It is with heavy hearts that we announce the Aug. 12 passing of Dr. Kari Kahler, a cherished member of our Northwestern Michigan College community for more than 40 years. Many of you knew she had been fighting cancer for several months. Today, we remember her incredible career and contributions to NMC. Kari’s journey began as a Conference Center Coordinator in 1982 and grew to embody our NMC value of lifelong learning. Over the years, her unwavering dedication and passion for student success left an indelible mark on our institution. Her career at NMC culminated with becoming Associate Dean of Learning Services in 2012. For more than a decade she oversaw Academic & Career Advising, Disability Support Services, Honors, Phi Theta Kappa, Student Success, and Tutoring.
Kari’s commitment to Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) as the advisor of the Alpha Rho Pi chapter was truly remarkable. Since assuming this role on May 12,1997, she became a true PTK ambassador for Northwestern Michigan College. She embodied the spirit of PTK by ensuring its visibility on campus, attending events, and sharing her unyielding passion with students. Under her guidance, the Alpha Rho Pi Chapter thrived and grew, becoming a beacon of excellence.
Her legacy shines brightly through her tireless efforts to nurture student leadership. Kari’s collaborative spirit and boundless enthusiasm led to initiatives that impacted not only PTK students but the entire student body. She spearheaded the establishment of the first-ever “Student Leadership Luncheon,” creating a platform to recognize and celebrate student leaders across campus. Her involvement extended beyond PTK, as she co-founded the College’s inaugural Rotaract group, providing students with opportunities to develop leadership and professional skills through service. Kari’s impact resonated throughout the campus, with her students assuming leadership roles in various student organizations.
One of her most cherished accomplishments was the Blair Mentoring Project, which she co-founded with Emily Witte at Blair Elementary School. Through this project, Kari and her team paired NMC student mentors with Blair fifth graders, nurturing their leadership potential and fostering resilience. She helped these students see themselves as future leaders and college students.
Kari’s dedication went beyond PTK. She played an instrumental role in keeping the Food Pantry operational during the pandemic, served on the BBQ board for many years, led the Developmental Education Committee, and managed the honors program at NMC. Her commitment to student success was palpable, and she supported numerous students who faced challenges, always striving to provide them with the help they needed to thrive.
Her impact extended to the regional level, where she served as Michigan’s regional coordinator for PTK. She provided guidance and insight to the regional officer team, acting as a liaison to PTK headquarters. Her dedication was recognized in April 2015 when she received the distinguished regional coordinator award from headquarters.
Outside of her professional commitments, Kari found solace in camping and cherished her little piece of heaven on earth in Leelanau County. Her family, including her husband Chad and her children Cori and Casey, held a special place in her heart.
Kari’s passion for fostering student leadership, her dedication to Phi Theta Kappa, and her immense contributions to Northwestern Michigan College will forever be remembered. As we mourn her loss, let us also celebrate her legacy and the positive impact she had on countless lives.
Human Resources will be sending out further communications regarding grief support services available on campus later this week. Do not hesitate to reach out for resources. The true impact of her work is with the countless lives she touched. But I also want to shine a light on just how dedicated she was to our College and all that we represent. A true servant leader, we are all better for knowing her and having her be part of our community.
Kari and her family established the Dr. Kari Kahler Scholarship at Northwestern Michigan College and have asked that gifts be directed to this scholarship in her memory. This scholarship will honor her legacy by providing financial assistance to former Blair Elementary students as they pursue their education at NMC. Learn more about the scholarship and donate here.
NMC Positions (42 years of service as of 2023)
- Conference Center Coordinator 1982–1986
- Residence Hall Supervisor 1981–1987
- Career Planning and Placement Specialist 1985–1990
- Assistant Director, Housing/Student Activities/Campus Activities 1987–1990
- Director of Housing & Student Life 1991–1996
- Adjunct – Psychology – 1998–2021
- Coordinator – Center and Employment Services – 1997–2006
- Director of Learning Services 2006–2012
- Associate Dean of Learning Services 2012–Present
- Classification Review Team Member
- Honors Committee – Honors Director
- Food Pantry Team Member
- Barbecue Board – College Liaison
- PDI Advisory Board – Member
- Crucial Accountability Instructor
- Employee of the Term – 1989 Winter Term – Awarded
- Foundation Excellence Award 1995 – Awarded
- Foundation Excellence Award 2005 – Awarded
- Foundation Excellence Award 2012 – Awarded
- Team Excellence Award 2021 – Nominee (Learning Services)
Phi Theta Kappa Roles & Recognition
- PTK – Alpha Rho Pi Chapter Advisor
- Michigan Regional Coordinator
- Student Development Representative – PTK Honors Program Council 2020–2024
- PTK Leadership Studies Curriculum Instructor
- Recognition: PTK Faculty Scholar – 2020
- Recognition: Continued Excellence Award for Advisors 2022