2002 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

Jason Edwards, AAS 1985
Mountain Experience.com/Stahl Junior High

Jason Edwards would be the first to tell you he has a great situation. He's managed to combine his passion for climbing, his nose for business and his love of teaching into a full life where each aspect enhances the other.

Edwards was hooked on climbing by the age of 16 when he summited Mount Rainier, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life. He found direction from two instructors - Randy Leifson and Dr. Les Price - who encouraged him and showed him he had a knack for business. He graduated from Pacific Lutheran University, then began a business and teaching career.

Edwards was working full time at Stahl Junior High with a side business in international mountain guiding when he took a leave of absence to climb Mount Everest in Nepal using World Wide Web to stay in touch with his students. Edwards will be climbing in Australia in early April to complete his goal of climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents. Visit http://everest.puyallup.k12.wa.us/ to keep track of his progress!

Nina Rutkosky, 1978-1986
Textbook Author

Not only is Nita Rutkosky a great example of a successful Pierce student, but she also has been a Pierce College instructor, a mom, and a community activist.

Like many students, Rutkosky came to Pierce for some additional classes on her way to a bachelor's degree. But she also worked full time and served as a VISTA volunteer in southeast Seattle working on a dental program for low-income residents, coordinating activities at the Highline Youth Service Bureau. She stayed on at Pierce as an instructional technician in the secretarial skills lab at Puyallup while earning her master's degree.

By 1984, this energetic woman was on the tenure track at Pierce College and was soon asked to review a textbook. In 1996 she made the leap to write full time and now travels extensively to promote her texts. But Rutkosky has kept her ties to Pierce by serving on the advisory board for Office Technology.

Paul Shelly, 1991
Boeing Research and Development Division

He tried it but didn't like it ... at first. Paul Shelley did the college thing when he was young, but left school to join the Navy. He learned electronics and eventually pursued a career in the civilian world. As a technician for a scientific instrument company, he helped Pierce College with a FITR (infrared detection unit) in the organic lab. Shelley was at a point in his life where he realized he needed a degree to advance his career, so he became a high-achieving student at Pierce, finishing his bachelor's at Pacific Lutheran University and going on to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Washington. He was immediately hired by Boeing's research and development division. The extensive raised-bed vegetable and bulb garden he maintains with his wife, Diane Downie, was featured on Pierce's first garden tour. He has remained an active member of the Science Club and often speaks to engineering classes. Shelley also volunteers with the regional Science Olympiad hosted by Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.

Ronald Stephens, AAS 1980
Tacoma Fire Department

Our nation has a renewed appreciation for firefighters and Ronald Stephens is a fine example of why these men and women are so very important to our communities.

Stephens has been with the City of Tacoma Fire Department for 25 years, working his way up through the ranks to become assistant chief of fire prevention, education and investigations. He's modeled life-long learning by taking advantage of training in management, fireground strategy and tactics, terrorism response, affirmative action, critical incident stress management, safety, hazardous materials and leadership. Stephens has been a training captain and also integral in recruiting and hiring a diverse workforce, designing and implementing the Future Leaders And Managers Education (FLAME) program for the city. He serves as a special assistant to the city manager and liaison to the community as well. And for a serious crisis, Stephens is the emergency operations center coordinator.

But that's not all Stephens does for the community. He is a Werlin reading tutor committing to a weekly tutoring session with first through third graders, a Special Olympics volunteer and a Burn Foundation fundraiser.

Terry Weber, AAS 1997
Pacific Mountain Workforce Non-Custodial Program, Thurston County

Terry Weber turned his life around at Pierce College. Ten years ago he enrolled in the Vocational Opportunities Training and Education (VOTE) program for people recovering from chemical dependencies. After graduating from VOTE, he continued his studies at Pierce College, volunteering in the VOTE program until he was hired part-time after completing his certificate program in alcohol and drug abuse counseling and earning his AAS in 1996.

Weber took the motivational skills he learned at Pierce and began applying them as a volunteer working with newly released prisoners to help them transition back into society. Eventually he was hired to work at McNeil Island Correctional Center teaching life skills and also at Olympia Work Release counseling inmates. Now he is program coordinator/supervisor of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Non Custodial Program.

Weber turned his life experiences into an asset rather than a stumbling block. He takes his positive attitude to community work, serving with the Bryant Neighbors and the Hilltop Action Coalition, the Tacoma Homeless Coalition, and other organizations.

(The VOTE program, funded primarily by the Department of Social and Health Services, was the victim of budget cuts last year.)