Get to know a few Viking alumni who are making a difference in their communities
Lifetime Achievement Award
Rarely has an alma mater asked more of an alumnus than Western has asked of Dennis Murphy (’69, Economics; ’71, M.A., Business Education), the recipient of this year’s Western Washington University Alumni Association Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award.
After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western, Murphy left the Pacific Northwest to pursue his doctorate at Indiana University and served on the faculty there and at Emory University in Atlanta before returning to Western in 1979.
Murphy’s return began more than 30 years of service to his alma mater, service that has been highlighted with a willingness to step up and take on any task, no matter its scope or size. For example, Murphy took over as dean of the College of Business and Economics in 1983, a position he held until 2007 (and for which he has been named dean emeritus), and twice served as Western’s provost, in 1998-99 and from 2007-2009.
Meanwhile, Murphy has been very active in business and community affairs. He served as chairman of the board of Cascade Financial Corporation and Cascade Bank and as president of United Way of Whatcom County and the Bellingham Rotary Club. He also served on the board of the Northwest Medical Bureau and on community boards ranging from Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Mount Baker Theatre.
Murphy also brings his sense of humor, storytelling skill and community knowledge to serve as the master of ceremonies of many gatherings, from CBE retirement dinners to community events.
Brian Burton, who took over as dean of CBE after Murphy’s departure and who nominated him for this award, credits Murphy’s 33 years of service with much of the success the college enjoys today.
“Dennis was the primary force in the college’s growth from its beginning to its current status,” Burton says. “He led the college to its initial AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation, and his leadership was an important factor in the development of a faculty of true teacher-scholars in the spirit of Western Washington University.”
Burton credits Murphy with helping the college to grow by more than 50 percent during his time as dean.
“Without Dennis, CBE would be a very different place,” Burton says, “and likely nowhere near as excellent as it is now.”
Murphy also has supported Western students through generous annual donations to Western over nearly three decades.
And he’s not done. When he retired as dean, Murphy chose to stay on the faculty of his beloved College of Business and Economics, doing what he’s done for more than three decades: serving the needs of Western’s students.
Larry “Go Vikings!” Taylor Alumni Service Award
David Mann (’82, Accounting) serves as a vital link between his alma mater and the Seattle business community. A retired chief financial officer for the pharmaceutical firm Immunex Corp., Mann helped start the College of Business and Economics Accounting Department Think Tank, which connects students with professionals in the greater Seattle area. He has also served as a virtual mentor for CBE students. Mann also lends his professional expertise as a member of the Western Foundation board of directors and the CBE Department of Accounting advisory board. His financial support for Western is no less significant: Dave and Ann Thomson Mann established a scholarship fund for Woodring College of Education students and funded the “Drive with Pride” program that purchases and distributes WWU license plates for graduating seniors.
Young Alumnus of the Year
Scott Davison (’94, Accounting) is the managing partner of the Seattle, Portland and Anchorage offices of the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP. He also maintains a nearly full client portfolio of prominent software and technology companies, many of which need a trusted business advisor to work with them as they grow. Davison became an audit partner at Grant Thornton in 2004, just 10 years after graduating from Western and after rising through the ranks at Moss Adams and Deloitte & Touche LLP. He also stays connected with Western as a member of the Accounting Department Advisory Board, providing invaluable advice about the industry to Accounting students and faculty alike.
Distinguished Alumnus, Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies
Since joining the Public Health Service soon after graduating from University of Washington School of Medicine, Frank James (’73, Interdisciplinary Concentration) has been devoted to public health. In addition to his work as the public health officer for Whatcom and San Juan counties and the Nooksack Indian Tribe, and as medical director of Whatcom County’s largest non-profit medical clinic, James has been a noted community activist in health-related issues. After a massive gasoline pipeline explosion killed three Bellingham youth in 1999, James helped organize SAFE Bellingham, which later became the Pipeline Safety Trust, and served as a pipeline safety adviser. For several years, he was involved in the CEDAR Project, which promotes healthy lifestyles among Lummi youth by reviving ancient canoe racing traditions. Now a faculty member of UW School of Public Health and a lecturer at Fairhaven College, James just completed a 10-year grant studying the role of antioxidants in the prevention of cancer. He also volunteers with many health-related programs in India, China, East Timor and Taiwan.
Distinguished Alumna, College of Fine and Performing Arts
Annette Devick (’82, Theatre) had just graduated high school and was already registered at another university when she attended a summer theatre camp at Western. Three weeks of learning about theatre and dance were enough to persuade her to enroll at WWU instead. “My professors believed in me,” she says. “And I could start performing right away.” Now a professional actor, physical comedian and circus performer, Devick’s resume includes such skills such as acrobatics, dance, artistic bicycling, stage combat, juggling and Chinese chair balancing. Besides film and theatre work, she has performed around the world with Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Eloize, Axis Theatre and the Big Apple Circus. She just returned from Russia where she studied Russian clowning and physical theatre, thanks to a Canada Arts Council Research and Creation Grant. These days the Kamloops, B.C., resident is a teacher and director, working on new acts for her solo show and lending her talents to more character and traditional roles on stage and screen.
Distinguished Alumnus, Woodring College of Education
Many alums credit Woodring College of Education for helping them learn how to teach. But for Joseph Zavaglia (’73, Student Personnel Administration), “Western is where I discovered how to learn. They provided an experiential learning model that allowed me to uncover talents and abilities I never knew I had.” Zavaglia went on to a successful 35-year career in the banking industry, where he excelled by leading teams “who were passionate to learn and grow professionally.” He’s also proud of the colleagues he coached who are now in top leadership positions. Now a consultant providing training and development services to the banking industry, Zavaglia also runs an Italian cooking school with classes both here and in Italy.
Distinguished Alumnus, Huxley College of the Environment
Kevin Raymond (’80, Environmental Science) says he found two important things at Western: a sense of confidence and a sense of wonder. Track and Field coach Ralph Vernacchia saw potential in Raymond – and performing well on the track helped Raymond build his confidence in the classroom. Meanwhile, Raymond found his place in the world in a Huxley class taught by Professor David Clarke. The now commonly accepted idea that things are interconnected was totally “mind-blowing” at the time, Raymond says. “It was a deeply spiritual experience,” he says. Raymond, an attorney, went on to work in environmental and public policy settings, including as chief of staff to then-King County Executive Gary Locke. Today, he is vice president and general manager of Pacific Coast Canola, a clean-technology startup company. The former chair of Western’s Board of Trustees, Raymond serves on the Huxley Dean’s Advisory Board. And Vernacchia would be glad to know that Raymond is still racing – on a bike.
Distinguished Alumna, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Ever since Laurel Nesholm (’64, French – Education) retired from her job as a French teacher to take care of her children, she’s played a big role in taking care of the whole community. She’s the executive director of the Nesholm Family Foundation, which supports dozens of programs improving health, human services, education and performing arts in Seattle. Just one of many success stories: Kids in the Middle, school-improvement initiative that has helped students succeed in three high-need middle schools in Seattle. Nesholm co-directs the 11-year-old project, whose strategies are being adopted in other Seattle middle schools. A longtime volunteer and supporter of the Seattle Opera, Nesholm helped lead the recent five-year Campaign for Seattle Opera. She also served on the Seattle Symphony search committee for their new music director and now serves on the symphony’s board. At the University of Washington, Nesholm is completing her second term on the UW Foundation board and was on the selection committee for the executive director of UW’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts.
Distinguished Alumnus, College of Sciences and Technology
Peter Hallson (’58, Biological Sciences) spent 35 years with Nalco, a water management company, working in several positions all over the world until retiring in 1996 as president of Nalco’s Diversey Water Technologies Division. Today, Hallson is an avid cyclist, leading rides and promoting safety programs for the Cascade Bicycle Club. In addition to his work with the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group, Hallson helps support the “Basics of Bicycling” program in the Edmonds School District. He’s also an involved Western alumnus, supporting the CST Dean’s Fund for Excellence, serving as a founding member of the CST Leadership Board, and advocating on behalf of Western in Olympia.
The Larson Family
Legacy Family of the Year Award
The late Evelyn Larson Green (’29) was the start of a four-generation tradition of Western alumni in the Larson family. Her son, the late Gerald Larson (’60), was a tireless volunteer and advocate for water quality in Whatcom County who posthumously received a Lifetime Achievement Award from RE-Sources for Sustainable Communities. Other proud WWU alumni include Evelyn’s son, Jack Larson, a retired commercial fisherman whose own family runs with Vikings. Son Eric Larson, a real estate broker, graduated in 1988, daughter Kristin Craker attended several classes and now works for the Bellingham School District. Current students include Tanner Larson, who is interested in studying Accounting. Gerald Larson’s sons, Dennis and Keith also spent some time at Western.