Catching up with some true notables who graduated from Prescott-area colleges

From left, Ken Bennett, former Arizona Secretary of State; Katie Pribyl, the Senior Vice President for Aviation Strategy and Programs at the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association; and Senator Tom Udall, D-New Mexico.

Courtesy photos

From left, Ken Bennett, former Arizona Secretary of State; Katie Pribyl, the Senior Vice President for Aviation Strategy and Programs at the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association; and Senator Tom Udall, D-New Mexico.

With three colleges in the Prescott area, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they were a starting point for people who have gone on to become successful and, in many cases, well known.

Here, then, are some of the notable figures who have graduated from each of the three schools.

Prescott College

A liberal arts school, Prescott College, 220 Grove Ave., has about 1,200 students. The private college was started in 1966 and nearly went bankrupt in the early 1970s, before returning to financial health.

• Senator Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, earned his undergraduate degree at Prescott College.

• Kathleen Stephens, the United States ambassador to South Korea from 2008 to 2011, is a Prescott College alumni. 

• Dr. Nicole Apelian is an alumni who was a challenger on the second season of History Channel’s TV series “Alone.” She earned her Ph.D. from Prescott College.

“I had a very special experience at Prescott that helped shape my way of thinking about history, government, and the role of the United States in the world,” Udall said. “My time there laid a foundation that prepared me to go on to Cambridge University, law school, and eventually to serve in the United States Senate.

“I know that same deep commitment to students remains a vital part of the fabric of the institution today.”

Yavapai Community College

Yavapai College was established in 1965 and its first classes were held in fall of 1969. There are about 12,000 students attending classes at its Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Clarkdale, and Sedona campuses.

Well-known Arizonans who attended YC include:

• Ken Bennett, former Arizona Secretary of State.

• Judy Burges, a Republican member of the Arizona State Senate.

• Kenton Jones, a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

“The educational experience was excellent,” Bennett said, noting that he transferred to Arizona State University, and “when I got to ASU, I was in classes with 200, 300, 400 people — it was just a whole different experience.

“Yavapai (had) small classes with lots of individual attention, so (YC) was a fabulous experience for me.”

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Established in 1926, Embry-Riddle is a little different: the students who graduate from the university, while known within their industries as leaders, are not necessarily household names. The private school counts nearly 7,000 students at its campuses in Prescott and Daytona Beach, Florida.

Alumni include:

• Glen Doherty, a CIA operative and former U.S. Navy SEAL, killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

• Scott O’Grady, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, shot down in 1995 over Bosnia and Herzegovina and forced to eject from his F-16 into hostile territory.

• Lt. Col. Aaron Jelinek, a former U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds pilot and now Commander of the 56th Operations Support Squadron at Luke Air Force Base.

• Norm Knight, Chief of the Flight Director Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

• Katie Pribyl, the Senior Vice President for Aviation Strategy and Programs at the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association.

“My time at Embry-Riddle in Prescott was truly developmental and transformative. The school’s academic rigor prepared me to think critically while the accomplishments of our alumni inspired me to pursue my dreams,” Pribyl said. 

“Moreover, the Prescott campus is especially unique. I felt part of a family while I was there and I still do today as an alum. I am very proud of the way the Prescott campus has grown and the new opportunities they provide for students.”

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Call him at 928-642-6999. Email him at sorr@prescottaz.com.