Alumni: Alumni Bios
For more in-depth information about what UP alums have done in their lives, please check out the following “Alumni Bios.”
SMART (Start Making A Reader Today),
’s statewide non-profit literacy program, recently hired Linda Collier ’99 as its new marketing manager. In her newly created position, Collier will develop and manage statewide marketing communications campaigns for SMART, as well as implement volunteer and donor relations programs for the highly successful reading program. Oregon
Linda served on the University’s National Alumni Board and is the public relations manager for two non-profit organizations: Women in Technology International, and The Learning for Life Technology Awards. She also volunteers for the Oregon Humane Society. Collier holds a bachelor’s degree in early education and her experience includes coaching the Pilot women’s basketball team and working as the senior women’s administrator for the University’s athletic department. She joined fellow former NAB members Stan Bozich ’53 and Bill Ricks ’72 in helping SMART make reading a part of young students’ lives.
SMART brings thousands of Oregonians together to transform the futures of children through reading. SMART is a cost-effective, non-profit statewide literacy program that gives
children the extra reading support, new books, and caring one-on-one attention they need. Since 1992, SMART volunteers have provided nearly 1.8 million hours of service to more than 77,000 Oregon children, and have given away nearly 1.2 million books. Oregon
In May of 2002, Joe Driscoll ’01 had a decision to make: the former Academic All-American could trade in his spikes and racing singlet for wing tips and a suit, or he could venture out into the post-collegiate world as a professional runner. There was really no question as to what avenue the three-time Pilot All-American would follow. The dilemma was in the details—professional opportunities for distance runners are limited and anything but lucrative. Opportunities to train and race for a living are often indefinite and elusive.
For Driscoll that elusive opportunity presented itself in the
located near the Zap Fitness Center Smoky Mountainsin After hearing about Zap through word-of-mouth, Driscoll looked up the non-profit running center and contacted head coach Pete Rea and owner Zika Palmer. Boone, N.C.
“They said that a weekend visit was absolutely necessary,” Driscoll says. “So I came out to Boone, it seemed perfect for training, and I moved out here about a month later.” Elite runners work at the center on top of their daily training regimens since Zap Fitness is funded entirely by private donations and summertime camps and clinics. Aspiring runners agree, however, that working at Zap beats the alternative of trying to balance a 40-hour workweek with 110-130 miles of running per week.
Driscoll’s development in his two years in
has been notable. He has already shaved 10 seconds off of his 5,000 meter run collegiate personal best from 13 minutes and 58 seconds to 13:48.39 this past spring. Although a heel injury limited Driscoll’s track season and prevented him from competing in the 2004 Athens Olympic Trials, the North Carolina 10,000 meter run record holder remains patient with his progress. “I’d like to have a big breakthrough this fall or next year and really burst onto the national scene,” Driscoll says now. “But if it takes a few years of slowly chipping away at my times and training to become one of the best, then I am willing to do that too." Portland
Habari zenu is our friendly Kiswahili greeting here in
. I teach 9th and 12th grades. Bukoba is on the western Bukoba, Tanzania shoreof Lake Victoria, the second-biggest lake in the world (after Lake Superior). It’s about the size of . Bananas and coffee are the main commodities grown here, and most people are farmers. The average Tanzanian makes about $250 a year. Oregon
has about 600 students, 500 of whom are boarders, and nearly all are boys, ages 18 to 25. The average class size is about 40 students, of whom half have desks. Many students sit two or three to a desk. There are hardly any books. The school has sporadic electricity and no running water. My students walk half a mile to obtain water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. All water must be boiled first as there is no potable water in Ihungo School . Tanzania
As a Peace Corps volunteer, I teach personal hygiene, plant and animal anatomy and physiology and ecology, evolution and genetics. Because we have few books I write a lot of notes on the chalkboard. I teach in English and Kiswahili, and most students also speak a tribal language, such as Kittaya here. Because 25% of the people here in Bukoba are HIV-positive, we also spend a lot of time talking about AIDS and HIV, in a relentless effort to stop the spread of this epidemic.
After the Peace Corps I’d like to travel through
Africaand then earn a degree in international public health — to see what I can do to battle savage health problems like the ones here.
One day in 1976 a tiny nun walked past the sprawling concrete Lane County Jail in
. She stared at the building. She wondered what the prisoners did and thought all day. So she found out. She inquired about volunteering. She toured the jail. She asked the women inmates what they wanted. Eugene, Oregon
“Anything to relieve the boredom,” they replied.
So began the journey of Holy Names Sister Margaret Graziano ’61 into the lives of men and women we generally choose to forget — thieves, rapists, murderers. She started as an art teacher, and over the years wore many hats at the jail — volunteer coordinator, chaplain, alcohol and drug counselor — but the essence of her work has never changed. She teaches prisoners to draw, she listens to those who turned a deaf ear to the pleas of their victims, she comforts inmates who showed no mercy in their crimes.
Only once did she feel fear, she says: after her first night teaching inmates to draw. She went home and wondered what those jailed hands had done, what crimes had they committed?
“But I knew if I thought that way I would never go back,” she says, and she went back.
Now she is, as
police captain Ben Sunderland once said, the safest person in the jail, so beloved that inmates would rush to her aid if trouble arose. Eugene
Today the Lane County Jail, like most American jails, is so overcrowded that there is no official room for Graziano’s art classes. But she keeps working with inmates who want her help. Anyone who wants to draw is instantly issued ten sheets of paper, a pencil, and Graziano’s laser attention. Her students have created calendars, exhibited work in shows, published work as greeting cards, done the sort of startling and riveting and honest work like the painting above. “Good things do come out of bad people,” she observes quietly. “I try to treat prisoners with respect and dignity, to be there to help them. No art is a failure, if there is a genuine attempt. There is something good in everything.”
Annie Mason ’87 has taught first and second grades at
St. Johnthe Apostle Schoolin for 14 years. Oregon City
“Miss Mason’s” room is home to 28 children ages 6 and 7, and here they learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. But being a teacher is more than a classroom. It is being a back-up mom and friend and counselor and nurse. It is constant commotion and noise and lunch tickets and kids in motley lines. It is chaos and interruptions and keeping track of students leaving the classroom. It is endless paperwork and prep work and organization and creativity. It is post-graduate classes on weekends and in summers, and correcting papers at coffee shops after school and in front of the television at night. It is talking to parents and specialists and administrators and students. It is writing ornate report cards and holding parent conferences. It is energy and variety and giving out stickers and writing on the board. It is reading to children on the rug with little, vulnerable, sweet, innocent, anxious eyes permeating and admiring you, and you admiring them right back, and telling them you love them too.
It is teaching children that “God is an integral part of life and education,” as Mason says. “I teach prayer. When we hear a fire truck or police car during school, we’ll say a prayer. That’s one of the ways kids learn. I enjoy teaching: it’s forming souls and enlightening minds. It’s affecting lives for an eternity, as Henry Adams wrote.”
-by Cornelia Becker Seigneur '86
Portlandcitizen Jean Mitchell, who received her gerontology certificate from the in 1984, has been dedicated to improving the lives of seniors for more than two decades. From rallying volunteers to support senior causes and helping establish Elders in Action as a private, non-profit organization, to advising Universityof Portland officials on senior-related issues, Mitchell has made a positive difference and contributed to senior causes for over 20 years. Portland
After earning her gerontology certificate, Mitchell was introduced to Elders in Action as an intern in 1983. She became a volunteer for the organization, helping recruit, screen, and support volunteers while serving on the recruitment and screening committee for the Long Term Care Ombudsman program in
. In that role, Mitchell interviewed and advised nearly 1,000 volunteer candidates who were interested in advocating for residents of local elder care facilities. Multnomah County
Mitchell also has been a member of the
/ Multnomah Commission on Aging, which provides advice to local government and has served on the commission’s continuum of care committee. She was a charter member of Elders in Action’s board of directors, helping establish it as a private, non-profit organization. Additionally, she has served as a member of the Senior Law Project Advisory Committee, which provides legal assistance to low-income elders. She is this year’s recipient of Elders in Action’s Timeless Treasure award, which is bestowed on one outstanding citizen each year who has made a fundamental difference and a major commitment to helping and enhancing the lives of local seniors. Portland
“Jean is one of those people who simply inspire,” said Becky Wherli, executive director of Elders in Action. “Her dedication is tireless. It just shows the power that one person can have when it comes to making their community a better place to live.”
In fall of 2003, Lisa Ripps ’95, a critical care nurse at
Legacy Emanuel Hospitalin Portland, traveled with a Northwest Medical Teams group to Kurdish-populated Northern Iraq. There she spent several weeks caring for sick and injured Iraqi civilians and teaching local medical personnel valuable lessons in modern medical practices. The team went for days without sleep as they flew to Washington D.C., Germany, Turkey, and finally drove by truck to . Along the way, porters lost their medicine-filled bags; local drivers stranded them; heavily armed guards detained them. They finally caught some sleep in the city of Iraq , so exhausted that Ripps and her colleagues slept though a bombing near their hotel. They moved on to the city of Erbil Dohuk, where they found . Azadi General Hospital
Simple hygiene and medical procedures became the priority as Ripps and the rest of her team began their work. Lisa’s goal was to sharpen the nursing skills of nurses and junior doctors who originally trained with outdated textbooks. What struck Ripps the most was how little respect Kurdish nurses received; patients would insist that doctors do even the most basic tasks. She also saw many young women hospitalized with terrible, often fatal burns — burns which were self-inflicted in suicide attempts when young brides felt hopelessly trapped as second-class citizens. She came to the realization, “I can’t change this, it’s a major social problem. All I can do is train these people (her group of nurses) and empower them to empower other women.”
“I appreciate more deeply than ever that people are people no matter where they live or what language they speak,” she says now. It’s a lesson that may make the world a little more peaceful because of the adventures of one nurse.
Christopher Seigneur graduated from the University in 1983 with a degree in mechanical engineering and a dream of traveling across
in a red convertible for five weeks. “I was up front about the trip when I was interviewing for jobs,” he says, and only one company told him to pop back in when he finished wandering: Oregon Cutting Systems, which makes equipment for chain saws. Seigneur’s been working for Oregon Cutting ever since, is now a product design engineer, and has earned seven patents for his work. “Engineers are in relentless pursuit of more efficient function,” he says. “Invention begins with frustration, with the muttering of ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ You ask a lot of questions, you pull your blinders off, look beyond the normal, start to invent. You kind of go into a spiral, it seems to me, where sometimes one solution will beg another question. The questions are the keys. If you concentrate only on solutions you’ll be blinded by your own expectations.” America
Lest this all sound like Zen muck, Seigneur is cheerfully honest about the cost of inventiveness: “You’re always breaking things. But that’s how you push the limits. And get patents. And, most of all, happy customers.”
Mike Williamson, who earned his degree in marketing from the University in 1997, is head coach of the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, a branch of the Canadian Hockey League. He is the youngest coach in the 55-team CHL, in which players are 16 to 20 years old.
Hacking, slamming, spinning, bumping, colliding, skidding, sliding, gliding, smashing, soaring, roughing, slashing, spearing, tripping, scoring: these are the words of the ancient icy sport of hockey. Mike Williamson, who started playing the game at age eight in his native
, adds a few of his own: “unpredictable, fast, exciting, finesse, aggressive — but I don’t think it’s violent. Hockey’s a rough sport — physical, fast, emotional. It’s not exactly a non-contact sport. Body-checking [hitting a guy carrying a puck] is kind of an art form.” Alberta
Williamson played for the Hawks from 1991 to 1994, and then served as assistant coach from 1994 until he took the top job in February of 2000. At first he missed the camaraderie among the players, and the rush of playing the game. But now he notes that the biggest player on his team (Josh Olson) is football-sized (6'5" and 230 pounds), and the smallest (Brad Priestlay), at 5'9" and 165 pounds, is perhaps the most aggressive. Excellent time to be a coach.
-by Cornelia Becker Seigneur '86