“With each new year, we grow. We critique, we analyze, and we develop. I am proud that while we grow in program, we remain true to our mission. Japhet cherishes childhood, cultivates wonder, and inspires confident learners and leaders. We live our mission each day, and we think carefully about individuals. We differentiate, we are flexible, and we care. Often when schools focus on specifics, they forget to remain true to the greater good — the mission of the school. Japhet remains true.”
— Julie Knaffla, Former Board President and Alumni Parent
Susie is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked for AT&T, owned a catering business, and after a successful career at Xerox Corporation, she is happy to be at home with her two children. Susie is an active volunteer for her church and currently serves as the librarian in the Birmingham Christian Science Reading Room. Susie is the parent of both a Japhet alumnus and a current student. She actively participates in Japhet committee work and was especially helpful in helping Japhet School relocate to its new building.
Susan Ellithorpe has dedicated her life to educating young children and being an advocate for peace education. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Early Childhood Education, Art History, and Spanish, and she holds a Master of Elementary Education from Wayne State University. She taught at Japhet School for 28 years, almost entirely in Kindergarten, and she is the parent of two Japhet School alumnae. She also has taught at Potomac School in Virginia, and currently teaches in Hartland. She founded Japhet School’s chapter of Kids for Peace, an international organization.
Joe is an alumni parent and a former Japhet School administrator
and faculty member. He and his wife, former Head of School Cathy Mohan, founded the Mohan Legacy Grant that paid off our primary mortgage in 2018, and they funded the Mohan Legacy Scholarship for students needing financial assistance. This scholarship continues to receive important
financial support from the Joseph and Mary Cacioppo Foundation. Joe is a retired firefighter, battalion chief, and fire inspector.
Dan is a Japhet alumnus. Dan works for a non-profit in Southwest Detroit, where he is involved in community outreach and economic development. He graduated Wayne State University with a B.A. in Urban Studies, and he will attend the University of Michigan for grad school. He says it is because of his family’s gratitude for all Japhet has given him and his three siblings that he is compelled to give back.
Susie has a business degree from Western Michigan University, and she and her husband have been involved with Japhet since its founding. Their two children were among the first students enrolled, and Susie helped start the Preschool. Susie’s mother, Barbara Droege, and her mother-in-law, Arline Hartman, both served on Japhet’s board. Today the Autens provide two annual merit scholarships to hard-working students in honor of their mothers.
Denise is a seasoned educator who strongly supports the work and culture of independent schools. Her experience includes 15 years as Associate Director of Admissions at University Liggett School. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Michigan State University in speech and language pathology. Denise is an active volunteer and spokesperson for Gleaners Community Food Bank.
Esther is a Japhet School alumni parent. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in communication arts. She and her late husband Kirk Dusenberry raised two sons and worked and traveled throughout the world. Today Esther is a caregiver and is married to Jim Stevens, a retired kindergarten teacher and landscaper. They reside in Troy and enjoy traveling and working at their church.
Cheryl is a fundraising professional who is best known in the Japhet community as our Development Director from 2010-2014, but whose development experiences reach well beyond her time with Japhet. Cheryl has served Old Redford Academy, Think Detroit PAL Development Officer, the YMCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit. She now pursues her passion for painting as a full-time career while serving the philanthropic community, currently as Recording Secretary/Finance Manager for the Clothilde R. Smith Foundation.
Kelly Mazurkiewicz is a graduate of Japhet School. She went on to earn her degree in advertising from Michigan State University and pursued her love for creativity in her career. Kelly served as the VP of Marketing and Communications at M3 Group, a Lansing-based advertising agency before recently making the transition to Michigan State University as the senior communications manager for the Office of the Provost. Kelly lives in East Lansing, and her hobbies include long walks with her dog and spending as much time as she can outdoors.
Martha, a Japhet School alumni parent, formerly General Counsel to a Tier 1 automotive supply company, currently serves as Counsel to Atwood Mobile Products LLC, a component manufacturer in the recreational vehicle industry. She also sits on the Board of HAVEN, Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Educated at Michigan State University and the University of Detroit School of Law, she has previously served on MSU’s College of Arts & Letters and Alumni Association Boards and Birmingham’s Baldwin Public Library.
Stacey is the parent to a Japhet alumna, and Stacey served on our Parent Support Group (PSG) Board for several years, including two as PSG President. She is a registered nurse with 26 years of experience. She holds a BSN from the University of Detroit Mercy, and currently works at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak doing cancer research. She has also worked as a consultant for start-up healthcare companies. Stacey enjoys baking, traveling, gardening, and volunteering for charity and community events.
© Japhet School 2021