This is an archived news release from April 27, 2012.

Owens Community College Alumni Association Honors Local Safety Forces and Citizens With Outstanding Service Awards

Outstanding Service Awards

Eleven area residents were awarded Outstanding Service Awards by the College's Alumni Association for their outstanding contributions to Northwest Ohio's surrounding communities.

PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Eleven area residents have been chosen to receive the ninth annual Outstanding Service Awards by Owens Community College’s Alumni Association for tremendous contributions to Northwest Ohio’s surrounding communities. The recipients are honored as part of a community celebration.

Award winners are Zachary Zender, Mike Posadny, Mike Benadum, Kamal Parker, James Sherman, Larry Potts, Rick Backus, Melanie Harris, Brian Henry, Richard Mathias and Dr. Sue Gavron.

“Owens Community College’s Alumni Association is proud to once again recognize the humanitarian efforts of Northwest Ohio’s police, fire and emergency medical professionals, as well as private citizens,” said Andrea Gurcsik, Owens President of the Alumni Association. “Many of their selfless acts of public service go unnoticed as they do not seek out attention. The Outstanding Service Awards were created to honor their efforts and thank them for their continued service to our region, state and country.”

The awards are presented within the categories of outstanding Police Officer, Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Service to Community and Community Spirit. Selection criterion is based upon a nomination process for candidates demonstrating exceptional service related to dedication, ingenuity, bravery, special skills and/or community service over a sustained period of time. The awards are not limited to a single recipient and can be a group honor where teamwork was a key element.

The recipient of the Outstanding Police Officer Award is Zachary Zender of Fremont (Deputy Sheriff, Sandusky County Sheriff’s Office). Zender was nominated by Sheriff Kyle Overmyer and Chief Deputy Bruce Hirt for putting his life at risk to save four individuals from a burning house.

On Sept. 28, 2011, Zender was on patrol in Ballville Township and spotted a house on fire in a rural area. He had the dispatcher contact the fire department, while he attempted to alert the residents by pounding on the front and back doors of the residence. Unable to wake the residents, Zender kicked the door open and found that the house was filling with smoke from the fire, which had started in the garage. He searched the home and found two children sleeping in a bedroom. Zender identified himself to the adult homeowner who was not aware of the fire. He then carried the two still-sleeping children to safety, while the homeowner woke an adult in another bedroom.

After the two children and two adults were safely outside the house, Ballville Township Volunteer Fire Department arrived, extinguished the fire and saved the home. Thanks to Zender’s quick action, none of the four residents suffered any injuries.

Mike Posadny of Perrysburg (Captain, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department), Mike Benadum of Genoa (Lieutenant, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department), Kamal Parker of Toledo (Firefighter, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department), James Sherman of Holland (Firefighter, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department), Larry Potts of Toledo (Firefighter, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department), Rick Backus of Toledo (Firefighter, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department) and Melanie Harris of Toledo (Firefighter, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department) are named the Outstanding Firefighter Award recipients. They were nominated by Toledo Fire and Rescue Department Medal Ceremony Committee for risking their own lives to ensure the safety and survival of their fellow firefighters.

On Feb., 14, 2011, Engine 4 Company responded to a fire on Hilton Street in Toledo. While on the second floor searching for fire extension from the first floor, several firefighters were low on air and exited the building. However, Posadny and Parker, as well as the rest of the crew, remained on the second floor to check for hotspots. Suddenly, conditions went from good visibility to zero with high heat. Posadny led his firefighters toward a window on another side of the building. After Posadny successfully navigated his way to the window, he called for his crew to follow. Posadny and Parker quickly made it out, but the rest of the crew had become separated in the dense smoke and did not follow. Despite the fact that his low air alarm was ringing, Posadny re-entered the burning structure to search for the missing crew. Knowing that Posadny was low on air, Parker also re-entered the structure.

At this point, a crew from Engine 11 Company, including Sherman, Potts, Backus, Harris and Benadum began providing assistance by entering the structure via the front door. Upon entering the structure, a large fireball blew through the living room and up the interior stairwell over the group’s heads, cutting off access to the second floor. Under Benadum’s direction, the crew worked to force the fire back and off the stairwell long enough for the members of Engine 4 to exit. Despite an evacuation order, Benadum and other Engine 11 members remained in place protecting the only means of escape for Engine 4’s crew.

Additionally, Parker located the missing crew member at the furthest point from the exit and all three, including Posadny, along with the crew of Engine 11, made it out of the building safely. Posadny and Parker put their own lives at risk to find their separated crew member, while Benadum, Sherman, Potts, Backus and Harris ignored the danger to themselves to ensure the safety and survival of Posadny and Parker.

The Outstanding Emergency Medical Technician Award honor is presented to Brian Henry of Toledo (Lieutenant, Toledo Fire and Rescue Department). Henry was nominated by Toledo Fire and Rescue Department Captain Bryce Blair for his efforts in saving a person’s life under adverse conditions.

On Nov. 12, 2011, Henry was enjoying a weekend vacation trip at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio with his wife and friends when they noticed that an individual had lost his footing and fell over a cliff face, landing on the rocks more than 35 feet below. Henry quickly made his way down to the accident site and discovered that the victim was unconscious with a 10-inch laceration to his head. The injury was so severe that the victim’s breathing was abnormal and his skull was visible. Henry directed one of the members of his group to find a location where cell phone reception was possible and call 911 for assistance. With the assistance of medical doctors who happened to be present, Henry stabilized the victim, but it was obvious that they needed to get the victim out of the park as soon as possible for any chance of survival.

Henry organized the group of rescuers to carry the victim out the woods over approximately one third of a mile on broken nature trails, while still maintaining spinal stability and a patient airway. The group met the arriving emergency crew and transferred care to the medics. The victim’s injuries included sheering of the brain, a fractured left wrist and multiple lacerations to his body. Henry has kept in touch with the victim, who is expected to make a full recovery over the course of the next year.

Richard Mathias of Cygnet (Retired Fire Chief, Cygnet Volunteer Fire Department) is the recipient of the Outstanding Service to the Community Award. Mathias was nominated by Cygnet Mayor Nancy Myers for his tireless efforts to the Cygnet Volunteer Fire Department and the village of Cygnet.

Mathias began his volunteer fire service in Cygnet at the age of 18, following in the footsteps of his father and older brothers. Over the next 50 years, Mathias worked his way up the ranks to become the Fire Chief. Along the way, he was instrumental in getting a new addition for the fire station added to the village hall and maintaining the high standards of department’s equipment.

Throughout his years of service, Mathias’ dedication to keeping the community a safe place to live never faltered. He laid his life on the line to protect his fellow residents from fires in the oil fields, home and business fires, EMT runs and major traffic accidents. Additionally, he has allowed stranded travelers to stay in his home during extreme conditions, spent hours sitting atop overpasses during tornado alerts and worked to keep villagers safe from flooding issues.

In recent years, Mathias stayed active in the department to ensure that enough firefighters were available during the day when other firefighters went to work on their full-time jobs. He has given his time and energies beyond the call of duty in serving the citizens of Cygnet.

Dr. Sue Gavron of Bowling Green (Community Volunteer) is named the Community Spirit Award recipient. Gavron was nominated by American Red Cross Regional Director of Programs and Services Kenneth Robinson for her dedication and positive impact her volunteerism efforts have made on others throughout the Northwest Ohio region and beyond.

For over 50 years, Gavron has served in the Central Joint Fire District, which comprises Liberty Township, Portage Township, the village of Portage and parts of Plain Township, as a Firefighter, Department Trainer and a Public Information Officer, among many other positions. She currently provides support specific to scene photography and safety and maintains EMT certification.

Additionally, Gavron serves with the Wood County Health Department as an alternate Public Information Officer and helps to convene other county colleagues for resource sharing and collaboration. She played a key role in the response to the influenza pandemic through implementing sections of the department’s crisis response plan. She continues to serve on the Wood County Pandemic Readiness and Emergency Planning Committee and teaches National Incident Management System courses throughout the state.

Her volunteer efforts also include involvement with the American Red Cross for nearly seven years, having initially volunteered in response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Gavron has served as a Disaster Action Team captain, leading responses to local fires in Wood County and as a Disaster Services instructor for educational classes taking place throughout the region. In addition, she has supported local public information efforts on community preparedness and awareness raising for the American Red Cross, as well as serving as a public information officer during local fires. Most importantly, Gavron is a mentor to many volunteers and has touched the lives of hundreds of volunteers through her teaching and service.

Since opening its doors in 1965, Owens Community College has provided higher education to more than 250,000 students. Owens’ Alumni Association is committed to the personal and professional success of alumni and students through the ongoing development of value-added initiatives.

Owens Community College is an accredited two-year, state-assisted institution of higher education that has served Northwest Ohio since 1965. With a commitment to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability, the College serves the diverse academic needs of credit and non-credit students on the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, as well as at the Arrowhead Park Learning Center in Maumee and the Learning Center at The Source in downtown Toledo. Owens offers associate degrees that transfer to baccalaureate degrees in the Arts and Sciences and over 130 technical program areas in Agriculture, Business, Health Sciences, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Skilled Trades, and Engineering and Transportation Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor’s degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university. For more information, visit

PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Eleven area residents have been chosen to receive the ninth annual Outstanding Service Awards by Owens Community College’s Alumni Association for tremendous contributions to Northwest Ohio’s surrounding communities. The recipients are honored as part of a community celebration. Award winners are Zachary Zender, Mike Posadny, Mike Benadum, Kamal Parker, James Sherman, […]

Categories,Accomplishments 2012/04/27