Distinguished Alumni Award

Roy J. Portenga to Receive MCC’s Distinguished Alumni Award

Roy J. Portenga ‘73, an accomplished local attorney who has devoted countless hours as a leader and member of civic and educational organizations in Muskegon, has been named the Muskegon Community College 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

Roy J. Portenga

Roy J. Portenga

A tradition for many years at MCC, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that Muskegon Community College bestows upon an outstanding graduate. The award salutes the achievements of exceptional alumni whose personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the goals of their alma mater. Due to COVID-19, the ceremony to honor Portenga has been postponed until May 2021.

In June 2020, Portenga received the highest accolade awarded by State Bar of Michigan Worker’s Compensation Section with induction into its Hall of Fame.  Each year, the Section honors one plaintiff’s attorney and one defense attorney. Portenga, who started practicing worker’s compensation in the Muskegon/Holland area in 1981, has published national and statewide articles on the subject.

He was a long-time partner in the firm Libner, Van Leuven, Kortering, Evans and Portenga until it dissolved.  Portenga continues to practice part-time as Roy J. Portenga, PLC.

The Muskegon native attended MCC from 1971 to 1973 and graduated with an associate’s degree. He earned a bachelor’s degree with high distinction from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor from Valparaiso University.

“While U of M and Valparaiso were great schools, I can say without a doubt that I received my best education from MCC,” noted Portenga, citing his former instructors Kasey Hartz, James Kane, Jack Rice, and Doris Rucks among the exemplary faculty he encountered at MCC.

“These were top-notch teachers who loved what they taught and cared for their students. Most importantly, these teachers exhibited an enthusiasm for learning, good citizenship, conscientious involvement, in short, an enthusiasm for responsible living, that students like myself couldn’t help but catch.”

“MCC also gave me confidence. After high school, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. My Vietnam War lottery number was right on the borderline of being drafted, so I didn’t know if I’d complete school. While I got good grades in high school, I was never one of the top students. With the good, caring, enthusiastic instruction I received at MCC, I soon realized I could succeed. That confidence helped push me through the hard times at U of M, Valparaiso, jobs, and life in general. MCC was a godsend for me.”

Portenga has dedicated his life to serving others by choosing to represent the injured and disabled during hard times in their lives. A Fellow in the Michigan State Bar Association, he has been named a Leading Lawyer annually since 2013 by the Leading Lawyers Network in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability. He has been rated AV Preeminent – the highest rating given in the areas of integrity and skill – by Martindale Hubbell.

A past president of the Muskegon County Bar Association, Portenga has authored several legal publications and has been an invited speaker at legal and other professional conferences.

In Muskegon, he is the former president of the First Congregational Church and a current board member of the Jefferson Towers Senior Complex. He is past member of the Westshore Dispute Resolution Center.

Before attending law school, Portenga taught at the Muskegon Correctional Facility and the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. His lifelong love of education includes his service to Muskegon Community College. A current elected member of the MCC Board of Trustees, he also is a past president of the Alumni Association Board and served on the Foundation for MCC Board of Directors.

He and his wife, Brita Bujak Portenga, reside in North Muskegon. They perform in a local band, Legal Rehab, that often volunteers at events in support of non-profit organizations.

Distinguished Alumni Award at MCC

A tradition for many years at MCC, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that Muskegon Community College bestows upon an outstanding alum. The award salutes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.

Award recipients are selected based on the following criteria:

  • MCC college career – The nominee must have earned an associate’s degree or certificate, or completed a minimum of 50 credit hours at Muskegon Community College and have demonstrated a record of excellence in academics and extracurricular participation.
  • Professional and Community Achievement – The nominee must have distinguished himself or herself through achievement or advancement in his or her career, earned degrees, professional training, professional recognition and/or outstanding contributions to his or her field. Nominee shall have demonstrated a record of community participation and involvement.
  • Availability – In addition to the above criteria, the nominee must be available to attend the Distinguished Alumni Dinner and also Commencement. The award recipient will give a short address to the graduating students at Commencement.

Nominate an MCC graduate for the Distinguished Alumni Award

Do you know an outstanding MCC alumnus?
If you would like to nominate for the 2022 award, please use the online form linked below. All fields must be filled out to qualify. Note: it is recommended you have all information on the nominee in hand before filling out the nomination form. The form requires all contact information, and additional information as noted above. The deadline for 2022 nominations is December 31, 2021.


View past recipients