chief operations officer. Being part of the senior management team and leading the bank and employees is a definite win for me,” Koch said.

Koch moved up the ladder, including safe deposit vault attendant, teller, loan processor, head teller and human resources director.

“Now as COO, I continue to guide and mentor coworkers to my best ability.”

Koch likes the community involvement the bank is known for.

“I am proud to be an employee of a community bank that gives back, both in monetary donations and volunteer hours,” Koch said.

Koch demonstrates this spirit in her own life. She has served as a volunteer at the Chippewa Falls Moose Lodge, a teacher with Junior Achievement, a member of the finance committee for the Chippewa Falls Oktoberfest and a volunteer for Agnes’ Table and the Feed My People pop-up pantry.

Koch has also given back to CVTC. She has served on the CVTC Alumni Board for eight years and was also on the Spring Gala planning committee. She has volunteered at CVTC graduation ceremonies and helped welcome the graduates to the Alumni Association. She usually attends the spring scholarship receptions.

“I promote the college whenever possible,” she said. “We have hired several CVTC graduates at the bank. They are awesome employees!”

2021 Proven Business Partner

Proven Business Partner WIN Technology is owned by 31 Wisconsin-based independent telephone companies that united to build a fiberoptic network that allows for faster speeds, greater bandwidth and increased reliability. CEO Scott Hoffmann says WIN could not have developed into the company it is today without CVTC.

“WIN is very fortunate to be able to tap into the pool of graduates coming out of CVTC,” he said. “The Chippewa Valley should also feel fortunate to have such an outstanding educational institution that readies individuals for the workforce right here. This has been a key factor in the growth and development we are seeing in the area.”

“From hiring multiple CVTC graduates to being active participants in the college, WIN Technologies has been a strong partner with the College for many years,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “Like CVTC, WIN recognizes the value of strong partnerships.”

Outstanding Recent Alumnus

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Anthony Nied enrolled in CVTC’s Landscape, Plant and Turf Management program in 2010 after having already earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Eau Claire. He took an interest in the horticulture field when he started working in it during the recession.

After his CVTC graduation, Neid became a manager for Down to Earth Garden Center in Eau Claire. After six years, he started his own business, which now focuses on organic and eco-friendly lawn care.

Nied is spreading the word on the advantages of organic lawn care.

“I organize free educational sessions on an annual basis on multiple subjects, including do-it-yourself organic lawn care, and a new session on natural alternatives to lawns,” he said.

Nied has donated his time and resources to improving landscaping at local schools, and provides support for organizations like Beaver Creek Reserve, Bob’s House for Dogs and the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra.

Nied has remained close to CVTC since his graduation. He attends the Horticulture program’s interview day and last year hired a student intern. He serves on the program advisory committee as well as a subcommittee that created landscape and lawn care classes available to community members.

With over 115 programs offered both online and on-campus, Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the community. CVTC programs are designed with input of business and industry to prepare graduates for today’s jobs, with 95 percent employed within six months of graduation and associate degree graduates earning an average annual salary of $47,452.