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Summer 2004 | Volume 26, Number 7 | Campus
Honor Roles

President’s Chapel Spotlights Five Faculty and Staff Award Winners

At the annual President’s Recognition Chapel on May 4, 2004, Seattle Pacific University singled out five faculty and staff members for excellence. In fields as diverse as science and athletics, these employees had one thing in common: a commitment to SPU’s vision. As the academic year drew to a close, Response asked each of the honorees, “What are your current projects?” and “What keeps you passionate about your work at Seattle Pacific?”

The 2004 award winners (clockwise from left): Shelley Westerman, Tom Box, Brad Gjerding, Patrick McDonald and Cynthia Fitch.

Cynthia Fitch Associate
Professor of Biology

In presenting Cynthia Fitch with the President’s Award for Excellence, SPU President Philip Eaton noted that her scientific specialty — genetics — has been much in the news of late as the worldwide discussion of genetic engineering issues continues. He added, “She comes to these issues as a Christian person challenged to excellence, as a scientist engaged in cutting-edge research.”

In the new Science Building, Fitch and her students study chromosomes, using fluorescent tagging. She sees tagging as a teaching tool and as a research technique for medical diagnostics and other wide-ranging applications. “The great thing is, the students and I get to work on tagging right here in our own labs, which keeps us completely current,” says Fitch.

Her significant contributions to Seattle Pacific extend beyond the classroom. As pre-med and pre-dental program advisor, Fitch is instrumental in helping SPU students consistently achieve a 90-plus percent acceptance rate into medical school. She is advisory to Ivy Honorary; serves on the Undergraduate Policies and Evaluation Committee; and co-leads the weekly Biomedical Ethics Cadre. “I work with students who are hungry for challenges and eager to explore the world around them,” she says. “They make my job a pleasure.”

Tom Box
Director of Athletics
In athletics, people test themselves against high standards, and they risk everything for a goal. “I enjoy being around people like that every day,” says Tom Box. “Our coaches and athletes are hard workers, and to our good fortune, they are also successful. It makes being a cheerleader at the home competitions all the more satisfying.” Partly because his job involves telling the story about SPU athletics to donors and friends off campus, he tries to attend every home event in all 14 Falcon varsity sports. “It’s important for me to support our teams,” he says.

Eaton presented the President’s Award for Excellence, calling Box “the kind of person who has never met a stranger. Many of us have the privilege to call him friend. He is a mentor to both staff and students, demonstrating his faith in everything he does.

”What makes Falcon athletics stand out? “The character of our athletes is what we place a premium on,” says Box, who earned an M.B.A. at SPU in 1980. “We take great pride in ensuring our athletes get faith formation experience.”

Brad Gjerding
Computer and Engineering Systems Analyst
Things have changed since Brad Gjerding graduated from Seattle Pacific in 1965. “Back then,” he says, “we worked with punch cards on a big computer across town. Now there are 15 gigabytes of software on each computer in every lab on campus.” In 1975, Gjerding had his own business doing research in advanced flight-deck display systems, which Boeing finally put to use on its 767 years later.

Officially, Gjerding works for SPU’s Electrical Engineering Department, but he takes care of the computer labs for all the sciences at the University. “My favorite part of this job is mentoring,” he says. “When students ask for help, I give them just enough information that they can discover the solutions themselves.”

Gjerding offers a bit more information to those who aren’t as interested in computers as they are in teaching. When Staff Council President Kelley Unger presented him with the Staff Member of the Year Award, she quoted a faculty member: “Brad makes it possible for faculty to concentrate on teaching by making technology work for them instead of making them work for technology.”

Shelley Westerman
Chemistry Lab Coordinator
One person who nominated Shelley Westerman for the Oral V. Hemry Staff Member of the Year Award said this about her: “Shelley is a prayer warrior who is successful because of her connectedness with God and her desire to ultimately serve him.”

Recently, Westerman discussed her faith with a chemistry student whose friend had cancer. The student, who came to SPU from another country, was surprised to find a staff member so open in talking about Christianity. “I sometimes forget how great it is to be able to talk about God at work,” says Westerman.

Working in new laboratories at the Science Building is quite a change, says the Seattle Pacific graduate of 2000. “The old building had one big open laboratory space; it’s wonderful to now have specialized labs and work spaces.” She likes working directly with students and faculty members, helping with experiments and ordering special chemicals for classes. “Every day, there’s always a new ‘problem’ to solve, and that keeps things interesting,” she says.

Patrick McDonald
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Bri Clark, 2003–2004 president of the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific, explains why students chose Patrick McDonald for the honor of Faculty Member of the Year: “He integrates his Christian faith in classroom material; he expects academic rigor; and he personally relates to students.”

McDonald keeps office hours in the Student Union Building, so students can carry on a kind of Socratic dialogue with him outside of class. Because of this visibility for the philosophy program, he envisions more students taking philosophy classes and combining philosophy with another field in a double major.

In class, McDonald engages students in asking fundamental questions, including those from the Book of Job: “Why am I here?” “Is God listening to me?” “Why do the righteous suffer?” When it comes to stem cells, abortion, pacifism and even watershed rights, his students learn that philosophy is a way of evaluating these issues. “They need to figure out which things are central to their lives and which things are on the periphery,” says McDonald. “Philosophy is abstract, but its questions hit close to home.”


Back to the top
Back to Campus

From the President
As Seattle Pacific University gains notice nationwide, President Philip Eaton challenges the community. “Build your city on a hill so everyone can see what you are doing,” he writes. “Build a reputation.”

Equipped for Success
An endowment helped 2003 graduate Vickerie Williams gain the confidence to become a key employee with Philips Medical Systems. [Campaign]

Three Faculty Say Good-Bye
As they retire, three professors mark the completion of their remarkable careers at Seattle Pacific University and beyond. [Faculty]

The 2004 Medallion Awards
Alumni awards spotlight 10 Seattle Pacific graduates who have engaged the culture in various ways. [Alumni]

Attack of the Big-Screen Clones
Response reviews some of Hollywood’s film portrayals of cloning and related topics. See which ones may be worth your time watching. [Books & Film]

The Heritage Mile
Before her hip-replacement surgery, Doris Heritage and 200 of her students and friends ran a final mile together — and raised money for the Heritage Scholarship Endowment. [Athletics]

My Response
Debra Prinzing, 1981 SPU alumna, helps readers find God in their gardens. “… I think the pursuit of beauty in the garden is a pursuit to know God better,” she says.