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.