15th Annual LCC Distinguished Alumni Awards Announced

April 18, 2024


The Labette Community College (LCC) Foundation and Alumni Association proudly announce the recipients of the 15th Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards are Maria Kaboli and Travis Keal. Established to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions, this prestigious award is presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated exemplary professional success, brought honor to LCC, or made significant contributions to the college and/or their communities. 

Maria Kaboli
Maria Kaboli

Maria Kaboli's life story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the pursuit of education despite numerous challenges. Born 84 years ago in Iran, Maria embarked on a journey that took her across continents and through various career paths, ultimately leaving a lasting impact on the healthcare community in Parsons, Kansas. 

Maria's professional journey began as a nurse in her native Iran. However, her life took a new turn when she immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1969. They were drawn to Parsons because LCC had a vibrant international student population, including around 300 Iranian students during that time. 

Despite facing barriers such as language and credential transfer issues, Maria remained undeterred. Her determination caught the attention of Mr. Jerry Lilley, CEO of the local hospital, who recognized her nursing background and offered her a position as a nurse aid, despite her limited English proficiency. 

As her husband pursued his education at LCC and later Pittsburg State University (PSU), Maria balanced work and family responsibilities. Moving to different cities like Pittsburg, Chicago, and Dallas, she adapted to new environments and supported her husband's career pursuits, all while nurturing her own aspirations. 

However, the Iranian Revolution brought unexpected challenges, leading the family back to Parsons. Undeterred by setbacks, Maria seized the opportunity to begin her education at LCC, enrolling in prerequisite courses for the nursing program. Juggling classes with full-time work as a respiratory technician at the Katy Hospital, she persevered, even as circumstances changed, leaving her a single mother to two daughters. 

Though her dream of becoming a registered nurse in the United States remained unfulfilled, Maria's dedication to learning and her contributions to healthcare never wavered. Employed at the Katy Hospital and later the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center, she continued to expand her skills through specialized classes tailored to state hospital employees. 

Maria's belief in the transformative power of education remained steadfast throughout her life. Despite the challenges she faced, she embraced each opportunity to learn and grow, recognizing education as the key to unlocking endless possibilities. Her story serves as an inspiration, highlighting the importance of resilience, perseverance, and the pursuit of knowledge in overcoming obstacles and achieving one's dreams. 

Maria is extremely proud of her two daughters, Katrine and Kristen, who have carved their own paths of success. Katrine, who has followed in their mother's footsteps by carving their own paths of success. She not only earned an associate degree in business administration but also obtained a second associate degree in nursing before transferring to Pittsburg State University and earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Meanwhile, Kristen has made her mark in the field of manufacturing, serving as a Manufacturing Engineer Manager at the local aerospace manufacturing firm Ducommun. 

Travis Keal
Travis Keal

Travis Keal's journey from Parsons, KS to becoming a distinguished educator and coach is a testament to his dedication, passion, and commitment to excellence. Born in Parsons and later moving to Independence, Travis graduated from Independence High School in 1988. Next, he returned to his hometown to pursue his higher education at Labette Community College on a wrestling scholarship. His outstanding performance both on the mat and in the classroom earned him the title of NJCAA Academic All-American. 

Continuing his educational journey, Travis earned a bachelor's degree in physical education and later a master's degree in educational leadership from Pittsburg State University. Armed with a solid educational foundation, Travis embarked on a fulfilling career in teaching and coaching, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of countless students and athletes. Travis's teaching and coaching career spans over two decades, with notable stints at Leon Bluestem High School, DeSoto Elementary School, and Mill Valley High School, where he has served since 2000. At Mill Valley, Travis undertook the monumental task of building the wrestling program from the ground up. His relentless dedication and visionary leadership culminated in unprecedented success, including leading the Jaguars to their first 6A Kansas State wrestling team Championship in 2020. 

Under Travis's leadership, Mill Valley Wrestling has consistently achieved notable results, with multiple top four finishes at the state tournament. He has also coached seven Kansas regional championship teams, five league championships, 11 individual state champions, 68 individual state place winners, one national individual champion and 11 All-Americans. Throughout his career, Travis has remained committed to not only developing successful athletes but also fostering academic excellence. This is evidenced by the fact that he coached the jaguars to the 2020 6A Academic Team State Championship and had 57 individual KWCA All-Academic Team Members. 

Travis’s dedication to the sport and to his athletes has been recognized with numerous awards and honors. He was inducted into the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2023. He is a three-time Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year, three-time Kansas Association of Wrestling Officials Coach of the Year, seven-time Kansas Regional Coach of the Year, two-time Kansas Coaches Association Coach of the Year, two-time National Federation of State High School Associations Sectional Coach of the Year, and two-time Kansas USA Wrestling District Person of the Year. He has also served as a USA Team Kansas Coach from 2007-2019 and as a Kansas Coach for the KC Metro Classic All-Star Event eight times. 

Travis's impact extends beyond the wrestling mat, as evidenced by his consulting business, CLIMB Coaching and Mentoring, aimed at helping coaches enhance their leadership skills and better serve their teams. His recent certification as a Jon Gordon Certified Trainer further underscores his dedication to personal and professional development.

Despite his many achievements, Travis remains grounded in his values and priorities, finding strength and support in his family. He and his wife Michele of 28 years, have three children, Austin, who attends the University of Arkansas Little Rock; Zach, who attends the United States Military Academy at West Point; and Maryn, who is a Senior at Olathe West High School. 

The 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be honored at the upcoming commencement ceremony on May 10th, marking the 15th annual presentation of this prestigious award. This event will celebrate their remarkable achievements and enduring legacy, inspiring current and future generations of LCC students to pursue excellence in their endeavors. 

For more information regarding the LCC Distinguished Alumni Awards, please visit www.labette.edu/foundation/distinguished-alumni or contact the Executive Director, Lindi Forbes, at 620-820-1212 or lindif@labette.edu 

PR Contacts

Lindi Forbes

Interim Director of Public Relations
(620) 820-1212