Southwestern Oregon Community College announces Dr. Eric Gleason as the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus

Southwestern Oregon Community College announces Dr. Eric Gleason as the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce Dr. Eric Gleason of Winston is the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus. Gleason is a 2012 Southwestern graduate and professionally serves as Deputy Director of Coos Health & Wellness.

The Distinguished Alumni award recognizes individuals who demonstrate significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia.

“We are excited to recognize a former student who served his country as well as his communities,” said college President Patty Scott. “Eric Gleason demonstrates Southwestern’s mission and validates our hope that students and graduates will contribute positively to our global society.”

Gleason grew up in North Bend. He joined the U.S. Navy, serving his country for eight years. He returned to the south Oregon coast in 2006 and soon found he wanted to be involved in improving the community.

“Trying to give back to the community in a way to saves lives is a big deal. I never thought I’d be doing that. And, I never thought I’d graduate from college either,” Gleason said while discussing the Distinguished Alumni award.

After becoming injured during a welding career, Gleason set out in a new direction in life. Enrolling at Southwestern, he used GI BILL® benefits to study and earn an Associate of Arts degree in 2012.

“Without SWOCC, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. “If it wasn’t for people believing in me and the faculty being so supportive, I don’t know that I would have continued.”

Gleason did keep learning. After Southwestern, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science in 2013 from Oregon State University.

While he continued pursuing his education, Gleason worked from 2011-13 as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier. From 2013-15, he served as the Coos County veterans service officer.

“I knew education was a way forward. I kept pursuing it, always trying to give back to community, always trying to improve my community,” Gleason said.

In 2015, he earned a master’s degree from Arizona State University, and a doctoral degree in behavioral health management from ASU in 2018.

Since becoming a member of Coos Health & Wellness in 2015, Gleason has continued his work to support others in improving their lives. He guided the department’s public communication efforts throughout the pandemic and has maintained connections with veterans’ efforts.

He also served previously in elected local government positions, including North Bend City Council and North Bend School Board. He remains involved in local theater and activities involving his children.

Since 1992, Southwestern has celebrated former students who have distinguished themselves in professions and innovative efforts to build friendships around the globe. Past recipients have included leaders in education, the arts, Native American tribes, business and finance, research, medicine, and the military.

Southwestern Oregon Community College celebrates its 2023 graduates

Southwestern Oregon Community College celebrates its 2023 graduates

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony will take place on Friday, June 9, 2023, at noon in Prosper Hall on the Coos Campus, 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay.

Southwestern is proud of the 2023 graduates! This year the College is pleased to honor a total of 364 graduates, from 20 states and 15 countries.

Degrees being awarded are:

141 Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer

103 Associate of Applied Science

37 Associate of General Studies

40 Associate of Science

118 Certificates of Completion (one year)

Southwestern also congratulates seven local high school students who acquired their associate degrees at the same time they were completing their high school diplomas.

Guest attendance at the ceremony is by ticket only. The celebration can be viewed live via the College’s Livestream channel at

Additional information for graduates and their families can be found on the Graduation webpage located at

GH = Graduating with Honors, 3.75 GPA   |   V = Valedictorian, 4.00 GPA   |   PK = Member Phi Theta Kappa


One Man’s Scholarship Mission

One Man’s Scholarship Mission

When you walk into Randolph Hall on SWOCC’s Coos Campus, you can hear laughter. It is hard not to follow the sound right into the Veterans Center to be a part of something good.

One tall, blond-haired man is always right in the middle of conversations there. To folks who do not know Ryan DeVore, he appears to be just another Vet Center work study student. Quiet-spoken. Smiling. 

To those who know him, he’s much more. 

“I’ve become a better person because of Ryan,” Shana Brazil said, as she watched him chatting with two students. “Ryan is so open to everything. Veterans can tell him anything, and he never looks down on them – ever. He never has anything negative to say.” 

Shana is SWOCC’s Veteran Services Coordinator. She’s worked with vets at the college for years. She got to know Ryan a couple years ago. He was one of many disabled veterans coming to school to use GI Bill benefits to learn. Ryan found his way to her office. Shana liked him immediately. She asked if he would be her work-study student. Disappointingly, he said no. Three weeks later, Ryan returned. He asked if the job was still open. 

Ryan and his wife, Jessie Courtright, grew up here and have family here. Ryan felt a connection to the college. Jessie graduated from SWOCC 18 years ago, he said, adding proudly she was the first woman to graduate in welding. Ryan applied to SWOCC in 2022 and got a Foundation scholarship. He is pursuing a science degree, but is working on a bigger mission. He believes his mission will improve the world in small, incremental ways long after he’s gone. 

“I’m dying, you know. Slowly,” Ryan said, as he started telling his story. “I have organ failure.”

It is an autoimmune disorder that manifested as diabetes and Grave’s disease. Slowly, it has overcome his pancreas and now is destroying his liver and spleen. He’s waiting for it to attack his heart or his brain. 

A person could let that eat away at him. That’s not Ryan’s story.  

When he started his work study job, he learned that veterans club students tried to create a permanent scholarship for vets and their families. They made good progress in 2020 fundraising, until COVID killed the effort. 

Ryan picked up the mission. 

“It’s really important to help the soldiers and their dependents. They may be running out of benefits or needing a little extra help,” he said. 

There’s a perception that if you serve in the military, you get free college, free job training. Some do. For others it is more complicated. Many older veterans’ benefits may have expired, or run out just short of the end of their schooling. For veterans with families, the monthly aid often does not stretch far enough. 

Ryan knows personally, the value of a scholarship. It covers the bits and pieces. It eases worry. It helps to know someone cares. 

His goal is to raise the scholarship fund to $50,000. The Vet Center is selling T-shirts. Ryan says he’s hoping to win the lottery. He launched a GoFundMe effort. Donations are trickling in.

“I’m trying to make the world a smarter place. It’s how I deal with my PTSD and ailments. If I’m going to be around, I’m going to try to make everybody’s day better,” Ryan said.

Ryan developed the mindset serving in the U.S. Army from 2002-16, until being medically discharged. He served at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Hood. He also did two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. As a staff sergeant, Ryan watched over his soldiers. He cared for them not only at work, but in their home life and everything. If they needed something, he made sure they were taken care of. 

“He’s brought that into the Vet Center a thousand times more than we ever had,” Shana said. “He just cares about the students. I appreciate it so much.”

Every day, Ryan keeps a candy jar ready for anyone who walks through the Vet Center door. He gets to know each veteran, their spouses, their children. He listens. When they need help, food or a friend, Ryan finds it for them. He connects them with things to do in the community. When some veterans’ car broke down recently, he picked them up and drove them to school. 

“I’m just trying to live forward. I need as much good karma as I can find,” Ryan said, which is why this 42-year-old man’s mission is to finish creating the scholarship fund for veterans. 

“This work-study money I get, it’s going to go to this project.  I am working for free today for kids,” he said.

Now you have met Ryan DeVore. No, he is not just another work-study student. To those who know him, he is a hero.


If you would like to contribute to a permanent scholarship for veterans and their families click ‘Give’ to donate online. Put ‘Veterans Scholarship’ in the notes.


For more information about the veterans program at Southwestern visit, call 541-888-7236 or email

Southwestern announces students appointed to the 2023 All-Oregon Academic Team

Southwestern announces students appointed to the 2023 All-Oregon Academic Team

Photo: Damian Lilienthal, President Scott, Brayden Edwards


Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce the selection of Damian Lilienthal and Brayden Edwardsfor the 2023 All-Oregon Academic Team (AOAT). These outstanding student scholars are selected for their academic excellence, leadership, and community service. Many are members of Phi Theta Kappa, the nation’s community college honor society.


Each year, Phi Theta Kappa, community college presidents, and community college state associations including the Oregon Community College Association (OCCA) sponsor All-State Community College Academic Team ceremonies in 37 participating states. OCCA hosted the All-Oregon Academic Team Luncheon on April 21 at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., to honor AOAT students and their families. The AOAT luncheon’s keynote speaker was Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.


“I’d like to congratulate these outstanding student scholars for their achievements and the upcoming completion of their community college degrees,” said OCCA Board President Kim Morgan. “As some of our very best and brightest, these students represent hope for a strong future in Oregon.”


Both Lilienthal and Edwards will graduate in June and then transfer to Oregon State University. Lilienthal, who is from Myrtle Point, was a STEM Student Researcher with our Space Physics Engineering and Atmospheric Research (SPEAR) team and plans to pursue engineering. Edwards, who is from Coos Bay, was involved in Student Government as the Club’s Director, became a certified Master Tutor through the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA), and will major in computer science.


“I was honored to accompany these young men to the recognition ceremony in Salem. It was the highlight of my year. Spending time with these young men and hearing about their professors, classes, goals and aspirations. Their stories are amazing!” said Patty Scott, President of Southwestern.

Southwestern Students Recognized for Academic Honors Winter Term 2023

Southwestern Students Recognized for Academic Honors Winter Term 2023

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College announces the names of students who excelled winter term for the 2022-2023 academic school year. These students are being recognized with placement on the college’s Dean’s List (DL), Honor Roll (HR) and Academic Excellence (AE) list.

•    Academic Excellence – students must receive a GPA of 4.0 in at least 12 credits

•    Honor Roll – students must receive a GPA between 3.5 and 3.99 in at least 12 credits

•    Dean’s List – students must receive a GPA between 3.0 and 3.49 in at least 12 credits


We are dedicated to all students’ success

Dear Campus Community,

Southwestern is Oregon’s most remote community college. Most of us may not think about the implications of that. For people who want to go to college, we are the only local option. 

To learn elsewhere, residents of the college district must travel over a mountain range or go online. Often, it is more expensive. Many students want the “people connection”, and 50% of our students who enroll in CTE programs need access to labs and equipment, usually requiring time on either campus. 

Yesterday, I and seven other community college presidents testified before a legislative higher education committee. One after another, we talked about our students, the challenges they face and the groundbreaking work community colleges do. We did not talk about community college funding, but it was the unspoken topic in the room as the Legislature works on the state’s budget. Here is the link if you want to watch it.

Oregon funds 38% of our budget through reimbursement on a three-year lookback of FTE enrollment. Local property taxes provide 32% of the college’s revenue. Tuition and fees cover 27%. The other 3% is miscellaneous funding. 

When the governor and lawmakers let community college funding stagnate, our costs still go up. Property tax increases are capped at 3% annually, so in times of high inflation colleges are left with few options to balance revenue with escalating expenses. The options then become increasing tuition and fees, and cutting expenses. We can’t raise tuition and fees enough to make up for what we need.

Budgeting at the end of a biennium is an analytical guessing game. As the college works on the budget now through April, it’s unlikely the state will finish its work until June.  We don’t know at what level the state will fund colleges. We do know, though, the next two years of funding probably will not cover projected costs for current operations.

Changing Demographics

In this region, the population is shifting rapidly. There are fewer younger people and many more retirees. Enrollment at Oregon’s colleges is projected to decrease through 2029. Rural colleges are hardest-hit. Yet, colleges are expected to provide more services to help students persist, overcome and complete. 

If you have taken an economics class, you know there is a point as enrollment decreases, it becomes more expensive per student to operate. Every day we work on the operational challenges of maintaining buildings and grounds. We try to hire and inspire staff in a competitive, worker-shortage era. 

Yesterday in the legislative hearing, I put my budget worries aside and focused on the work we do that inspires. I talked with lawmakers about how Southwestern has transformed developmental education and become a leader in the state for student success. 

When I started here at SWOCC 30 years ago as a faculty member, a student might have taken 37 credits of developmental reading, writing and math before ever taking a class on their pathway to a degree or career. Most students gave up. National data shows that only 23% completed degrees or certificates if they start in a developmental class for credit.

In the early 2000s, we set out to change that. Southwestern became a pioneer in the Guided Pathways movement. We joined with Achieving the Dream in 2012. This led us down a path to improve developmental reading, writing and math curriculum. Today, the college is a leader in student completion. 


Students on our campuses at that time took a placement test where 50% needed basic help in reading and writing. 80% of our students needed a developmental math refresh. Not sure how those statistics have  changed over the years. What has changed is how the college teaches those students.  

Starting in 2011, we began conversations with faculty to improve the pathway to completion.  We began by re-engineering classes and linking students with the math they need based on their pathways in STEM or non-STEM. We eliminated many developmental classes by improving curriculum or creating “co-requisite” classes. 

After 12 years, our data shows success. Southwestern’s students reach their degrees 1 year sooner than all the other students at Oregon’s other community colleges. The four-year completion transfer rate is 65%, which 14% points higher than the other community colleges. Eleven percent of our students are LatinX. Their completion success at 67% is higher than any other group at this college, and 21 percentage points higher than any other college in Oregon. These are amazing outcomes and it has gotten the attention of lawmakers and others around the state.

Every time I drive home after spending time with the other college presidents, I am so happy to be at SWOCC.  We have an awesome college with awesome faculty and staff.  I am so proud to be your leader.  Sure, we have some challenges to sort through so let’s remember that we are a team of people who might have some different opinions on how we move forward to reach our strategic priorities.  But let’s try to be mindful that it takes all of us to work together to improve student success.

Have a great weekend,


Patricia M. Scott, Ed.D.


Southwestern Oregon Community College


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