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Celebrating our greatest alumni

Celebrating our greatest alumni

Every year, we share many stories from throughout time about the great accomplishments of Southwestern Oregon Community College’s alumni and current students. Some of those stories from past years are put away in files and boxes to be re-discovered in decades to come. Others are yet to be told.

Part of our college’s own story is highlighting and celebrating our alumni who make significant contributions to their professions or society in general. Oftentimes, these folks improve their communities in great ways and sometimes the do inspiring work quietly. Usually, it’s for more than just a paycheck and sometimes with personal sacrifice. While each Distinguished Alumni’s story and accomplishments are unique, all recognize that their educational experience at Southwestern played a very important role in their lifetime achievements.

Here are the Distinguished Alumni we have honored each year (except for 2020 with a pandemic hiatus) and some of their thoughts. Do you know other former students who are inspiring others and making significant contributions that support education and improve our world? Let us know.

2022 – Carolyn Thompson, certified public accountant, SWOCC Foundation trustee 2013-present
“The one thing I could always count on in my life was school. It started at 8:30 in morning. It fed me. It nurtured my spirit and my soul.”

onald Ivy, 2021 Distinguished Alumnus
Donald Ivy, 2021 Distinguished Alumnus


2021 – Donald Ivy, Historian, Philosopher, Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe 2014-20
“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.”

2019 – LaMont Swinson, banking and mortgage industry executive, coach SWOCC
“I express to students, it might not have been part of the plan to be at SWOCC, but believe me that everyone here wants you to succeed. All in all, SWOCC allows young people a great opportunity to start their foundation and start learning in a positive environment on what they might want to become.”

2018 – Barbara Eells, Retired social services manager and victims rights advocate
“I believe none of us make it to our goals alone, and I feel when we succeed at our goals, we should pay that forward by advocating in our own communities.” I am an activist for the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Whether that’s abused children, battered women or neglected animals, I try to be a voice for those who have no voice.”

Barbara Eells of Gold Beach
Barbara Eells of Gold Beach, 2018 Distinguished Alumna

2017 – Shirley MacAdam, Retired certified public accountant
“As I continue on my journey, I am often reminded that some of the best instructors I have had were right here at SWOCC. I am just one small bit of proof that the community college experience provides opportunity and is critical to the future of our community.”

2016Don Grotting, Superintendent Beaverton School District
“I would not be where I am today without the support, academic expertise and high expectations of the Southwestern Oregon Community College teaching faculty, support staff and administration.”

 2015Dean A. Huard, United States Army Lieutenant Colonel
“The positive academic and extracurricular experiences I encountered at SWOCC better prepared me for the leadership challenges that I would encounter in my professional life. A small college life allowed me to accomplish big and meaningful achievements. The memories and friendships I remember from SWOCC will last a lifetime.”

U.S. Army LTC Dean Huard, SWOCC's 2015 Distinguished Alumnus
U.S. Army LTC Dean Huard, 2015 Distinguished Alumnus

2014Boyd Bjorkquist, Retired Educator, Coach and Athletic Director
“The academic and athletic opportunities I enjoyed at Southwestern helped shape my future. Southwestern provided a great experience for me.”

2013Stan Goodell, Retired Educator/Retired Cross Country and Track & Field Coach
“My instructors, advisors and coaches challenged me during my two years at SWOCC. They didn’t tell me I had to be the best, but to be the best I could be. That challenge opened the door for a career that has endured for more than 37 years.”

2012Kathy Laird, R.N. M.N., retired health care administrator
“The positive experience I enjoyed while at Southwestern continued well past my role as student and continued for the 11 years that I was employed as nursing faculty (1990-2001).”

2011Linda Prefontaine, business manager / Owner, Prefontaine Productions LLC
“My intentions are to set up a scholarship program to help young females who have demonstrated a talent in music, arts, or athletics but don’t have the funds to pursue their dreams.”

2010Michael “Mick” Sneddon, Fire Chief, Charleston Rural Fire Protection District
“My education from Southwestern has meant a world of knowledge and has opened doors, giving me the skills to seek what I need to excel.”

2009Mary Stricker, Retired Library Director, Southwestern Oregon Community College
“Southwestern gave me confidence to continue my education, which ultimately changed my life.”

Mary Stricker, SWOCC distinguished alumna
Mary Stricker, 2009 SWOCC distinguished alumna

2008Fran Worthen, Retired business owner / Retired Track & Field Coach, Marshfield High School
“There were so many things offered at the community college that just got you excited; all of them shape the fabric of a person’s mind and emotions and they were all relevant. The community college opened doors for lifelong learning.”

2007Peggy Goergen, Former Curry Campus Dean, Southwestern Oregon Community College
“Southwestern made it entirely possible for me to do what I wanted to do, which was work in education. Even though I did not obtain a degree from Southwestern, I would not have been able to obtain a degree at all without Southwestern.”

2006Chuck McKay, Former President, McKay’s and Price ‘N’ Pride
“I don’t think there’s an end to learning for any of us. My goal was not the credential or the diploma so much as the education and I certainly got that.”

2005Cynthia Ball, Retired chief financial officer timber industry
“At Southwestern, I received more than just an education. I learned how to set goals and then achieve those goals.”

2004Karl Kennedy, Communications Industry executive
“Some of my fondest Southwestern memories are of science and economics classes, and being on the wrestling team.”

2003Robert “Gray” Jones, Poet and English teacher, American International School of Vienna
“A large portion of the credit for everything that happened to me at Southwestern I owe to the professors I met there. Coming to the college was like walking into a dream that just kept on going once I left.”

2002John D. Breuer, Physical Therapist, Southwest Physical Therapy LLC and John Breuer Rehabilitation Services
“Southwestern helped me refocus and become excited about college again. It is where my lifelong interest in science began.”

2001Michael Hennick, Sr., Owner, Hennick’s Home Center Inc.
“Southwestern allowed me to get a job in the forestry industry with skills that were directly applicable to the job.”

2000Peter Ruppe, Athletic sportswear and equipment industry executive
“The preparation at Southwestern really helped. The teachers were really outstanding and serious. They helped me focus and master what it took to do well in school.”

1999Chuck Knight, Retired Chief of Police, Coos Bay Police Department
“The value of the College’s program, whether it’s criminal justice or any other program, is that it’s well-rounded and you get a good education.”

1998Tsianina Means, 1997 ESPN Fitness America Champion/1993 Miss Coos County
“I received a strong education, enjoyed the highly competitive athletic scene and made true, lifelong friendships.”

Dr. Annette McGregor, 1995 SWOCC Distinguished Alumna
Dr. Annette McGregor, 1995 SWOCC Distinguished Alumna

1997Mark Nightingale, Computer industry engineer and executive
“Southwestern can prepare you for anything, because it’s really the person, not the job. I encourage every student to follow his or her dream.”

1996Don Hall, Retired certified public accountant
“The counselors and professors really care about the students and take a sincere interest in them. It really made a difference to me.”

1995Dr. Annette McGregor, Former theater and arts professor
“I look back on my experiences at Southwestern as critical to my development as an artist, a teacher and a human being.”

1994Peter Sorenson, Eugene attorney and former Oregon State Senator
“I took a geography class and ended up getting a BA and MA in geography because of the good start I got at Southwestern.”

Steven Greif, SWOCC's first distinguished alumnus, 1992
Steven Greif, SWOCC’s first distinguished alumnus, 1992

1993Mary Miller, Retired nonprofit foundation executive
“Southwestern has become a Miller family tradition.”

1992Steve Greif, Author, Historian, retired teacher, North Bend High School
“I am proud of the fact that I’ve come back to the community from Southwestern and that I’ve made my contributions here.”

Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

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.

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