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ComArtSci is proud to recognize our 2024 class of honorees who will be honored at The Celebration.

Kim Eberhardt | Jack Ebling | Ashton Henderson | Frank L. Tramble | Andy Vallentine | Natasha Janiece LaGrone | Jeff Cruz

OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

Kim Eberhardt

B.A. Journalism 2002; M.A. Public Relations 2012

For more than 20 years, Kim Eberhardt has put her multifaceted experience in public relations, marketing and strategic communications to work for clients — enhancing brand awareness, meeting business goals and producing results. From nonprofits and professional service firms to beloved consumer brands, she has propelled organizations forward and has been on the front lines of some of the region’s toughest crisis moments, including advising the Oakland County Prosecutor in the wake of the violence the Oxford community experienced in 2022.

In her role as emerging talent manager, she has helped shape Identity’s immersive apprenticeship program which helps young professionals channel their passion for the communications field and chart a path for success in an agency environment.

Prior to her work at Identity, Eberhardt served as the vice president of marketing and communications for Hennessey Capital. Eberhardt honed her nonprofit communication skills in her role as marketing manager at the Detroit Regional Chamber which was, at that time, the largest chamber of commerce in the country with 23,000 members. Eberhardt has been recognized and awarded three Gold and one Platinum Hermes Awards for her creative visions brought to life. Additionally, she was part of the Identity team that received the PR News Platinum award in 2022 for crisis management campaign of the year.

Eberhardt served as president of PRSA Detroit in 2020 and helped the organization transition its services and practices to continue benefiting its members during the pandemic. During her presidency she also helped launch a matchmaking forum connecting communicators who were laid off to non-profit organizations who needed support during a difficult time.

Eberhardt is a graduate of Leadership Detroit Class XL and formerly served on the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Eberhardt is married to fellow Spartan Mike Eberhardt and mom to Griffin.

Kim Eberhardt

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OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

Jack Ebling

B.A. Television and Radio 1973; B.A. Communication 1975

Jack Ebling is a prominent figure in Mid-Michigan, serving as the host of afternoon radio sports betboom teamshow “The Drive” and leading “Press Pass All Stars” on TV alongside a panel of experts. This dynamic show covers a wide spectrum of teams, from college to the pros, with a special daily focus on college football and basketball — particularly the Spartans and Wolverines.

A two-time graduate of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Ebling’s career spans over 45 years, marked by extensive sports coverage as a writer and broadcaster. With roots as a high school English teacher and coach, Ebling’s legacy includes 25 years as the MSU beat writer and columnist at the Lansing State Journal. He is currently in his 27th year as a radio and television host.

Ebling’s journey led to enshrinement in the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and he has been a finalist for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame twice. Recognized as both the Sportswriter of the Year and Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association on three occasions, Ebling holds the unique distinction of being the only person from any state to achieve this feat.

Ebling’s impact extends nationally with contributions to over 125 pieces for esteemed publications like The Sporting News, Basketball Times, Street & Smith’s College Football, College Basketball, and Sports Illustrated. His television presence is notable through frequent appearances on the Big Ten Network.

As a proud Michigander and Spartan, six of the eight books Ebling has authored focus on MSU football and basketball. However successful his own path, Ebling says his greatest source of pride is having mentored nearly 90 communication professionals to date, including ComArtSci award recipient Darien Harris. Ebling’s multifaceted career reflects a lifelong commitment to sports journalism and nurturing the next generation of communicators.

Jack Ebling

Owner of Ebling Media | Host, “The Drive with Jack” (Radio) and “Press Pass” (TV)


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OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

Ashton Henderson

B.A. Advertising 2010; M.A. Public Relations 2012

Ashton Henderson oversees student-athlete development, nutrition, athletic training, athletic performance, Varsity S, wellness/performance; name, image and likeness (NIL); and diversity, equity and inclusion. Under his leadership, the “EverGreen” NIL program was awarded the Best Institutional Program in the nation at the 2023 NIL Summit.

Henderson previously served as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion with the Detroit Pistons, where he was the first individual to hold the position. Henderson transformed the way DEI practices were implemented throughout the organization, and in 2021, he was named DEI Champion by the Sports Inclusion Conference.

Prior to the NBA, Henderson was a student-athlete at Michigan State, then as a graduate assistant with the Spartans’ student-athlete support services. After MSU, Henderson continued supporting collegiate athletics, serving at Florida State University and Clemson University in South Carolina. After working with FSU’s football and track and field programs as an academic program specialist, Henderson spent the next three years as associate director of football academic services at Clemson — during which time he also served as chair of the National Association for Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals’ (N4A) Ethnic Concerns Committee.

Henderson returned to Florida as senior academic advisor and Seminole Leadership Program coordinator, where betboom sports bettinghe transformed the program into a for-credit course. Two years later, Henderson was promoted to assistant athletic director for student-athlete development and leadership — and in 2019, he was named Chief Inclusion Officer for the athletic department, while also serving on the President’s Council for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Henderson partnered with the Florida State College of Business to launch a course for juniors and seniors to prepare them for life beyond college athletics.

Since 2015, Henderson has received several awards from the N4A, and he is the group’s past president. In 2019, he also received the Cheryl M. Gilliam Young Alumni Award, presented by the MSU Varsity S Club, for outstanding professional accomplishments and exceptional record of community service.

Ashton Henderson 

Deputy Athletic Director of Championship Resources & Culture, Michigan State University

 

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OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

Frank L. Tramble

B.A. Advertising 2009

Frank Tramble is the vice president for communications, marketing and public affairs at Duke University, and assumes a pivotal role as the university’s chief communications and brand strategist. As a key member of the President's Cabinet, he spearheads comprehensive communications and marketing strategies to advance Duke's strategic objectives, bolster its worldwide reputation, and manages crisis communications. Leading more than 400 communicators spanning campuses in North Carolina, China, and Singapore, he is dedicated to elevating Duke University's profile through impactful storytelling and communication strategies.

Before Duke University, Tramble served as the vice president and chief communications officer at Howard University. Tramble is an adjunct professor in the integrated marketing communications graduate program at Georgetown University. He is a member of the board of trustees for the Institute of Public Relations and is recognized in 2024 Who’s Who of America. As a sought-after speaker, he shares insights on crisis communications, career development, the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in communities, as well as best practices in branding and marketing.

Tramble's leadership has garnered numerous accolades, including Education Digital Marketing Awards, multiple CASE Awards, Eddie & Ozzie Awards, and a PRSA Bronze Anvil award, recognizing his teams' outstanding achievements. His career highlights include national media coverage, leadership in global brand announcements, collaborations with renowned artists, development of communication strategies for high-profile individuals, and involvement in White House initiatives. Tramble was a student caller in the MSU telemarketing program, later returning after graduation to lead the program and successfully rebranding it as MSU Greenline.

Tramble is originally from Detroit, MI, and currently lives in Durham, NC, with his wife Shekinah, son Kaidan; and family Bernedoodles, Sisu and Stormie.

Frank Tramble

Vice President for Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs, Duke University


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OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

Andy Vallentine

B.A. Telecommunication, Digital Media Arts and Technology 2010

Andy Vallentine’s debut, award winning short film, “The Letter Men,” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. His first feature film, “The Mattachine Family,” produced by Zach Braff and Scot Boland, betboom dacha dubaitells the story of a gay couple and their journey to fatherhood. The movie was written by his husband, Danny Vallentine, and stars Nico Tortorella, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Emily Hampshire and Emmy-nominated actor Carl Clemons-Hopkins.

“The Mattachine Family” has received widespread critical acclaim and became a festival darling in 2023, playing over 30 film festivals and winning numerous awards around the world. The film is currently rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. He has developed scripted and docu-style projects with Amy Baer at Gidden Media, Tyra Bank’s Bankable, Lionsgate, Brian Volk-Weiss with The Nacelle Company, David Nickoll and Austin Francalancia.

Vallentine founded the L.A. based video production company The Audio Visual Crew in 2016, serving as the executive creative director. Under his leadership the company has delivered outstanding video content and strategic solutions to a diverse range of clients including Charlie Puth, Tritonal, Mercedes-Benz, The Ad Council, Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, MLB, Patrick Starr and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

His commitment to reaching under-represented communities and promoting mental health awareness has led to him leading creative on numerous campaigns for veterans, women, BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ communities.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Vallentine has remained deeply connected to MSU. He consistently supports and mentors current students and participates on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion board with the College of Arts & Letters.

During his time at MSU, Vallentine was an active member of Telecasters, where he served as director and producer of the ShoW, a renowned student-run television program.

Vallentine also holds an M.F.A. in film and television producing from Chapman University. He now lives in Los Angeles with his husband and creative collaborator, writer Danny Vallentine, and their two-year-old daughter Florence.

Andy Vallentine

Film & Commercial Director, The Audio Visual Crew


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RISING STAR

Natasha Janiece LaGrone

B.A. Communication 2013

Natasha Janiece LaGrone is a proud “Flintstone” and a graduate of Flint Central High School. She is a passionate artist and storyteller devoted to amplifying marginalized voices. LaGrone recently launched her podcast, T.E.A With Tasha, a show dedicated to sharing the stories of Trailblazers, Entrepreneurs and Artists. She is no stranger behind the mic, having served as a radio announcer in Flint at 1420 AM WFLT before moving to California.

After graduating from MSU, LaGrone transitioned to Washington, D.C., to intern with Black Entertainment Television (BET) in their production and special projects department. There, she developed and honed her skills in producing live television, working on shows such as “BET Awards,” “NAACP Image Awards,” “In Performance at The White House” and “Black Girls Rock!” She quickly moved up the ranks, recently serving as an international talent executive for BET.

During the Obama Administration, LaGrone served as a White House intern and was later appointed press assistant in the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Commerce. Before her presidential appointment at The White House, she served as a Capitol Hill intern in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Communications Internship program.

LaGrone pivoted from the White House to Hollywood within the last decade. betboom teamShe is a budding actress, recently awarded “Best Performance in a Play” by the Theatre Bay Area (TBA) for her role of “Lady in Blue” in “for colored girls, who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf,” produced by the African-American Shakespeare Theatre Company in San Francisco.

Committed to building a career as an entertainer telling dynamic stories through her unique lens and voice in media. She hopes to continue opening doors in arts and entertainment for youth, young professionals, and her peers. In addition to being an actor and multi-hyphenate creative, some of her dearest roles are that of daughter, sister, auntie and friend.

Natasha Janiece LaGrone 

Actress, Producer, and Host, Owner and CEO, Good Seed Media LLC 


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HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD

Jeff Cruz

B.S. Advertising 1992, Arizona State University

MRM Detroit Chief Creative Officer Jeff Cruz is more than just an award-winning leader. He’s a creative powerhouse who’s captured the highly coveted Grand Effie, a philanthropist who has lent his talents to worthy causes, and the embodiment of Detroit creativity, heart and hustle. Over a career spanning more than two decades, Cruz has created and led ideas and campaigns for global brands including General Motors, Cleveland Clinic, and Harley-Davidson.

Since joining MRM in 2016, he has worked to elevate the agency’s creative, enrich the agency’s culture and grow the agency’s business, and was named IPG’s Global Diversity + Inclusion Ally of the Year in 2018. Cruz also helped create the G Show in 2009 — the unofficial afterparty for the D Show, which has raised thousands of dollars for the endowed memorial scholarship at Michigan State for his mentor and Spartan alum, George Katsarelas.

Before his work at MRM, Cruz worked for VSA Partners, where he was executive creative director and associate partner. At VSA Partners, he helped lead and expand the firm’s capabilities, including opening a new Detroit office and winning a Gold Effie in 2015 for his team’s sustained success on Harley-Davidson. Before joining VSA, he served as senior vice president, group creative director at Leo Burnett Detroit, where he earned the highly coveted Grand Effie award for leading the agency's pro bono efforts for Detroit Public Schools. He was also an integral part of the well-documented renaissance of Cadillac and led the integrated creative efforts on several other distinct brands, including Pontiac, Goodwrench, Whirlpool and GMC.

An expert in shaping brands and customer experiences that captivate and build relationships, Cruz believes that ideas power everything — and that when you truly put the focus on people, amazing things will happen.

Jeff Cruz

EVP, Chief Creative Officer, MRM Detroit


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