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Centralia College alumni

Distinguished Alumni

Nominations currently being accepted for Distinguished Alumnus

Submit to or Distinguished Alumnus Nomination Form.

Since its beginning in 1925, Centralia College has maintained a strong tradition of academic excellence and opportunity. Over the years, more than 130,000 students have turned to the college to help them reach their educational or training goals. Some have been recognized for their national or international accomplishments, others have remained close to home, making a difference on a local level. Each year, since 1978, the college has honored one of these alumni for her or his achievements. We proudly present the recipients of the Centralia College Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Ron Podmore

2016 Distinguished Alumnus

Ron Podmore (1987)
Podmore is a 1985 graduate of W.F. West High School in Chehalis. He started taking classes at Centralia College in the fall of 1985 after he returned from a summer abroad in Europe.

His parents said he had two choices - work at the local family business or try a few classes at Centralia College. One quarter soon transitioned two and three, and soon Mr. Podmore earned an Associate of Arts degree in the spring of 1987.

He went on to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., yet returned to the Pacific Northwest to earn a bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University, a master’s degree in education from Lewis and Clark College/Law School (Portland), and his administrative license from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

“The very foundation of my post-secondary success lies in what seeds were planted while I was at Centralia College,” Mr. Podmore said. “For that, I am ever grateful for the instruction I received. Without it, I would not have gotten where I am today. Centralia College played a pivotal role in unlocking my academic potential. I realized for the first time that maybe I could achieve beyond high school. ”

In 1999, he received the Golden Apple Award from PBS/KCTS, the first Deaf teacher to ever receive the award. Ten years later, in 2009, Mr. Podmore became the first Deaf American to achieve National Board Professional Teaching Standards certification.

For the past four years, he has been a professor with the Arts and Humanities department at Bellevue College. In addition, for more than 20 years, Mr. Podmore has taught college-readiness, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and American Sign Language for Federal Way Public Schools. Most recently, he returned to Washington, D.C., to work with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards foundation. Each month, he and a team of nine others wrote standards and rubrics for future teachers who wished to attempt the rigorous national board exams.

In his free time, he has published two books, one that includes being the authorized biographer to Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, whom he still keeps in contact. (They initially met while they were students in Washington, D.C.) Mr. Podmore is also a part-time resident of Southern California and relishes periodic escapes to sunshine, especially during the moody winter months in the Puget Sound region.

Mr. Podmore has participated in multiple humanitarian trips to Guatemala, working with the Mayan Deaf population in the UNESCO village of Antigua.

“Despite the abject poverty and violence, Guatemala is a county, poor in material possessions but rich beyond anyone’s imagination with spirit and happiness,” he said. “The people embrace all who visit. Yet, with each passing day, the country is rising and economic growth will make it a powerhouse to be reckoned with in the years to come.”

Mr. Podmore will be a featured speaker at the commencement ceremony in June.
Dave Carsten

2015 Distinguished Alumnus

David Carsten (1977)
Dr. David Carsten, a Centralia native and 1977 graduate of Centralia College, is the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus. As a dentist anesthesiologist, Dr. Carsten provides mobile anesthesia for patients who are disabled, very young, fearful, or who may desire anesthesia during a dental procedure. More importantly, he provides empathy and compassion—the core values of his practice, Pacific Dental Anesthesia, in Vancouver.

Dr. Carsten’s Centralia College roots go deep. He literally grew up at the college and watched it grow up around him. His dad, Don Carsten, was the dean of administration for many years and was involved in the construction and expansion of the college. "I went to all the faculty picnics with my parents. The names attached to the areas and buildings like Hanson, Kiser, etc., I knew them," Carsten recalled, adding that it was natural for him to attend Centralia College as a student and work as an employee for a while. "It was a good start."

From Centralia College, Carsten went on to graduate from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He then completed his doctorate in dental surgery at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. After 24 years of dental practice, 13 years as a faculty member at Oregon Health Sciences University, and three years at the University of Southern California, he entered the anesthesia program at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Carsten is a member of a number of professional organizations and received the Award of Distinction in continuing education from the American Dental Institute. He serves as a lecturer and published author on diverse topics and teaches sedation courses at the University of Southern California.
Pat Kemp

2014 Distinguished Alumnus

Pat Kemp (1973)
Pat Kemp, a man who holds responsibility for the systems that connect people and deliver goods and materials throughout Alaska, is Centralia College’s 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Kemp, a 1973 Centralia College graduate, is the Alaska commissioner for Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF). The department is responsible for highways and roads, the state ferry system, airports, measures and commercial vehicle regulation, and design and engineering services. His responsibilities stretch from the rain forest of Southeast Alaska to the Ice Road link to Prudhoe Bay. Kemp is the college’s 37th Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and will be recognized during June 13 commencement day ceremonies.
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Laura Dowling

2013 Distinguished Alumna

Laura Dowling (1979)
Laura Dowling, a 1979 graduate of Centralia College, is the college's 36th Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and will be officially introduced and honored at the 2013 commencement ceremony on June 14th. Dowling has a passion for nature’s beauty and a gift for design. First Lady Michelle Obama appointed Dowling in 2009 as the White House chief floral designer. As the nation’s top floral designer, Dowling is responsible for the creation of a signature White House floral style. Her goal is to transcend fads and trends to articulate an original style that includes classic and modern elements.
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Angela Meade

2012 Distinguished Alumna

Angela Meade (1998)
Angela Meade, a native of Centralia and a 1998 Centralia College graduate, is a rising star in the world of opera. She has won the Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers and the Richard Tucker Award, given to an American singer poised on the edge of a major national and international career. Already to her growing list of credits is her impressive debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera and critical acclaim for a range of subsequent roles.
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Rick Anderson

2011 Distinguished Alumnus

Rick Anderson (1971)
Rick Anderson, chairman and chief executive officer of Moss Adams, is Centralia College's 2011 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Anderson, a 1971 graduate of Centralia College, is the 34th recipient of the college's highest honor. Moss Adams LLP, an international business organization, is the 11th largest accounting and consulting firm in the United States, and the largest headquartered in the West. Founded in 1913 and headquartered in Seattle, Moss Adams provides accounting and consulting services to public, private and nonprofit enterprises in many different industries. It has 20 locations in five western states and has a combined staff of over 1,700.
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Jerris Hedges

2010 Distinguished Alumnus

Jerris Hedges (1969)
When he received his AA degree in general science from Centralia College in 1969, Jerris Hedges couldn't have known how far he'd go or what a mark he would leave in his wake. His goal was to make positive changes in the world, something that he has done and likely will continue to do. From ground breaking research on the pacemaker to serving as an initiator of the standardization of emergency room procedures, Hedges is certainly leaving his legacy. And for his accomplishments Hedges becomes the college's 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient.
Jean DeSpain

2009 Distinguished Alumnus

Jean DeSpain (1948)
A celebrated civil engineer and national leader in public works administration, Jean DeSpain is a former Lewis County resident and 1948 graduate of Centralia College. A product of the Boistfort school system, DeSpain graduated from Centralia College and went on to earn his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Washington in 1951. As his career unfolded, DeSpain would hold increasingly responsible assignments in the Northwest and around the world. Among his most notable achievements were presidency of the American Public Works Association in Washington; president of the Institute for Municipal Engineering (APWA); and in 1976 was named one of the top ten public works engineers in America.
John Sato

2008 Distinguished Alumnus

John Sato (1953)
A former Adna standout athlete, Centralia College alumnus, and successful Seattle architect and developer, John Sato, a 1953 graduate of the college, overcame significant obstacles to earn a reputation as a gifted architect and progressive developer. Sato entered the University of Washington, where he earned a degree in architecture. He worked for several firms as he learned the trade and soon opened his own office in Seattle.
Jill Wakefield

2007 Distinguished Alumna

Dr. Jill Wakefield (1972)
President of South Seattle Community College since 2003. Dr. Jill Wakefield is recognized for the depth of her experience in community college education, having served the college for more than 25 years in a variety of posts, including vice president for Instruction since 1995. Among her accomplishments, Wakefield is responsible for reorganizing and developing new instructional programs and for her leadership of college-wide strategic planning and accreditation, which received commendations in six major areas. Wakefield has also taught as a part-time faculty member at Seattle University and at South Seattle.
John Wright

2006 Distinguished Alumnus

John Wright (1962)
A leading electronic design engineer, inventor, and business leader, who worked for the Boeing Company on the Minuteman Missile project as a pioneer in integrated circuit design. Wright helped to develop the GPS system and was named a Texas Instruments vice president of Advanced Programs. Wright served as vice president of Raytheon Centers of Excellence in optics, electronics systems, GPS, advanced electronic products, space antennas, and components. Wright is also a partner in Mustang Technology Group, responsible for strategic development of promising new science-based engineering firms.
Steve Webster

2005 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Steve Webster (1960)
A nationally known forest researcher who pioneered forest soil research, conducted groundbreaking studies that changed commercial forestry in North America, Asia, and Europe. His discoveries led to practices that produced healthier forests through nutrients that provided genetically superior trees.
Elliot Wicks

2004 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Elliot K. Wicks (1960)
Leads a distinguished career in economics and health care as a researcher and policy setter. He is a nationally known expert on issues relating to regulation of health insurance, health care delivery, and managed care. He has written health policies and advises on issues of health care for several states.
Ellis Oliver

2003 Distinguished Alumnus

Ellis W. Oliver (1937-38) (deceased)
Business owner and leader who set high standards in business and personal endeavors. Was a long-time local business owner and was a wellknown financial advisor and broker. He attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during WWII; served in several public offices in the community.
Bruce Carter

2002 Distinguished Alumnus

Bruce D. Carter (1962-63)
Retired United States Attorney. He was Assistant Regional Director for litigation for the Federal Trade Commission. Carter was first federal prosecutor west of the Mississippi to receive the 1982 National Legal Award. He served as Judge Pro Tempore for the Seattle municipal court and is active in charity and church work.
Reginald Clizbe

2001 Distinguished Alumnus

Maj. Gen. Reginald Clizbe (1934-36) (deceased)
Entered West Point and was commissioned in Army Air Corps in 1940. During WWII and the Korean War, he became one of the most highly decorated command pilots in the nation. He later graduated from the War College and earned a master's degree from the Harvard School of business. He was deputy chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon.
Brian Valentine

2000 Distinguished Alumnus

Brian Valentine (1979)
Currently the Senior Vice President of the Windows Core Operating System Division. During his career, as senior vice president of the Microsoft Windows Division, Windows 2000, he led the team that rolled out the largest computer operating system in history.
Bill Brumsickle

1999 Distinguished Alumnus

Bill T. Brumsickle (1953-54)
Former school administrator, teacher, and Washington state legislator, and was the Planned Giving Coordinator with the Centralia College Foundation, responsible for raising money to help fund new buildings on the college campus. He represented the 20th Legislative District in the Washington State House of Representatives for four consecutive terms, beginning in 1989.
Howard Batie

1998 Distinguished Alumnus

Howard F. Batie (1957-58)
Former Program Manager for the development and operation of satellite communications systems for use by Naval Forces worldwide. Awarded National Recognition for development of computer systems for use by physically disabled persons. Currently serves as Director of the Evergreen Healing Arts Center in Chehalis, WA.
Marion Garrison

1997 Distinguished Alumna

Marion McCaw Garrison (1935-36)
Marion was chief financial officer and secretary/treasurer of McCaw Enterprises, Inc., a holding company managing the McCaw business domain. She helped found ACT (A Contemporary Theater); and was a founder of Corporate Council of the Arts, an organization bringing support to the arts.
John Deichman

1996 Distinguished Alumnus

John L. Deichman (1953)
As an engineer (now retired) with the Westinghouse Hanford Company (Washington), he served as an innovator, manager, and leader in his field. He was an international expert and consultant on nuclear waste management. He was also a noted systems expert.
John Stewart

1995 Distinguished Alumnus

John R. Stewart (1961)
A professor at the University of Washington who is a public speaker, editor, writer, and honored educator. He has dedicated his life to providing excellence in education and innovative concepts. He demonstrates a strong commitment to higher education.
Marion Oppelt

1994 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Marion Oppelt (1935) (deceased)
One of the organizers and the founding president of Pierce College (formerly Fort Steilacoom Community College). Dr. Oppelt is a long-time educator, former professional baseball player, musician and community activist. Was named to the Centralia College Sports Hall of Fame for achievements in the sporting world.
Everett Macomber

1993 Distinguished Alumnus

Everett Macomber (1958)
Senior partner in a Centralia veterinary practice, and active in community organizations. Served as president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Susan Dunn

1992 Distinguished Alumna

Susan M. Dunn (1967)
Vice president of Patrick Dunn & Associates, LTD, government relations firm, and active volunteer in a number of state and community organizations. Retired from Washington State government in 2001 with 30 years of service.
Delford Smith

1991 Distinguished Alumnus

Delford M. Smith (1950)
Founder and owner of Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. (Oregon). He is a pioneer of innovative commercial applications for helicopters. Near its peak, his company had over 200 aircraft, 2,300 employees, and 125 bases of operations worldwide.
Margaret Staeger-Woods

1990 Distinguished Alumna

Margaret Staeger-Woods (1930) (deceased)
A leader in the field of creative education for children. She directed children's activities at the Seattle and New York World's Fairs and founded a creative preschool program in the Seattle Public Libraries that ran for 23 years.
John Mulligan

1989 Distinguished Alumnus

John G. Mulligan (1963)
Former Regional Postmaster General for the U.S. Postal Service. Previously served as the Senior Assistant Postmaster General. Currently, he is president of a consulting practice dealing with postal policy and strategy for domestic and international mailing issues.
Gary Justice

1988 Distinguished Alumnus

Gary Justice (1962)
Former news anchor for Seattle's KIRO-TV "Eyewitness News at Five," which has been named the best local news show in the nation by United Press International. Currently he is an associate with an estate financial planning firm.
Orin Smith

1987 Distinguished Alumnus

Orin C. Smith (1963)
Former CFO for Starbucks Coffee, based in Seattle, having risen through the ranks of this international business. He served as chief financial advisor for Washington state governors (Dixie Lee Ray and Booth Gardner) as head of the Office of Financial Management.
Peter Ristuben

1986 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Peter J. Ristuben (1953) (deceased)
Former president of Bethany College and knighted by the Swedish king, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, for his contributions as national chairman of the U.S. Jubilee Cities Program celebrating the 350th anniversary of Swedish settlement in America.
Don Fowler

1985 Distinguished Alumnus

Donald E. Fowler (1958)
Mentor to CEOs of technology companies and serves on several boards. Was CEO of two early stage companies. Previously was a senior executive with Tandem Computers, Bechtel Group, and IBM.
Jennifer Williams

1984 Distinguished Alumna

Jennifer S. Williams (1965)
Founder and director of the British-American Arts Association, which strengthens links and increases opportunities in the arts among the United States, European countries, and Great Britain.
James Lonborg

1983 Distinguished Alumnus

James O. Lonborg (1950) (deceased)
A 41-year veteran of the JPL engineering staff who worked in the U.S. space program since its inception. He worked on the Cassini spacecraft, the Saturn orbiter/probe, and other mission projects for JPL and its parent organization, California Institute of Technology.
Ford Rainey

1982 Distinguished Alumnus

Ford Rainey (1930) (deceased)
An actor for nearly 50 years. He was a member of the Richard Boone Repertoire Theater on TV. Performed a variety of character roles on many major network comedy shows and was a standard in commercials. He also performed on stage.
Richard Ice

1981 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Richard E. Ice (1950)
President of American Baptist Homes of the West, retirement communities, which provide care for 4,000 residents. He was also vice-president of the 1.6 million member American Baptist Church/USA in 1990-91.
Alan Waltar

1980 Distinguished Alumnus

Dr. Alan E. Waltar (1959)
Senior advisor to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. He was professor and head of Nuclear Engineering, Texas A&M University. A leading authority on nuclear reactor design and safety and author of a book on nuclear energy. Served as president of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), the world's largest professional association of nuclear scientists and engineers.
Patti Morton

1979 Distinguished Alumna

Patti A. Morton (1954)
Trail blazed as America's first female Special Agent/Security Officer with worldwide responsibility for U.S. Dept. of State overseas missions. Served as Acting Director of Emergency Plans & Exercises Office, and of the Equal Employment Opportunity & Civil Rights Office. Was Federal Women's Program Director worldwide. Active in community, artistic and historic endeavors.
Gordon Sweany

1978 Distinguished Alumnus

Gordon H. Sweany (1931) (deceased)
Rose through the company to become chairman of the Seattle-based Safeco Corporation, one of America's largest insurance companies.