2010 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

Watch the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Celebration

John Gibson
Cool Cycles Ice Cream, Founder; The Metropolitan Apartments, Managing Partner

Watch John Gibson's interview

For the residents at the upscale Metropolitan Apartments in downtown Tacoma, John Gibson is "the funny, bald maintenance guy," a description he finds as flattering as it is amusing.

"I love it," he said. "I love that I'm the biggest maintenance man here. (When I lived in the building,) I'd have residents knock on my door at 3 a.m. because something was broken or they're locked out, and I just loved every minute of it."

Of course, as owner of the entire complex, John knows that fixing broken showers isn't in his job description, but helping people is his life's work.

"If you go overboard to make people feel special, they remember that," he said. "And, I love to make people feel special."

Eight months after graduating from high school, John was drafted and deployed to Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star. After his service, John worked as a TV repairman, but, as one of nine children in a poor family, John had watched his parents struggle and he wanted more financial security for himself and his wife. He began taking business courses at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.

At Pierce, John learned the basics of business and he quickly began applying what he learned. He started cleaning pools at an apartment complex and soon worked his way up to manager. Today, he's one of the most successful men in Tacoma. In addition to his real estate projects, John is committed to giving back to the community. His side business, Cool Cycles, is a mobile ice cream company that raises money for children in Africa. He also donates his time as Santa Claus for the Tacoma Rescue Mission and other agencies, and is widely loved for his kind, generous spirit.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," he said. "I really am."

Jonathan Harris
United States Air Force Air Mobility Command RODEO Competition
and Air Expo Program Manager

Watch Jonathan Harris's interview

After serving in the Air Force in Vietnam, Virginia-native Jonathan Harris returned to McChord Air Force Base uncertain about his future. After a mentor on base told him a college degree was the best way to get promoted, he started taking classes at Fort Steilacoom Community College using money from the GI Bill.

A struggling student in high school with no confidence in his academic abilities, Jonathan was scared to start college after a 15-year gap in his education. But, he immediately knew he was in the right place.

"I had purpose when I came back (to school)," he said. "Going to school turned around my focus. It made me understand there was more to life than going to work. It taught me how to study."

Jonathan took every class he could and quickly worked his way up the military ranks. With his renewed confidence, he also began serving the community and spent 12 years on the Steilacoom school board and 20 years as the assistant tournament director for the state high school basketball championships.

He now works as the deputy director of the Air Expo and International Airlift Rodeo events, which occur on alternating summers at McChord and draw thousands of spectators and competitors. The skills he gained at Pierce are used every day in the work he does.

"If not for Pierce College, I'd probably still be out on the flight line, turning wrenches," he said.

His advice for others is simple.

"You can be better. You can do it. Just keep going," he said.

Deighton Maragh
Principle Service Engineer Management Platforms & Service Delivery, Microsoft Corporation

Watch Deighton Maragh's interview

Before taking a job in the computer lab at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom as a high school student, Deighton Maragh had only a passing interest in computers. He had no idea what he was going to do with his life, or even if he'd go to college. But, at Pierce, both as an employee and as a student, he was challenged and inspired, and he soon learned that computers were his passion.

"Working at Pierce gave me much more focus than I would have had otherwise at that age," he said. "(The staff and faculty) gave me every opportunity to explore what I was interested in. They looked at me with trust and that's very valuable."

Deighton took that trust and confidence in his abilities and used it to learn everything he could. He transferred the credits he earned at Pierce to the University of Miami and, after graduation, took jobs locally at Weyerhaeuser and Nordstrom's before being offered a job at Microsoft a decade ago. Now, he heads the team that keeps millions of Windows-based machines worldwide updated and free of viruses. It's a responsibility he takes very seriously.

"The Internet has been around a long time, but there's still a lot to learn, he said. "I'm humbled by that. Informally, I touch everyone who runs a Windows PC."

Deighton now lives in Seattle with his wife and two young children. He credits Pierce with giving him the freedom, trust, and confidence to explore at a young age.

"A lot of folks are in my position; they're not sure what career is best for them," he said. "You can go to Pierce, have small class sizes, good atmosphere, and get a very good education for the price."

Jody Woodcock
Deputy Director Pierce County Department of Emergency Management

Watch Jody Woodcock's interview

When disasters and emergencies strike Pierce County, Jody Woodcock is the second in command. As the deputy director of Pierce County Emergency Management, Jody is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the entire department, a job she finds deeply satisfying.

"This is the best job ever," she said. "The prospect of being able to make a difference in one person's life in this county really means the world to me."

Jody began her education as a transfer student at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. A member of the college's honors program, she always had an interest in writing and politics. Journalism seemed a natural fit for the outspoken, energetic student. She transferred to Pacific Lutheran University and began working as a communications intern for the county in 1990. By 1993, she was hired on permanently and worked 11 years in the Pierce County Executive's Office. Nine years ago, she transitioned into emergency management.

"I'd always been a bit of a science geek," she said. "It turned out to be the greatest career move for me."

She credits Pierce College for setting her on a path toward lifelong learning.

"My experience at Pierce was fantastic," she said. "I was exposed to so much. I couldn't get enough and I loved it. I took every course I could. For me, it was just the best possible thing that could have happened. I couldn't even imagine it differently."

For students now considering college, Jody has some pointed advice.

"Don't plan or think, just do it," she said. "Jump in and start, even if you don't know what you want to study. Just go."