Padgett family shares love of Ivy Tech

Their daughter, Elizabeth, and Ivy Tech Community College are both deeply woven into the lives of Melissa and Stephen Padgett of Kokomo. To honor both, the Padgetts are proud contributors to the #THETIMEISNOW campaign to support the transformation of the College’s Kokomo Campus.


Thanks to their contribution, faculty, students, and staff will be able to meet, converse, and learn in the Elizabeth Padgett Huddle Room that is part of the faculty offices in Ivy Tech Kokomo’s new Health Professions Center.


The family’s connection to Ivy Tech goes back nearly 29 years, when Melissa was hired to serve as regional bookstore manager. After 17 years in the bookstore, she moved through grant project accountant to director of the business office to her current position as executive director of finance. Stephen, a registered nurse since 1997 with ER experience at both local hospitals, started out as an adjunct faculty member in Nursing, Surgical Technology, and Medical Assisting. Since 2010, he has been a fulltime faculty member, teaching everything from pharmacology to medical law and ethics, along with clinical procedures for Medical Assisting students.


Why the investment in Ivy Tech?


For Melissa and Stephen, the theme is “pay it forward.” “We’ve been blessed to have been employed as part of the Ivy Tech family,” Melissa said. “We believe in Ivy Tech’s mission. When we’re out in public, students rush up to Stephen to thank him and let him know that the experiences he shared in class have really helped them in their professional careers. We’ve seen so many instances where the opportunities Ivy Tech provides has turned lives around.”


And the opportunity to acknowledge the gift of Elizabeth was also an important consideration to the couple.


Elizabeth was born 27 years ago with cerebral palsy and profound brain injury. Stephen said they were told she might not live to leave the hospital and, if she did, she would be “a vegetable.” “And so she got the nickname ‘Spud,” he said with a chuckle. So began the Padgetts’ journey in parenthood. Once they got her home, Stephen said, they began to see her develop and they ran with every improvement.


“We said when we knew we were having a child, we knew we’d always do whatever we could to help them have a good life,” Melissa said. “This is just a different journey than what we expected. Maybe by sharing our stories, we can help other families on their journey.”


While nonverbal, Elizabeth is able to communicate through looks and sounds, showing she understands and interacting with those around her. “She’s complete care, but she provides us complete joy and love as well,” Melissa said. “She has been a light in so many people’s lives.” With therapy and support, Elizabeth graduated from Kokomo High School in 2010 with a certificate of completion.


“Elizabeth loves to learn, to be read to,” Stephen said. “One Ivy Tech student, when she served as a caregiver, would study by reading her physiology books to her.”


“Our gift to the campaign is also a way to say ‘thank you’ to the entire Kokomo community,” Melissa said. “From the time we brought Elizabeth home, we have been overwhelmed by the support we have received to give her the best life she can have. The transformed Kokomo Campus will help others on their way.”


Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of resource development for Ivy Tech Kokomo, said, “Melissa and Stephen are such great examples of how the Ivy Tech family feels about our mission. We are incredibly grateful for the support our campus project has received from so many members of the Ivy Tech Kokomo faculty and staff.”


So far, Ivy Tech faculty and staff have contributed or pledged $283,451 to the capital campaign to finish the $43 million transformation project currently under way on the Kokomo campus. To find out more about this opportunity to improve education in north central Indiana, contact Karickhoff at kkarickhoff@ivytech.edu or 765-252-5501.

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