2016 Distinguished Alumni and Recognition Award recipients announced

Western Today staff

Western Washington University today announced the 2016 Distinguished Alumni & Recognition Award recipients, who will be honored at a special reception and dinner ceremony on May 12 to kick off Western's Back2Bellingham weekend.

This year, Western’s Alumni Association will honor 12 alumni, two devoted friends to the university and a family of 18 alumni who carry on the Western legacy.

They span all colleges and class years from 1946 to 2012 and include Grammy-nominated musicians and leaders in fine art, business, health, education, community building and the environment.

“The outstanding individuals honored at this year’s Alumni and Recognition Awards not only remind us of the diverse paths to excellence that Western alumni pursue, they show us what is possible when talent, passion, hard work, and the needs of the world intersect,” Western President Bruce Shepard said. “To a Western community united by a commitment to putting higher education to higher purposes, their service to their communities, professions, and to Western, are both an inspiration and an invitation to do likewise.  Western is proud to recognize their accomplishments, and the way they exemplify what ‘Active Minds Changing Lives’ is all about.”

The following individuals will be honored at the 2016 Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards & Recognition Celebration:

Young Alumni of the Year – Harrison G. Mills (’12) and Clayton J. Knight (’12)

Harrison G. Mills, from Redmond, and Clayton J. Knight, from Bainbridge Island, formed the electronic music group ODESZA shortly before their graduation from Western. Even though the duo excels in different academic fields (Mills graduated with a degree in graphic design and Knight earned a degree in physics/mathematics), they share a musical connection. Their debut album, “Summer’s Gone,” was released in September 2012 and hit 1 million Soundcloud plays within its first year. “In Return,” their next album, opened at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic album chart. ODESZA received nominations for Pollstar’s Best New Touring Artist and a Grammy nomination for Best Remixed Recording for “Say My Name” (RAC Remix.)

Larry “Go Vikings!” Taylor Alumni Service Award – Kay French Hovde (’84)

Now a senior manager in business operations, Kay French Hovde started her professional career at WWU with a student internship that lead to a position with the Western Foundation post-graduation. She was instrumental in computerizing the Foundation office and worked on some of its earliest fundraising efforts. In 1999, Hovde joined the Alumni Association Board and has never faltered in her devotion to the university. Her philanthropy to WWU spans decades and supports numerous areas, including the Alumni Board Scholarship Endowment and Compass 2 Campus. Hovde volunteered tirelessly for the university, including formal mentoring in Business Leadership classes and mentoring new Boeing employees and Western grads. She lives in Snohomish.

Lifetime Achievement Award – John Abrams (’50)

John Abrams, from Kingston, spent 10 years in higher education, earning a master’s degree and a doctorate at other institutions. But he says the education he received at Western in his first four years was the best. Abrams enjoyed a 30-year elementary and junior high school teaching career, including a role as principal of Lake Heights Elementary School, and continues to support Western. Abrams and his spouse, Karl Compton, have supported Western in many ways, recently enhancing their generosity with a six-figure estate gift and a four-year scholarship, both to Woodring College of Education. They value the emphasis Western places on the relationship between faculty and students.

Huxley College of the Environment – Deborah M. Atwood (’77)

Deborah M. Atwood’s career arc as a legislative and policy specialist stems directly from her time at WWU. She enjoyed the holistic, ecosystem approach that Huxley College offers students and thrived in its exploratory atmosphere. Now, Atwood and her husband contribute to Western in several areas including the Huxley Dean’s Fund, the Rainforest Immersion and Conservation Action program and men’s rugby. She is the executive director of AGree: Transforming Food and Ag Policy and sits on the board of two international nonprofits that focus on economic development and volunteer support.

College of Business and Economics – Ron (’89) and Tracy (’88) Bundy

Ronald J. Bundy, CEO of Russell Indexes, and Tracy Mari Bundy, retired Boeing systems analyst, started with a small gift as young alumni and haven’t looked back. They met at a public relations committee meeting for one of Western’s business clubs. Ron serves on the College of Business and Economics advisory board, where he has the ability to bring his own professional perspective back to the department. Tracy served on the Alumni Association board, and both Ron and Tracy are frequent attendees at WWU events. They value the connections they have maintained with Western, and continue to support the University in several ways.  They live in Bellevue.

College of Humanities and Social Sciences – David A. Frank (’78 & ’79)

David A. Frank is a former history and speech communication double major, master's student and member of Western’s debate team. He is currently a professor of rhetoric at the University of Oregon and was the founding dean of the University’s Clark Honors College from 2008 to 2013. As the author of six books and a recipient of five teaching awards, Frank continues to value education. Through supporting the debate program at Western through the Larry and Marilyn Richardson Scholarship, Frank, who now lives in Eugene, Oregon, helps to cultivate a tradition of excellence in the forensics field.

Woodring College of Education – Dr. Tom Keegan (’84)

As a student at Skagit Valley College, Thomas Keegan knew he wanted to work at a community college. Today, Keegan is the president of Skagit Valley College and has been in leadership roles at Columbia Basin College, South Puget Sound Community College and, most recently, Peninsula College. Keegan, who received his master’s degree in adult education and student personnel administration from WWU, regularly draws on what he learned by valuing community building while maintaining individuality. He notes that the sense of community is strong throughout Washington’s community colleges. He lives in Mount Vernon.

College of Fine and Performing Arts – Ruben Van Kempen (’92)

When Ruben Van Kempen arrived at Western for his master’s degree, he was already a star in theatre education. His role with the Washington State Thespian Society helped recruit high school students to Western’s theater and dance department through a festival. Recently retired from his position as head of drama at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School, Van Kempen still brings the festival to Western every other year. Among other recognitions, he was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association National Hall of Fame in 2012, was a 2000 recipient of a Christa McAuliffe teaching award and recently received the Phi Beta Kappa Pathfinder Award. Van Kempen showcases Western at the Unified College Auditions annually. Kempen lives in Seattle.

College of Science and Engineering – David R. Kennerud (’92)

David R. Kennerud always felt supported and encouraged by faculty members as a student in the math department. Today, he continues to maintain this connection with the university. Kennerud has served on the College of Science and Engineering external advancement board for six years, and he and his wife recently established a $100,000 fund for the department in support of visiting scholars. He has also enjoyed his volunteer role as part of CSE’s advisory board. As he recalls the math department’s interest in him more than 20 years ago, Kennerud appreciates Western’s focus on students in involving them in research at the undergraduate level. He lives in Renton.

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies – Ruth E. Mathews (’87)

Ruth E. Mathews was able to blend her previous experiences with science – botany in particular – and business ownership at the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies. There, she enjoyed being able to break new ground and consider new perspectives. Mathews continued on to earn a master’s degree in water resource management and planning at Colorado State University. She worked on the Puget Sound Energy relicensing of the Baker Dam and with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Vietnam. Today, Mathews serves as the executive director of the Water Footprint Network. She still believes in the ideals of innovation and taking risks instilled in her during her time at Western. She lives in Bellingham.

Campus School Recognition Award – Brian L. Griffin, Campus School (’46)

Brian Griffin established his Western connection at the Campus School. Starting in kindergarten and continuing through 9th grade, he was able to experience Western’s campus and feel Bellingham’s roots. Griffin has been instrumental in developing some of Bellingham’s most visible and well-utilized areas from Fairhaven’s Village Green and Boulevard Park to the downtown depot that houses Bellingham Farmers Market. One of his first projects was initiating and leading the charge to build the Parkade in downtown Bellingham. Griffin, who lives in Bellingham, believes in the importance of contributing to your community in order to improve it. He is also the author of six books, and is the creator of Knox Cellars Native Bee Pollinators.

Campus Volunteer Recognition Award – Evelyn E. Ames

Evelyn E. Ames has been creating critical links between Western, WWU alumni, health professionals, and the community for more than five decades. As the professor emeritus of WWU’s department of health and human development, Ames arrived at Western in 1964. She taught health and physical education as well as coached women’s basketball until 1969. During her time at Western, Ames developed and implemented the Bachelor of Science degree in community health and was its solo faculty member for more than three decades. She also established community partnerships in the healthcare arena that continue to provide internship opportunities for students. Ames continues to serve the campus as a guest lecturer and is currently organizing a community health reunion around the re-opening of Carver Gym. She lives in Bellingham.

Community Volunteer Recognition Award – Casey R. Diggs

As the operations manager for Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro, Casey Diggs supports not only Western, but the greater Bellingham community. He has provided support to Western alumni and student networking events for the past seven years. In building relationships to support the University, Diggs has made in-kind donations for key events including the Outstanding Graduates Ceremony, Back2Bellingham’s Library Party, several key alumni-sponsored athletic events and this year’s Ethnic Student Center 25th Reunion. He generously provides the Boundary Bay beer garden for Western’s Downtown Bellingham Bash at Boundary Bay as part of Back2Bellingham. He lives in Bellingham.

Legacy Family of the Year – Linville, Kuljis, Parberry and extended families

The Linville, Kuljis and Parberry families have 18 family members who have attended Western since 1947. All members of the same extended family, this group of alumni has not only had positive impacts for Western, but also for the Bellingham community. Kelli Kuljis Linville (’74, Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology; ’81 M.A, Speech Pathology/Audiology) serves as the first female mayor of Bellingham. She contributes to the community through dedication to public service and excellence in government. Linville’s cousin, Marty Kuljis, is the operations manager at Northwest Recycling, which he runs with family member and alum Louis Parberry III ('05.) In addition, this family donated the Parberry Fitness Center to Western’s pre-renovation Carver Gym.

Tickets to all Back2Bellingham events are available at Back2Bham.com.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 12:21pm