DEADLINE EXTENDED - Accepting Applications for AHS Distinguished Alumnus Award, Class of 2023

The Ashland City Schools Foundation (ACSF) has extended the deadline for nominations for the Ashland High School Distinguished Alumnus Award, Class of 2023. This award was created to recognize and honor graduates of Ashland High School who have realized significant and noteworthy achievements as successful adults in their careers and/or have served as benefactors to mankind.

Any graduate of Ashland High School who has been out of high school a minimum of 15 years is eligible for the award. Candidates must have distinguished themselves in community service (in Ashland or another community), professional/career achievement, and/or other significant recognition. Individuals who have not graduated from Ashland High School but have made significant contributions to the Ashland City Schools may also be nominated for special honorary recognition.

To nominate an outstanding candidate for the AHS Distinguished Alumnus Award, please download and complete the nomination form found on the Distinguished Alumni tab

The new deadline for nominations is April 1, 2023.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
Class of 2021 Announced

The Ashland City Schools Foundation (ACSF) and members of the Distinguished Alumnus Award Committee have reviewed the nominations and selected seven inductees to be honored as members of the Ashland High School Distinguished Alumnus Award Class of 2021. The inductees are: Jason Brown, class of 2002; Jennifer N. Fish, class of 1987; Cindy Funk, class of 1976; Lawrence (Larry) Hiner, class of 1953; Rick Spreng, class of 1966; Kaaran Thomas, class of 1963; and Dwight McElfresh, special honorary recognition.

This tenth biennial event honors AHS graduates who have made significant achievements as adults in their careers and/or have served as benefactors to others. Candidates for special honorary recognition may also include individuals who have not graduated from Ashland High School but have made significant contributions to Ashland City Schools. First organized in 2002, the Distinguished Alumnus Award has now recognized 50 graduates and honorary recipients.

The inductees will be honored Homecoming Weekend (September 24-25), beginning with an invitation to visit Ashland High School on Friday and attend the football game. The induction dinner will be held Saturday, September 25th at the AU John C. Myers Convocation Center. Tickets for the banquet are available for purchase now at the Ashland City School District Administrative Offices, 1407 Claremont Avenue or online at through September 10, 2021.

Jason Brown

Lieutenant Colonel Jason D. Brown (’02) serves as the Commander, 51st Combat Communications Squadron, Robins AFB, GA and is responsible for 178 Airmen, Civilians and their Families delivering flexible combat-ready Airmen communications capabilities to the joint warfighter. Additionally, he ensures Airmen are trained and ready to support the United States Secret Service providing command and control for President, Vice President and Special Dignitary support.  Lastly, he is charged with providing the only Air Force designated tactical communications support for the Air Force’s 1st force presentation of a Joint Task Force Headquarters to the Joint Chief of Staff. 

Brown was raised in Ashland, Ohio and is a graduate of Mount Union College, receiving his commission through Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps in May 2006.  Additionally, he earned a Master Degree in Military Studies from American Military University, and a Master Degree in Military Operational Art and Science from Air Command and Staff College. During his career, he has deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation FREEDOM SENTINAL and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.  He served as the Kandahar Airfield Senior Airfield Authority and Air Expeditionary Group executive officer, the Director of Operations for the Communication Operations Division, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, and as the Chief of the Contingency Operations Division for United States Air Forces Central Command.

Lieutenant Colonel Brown has served his country admirably through multiple assignments over his career, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in January of 2021 and receiving numerous decorations for outstanding achievement and meritorious service. In addition to going above and beyond with regard to humanitarian relief while on military assignment, Brown has also demonstrated his love for helping others by volunteering with Dale Roy School while home in Ashland on leave. 

Jennifer N. Fish

Jennifer N. Fish, Ph.D. (’87) is a professor, writer, and international speaker on human rights. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology and International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C.  For the past 25 years, she has worked on humanitarian and education projects across Africa, Asia, and North America. Dr. Fish’s international experience has focused on rebuilding societies in the aftermath of severe conflict, education, development, and women’s rights. She has studied South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy since 1995, with fellowship appointments with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape.  She also co-founded Rwanda’s first university center for women’s education. Her teaching includes fifteen years of international study courses for university students in five countries, including Nepal, Haiti, Rwanda, South Africa, and Senegal.  

Dr. Fish has published four books on a range of topics, has written over 30 book chapters and research articles, along with commissioned reports for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Harvard University. As a public speaker, she has delivered over 50 expert talks in 12 countries. Her academic work is focused on supporting policy changes and community organizations that serve some of the least protected populations worldwide. Dr. Fish has worked directly with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the U.S. Embassy of South Africa, the American Association of University Women, Human Rights Watch, and the International Domestic Workers Federation. She has earned multiple national grants and has appeared on National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service as a research expert on women and development.

Dr. Fish has received multiple awards for her contributions as an educator and human rights activist. She is also a photographer and filmmaker with extensive experience with a range of global stories. She has co-produced four documentary films, one of which has been utilized by the world’s leading organizations for labor policy, as well as the United Nations. Her photography earned a Portrait of Humanity Award from the British Journal of Photography, and Dr. Fish has also contributed to the upliftment of women artists in South Africa.

Cindy Funk

Cindy Funk (’76) has been dedicated serving the public good in the Ashland area for over forty years. After high school, she graduated with honors from both North Central Technical College and Ashland University, where she received the Outstanding Finance Major Award.  

Funk began her career gaining valuable experience at the Ashland County Treasurer’s office, Ashland County Joint Vocational School and Ashland County Auditor’s office before assuming the role of Ashland County Treasurer in 1994. After almost twenty years in that post, she transitioned into the position of Ashland County Auditor, where she has faithfully served since 2013. Funk has the distinction of being the first woman in Ashland County to be elected to either office.  

During her tenure as Ashland County Treasurer and Ashland County Auditor, Funk has led several complex projects to improve technologies utilized for payment processing and the reporting of finances and property information. The Auditor Office has received the Excellence Financial Reporting Award for the last four years from the Ohio Auditor of State Office, and Funk has been active in leadership roles and special committees for the Ohio County Treasurer’s Association, the Northeast Ohio County Treasurer’s Association, the Ohio County Auditor Association and the Northeast Auditor Association.

Funk has also been active in several non-profit boards and community groups, including the Ashland County Cancer Association, Ashland County Historical Society, Fostering Families Ministries, United Way Campaign Chairperson, Leadership Ashland and Trinity Lutheran Church. She has been treasurer of the Ashland County Republican Party for more than 25 years and was recognized by Women of Achievement with the Founders award. 

Funk and her husband, Gregg, reside in rural Ashland County, where she enjoys reading and participating in the numerous outdoor activities the Ohio state parks have to offer.

Larry Hiner

The late Lawrence (Larry) Hiner graduated from Ashland High School in 1953 and Ashland College in 1957 (music education/percussion). He earned a master’s degree in Television Production/Programming from The Ohio State University in 1963 and was a member of the United States Army Field Band from 1958-1961. 

Hiner’s television career started 1964 at NBC in New York City. In 1970, he was given the opportunity to return to Ashland and develop a television major at Ashland College in coordination with the established radio department. The goal of WRDL-TV2 was to provide a valuable education for the students as well as an opportunity for the community to connect with the college through the coverage of local events. 

Larry had a life-long love of music, both professionally and personally. He taught percussion for several years at Ashland University, the College of Wooster and through private lessons. While working at Ashland University, he became manager of the Guy C. Myers Memorial Band Shell in 1988. For 15 years, he brought a variety of musical acts for the community to enjoy over the summers. Larry worked diligently to improve the overall facility and raised funds for extensive improvements during his tenure.

After retiring from Ashland University, Hiner began his role as General Manager of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra. He held this position for seven years and was successful in improving the stability of the organization and extending the community outreach.

As a father of a young soccer player in the late 70s, Larry and three other gentlemen sought to find a way for their children to continue their enjoyment of the sport. These dads founded the Ashland Soccer Association, which has made a great impact on the youth of Ashland since its inception and eventually led to the creation of the Ashland High School soccer program in 1985. 

Larry loved Ashland and never missed an opportunity to give back to his community. Sadly, he passed away in 2020, but the legacy he has left behind will live on through his impact on others. 

Rick Spreng

Rick Spreng (’66) feels blessed to have been raised in the great environment Ashland provides, crediting Ashland City Schools with being a big part of that. His education continued at Bowling Green State University and then Ashland College, graduating in 1970. 

Spreng began his career as an agent with Lincoln National Life Insurance Company. In 1973, he entered into a partnership with Marshall Smith, adding life insurance to Smith’s property and casualty offering. After learning and growing under Marshall’s tutelage, Rick purchased the Marshall E. Smith Agency in 1985, eventually renaming it The Spreng-Smith Agency. The balance of his 45-year career was spent growing the agency to 17 employees and increasing the number of clients many times over. In 2016, Rick retired and confidently transferred the agency leadership to Nate Shultz and Rob Wash. 

Business involvements include serving as president of the Independent Agents and Brokers Association of Ohio (who awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award) and being a member of the national board of The Independent Agents and Broker Association of America. In 2017, Rick received the Special Achievement Award from Ashland University. 

In addition to his extensive business involvement, Rick has always immersed himself in community service. Over the years, he has been Vice Chairman of the Johnny Appleseed Council of the Boy Scouts of America, lay leader of the Trinity Lutheran Church, president and campaign chairman of United Way of Ashland, president of Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, president of Brethren Care of Ashland, chairman of the 175th Anniversary Celebration and co-chairman of the Bicentennial Celebr¬ation. One of his most memorable efforts for the community was the origination of the Ashland BalloonFest, which he chaired for many years.  

Most important to Rick are his faith and his family. He and his wife, Kim, have two daughters, Jen Wash and Julie Donatini, who have blessed them with five wonderful grandchildren. 

Kaaran Thomas

Kaaran Thomas graduated from Ashland High School with honors in 1963, then continued her education at The Ohio State University, graduating with distinction in 1967. Thomas then earned her law degree from the University of Houston. Her expertise in the field of corporate restructuring and bankruptcy led to her selection in 1986 as one of the few woman partners in Vinson & Elkins LLP, one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world. 

During her years at Vinson & Elkins, Kaaran became a leader in educating the U.S. legal and professional community in the field of bankruptcy and insolvency. She developed and taught educational programs in corporate restructuring and bankruptcy for lawyers, bankers, judges and other professionals.

While also teaching bankruptcy law as an adjunct for the University of Texas and the University of Nevada-Reno, Thomas served as vice president of the Turnaround Management Association and the chair of the subcommittee on committees for the American Bar Association. She worked with the University of Texas to create the VALCON conference, an annual event that has continued since its origination. She was a speaker and member of the planning committee on numerous other conferences sponsored by the University of Texas, State Bar of Texas, Nevada State Bar, Federal Judicial Center and the AIRA Graduate School of Banking, among others.

In 1989, Kaaran was selected as a fellow of the international honorary society of the American College of Bankruptcy, where she chaired and developed the Distinguished Student Committee to select and honor six law students each year in Washington, D.C.

Thomas was recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in America in their annual publication from 1998-2013, and she has authored/co-authored three popular works of historical fiction based on her bankruptcy experience and knowledge of Nevada history. 

Kaaran is currently enjoying her retirement and looks forward to visiting Ashland. She is married to Andy Nielsen and has one son. She currently divides her time between Lake Tahoe, Nevada and San Marcos, Texas.

Dwight McElfresh

Dr. Dwight L. McElfresh is receiving special honorary recognition for his many years of service and commitment to the students and educators of Ashland City Schools. A native of Germantown, Ohio, Dr. McElfresh earned a B.S. in Education from Ashland College, a M.S. in Education from the University of Akron, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Ashland University.

He is the retired Dean of the Founders School of Continuing Education at Ashland University. Prior to serving in this role, he spent five years as the Executive Director of Professional Development, providing high quality professional development opportunities for educators around the state of Ohio and the nation.

A lifelong educator, Dr. McElfresh served 31 years in public education as Interim Superintendent of the Ashland City Schools, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Pupil Services, Director of Curriculum, Special Education Supervisor and teacher of children with Learning Disabilities. As an administrator, he served educators and students in all the schools in Ashland, Holmes, and Richland County.

Dr. McElfresh is a Trustee of North Central State College, Chair of the Ashland County Mental Health and Recovery Board, President of the Ashland City Schools Foundation, Chair of the Ashland University Fastbreak Club, member of the Ashland University Gridiron Club, member of North Central State College Foundation Board, member of Ashland Noon Lions and Young Men’s Business Club.

He is past Chair of the annual United Way of Ashland Campaign, past member of the Ashland Symphony Board and the Leadership Ashland Board. Since 2019, Dwight has served on the Ashland County Community Foundation Board of Trustees, as chair of the ACCF Teacher Mini-Grants Committee and as a member of the Finance and Scholarship committees.

Dwight and his wife, Rita, have three daughters and four grandchildren. They have spent their entire married life in Ashland, Ohio. He is an avid golfer and baseball fan and enjoys following Ashland High School Arrow and Ashland University Eagle athletic teams. He is passionate about educational leadership and projects that benefit the youth of the community.

FALL 2020 Teacher Grant recipients 

Congratulations to the Fall 2020 Ashland City Schools Foundation Teacher Grant Recipients: Amy Nelson, Marty Krall and Kristy Shearer. ACSF is proud to award these inspirational educators with almost $3,000 to support their innovative classroom supplements and help our Arrows learn in today’s challenging environment.

Marty Krall, AHS Director of Bands & Media Arts, has been awarded $1,500 to help fund his Digital Instruments for the Virtual Classroom program. This program meets the new 2021 Ohio Department of Music standards and offers digital content to support classroom initiatives.

Amy Nelson, AMS Intervention Specialist, has been awarded $500 for the Middle School Remote Learning Book Club.  The in-person Book Club has already been very successful with age appropriate, engaging selections for 7th grade students. This new remote learning alternative is sure to be a great addition to the reading curriculum. 

Kristy Shearer, AMS Science Teacher, has been awarded $905 to fund MobyMax, an online program to diagnose and assess learning gaps in middle school science classes, grades 6-8.

Over the past 25 years, ACSF has generated close to $1 million in donations from AHS alumni, retired teachers, corporations, foundations and friends. These funds are used throughout the year to support Ashland City Schools with teacher grants and other special programs/contributions. 

Amy Nelson

Middle School Intervention Specialist 

Martin Kral

Director of Band & Media Arts 

Kristy Shearer

Middle School Science 

Student Involvement

ASCF Is pleased to welcome our student board members for the 2020-21 school year, AHS Seniors (from left to right) Cadence Russell, Andy Somsak, and Grant Vance! We look forward to working with them and hearing their ideas on how ASCF can support Ashland City Schools through this unprecedented school year. 

Photo courtesy of: Robby Cool 

ACSF Welcomes New Board Members for 2020-21

The ACSF Board of Directors is excited to welcome our newest board members: Greg Gorrell ('63), Becky McFarlin ('86) and Barb Queer ('77). With their help and dedication, we look forward to continuing our 25-year history of supporting Ashland City Schools in the upcoming year! 

ACSF 2020-21 Board of Directors:
(Front row left to right):
Becky McFarlin '77
Stephanie Radebaugh, Secretary
Barb Queer '77
Connie Marble, Vice President
(Back row left to right):
Doug Pauly '81, Treasurer
Julie Guenther '86
Greg Gorrell '63
Susan Denbow '86
Dr. Dwight McElfresh, President

2019-20 Educator Grants Awarded

The Ashland City Schools Foundation is proud to support the talented, creative educators in Ashland! Over $8,000 in grants has been awarded this year, and we look forward to continuing this supplemental funding next year! 

Ashland Times-Gazette full article here:

Ashland City Schools Foundation officers Dwight McElfresh and Connie Marble presented Educator Grants to teachers BreAnn Fennell and Ashley Powell at Reagan Elementary School recently.

The foundation offers educator grants twice a year to support innovative projects in the classroom.

Over $8,000 in grants has been awarded this year.

This year’s fall recipients were: Rachel Burgett, Taft Intermediate School; Jennifer Ediger, Reagan Elementary; Jeri Millhouse, Ashland Middle School; Ben Spieldenner, Ashland High School, and Chelsea Uselton, Ashland Middle School.

The spring recipients are: Erin Baughman, Taft Intermediate School; Karen Ebert, Ashland Middle School; BreAnn Fennell, Reagan Elementary; Ashley Powell, Reagan Elementary; Jarrod Vance, Ashland Middle School, and Julie White, Edison Elementary.