University honors bestowed during May 18 dinner at Hargreaves Hall
One theme that was a uniting thread for the winners of the 2013 Eastern Washington University Alumni Awards handed out last Saturday was the help the recipients received from others.
In the event held in the Powers Reading Room at Hargreaves Hall, and witnessed by a full house, nine EWU graduates were singled out for their contributions to the school, their communities, and the world.
Entrepreneur Jason Clerget, a 2007 grad, received the Inspirational Young Alumnus Award. Rogers High School principal Lori Wyborney, the recipient of dual degrees from Eastern in 1986 and 1995 was singled out for the Alumnus of Service Award. Former journalism professor Patrick McManus was honored as the 2013 Distinguished Faculty recipient. Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Ken Privratsky, who graduated from Eastern Washington State College in 1969 received the Exceptional Military Service Award.
Melanie Monek, a 2004 grad, was the Distinguished Mentor, Spokane public relations specialist Cher Desautel, a dual degree (1994, 1998) Eastern graduate was selected as the Lifetime Achievement Award winner. The College Success Foundation won the Organization of Excellence award while the Francis B. Huston Award singled out distinguished seniors of the Class of 2013.
Clerget spent his earlier work life in construction but at Eastern, where he served as student body president, his experience there, he said, allowed him to blossom into a new career that included founding Dollarpermonth.org, an organization that raises and distributes micro-contributions – $1 or $2 from each of thousands of contributors, he said – to select charities based on votes from donors.
“ I will say, I got choked up when I found out about this,” Clerget said in an intro video. “You know you work and work and work and when somebody recognizes you for it it’s just a good feeling that there’s people around you that actually notice it because when you’re head’s down (working) you don’t really look up to see who’s watching.”
John Rogers High School principal, Wyborney, comes from educational stock in Cheney, her dad being longtime coach and educator, the late Jim Hatch.
She was inspired by professors at Eastern, “But I learned about service from my parents,” Wyborney said upon accepting her award. “I was super lucky.” Under Wyborney’s direction, Rogers has greatly increased graduation rates for a very much at-risk student population.
McManus is, perhaps, better known for his numerous exploits into humor writing in books and plays, and may consider himself lucky to have ever attained the place he did in life considering he flunked second grade.
What’s worse, the teacher who held him back was his mother and she did so not because he failed the subject matter, but rather did not attend class – in the one-room schoolhouse in which they also lived.
“I wanted students to learn how to make a living writing, not just learn to write,” he said. He has a long list of journalists who have taken him up on that quest.
As a new student at EWSC, Privratsky recovered from spending a few days in the local jail for reckless driving to move onto a 33-year military career, he said. His life got new direction with what was then mandatory membership in ROTC.
His success, he said, was also largely due to the support he had from his wife of 44 years, Kathy. “There are a lot of occasions where you need a partner to pick you up,” he said.
Monek, who works in the banking industry, has been a noted mentor for students, and co-workers. “The road map ends at college,” she said. “No one tells you what to do (next). This is my turn to give back.”
The best part of mentoring is when students “sit up and get it,” Monek said while accepting the specially hand crafted awards.
Desautel is a partner in the PR firm of Desautel-Hege in Spokane. Her company gives back directly in hiring EWU grads. Seven are currently part of the staff. “I share this award with other people, but I’m taking it…I work hard,” she said with a hearty laugh and smile.
Debra Wilds and Sue Byers accepted the Organization of Excellence award for the College Success Foundation. “It takes all of us to ensure success,” Wilds said. Byers told the audience that because of their work over 200 students got financial help to complete their degree. Many of those were first-time college students in their families.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.