Val Hickner is a relative newcomer to the Bay College Foundation Board, but she has long had deep ties to the area. After some time away from the Upper Peninsula, she moved back to Escanaba a few years ago.
Val grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before moving to Escanaba in 1978. She came to the U.P. along with her husband, Dr. John Hickner.
“John was offered a job at OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group. He did his training in Charleston, South Carolina, but I didn’t want to stay in the Deep South,” she said.
John primarily worked as a physician at OSF St. Francis. Eventually, he became a medical director and chief of staff. At the same time, he and Val raised their five children in the area.
“Along with that, he was actually on faculty with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. He ran the rural education program at OSF St. Francis,” Val said.
However, John and Val left the area in 2000 due to a job opportunity downstate. There, John finished a 25-year tenure at the MSU College of Human Medicine. He then worked in other roles across the country.
When John retired in 2018, he and Val returned to Escanaba. Then, she heard from an old friend of hers – Bay College Vice President of College Advancement Kim Carne. Kim reached out to Val to ask if she would be interested in serving on the Bay College Foundation Board. Val “readily agreed,” and began her time on the board later that year.
“I’m one of the members that support the educational and financial needs of Bay College, as well as its cultural activities,” she said.
Both John and Val have enjoyed helping Bay through their work on this board.
“We were involved with The Wizard of Oz – we helped sponsor that event, which was the first major activity I was involved with as a board member. There was another large fundraiser called ‘Educate All,’ and John and I were co-sponsors of that event,” she said. According to Val, her children also participated in the latter event.
Along with these events, Val and her husband have supported the Bay College Scholarship Golf Outing. They have also created a scholarship of their own.
“John and I have started a scholarship at Bay for a Delta County student in need who will be entering the trades. We look at participation, character, interest in the trades, and financial need for this scholarship,” Val said.
“While I have a degree in speech therapy, I chose to stay home with our children when they were young. So, I stayed home for 18 years, and then I went to work as a speech therapist for Head Start in Escanaba. I took one or two classes at Bay while getting recertified as a speech therapist. It was just such a convenience, to be able to take these classes while staying close to home,” she said.
She went on to take further speech therapy classes at Northern Michigan University.
Though Val is closely involved with the Bay College Foundation Board, this is not the only local board she serves on.
“Like Bay, OSF St. Francis is a vital entity in our community. Both John and I are on the OSF HealthCare Community Council – we provide input to the OSF administration and give financial support to projects at OSF St. Francis. I am also involved with Women in Philanthropy, which is a group of women who support the needs and projects of OSF St. Francis. We gather once a month for a small program and raise money to support various endeavors at the hospital,” she said.
Val said she and John plan to continue their support of Bay for the foreseeable future.
“Bay is vital to this community. John and I feel it is not only a responsibility and a duty to give back to the community where our children were raised, but a privilege. We’re glad we’re back, and our kids had a great launch from Escanaba,” she said.