A LEGACY OF LEADERSHIP||
During a 1960s civil rights rally, he stood with Martin Luther King Jr. on a Seattle stage. As a leader in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Ellis Casson '62 met some of the greatest people of our time, including Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson.
In the 1990s, he shook hands with Nelson Mandela. "I've told my kids that I wish I'd had a camera," says Casson. "That's my legacy, meeting the leadership of this nation."
His legacy is far more than that. He was, and continues to be, a powerful force for human rights in the Pacific Northwest.
Ordained an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, Casson served 48 years in the church throughout the West, his last assignment as pastor of Seattle's First AME Church, followed by three years as presiding elder. Retired last year, he is still active in both the church and the community. He was appointed by Washington Governor Gary Locke to the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and serves as chair of the board of the Church Council of Greater Seattle.
With all the recognitions he's received, Casson still regards his selection as Seattle Pacific University's 1972 Alumnus of the Year a highlight. "I was the first black person to be nominated," he remembers. "It was a white school, of course. When I was a student, there were five full-time black students, including me, but Seattle Pacific had what I wanted a good education and small classes where professors got to know you by name."
Blessed with a quiet sense of humor, Casson says that he was treated well by classmates. "But then I'm likeable."
Always a civil rights activist, Casson hopes SPU continues to reach out to African-Americans. "They tell me the University is making overtures to black colleges, making scholarships available to black students. As long as they make a concerted effort to include African-Americans, especially faculty members, that's all anyone can ask."
Casson earned a degree in Christian education at Seattle Pacific so he could teach young people. But he was offered one pastorate after another and became a successful preacher instead. In retirement, he returns to Christian education in another form, as a sought-after mentor to young black ministers. "They call me 'dad,' and confide in me, both men and women. I tell them, 'Where you are, I've been. Where you hope to go, I've been. As long as you're honest and love the people, you can make it.'"
Look for Casson at Homecoming this year. "I'll be there!" He laughs, then adds: "I want to see what everyone looks like after 40 years, and who's still around."
A STEWARD OF CREATION||
Ruth Scott '77 doesn't just walk on the wild side, she lives on the wild side, devoting her life and talents to wildness and its protection. As a natural resource specialist with the Olympic National Forest in Washington state, Scott helps manage more than 800,000 acres of wilderness.
"Part of what I do is planning, and monitoring wilderness resources," she says. But her time is also spent on restoration. This includes the mammoth job of planting as many as 25,000 sub-alpine plants each fall with the help of volunteers from all over the nation.
Her vision extends well beyond local borders. "I do a lot of task-force work at the national level. Each park has a wilderness plan, and I've been active in developing these guiding documents on how to preserve wilderness and manage visitor activity." Sometimes controversial, difficult assignments, the policies must balance competing needs of people and nature.
In addition to her domestic efforts, Scott has traveled to the World Wilderness Congress twice once in 1987, and again in 1998 to Bangalore, India. "I was especially interested in India because my grandmother was a missionary there," she says. Scott presented a paper on the United States' perspective of wilderness, a view that often conflicts with the ideas of less prosperous nations. "In the U.S., we have the ability to set aside areas that are wild because it's such a resource-rich nation. In many other countries, there is often little land available and what they have may be needed for growing food."
Scott's expertise and enthusiasm is recognized by her peers: In 1994, the National Park Service established its annual National Wilderness Award to honor an individual and a park for extraordinary efforts on behalf of wilderness preservation. Ruth Scott received the first individual award.
Her passion for wild things began years ago, coalescing one summer when she worked as a backcountry ranger. Returning to SPC that fall, she knew what she wanted to do. "I felt that God called me to be a steward of his creation." Fortunately, she found encouragement at Seattle Pacific, including a program in environmental studies at Camp Casey led by Loren and Ruth Wilkinson. "They were my professors and my role models."
The University has always been part of Scott's life. "My grand father was a professor there, and my mother and father met there. I wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for Seattle Pacific," she laughs. Aunts, uncles, a brother and a sister also attended.
Scott hopes to make it to Homecoming, but professional duties may call her away. No matter what, she wants everyone to know the tie still binds: "There were friendships I made at SPU with professors and classmates that continue to enrich me and to support me."
A FAMILY ON THE RUN||
Phil Roiko '87 and Dani Puckett Roiko '87 are on the run. A lot. They have coached basketball, soccer, track and cross country to kids and teens in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After graduation from Seattle Pacific University, the pair traded the Northwest for Dani's home state of Colorado. Before they left, Dani sent Phil's résumé to 25 schools. Her full-court press resulted in an interview with Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs. The interviewers were impressed with Phil; he was impressed with the school. "I was praying they'd hire me," he recalls, laughing.
They did, fulfilling his childhood dream to coach. He's been at Academy High ever since first as the girls' soccer coach and now as head boys' basketball coach.
Off the court, Phil teaches civics, law and U.S. history. He is also a "huddle leader" for high school students in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a ministry to young athletes.
Dani, an exercise science major at SPU, was just shy of earning her teaching certificate at graduation. After two years working in various fitness programs in Colorado, she gained her teaching certificate from the University of Denver.
Like Phil, Dani was drawn to coaching through experiences as an athlete. "I so enjoyed being part of a team," she says of her active intra- mural days at SPU. She also relished the interaction with coaches.
Beginning in 1990, she taught physical education in a local elementary school and coached track at Academy High. Four years ago, she moved to Colorado Springs' newly constructed Pine Creek High School. "I started the track program there," she says, adding that she's also department chair and teaches health classes. After two years of coaching track, she became the cross country coach, a better fit for the couple's fast-paced family life.
Today the Roikos use athletics to bolster family time with their 12- and 7-year-old daughters. Phil coaches both of their soccer teams, and Dani is considering a move from professional coach to active volunteer at their sporting events to spend more time with them.
Phil, who plans to coach college hoops someday, says he'll wait until his girls are older. College basketball, he explains, requires more traveling than he'd like to do with a young family. "But I would like to win a state high school basketball championship someday," he says, adding that may very well happen within four years.
SPU's Homecoming Weekend lands deep into Phil's basketball season, so the Roikos can't fly to Seattle until summer. But, says Phil, "We're in Colorado Springs and we'd love to hear from people!"
A GLOBAL PEACE MISSION BY BIKE||
These days, everyone is talking about peace. One alumnus, Tad Beckwith '97, has done something about it. He biked around the world, urging kids to connect with pen pals in different countries.
After creating a nonprofit organization, PeaceBike, Beckwith set off near his home in Dayton, Oregon, in September 1999. Logging nearly 10,000 miles on his bike, he traveled a mostly western route for two years through 20 countries in North and South America, Australia and Asia.
Traveling at bike speed, Beckwith stopped for kids and anyone else who cared to chat, snap group photos and share meals. Along the way, the schoolteacher visited schools to encourage students to talk about their hopes for the world.
Beckwith urged his new friends to check out his Web site, www.peacebike.org. There they could chart his progress through his journal entries and find pen pals. In that way, he hoped they would find out how kids lived differently and yet wanted the same basics food, family, friendship and peace.
"The world has changed in the last few years," says Beckwith. "It's all connected by the Internet now." Even when biking across China, Beckwith found Internet cafés where anyone could log on for an hour for only 2 yuan, about 25 cents.
Though sometimes joined by a friend or his sister Penny, Beckwith traveled mostly solo. Kids greeted him as soon as he entered a town. "I was a bit of a bike celebrity," he grins. That status helped him at borders and military checkpoints. "As a bit of an odd guy," he remembers, "I'd get the stern questions." But that would soon turn into friendlier questioning about his reason for biking around the world. Beckwith often left the checkpoints with a wave and a promise to exchange e-mails.
Seattle Pacific University professors and fellow alumni have inspired Beckwith along the way. His geography professor, Kathleen Braden, heard his dream and said, "That's great! Here's 50 bucks. Go out and get started." Mícheál Roe and Jeff Joireman, faculty members in psychology, encouraged him to work toward peace in tangible ways. Beckwith's former roommates, Jason Domer '96 and Jonathan Shaw '96, show support: Jason is on the board of PeaceBike, and Jonathan has worked as the site's webmaster.
Last fall, after war broke out in Afghanistan, Beckwith says, "I was in a Muslim area of India, yet people treated me well. Those people are my brothers and sisters." Still, the board of PeaceBike urged Beckwith to cut short his global crossing, bypassing Iran, Iraq and Europe. Now home in Oregon, Beckwith says he wants to be a voice for peace. "In this globalized culture, we need one another more," says Beckwith. "Now I have experience behind my mission for peace."
CLASS OF 1951 HONORED WITH MEDALLION AWARDS||
Eleven alumni received Medallion Awards in June 2001 at the reunion luncheon for the Class of 1951. Here are the stories of the honorees:
Bernie Buck coached and taught physical education on three college campuses, including Seattle Pacific. For the past 30 years, he's coached and taught at Shoreline Community College.
Bud Bylsma has served ministries including Young Life, HEED Bang- ladesh and the Northwest Leadership Foundation. He's now developing English programs for Cuba and Turkey.
Tom Cooper was an educator in Washington's Shoreline School District for 17 years before becoming a facilities planner in the Northshore School District. After "retiring," he founded Thomas Cooper and Associates, helping more than 40 school districts solve facilities issues.
Len Ensign was the first missionary physician in Burundi and Rwanda in Central Africa. Marty Oaks Ensign '52 served as president of Women in Medicine and Dentistry and was on the board of Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Don Kerlee and Ivy Coxson Kerlee '50 have worked in education for years. A professor of computer science, Don Kerlee spent 30 years teaching at Seattle Pacific and five at Roberts Wesleyan College. Ivy Kerlee is an expert in childhood education.
Andy Montana taught chemistry at Seattle Pacific and other western universities, developing innovative curriculum in his field. He served as the NCAA faculty representative while at California State-Fullerton.
Margaret Valley Rayburn and her husband, Bob Rayburn, served Village Missions for 50 years, helping the organization to evangelize in rural America and Canada. She now coordinates Friendship Bible Coffees.
Carol Hunter Taylor and her husband, Justin Taylor, founded Taylor United Inc., a shellfish business. Their company - with hatcheries in Washington, Oregon and Hawaii - has provided jobs for numerous SPU student workers.
Audrey Tjepkema Thorsen faithfully served the Free Methodist Church through youth programs in Turlock, California. She has been a Free Methodist conference delegate and can frequently be found at women's retreats and senior citizen conferences.