Lakeshore High School Class of 81’ graduates, Keith Avery and Mike Welch, share the Lakeshore High School Alumni Association and LEF 2022 Distinguished Alumni of the Year award.
John Welch, Mike’s brother, paid tribute to the men at this year’s commencement ceremony, held at Al Stockman Stadium on June 3. Prior to the ceremony, at a special reception, J.C. Anderson, President of the Lakeshore Excellence Foundation shared…
“What a great pair of friends, classmates, and business partners to be recognized as our Distinguished Alumni this year. They each have done so much for the school and our community that this is an unusual but very appropriate recognition for Mike and Keith, plus their friends and family. I am both humbled and honored to take part in this celebration.”
Keith and Mike first met in kindergarten at Roosevelt Elementary School. They were quick to become best friends and spent their younger years together playing sports including basketball and baseball. They became fierce competitors both on and off the field never wanting to come in second. They graduated from Lakeshore in 1981, not as the highest academic achievers, but looked to as leaders of their graduating class. After high school Keith attended Ferris State University and Mike went to Western Michigan University.
After college, Keith and Mike started an expedited trucking company called Express-1. The company grew from just two trucks to be one of the largest expedited transportation companies in North America. They eventually took Express-1 public and selected XPO as its stock symbol on Wall Street. They later sold XPO to Bradley Jacob of Jacob’s Private Equity. After selling Express-1, Keith and Mike opened Honey Baked Ham in St. Joseph and after a few years relocated the business to Stevensville. They continued to “dabble” in other business ventures in and out of the transportation industry.
Keith and Mike have always been dedicated to Lakeshore and the community. Keith served as a trustee on the Lakeshore Excellence Foundation from 2006 to 2012. Keith and his wife Amy have twin boys, Jordan and Ryan, who both graduated from Lakeshore in 2012. Mike served on the Lakeshore Excellence Foundation from 2012-14 and the Lakeshore School Board from 2005-2019 (Vice President 2013-2019). Mike and Lisa’s daughter Kara graduated from Lakeshore in 2016 and their son Carter graduated in 2019.
Mike lost his personal battle with glioblastoma — brain cancer — September 27, 2019, at the Hanson Hospice Center at 56 years of age. What he packed into those years will be remembered forever by those who knew and loved him. Keith was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2021 and is fighting the battle of his life.
This is a unique story of two childhood friends going through the Lakeshore School system, heading along different paths to college and then reconnecting to start one of the most successful freight expediting companies in North America. Not only did these two Lakeshore graduates start new companies but they acquired other companies in the same industry. They looked for companies that shared the same values, dedication to service and business fundamentals that they learned as students at Lakeshore.