Owens graduates, photo montage

Past Commencement Speakers
December 2013

Keynote Speaker

Joseph D. Napoli, President
President and General Manager of the Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club and Toledo Walleye Hockey Club

Joseph D. Napoli

Joseph D. Napoli is the President and General Manager of the Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club and Toledo Walleye Hockey Club. He is responsible for the strategic direction, goal setting, long-term planning and business development for both Toledo professional sports franchises, which have affiliations with the Detroit Tigers in baseball and Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in hockey. He builds rapport with area business and community leaders to develop new business and community opportunities, all while overseeing the day-to-day operations of both clubs.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Napoli graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in management from St. John’s University in New York City. Upon graduation, he joined Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust in New York City.

After a brief career in banking, Joe’s twenty year career in sports began in Canton, Ohio, with the Canton Indians, the Double-A club of the Cleveland Indians. In the early 1990s, he moved to Toledo to work for the Toledo Mud Hens before spending several years working for the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Tigers.

Napoli then returned to Toledo to embark on the development of Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo. Years later, a second opportunity presented itself, and he became part of the development team for the Toledo Walleye and Huntington Center.

The Hens and Walleye continue to rank among the best franchises in minor league sports. Both the Hens and Walleye have been recognized and awarded for organizational excellence by Minor League Baseball and the ECHL (Minor League Hockey).

Napoli proudly serves the community through his efforts with the Great Lakes Center for Autism, ProMedica Health System, Toledo Children’s Hospital and Toledo Symphony.

Joe met his wife, Annette, in Toledo during his first stint with the Mud Hens. They love raising their five children in Toledo.

Class Representative

Maja Valusek

Maja Valusek

Maja Valusek has been selected as the Owens Community College class representative and will address the graduates during this evening’s 33rd Fall Commencement Ceremony. The 28-year-old Toledo resident is the first person from her immediate family to earn a college degree, graduating in Office Administration Technology and with Summa Cum Laude honors.

Born in Croatia, Valusek and her family fled the war-torn eastern European country in 1991 for neighboring Serbia. Her journey to Owens Community College started at the University of Novi Sad in Novi Sad, Serbia, where she met her future husband, Boris. She never completed her degree in tourism management after Boris "won the lottery," as she described it, for a U.S. Green Card in 2008. They married immediately and moved to the Toledo upon entering the U.S. in March 2009 because Boris had family here.

Together, they have lived the American dream, coming to America with two suitcases and $5,000 in borrowed money. Now Permanent Residents, she and Boris plan to become U.S. citizens in March 2014.

In her speech, Valusek will share a message that speaks to the fact that she is not much different from her fellow graduates, despite growing up nearly 5,000 miles away: "Most of you have been privileged to grow up in this country that is full of possibilities. Use them to the best of your abilities and the results will show."

When she first moved to Toledo, she worked a variety of part-time jobs, including a waitressing position in which she rode a bicycle 7 miles round trip to and from work. "It was something I had to do. I never felt sorry for myself. I was grateful to have the job."

Valusek enrolled at Owens Community College in May 2011, taking many night and weekend classes while working full time. She has been employed at COMPASS Corporation for Recovery Services in Toledo since January of this year.

She described her feelings after moving to the U.S. as mixed. She left her family behind and lacked confidence because English was her second language to her native Serbian. But at the same time, she said she loved Toledo, complimenting the city for being clean and the people for being friendly.

At Owens, "the people I met and the teachers gave me confidence," said Valusek, who mentioned instructor Randi Barr as the most influential faculty person she encountered.

Teri Pratt, Associate Professor in Office Administration, said Valusek "has exemplified excellence in the classroom and on the job. She is a non-traditional student who serves as a great role model to others in the program."

Valusek received two scholarships while attending Owens, one from the Foundation from the Andersons and another from the Glass City Chapter of International Association of Administrative Professionals. She plans to continue her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and perhaps complete a master’s degree someday.