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Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

Anne Matthews News

COOS BAY, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce the selection of Donald Ivy of Coos Bay as the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus. 

Ivy is Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, a position he has held since 2014. In a nomination supported by educators, tribal leaders, former lawmakers, and Oregon’s governor, advocates for the award describe Ivy as representing “the best of what any educational institution hopes to achieve.” He encourages “individuals to think deeply, make an impact, share their knowledge and go on to encourage others to do the same.”

A quest to learn and remember

Ivy has made it his lifetime endeavor to work in growing knowledge, understanding history and engaging youth. The state of Oregon honored him with its Heritage Excellence Award in 2013. The following year, the University of Oregon appointed Ivy as its first-ever Tribal Elder in Residence.

“This honor is a reminder of the great privilege I have to know the people I know. I am thankful for the graces and goodwill of other people more accomplished than me who have allowed me into their space,” Ivy said. 

Ivy has published articles on history and archaeology. He is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum. While heading the Coquille Tribe’s cultural program, he oversaw creation of the Kilkich Youth Corps, which provides workplace skills, mentoring and summer employment to tribal teens.

An advocate for education

“Don Ivy came to our college in the mid-1990s to learn about the land, history and philosophy. He has used that knowledge to become in many ways a teacher for us all. He is a genuine leader who brings people together with shared vision for self-improvement and making our state better,” said Southwestern President Patty Scott.

Ivy served for several years on the college’s Foundation, advocating for the need to support scholarships and invest in quality facilities and training for residents of the south Oregon coast region. Under his leadership, the Coquille Indian Tribe was the college’s first vocal supporter and partner in building the college’s new Health & Science Technology center. The building will open in fall 2021, providing modern labs for training new generations of scientists, engineers and health care professionals. 

“When I talk to somebody who’s a SWOCC student, I talk to them about the technology building. I see the excitement in our nursing students and others, and that building how important it is to them,” Ivy said. “I’m hoping the doors swing open in the fall and we fill it with students, and know we have accomplished a great thing.”

The Southwestern Foundation typically honors Distinguished Alumni in a celebration in coordination with graduation. This year, the college is postponing a Distinguished Alumni celebration until tentatively fall 2021. 

“The whole COVID thing has challenged us with asking, ‘What are those things that are the most deeply rooted, the big important things that really, really matter,” Ivy said. “Celebration of community is hugely important. It reminds us to be together.” 

This is the 30th year Southwestern has honored alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia. To learn more about the college, go to www.socc.edu.