Spring/Summer 2021 Class Notes
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News and updates from alumni
JUDITH EASTERLING O’BRIEN ’64 and her husband of 56 years, ROBERT O’BRIEN ’63, are retired and reside at Aegis Living in Lynnwood, Washington. Judy spent most of her career working as an assistant laboratory manager at SPU, and then in various biotech jobs, including a long stint in the labs at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Judy and Bob enjoy time with their sons, KEVIN O’BRIEN ’92 (and his wife, MOLLY GLEASON O’BRIEN ’94) and CRAIG O’BRIEN ’96.
HERB BERG ’65 spent nearly five decades working in education, from kindergarten through high school in three states and in several countries. After earning a doctorate in education from Washington State University, Herb worked in Washington state schools for 31 years, serving as a superintendent
for 21 years. Herb and his wife, PAULA WELLS BERG ’67, who taught first grade for 26 years, moved to Alexandria, Virginia, in 1994, where he was a superintendent for eight years. He managed American schools around the world for the U.S. State Department, followed by a 10-year superintendent stint for three South Carolina counties. In retirement, Herb enjoys playing golf three times a week.
WILLIAM “CHRIS” HIGHLAND ’78 writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the religion section of Asheville, North Carolina’s Citizen Times. His last two books, A Freethinker’s Gospel and Broken Bridges: Building Community in a World Divided by Beliefs are collections of selected columns. He and
his wife, the Rev. Carol Hovis, live in Asheville. Chris would enjoy hearing from anyone in the SPU community: email@example.com.
DEBORAH SWENSON ’83 published her debut novel, Till My Last Breath: Book One in the Desert Hills Trilogy. Deborah worked for 45 years as a registered nurse and as an advanced registered nurse practitioner in high-risk obstetrics. During her nursing career, she contributed to nursing
textbooks and authored journal articles. When she’s not writing Western romantic fiction, Deborah enjoys spending time with family and friends, spinning fiber, quilting, photography, reading, and volunteering for a therapeutic horsemanship program. She lives on Camano Island, Washington.
JADA RUPLEY MEd ’89 was appointed to the board of directors for Educational Opportunities for Children and Families in Vancouver, Washington. EOCF is the leading provider of comprehensive early childhood education and family support programs in southwest Washington. Jada, who lives in
nearby Camas, is a superintendent for Clackamas Educational Service District and also serves as a board trustee at Clark College.
CHARLES FAGERSTROM ’90 is CEO of Sitnasuak Native Corporation, the largest of 16 village corporations in Alaska’s Bering Strait region. Born
and raised in Nome, Alaska, Charles is Iñupiaq, with family roots in Nome and the Bering Strait region. He earned master’s degrees from the University of Hawaii and the University of Colorado. Charles and his wife, Christine, live in Anchorage.
STEPHEN RODRIGUEZ-PLATE ’90, who earned his doctorate at Emory University, is the Gretchen Hoadley Burke Endowed Chair for Regional Studies at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. He previously taught at nearby Hamilton College, where he served as professor of religious studies and cinema and media studies by special appointment. His research interests include theories of religion, comparative religion, media studies, and sense perception. Stephen and his wife, Edna, live in Clinton, New York.
ED HOLMES ’92 of North Bend, Washington, has been part of the Mercer Island Police Department for 26 years. Ed has been the department’s chief
since 2006, after serving as a patrol officer, school resource officer, detective, patrol sergeant, personnel and training sergeant, special operations team member, and operations commander. He originally intended to become a biology teacher, but an early stint with incarcerated juveniles led to a
career in criminal justice.
SHELLEY COLLINS ’94 was honored with the 2019-20 Kossman Outstanding Teacher Award at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, where
she is a professor of music. It is Delta State’s highest faculty honor. As the award recipient, Shelley presented the keynote address at last fall’s commencement ceremony. She earned graduate degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Colorado. Shelley has worked at Delta State for 15 years, teaching music history, flute, pedagogy, flute ensemble, and the history of rock ’n’ roll. She is the daughter of LYNDA WALLS COLLINS ’64 and the late CLIFF COLLINS ’54. Shelley and her husband, Don, live in Cleveland, Mississippi.
JENETTE RAMOS MBA ’94 has joined the Washington State University Board of Regents. She is an executive with the Boeing Co. A 30-year veteran of the aerospace giant, Jenette is senior vice president of Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations and a member of the Boeing Executive Council, as well as SPU’s 2019 Alumna of the Year.
NATHAN KING ’98, a professor of philosophy at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, recently published The Excellent Mind: Intellectual
Virtues for Everyday Life. The book is an introduction to intellectual virtues, written for college students and lay readers. Nathan earned his doctorate in
philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and has been part of Whitworth’s faculty since 2010. He and his wife, Kristina, reside in Spokane.
ZACH BROWN ’00 is a certified financial planner with Edward Jones — where he has worked since 2005 — in Scotts Valley, California. After graduation, Zach and his wife, Kristen, moved to Alaska, where he taught high school Spanish and ran a painting business. In his free time, he loves cycling and camping.
JOSH CEPEDA ’00 works as a certified financial planner for Buckingham Strategic Wealth. Stumbling into investments after testing out the corporate finance waters during an internship at the Boeing Co., Josh enjoyed the research and data of an investments class during his senior year at SPU. He began his career in the financial industry in 2000 and has served in various roles at Smith Barney, Wells Fargo Advisors, and Confluence Wealth Management.
In his spare time, Josh serves as a board member for YMCA Camp Collins, and he, his wife, and their four children love being outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.
TIFFANY GERING ’02 serves on the Chelan County Board of County Commissioners, representing District 3. She lived briefly in Los Angeles after graduation but moved to Chelan, Washington, in 2005 to be closer to family. She was a sales manager with radio station KOZI for seven years. For the past five years, she has worked for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce as their sales manager and chief operating officer. She is the mother of two girls and enjoys travel.
KENNETH PIERCEY ’02 is an attorney at a law firm he and his father founded, Piercey & Associates, in Barrington, Illinois. He advises clients on estate and tax planning, asset protection, real estate, and elder law. Ken earned his law degree from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago in 2010. He and
his wife, Sara, live in Elgin, Illinois.
Alumnus JET RICHARDSON ’05 is the executive director for Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity in Richland, Washington. Habitat, which builds affordable housing with the help of volunteers, hopes to complete eight of the 11 homes they have planned in Pasco, Washington, by the end of 2021.
Jet, a Richland native, moved to Chicago after graduation and then joined the Peace Corps. An assignment to West Africa inspired an interest in urban planning. He pursued graduate degrees in urban planning and international relations at Columbia University in New York City. He worked for four years on foreign policy in Washington, D.C., in an agency focused on conflict resolution before returning to the Tri-Cities.
ANDREW ARNOTT ’06 is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, currently serving in Ulm, Germany. He earned a master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
PETER WILSON ’06 and MOLLY GRAMMER WILSON ’06 produced their first solo album, Three Thousand Miles: Original songs inspired by the Montana plains. All music and lyrics are their original compositions. The album is sold through their website, pmwilson3.blogspot.com, and through all major music download and streaming services. Peter teaches K–12 music, and Molly is a stay-at-home mom who plays with the Great Falls Symphony and with Montana Old-Time Fiddlers. The couple and their four children live in Sand Coulee, Montana.
KELSEY RATZLAFF DILLER ’07 is a Seattle-based commercial real estate agent who runs her own full-service brokerage, City Closers. Since their start in 2010, Diller and her team have closed more than $2 million in sales and leases. Before she graduated from SPU, she and her husband, Nathan, had
already saved enough to purchase their first home. They currently live in Seattle.
YOSHIAKI NAKAZAWA ’07 is an assistant professor of education at the University of Dallas in Irvine, Texas. Yoshiaki was born in Nagano City, Japan, and earned his doctorate in philosophy and education from New York’s Columbia University. His research engages with philosophical issues in education, the history of the philosophy of education, moral education, and classical education.
BRYAN TUCKER ’08 and fellow filmmaker Gavin Sullivan partnered with the Seattle Seahawks to produce a short documentary In Community, By Community. The film focuses on criminal justice reform, Restorative Community Pathways (a program that seeks to alter the current juvenile legal system and instead invest in a community-driven support system), and the fight to end youth incarceration. The documentary features Co-Executive Director of Creative Justice NIKKITA OLIVER ’08 and her efforts to stop the construction of a new youth detention facility in King County. View the documentary at seahawks.com/news/seahawks-co-producedocumentary-on-new-criminaljustice-reform-program.
ERICA WIGGINS HART ’09 opened the House of Hart boutique in Ellensburg, Washington, featuring handmade home décor, jewelry, handbags, clothing, and candles. Erica, who studied apparel design at SPU, has been establishing her brand online for the past four years. To nurture creativity and fun in the community, she plans to offer sewing, woodworking, and painting courses at her shop in the future. Erica and her husband, Kendall Hart, have two children.
MELYSSA NORRIS STONE ’09 developed and moderated a webinar for Shoreline Public Schools, “Black Minds Matter: Supporting Black Mental Health,” which featured J. Derek McNeil, provost and president of the Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, and spouse of SPU Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies Brenda Salter McNeil. Melyssa is an administrator for the Shoreline district. She has worked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as a music educator and is a former director of Northwest Girlchoir and Pacifica Choirs.
ERICA BRADY CORBIN ’10 writes consumer-friendly content for the website gobankingrates.com. Previously, she worked as an editor at Nasdaq’s wire service, GlobeNewswire. Erica specializes in lifestyle- and entertainment-related content, and she lives in Port Orchard, Washington.
ROSIE MARTINEZ ’11 is the global health director at benshi.ai in Barcelona, Spain. Benshi.ai is a nonprofit funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a mission to improve the health of individuals and populations in resource-poor countries through advanced AI applications. Rosie earned her doctorate at Harvard University in 2018.
KARMEN BALDWIN ’12 and her sister, Kaileah Baldwin, create a podcast Mixxed Messages about the issues and experiences impacting mixed-race people. Their third episode featured guest TEYLAR GREER ’09, MA ’17.
CLARK RHEE ’12 is a composer, musician, and music editor based in Los Angeles, California. He has provided additional music, arrangements, and worked as a score coordinator and music editor for film and television. Recent projects include Finding ‘Ohana (additional music), Prospect (music editor), Awaken (score coordinator), and Arctic (additional music arranger). While at SPU, Clark wrote music for the short film Dreamers, a finalist of the 41st annual Student Academy Awards.
KATIE VERCIO ’12 is a senior financial advisor at Evergreen GaveKal. Her husband, SCOTT STRANNIGAN ’12, works at Trupanion. Katie and Scott reside in Seattle where they live with their son, Forest, and their dog, Charlie.
JAKE REDDING ’13 of St. Helens, Oregon, is a learning design senior strategist at Google.
EVAN EBERTS ’14 is listed in a “30 under 30” article about young innovators in 425 Business magazine. He is a realtor for Windermere Real Estate. When he’s not working, Evan hosts the Something Human podcast.
JONATHAN HAAS ’14 is a product development supervisor at the Vancouver, Washington-based financial technology company Core Commissions. Jonathan primarily works behind the scenes in a development role managing and maintaining servers, administering databases, and rolling out Core feature upgrades. He was previously a software developer at Faithlife, working on Logos Bible Software.
ANNIE JAMESON ’14 runs Eden Por Salud, a nonprofit that employs Guatemalan adults with disabilities to create and sell all-natural wellness products. There are few services or work opportunities for people with disabilities in Guatemala. Annie taught special education in Seattle Public Schools before moving to Latin America two years ago. Learn more at edn.mailchimpsites.com.
JOHN JARMAN ’15 self-published a children’s book The Candle & The Lizard, available at amazon.com. He and his wife, Alyssa, live in Aiea, Hawaii.
ASHLEY PINEDA ’15 is a publicity and events coordinator at Allied Global Marketing, a film publicity and promotions firm in Los Angeles, California.
KIM LINDMAN ’16 is an associate agent for Stonesong, a literary agency in New York City, and is also its social media coordinator. She has special interest in contemporary fiction and magical realism. Kim previously worked for the United Nations.
ZEAPOE (MEKIE) MATALDA ’16 released a YouTube channel “XENA.” Zeapoe describes herself as an eclectic artist whose ultimate goal is to tell the stories of underrepresented groups that have been marginalized through the practice of defacto segregation in America. She also started Ekene Record. “Ekene” means praise in the Nigerian language of Igbo. She named her effort after the African dance team, Ekene Dance Ensemble, active at SPU from 2012 to 2017.
TATIANA UBAY ’16 recently completed a nursing degree at Loyola University Chicago. She lives in Forest Park, Illinois.
COURTNEY CARLSON ’17 is an associate attorney focusing on family law at Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, a law firm in Wenatchee, Washington. Courtney earned her law degree at Seattle University. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.
ALI STEENIS ’17 is a text access specialist for the Disability Resource Center at Bellevue College. Ali lives in Seattle.
ANGEL FONG ’18 is an assistant designer for The House of LR&C, co-founded by Ciara, Russell Wilson, and Christine Day (former Lululemon CEO). Though the project will eventually encompass multiple labels, it launched with a sustainable street-wear line, Human Nation. The clothing is financially
accessible and consciously created, and it benefits those in need: 3% of proceeds go to the Why Not You Foundation, Wilson’s nonprofit centered on children’s health, education, and fighting systemic poverty. For one of the line’s first photo shoots, Angel recruited MAVIN WILKES ’19 to model, the only nonprofessional model of the group.
LESLIE RODRIGUEZ-SALAS ’19 is a research scientist for the Seattle Flu Study – SCAN at the University of Washington.