2007 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

Gil Hulsmann
Vice President, Abbey Road Group

When Gil Hulsmann was making a transition from the Army to civilian life in 1997, he offered to work for free for a month at a small engineering firm in Auburn to demonstrate his engineering and project management skills were transferable to the civilian business sector.

Hired "hands down" after a month, Hulsmann was instrumental in developing the three-person company into a successful engineering firm with 32 staff members within three years. In September of 2001, Hulsmann started the Abbey Road Group which offers a wide range of land development services, where he serves as Vice President and Director of Land Development Services.

One of Abbey Road's recent projects was the Milgard Child Development Center at the Fort Steilacoom campus.

To prepare for life as a civilian, Hulsmann enrolled in speech, humanities, business and creative writing classes at Pierce at Fort Lewis.

"The Pierce faculty helped me re-program my thinking from military acronyms and technical jargon to a communication style that could be understood by my civilian clients," said Hulsmann, one of the newest members of the Pierce College Foundation's Board of Directors.

Abbey Road Group was selected "2007 Small Business of the Year" by the Eastern Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. And, as another personal accomplishment, Hulsmann was named to the board of directors of the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce.

Nominated by Barbara Napier and Cassie Porcella, Abbey Road Group; and Kathryn Hulsmann


Sylvia Maine
Chief, Manpower & Organization, McChord Air Force Base

Although she did not enroll at Pierce College until two of her three children were college students themselves, Sylvia Maine has replaced her "latebloomer" status with that of achieving the highest rank for a civilian woman employee and key advisor to leadership in the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base.

The Lakewood resident is chief of manpower and organization at McChord where she was recognized in 2003 as Installation Level Senior Civilian of the Year by the Air Force Manpower Agency.

Besides holding down her fulltime position, Maine spends many nights and weekends teaching Organizational Leadership and Teambuilding in the masters' programs at Chapman and St. Martin's Universities. She also owns her own consulting business, MainLine Business Solutions.

Maine obtained her bachelor of science degree in marketing and business from St. Martin's and her master's degrees in Human Resource Management and Organizational Leadership from Chapman.

Looking back over her educational pursuits, Maine said, "If it weren't for my positive experiences at Pierce and the support of my children and husband, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Nominated by Carolyn Kadyk, Chapman University student; and Tom Norton, Ph.D., faculty member, Pierce College at McChord, adjunct faculty member, Chapman University


Col. Janet McTurnal
Medical Director, Washington State Department of Retirement Systems

After taking interest tests at Pierce College, retired Col. Janet McTurnal shifted her focus toward a career in nursing that led to a position as the first registered nurse ever to serve as medical director of the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems (DRS).

Prior to accepting the appointment with the DRS in 1995, McTurnal worked for 10 years fulltime with the Washington Army National Guard. Hired as an occupational health nurse, she rose among the ranks to positions as the Guard's wellness coordinator and commander of the Medical Command. After accepting the position with the DRS, McTurnal continued to work part-time for the Guard, retiring as a colonel in 2006. She is among only three nurses in the history of the Washington Army National Guard to achieve rank of colonel and one of five woman officers ever to be promoted to that rank in the history of the Army Guard in Washington state.

McTurnal went on to graduate magna cum laude in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University in 1982.

McTurnal said, "I believe spending time attending a community college gives students an opportunity to learn about managing finances, time and responsibility while developing the maturity needed to make the transition to the adult world."

Nominated by Pierce College psychology faculty members R. Martin Lobdell and Jim Mullen (retired)


James P. Murphy
Senior Vice President for International Operations, Costco Wholesale

Through education, hard work and keeping abreast of the global marketplace, Jim Murphy has leveraged a career in food management from steering grocery carts at a supermarket in Tacoma to his current position as senior vice president of the international division of Costco Wholesale.

Recently, Murphy returned to Tacoma after spending nine years in England overseeing the development of Costco operations in western Europe and Asia. Last October, he accompanied Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire on a trade mission to Asia.

Murphy considers the associate's degree he was awarded from Pierce College as "the most important degree I've obtained in my career - it got the ball rolling and opened my eyes to the possibilities for a successful future in food management."

Murphy obtained a bachelor of science degree in food management from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a master's degree in the same speciality from the University of Portland (Ore.).

As a top executive of a Fortune 500 company consistently cited among the "top 10 places to work," Murphy explained, "At Costco, even college graduates start out learning the nuts and bolts of the operation by stocking shelves on the warehouse floor."

He added, "As they did for me, these experiences trigger an understanding of products and customer service that is invaluable for professional growth within an organization."

Nominated by James T. Tsang, Pierce College trustee


Cyndi Wilkstrom
General Manager, Click!Network

A fascination with "cutting edge technology" has led Cyndi Wikstrom to a position as general manager of Tacoma's "Click!Network, the nation's largest municipal telecommunications company.

Wikstrom joined the Tacoma Public Utilities in 1997 as marketing manager for the utilities' bold initiative to integrate cable television, telecommunications and the internet. As soon as she was hired, Wikstrom was immersed in nearly all phases of developing and marketing Click! products and services in "America's most wired city."

The University Place native attended Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom after graduating from Curtis High School.

"As a student at Pierce, I discovered I was really good in math, even though I was interested in the fine arts - that awareness gave me the confidence to see business in my future," Wikstrom revealed.

Adept at juggling work, home life, school, and community involvement, Wikstrom obtained a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a masters in business administration with honors from City University.

Diane Lachel, Click! Network's manager of community and governmental affairs, added, "Because of her can-do attitude, willingness to treat everyone with respect, customer focus and communication skills, she not only heads up an organization of 135 employees of Click! but also is an integral part of the Tacoma Public Utilities' leadership team."

Nominated by Diane Lachel, manager of community and governmental affairs, Click!Network