2003 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

Michelle Andreas, AAS 1980
Executive Dean of Workforce Training

Nominated by Linda Saarela, business instructor, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. A student athlete and criminal justice major at Pierce, Michelle Andreas came back to Pierce in 1992 after a career in social work for the state and for the next six years she made significant impact on her alma mater.

"Michelle was one of the catalysts of the outcomes movement at Pierce College," Linda Saarela says. 'In part, due to Michelle's efforts, Pierce College is known as the outcomes leader among Washington community colleges." But it was her work and skills in cultural diversity training and facilitation that cemented her in the minds of many colleagues.

"I will never forget the time I observed this tiny woman, facing an audience of many hostile faculty in the very full lecture hall, lead a conversation on the issue of the multicultural ability," says Margaret Payne, now division chair for the humanities at Fort Steilacoom. "Not only did they not succeed in shaking Michelle's composure, but she was able to lead a very fruitful discussion on the multicultural ability."

Dr. John Rob Henry, 1990-1992
Psychiatrist, Forensics Services Unit Eastern State Hospital

Nominated by Ted Wood. After a hitch in the Navy, Rob Henry came to Pierce where he made a deep impression on Ted Wood. "His affable nature is such that the other students seemed to always flock around him," Wood recalls.

And Henry did not do this the easy way. He is a recovering alcoholic who stopped drinking and started schooling. Henry continued his studies at Western University of Health Sciences in California where he earned his doctorate and then completed a psychiatric residency at the University of Washington.

Now Henry is a psychiatrist in the forensics services unit at Eastern State Hospital in Spokane. Wood says, "His position is one of immense responsibility and Rob handles it with intelligence, grace and patience - the same qualities I came to respect when he was my student here." Henry determines whether patients are mentally unfit to stand trial for crimes.

Dr. Beth O'Connor, AAS 1983, ADH 1983

Nominated by Sandy Lewis, science instructor, Pierce College Puyallup.Dr. Beth O'Connor, DDS, has a lot of fans at Pierce College. Not only does Dr. Sharon Golightly, coordinator of the dental hygiene program, recommend her highly, but so do several other Pierce personalities, chief of which is Sandy Lewis, her nominator and former instructor.

"Until I became a patient of 'Dr. Beth' just anticipating dental procedures became almost unbearable," Lewis says. "She specializes in treating patients with difficult dental problems and is very compassionate and respectful of her patients."

Besides O'Connor's skills in the office, she has also served her alma mater with distinction. She taught in the dental hygiene department and continued to serve on its advisory board for three years.

And her compassion extends beyond the dentist's chair to organizations in the area that have benefited from her volunteer work, such as the University of Washington Alumni Association, the American Cancer Society and the Pierce County Dental Society.

Harvey Whitford, AAS 1993

Nominated by Lisa Flores, director of continuing education, Pierce College Extended Learning, and distinguished alumna (2000).

For 22 years, Harvey Whitford served his country in the army, but when he retired in 1993, he had also earned a degree from Pierce College. Whitford continues to serve in his second career, that of educator.

"Harvey has made a tremendous impact on the children (of Muckleshoot Tribal Schools) and is highly regarded throughout the Muckleshoot community," Lisa Flores says in her nomination. Whitford brings special caring and knowledge to the children under his care because he grew up on a Blackfeet reservation in Montana. He is a Native American traditional dancer and directed the drum and dance troupe at Chief Leschi school when he worked there in the late 1990s.

He even assisted in forging Pierce College's ongoing relationship with the adult education schools in the Brandenburg, Germany, area. His dancers accompanied Pierce officials on a 1998 visit that set the stage for today's exchanges.

Martin "Marty" Whittman, AAS 1993
Assistant Principal, Drum Intermediate School in University Place

Nominated by Judy DeJardin, division chair, social sciences, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. The wrestling accident in 1982 didn't slow Marty Wittman down at all. "Anything but bitter, Marty embraces life with an uncommon zeal which his early childhood education instructors found, and still find, stunning," writes nominator Judy DeJardin.

From 1985 to 1993 Marty inspired folks at Pierce. DeJardin particularly remembers a quarter in the early 1990s when Marty took the practicum course in the Children's Center Laboratory School. The class wasn't required for his degree, but Wittman thought the experience would be useful in his planned elementary teaching career. Some of the adult students in his class were wary of his disability, but his patient and sensitive work debriefing his fellow students' feelings each Friday with a counselor allowed these students to come to terms with their past experiences and prepared them for their own careers.

Wittman has continued to make an important contribution to education. While working in the Bethel School District he trained trainers on cross cultural awareness.

Now Wittman brings his skills and passion to his position as assistant principal at Drum Intermediate School in University Place. He is on the curriculum advisory board as well as the district safety committee. Wittman said once to DeJardin, "It's about taking care of people and making sure they have what they need - leadership is about action, not position."