skip to content
  Make a Gift Now | Centralia College  

Centralia College Foundation

Invest in education. Invest in our community.


Centralia College alumni

Distinguished Alumni

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.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the Distinguished Alumnus Award

Robert Dowling

2018 Distinguished Alumnus

Robert Dowling (1979)
The Centralia College Foundation is honored to announce Robert Dowling, a 1979 attendee of Centralia College, is the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus.

Dowling, a Lewis County native, attended Centralia College for one year before transferring to Central Washington University and Washington State University, where he ultimately earned his bachelor’s degrees in political science and law and justice and his master’s degree in criminal justice.

After graduating, Dowling worked 13 years as a US Special Agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), for which he served as Counterintelligence Director to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, supported Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, provided travel security to United Nations and NATO missions in Europe, and served as a Senior Special Agent worldwide.

From 2002-04, he served as a Federal Air Marshal and as a senior representative on the FBI National Joint Terrorism Task Force. In 2004-06, he served as a Senior Special Agent assigned to the FBI National Joint Terrorism Task Force and served on the President’s National Infrastructure Protection Plan. He also cofounded a national, web-based government portal to share real-time tactical information between law enforcement agencies at all levels.

After his time in government service, he provided full-time security protection for the Gates Family in Seattle before becoming a security consultant and contractor for Tactical, LLC. in Virginia in 2006. As part of his work, he invented a web-based security portal aimed at predicting and preventing school shootings.

In 2015, he founded Tactical Institute, a real-time social media monitoring service staffed by combat-wounded veterans. His Washington, D.C.-based company, for which he now serves as president, monitors the internet and notifies law enforcement agencies of global threats of crime and terrorism. His work has been featured in the Washington Post and several cyber technology journals.

“What a great surprise and honor,” Dowling said of his selection as 2018 Distinguished Alumnus. “I have such fond memories of my year at what was then Centralia Community College, as well as the professors and classes that have helped shape my future.”

Dowling will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony June 15. His sister, Laura Dowling, was the 2013 Distinguished Alumna.
Alicia Wicks

2017 Distinguished Alumna

Alicia Wicks (1964)
Shortly after graduating from Centralia College in 1964, Alicia Wicks served in the Peace Corps in Africa teaching English and African Literature. She went on to earn her master’s degree in education from Eastern Oregon University and her juris doctor degree in public interest law from Golden Gate University. During that time, she also taught at a migrant camp and a residential school for delinquent boys. She passed the California State Bar on her first try and worked as an attorney for San Francisco for 15 years.
Read more »
Ron Podmore

2016 Distinguished Alumnus

Ron Podmore (1987)
Podmore is a 1985 graduate of W.F. West High School in Chehalis. He went on to earn a a master’s degree in education from Lewis and Clark College/Law School (Portland), and his administrative license from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. 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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.