Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations

Connections Spring 2017

Spring 2017, Volume 10, Issue 2

Connections Alumni News provides general information and news about Seattle Pacific University alumni of interest to other Seattle Pacific alumni. It neither endorses nor provides commentary critical of the alumni featured. By policy, SPU is not permitted to endorse any alumni running for political office regardless of party affiliation.

The unexpected gift

Edith Holmes

Four miles south of the Canadian border, tiny Oroville, Washington, lies on Highway 97. Fewer than two thousand people live in Oroville among the green pastures, fruit orchards, and vineyards of a picturesque valley. Two of those people, Stuart and Edith Holmes, were a childless couple, who, through their family medical practice, looked after a good share of the folks in town. Edith loved to garden and pick huckleberries, and they were both active in their church and community.

The Holmeses were graduates of Seattle Pacific College in 1940, and they had big hearts for their alma mater. They gave generously and faithfully to Seattle Pacific. Stuart served more than 30 years on the Board of Trustees, and when he stepped down in 1986 he was designated “trustee emeritus.”

When Stuart died in 1993, University Advancement staff members continued to visit Edith in the house that she and her husband had built together. For decades, SPU friends stopped in, shared meals, admired her garden, and occasionally dropped a fishing line in alongside hers. She gave friendship, conversation, and at the end of the day, an envelope with another generous gift for SPU. It was Edith’s way.

Edith died in 2013 at the age of 94. As part of her estate, she left $377,000 to Seattle Pacific. Much gratitude turned into surprised astonishment in January of this year when another gift arrived from the Holmes estate: an amount in excess of 1.1 million dollars.

“This additional gift — completely unexpected — illustrates for me the work and faithfulness of those who have gone before us,” says Louise Furrow, vice president for university advancement. “It reflects SPU’s impact on Edith and Stuart, and their decades of generosity. It also illustrates the importance of our interactions today as we serve our students and their families.”

Look who’s running for mayor

Nikkita Oliver

Sociology major Nikkita Oliver ’08 is challenging incumbent Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in the August primary.

Her friend and mentor the late Joe Snell, former director of intercultural affairs at SPU, put it this way a decade ago: “Nikkita could run for president. She is a community builder with a unique ability to connect with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”

The connecting and the electioneering have begun. Seeking office under a newly formed Peoples Party of Seattle, Oliver says she is running because, according to her website, “We are a city where the people mobilize for justice and equity. We deserve public servants who show up with the same tenacity and conviction for justice and equity with which we do.”

A community organizer, attorney, and former program coordinator for SPU’s Urban Youth Leadership Academy, the Indianapolis native received the 2015 Artist Human Rights Leader Award from the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. She has performed her spoken word artistry on “The Late Night Show” with Stephen Colbert and holds law and education degrees from the University of Washington.

If she were to win the mayor’s office, Oliver would become the first African-American woman to do so. Information about Oliver’s campaign can be found at

Plug in or unplug? Alum offers advice to wary parents

Gregory Jantz

The Family Online Safety Institute says that 81 percent of parents admit to having moderate to serious concerns about their children’s technology use. Gregory Jantz ’82, MA ’84, a mental health expert, certified eating disorder specialist, state-certified chemical dependency counselor, and licensed mental health counselor, says he can help.

Author of 28 books, Jantz has unpacked numerous mental health topics, including depression, relationship dependency, and the raising of boys through biblical principles and brain science. In 10 Tips for Parenting the Smartphone Generation (2016, Aspire Press), he says that parents have every reason to worry if, when they give a child another new phone, game, or computer gadget, they are handing their son or daughter a scorpion. (See Luke 11:11–12.)

“Technology is new but wisdom is not,” writes Jantz, who met his wife, LaFon Ferguson Jantz ’84, at SPU. Together they raised two sons. “Parents can use wisdom to navigate the currents of this digital stream we live in. When we’re short on that wisdom, we can ask God to provide it.”

A regular contributor to Psychology Today, Jantz is founder of The Center, A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington. Since 1984, The Center, recognized as one of the top facilities in the U.S. for the treatment of depression, offers “whole-person” care across a range of concerns, including ADHD, PTSD, and addiction. As a result, Jantz has shared his expertise on CNN, NBC, and other national media outlets.

His live radio call-in show, “Overcoming With Dr. Gregory Jantz,” is heard weekly on KCIS 630.

SPU roommates urge a compassionate Congress

More than 100 Christian leaders from across the country urged Congress to avoid disproportionate cuts to America’s foreign assistance programs. Their letter earlier this year, signed by pastors, professors, and parachurch leaders, called on Congress to support and protect the International Affairs Budget and “not to turn our back on those in desperate need.”

Two of the signers were 6th Floor Ashton Hall roommates in 1973: Jim Lyon ’74, general director of Church of God Ministries, and Alec Hill ’75, president emeritus of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

The Christian leaders stressed that America must remain “that shining city on a hill” that “brings hope to the poor, hungry, [and] vulnerable.”

2015 grad takes second in major design competition

Natalie Smith ’15 won second place in the 2016 Yves Saint Laurent-Inspired Fashion Design Competition for students from California, Oregon, and Washington. Named for the French fashion designer considered one of the great names in fashion history, the competition challenged entrants to design an original look inspired by iconic Saint Laurent dresses.

Smith’s creation, based on the modernist Mondrian dress of 1965, was on display with the creations of the other two winners at the Seattle Art Museum through January 2017. Judges from the fashion world called her creation “unexpected” and a “daring use of materials.”

Natalie Smith

The finished look is “amusing, playful, whimsical,” said one judge. “Execution is very clean and complete,” said another.

After placing in the top three, Smith, who double majored in apparel design and accounting, was invited to Seattle’s elegant Sunset Club to meet the curator of the SAM exhibit, “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.” She also met women influential in the Seattle fashion scene. At the opening party, she wore a dress she had made and hand-painted with Saint Laurent’s portrait, a product of her company Nascent Women, which specializes in hand-painted fabrics.

The way to that party was paved with savvy and hard work. In the highly competitive fashion industry, you have to know how to strategize your way into the public eye.

Smith honed that skill early on. While applying for local design jobs within weeks of graduation, she quickly discovered that getting hired might take some time. She went freelance and joined, a freelance site for “lean entrepreneurs.” Since August 2015, she has completed 90 orders for sketch and production services, earned more than $2,500, and worked with clients in more than 10 countries.

Smith was quick to leverage her success. “I reworked my entire portfolio,” she says, and that led to her landing an assistant technical designer position in August 2015 at clothing manufacturer, SanMar Corporation. Last October, she was promoted to apparel illustrator and now works on designs for 50 percent of the company’s product line.

And on the side? She develops her own clothing companies, such as Nascent, and enters fashion design competitions.

She is quick to credit SPU professors such as Sarah Mosher for spending many hours helping Smith perfect her skills and style. Smith credits SPU’s job board for helping her find her footing through first a design internship, then a job as a style consultant with Luly Yang Couture.

Grand Reunion: Join us for a grand time!

Grand Reunion

Save the date for Grand Reunion 2017, October 6–7.

As a signature event of SPU’s 125th anniversary celebration, 2016 was the launch of Grand Reunion. The all-alumni reunion weekend was one of the best reunions ever.

If you missed out, don’t worry. Whether it’s been five years or 50, you’re invited back to campus to attend round two of this fun new weekend for all alumni, whether it’s your specific reunion year or not.

Across campus on October 7, we’ll host academic reunions (SOT, SPFC, SBGE, SHS, Theatre, FCS, and more); affinity group reunions (Centurions, Falconettes, and U Scholars); class reunions (1957, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012); and the Taste of SPU All-Alumni Reunion Party.

In this day and age when so much communication is electronic, join us for Grand Reunion, connect face-to-face, and experience campus again.

Registration opens in early June. Watch for coming details.

GiveBIG on May 10: your chance to double your SPU donation


May 10 is GiveBIG, a 24-hour online fundraising event for nonprofits in the Seattle area. Last year, more than 300 Seattle Pacific alumni and friends raised more than $100,000 for SPU on GiveBIG day.

This year, an anonymous donor has generously pledged $75,000 in matching funds for the SPU University Fund. This means the first $75,000 raised will be matched, dollar for dollar. All matching dollars will go to the University Fund, and gifts must be received through SPU’s GiveBig website to be eligible for the match. Don’t miss this chance to see your gift double!

Operatic alum joins forces with jazz sax great

His voice momentarily soothes the high-strung Chicago Blackhawks fan with his world-famous rendition of the National Anthem. From TV’s The Colbert Report to high-stakes NASCAR competition, Jim Cornelison’s notoriety continues to soar, as he sings a song that is 203 years old.

In 2015, Cornelison ’86 branched out. Billy Corgan, a Blackhawks fan and member of the alternative rock group Smashing Pumpkins, usually played a guitar solo of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in the middle of their song, “United States.” The group asked Cornelison to do the honors instead during a Chicago concert, and it caused a minor sensation.

Cornelison is at it again, this time “discovered” by jazz saxophone master Frank Catalano. They have teamed up to release a jazz album later this year featuring eight classic jazz standards, including “Somebody Loves Me,” “Summertime,” and a French/English version of “Falling Leaves.”

Jim Cornelison & Frank Catalano

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” says Cornelison, who has sung with the National Opera of Belgium and holds a master’s degree in opera performance from Indiana University. “Frank and I hit it off. We’re having lots of fun and think it will find a niche.”

We recently caught up with Cornelison in Yakima, Washington, where he was performing with the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra. “We’ve got the rough recording done and the finished album will release sometime later this year,” he says. “It stretches me to try new things. It’s super cool to be doing this with Frank.”

Catalano, who has 11 Grammy nominations and three Grammy wins, has recorded with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, and Destiny’s Child.

Make sure your updated info makes it into the NEW alumni directory

Publishing Concepts Inc. is helping publish a commemorative SPU 125th Anniversary alumni print directory. Our last print directory was published in 2008, so it’s high time for a new one. When better to do it than during this milestone year?

PCI is helping connect with the 45,000+ Falcon alumni to collect updated contact information. You may have already received a postcard in the mail, a phone call, and/or an email asking you to update your record. Once you have updated your record, you won’t be contacted about it again. If you prefer not to be published in the print directory, you can specify that too.

By updating your contact information, you will help us:

  • Publish the most up-to-date contact information in the print directory for those who wish to purchase it,
  • Ensure your information is accurate when we launch our brand new online directory later this year,
  • Strengthen the SPU Alumni Association network by offering ways to connect,
  • Connect with alumni and learn more about how we can better serve you and future alumni,
  • Establish benchmarks for career placement,
  • Determine rank in national evaluations, and
  • Apply for government grants.

When notified, please take a moment to verify your information. During the phone call, you’ll be given the opportunity to purchase the printed directory as well. There is no obligation to buy. If you’d no longer like to be contacted for this project, please call the alumni office at 206-281-2586. If you have any questions about the project, you may call PCI’s customer service helpdesk at 1-800-982-1590 or visit SPU’s Alumni Directory FAQ page.

Alumni Bookshelf

Book cover

By Bridgett Collins ‘05
Sasquatch Books, 2016

Book cover

By Jessica Gigot ‘14
Antrim House, 2015

Book cover

By Gregory L. Jantz ‘82
Aspire Press, 2016

Book cover

by Jonathan Tindall ‘05
Amazon Digital, 2017

Have you written and published a book? Alert the SPU alumni family in Connections. Let the Alumni Office know at 206-281-2587 or

In Remembrance — Byron Birdsall

Byron Birdsall

“I live to paint.”

So said Byron Birdsall ’59, one of Alaska’s great watercolorists. Byron died December 4, 2016, and his distinctive capture of light and landscape will immortalize him as one of the most vivid and skilled artists of the 49th state.

A self-taught painter born in Arizona, Birdsall appreciated the classic Japanese techniques of artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. His application of their style to Alaska’s natural settings became a favorite of art gallery owners across Alaska. Many of them have displayed his florals, still-lifes, and famous “Birdsall moons” over mountain ranges.

“He would always have amazing and beautiful paintings at every show,” says Tammy Phillips, owner of Phillips Studio & Gallery in Fairbanks. “I remember one show he had turtles, bamboo, and Mt. McKinley all together in one painting. He was incredibly creative.”

For two years as art director of the public television station in Pago Pago, American Samoa, Birdsall gave up the heat and humidity for the wilderness beauty of Alaska. He took a job as creative director for an Anchorage advertising agency and perfected his Alaskan style.

It was, said Birdsall, “a dream come true.” The subject matter and a receptive public allowed him to do “what I love best, painting all day, every day, for more than 41 years.” His daughter, Courtenay Birdsall Clifford, has now picked up the brush and is an Alaskan artist in her own right, with a style reminiscent of her father’s.


One of those buttery Birdsall moons graced the night sky above Seattle Pacific University’s Tiffany Hall in a Birdsall watercolor that the history major painted for his alma mater in 2002. The gift of the watercolor marked one year since Tiffany had been demolished to make way for a new science building (now Eaton Hall). Prints of the original painting were sold to fund student scholarships at SPU.

Birdsall, who held a master’s degree in education from Stanford University, is survived by his second wife of 17 years, Billie Jean, and their combined four children and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Lynn Sternberg, died of cancer in 1998.

Upcoming Events

Ivy Cutting
Ivy Cutting

Seattle Pacific University
The Tiffany Loop
9:15 a.m., June 9, 2017 

Relive the memories and cheer on the Class of 2017! Civil War drums. Skirling pipes. Fine speeches. Pageantry!

Falcons Forever BBQ
Falcons Forever BBQ

Seattle Pacific University
Tiffany Loop
5:30 p.m., June 9, 2017 (preceding Baccalaureate)
$10/person, kids under 8 eat free 

Register today!

Celebrate with the Class of 2017, their families, and returning friends of the Class of 2016. Food truck cuisine. Live music. Inspiration for all!

50 Year Reunion
50-year Reunion – Class of 1967

Seattle Pacific University
Various campus venues
 8:45 a.m.7:30 p.m., June 9, 2017

Register today!

Members of the Class of 1967 are VIPs for the entire day! From special recognition at Ivy Cutting to the 50-year ring presentation, dinner, and time to reconnect and reflect with your classmates in the evening, it’s all about you!

Grand Reunion
Grand Reunion Weekend for All Alumni

Seattle Pacific University
Various campus venues
October 6–7, 2017  

It’s reunion heaven! Academic reunions. Affinity group reunions. Class reunions for years ending in “2” and “7.” And everybody’s favorite: the Taste of SPU All-Alumni Reunion Dinner. Watch for registration details later in May.

Holy Land Tour
Free Methodist Holy Land Tour

January 29 – February 10, 2018  

We invite you to join us for the trip of a lifetime. Experience where Jesus walked and encourage those who live there today in their walk with Jesus. 

The all-inclusive price includes round-trip coach airfare from Seattle, 4-star hotels in each location, meals, all tips and site entrance fees, and more.  

Limited space available. Interested? We encourage SPU alumni to visit our website for cost, itinerary, FAQs, and a link to our sign-up form. 

We'd love to have you join us on this journey! 

Dr. Matt Whitehead Superintendent, Pacific Northwest Conference
Tour Host 

Cathy Tastad and Dean Kato Tour
Logistics Coordinators

Camille Jones ’08 is state’s Teacher of the Year

Camille Jones

Give them the skills and the opportunities, and even kids living in poverty will excel. So says Camille Grigg Jones ’08, who advocates for integrated exposure to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) for early elementary students. Jones is Washington’s 2017 Teacher of the Year. Learn more about her vision for all students in the current issue of Response magazine.

Looking for this year’s Alumni Award winners?

Alumni Award Winners

They are innovative, driven, passionate, and dedicated to SPU’s vision to engage the culture and change the world. They are making inroads in software technology, social justice issues, and healthcare. They are the 2017 Alumni Award recipients. Check out Alumnus of the Year Jeff Husey ‘83, GOLD Alumnus of the Year Jerrell Davis ‘14, Medallion Award honoree Sheila Houston ’02and Medallion Award honorees Jennifer Damm Best ’94 and Eric Best ‘95.

Tour SPU without leaving your chair

360 video

Come on a virtual 360-degree visit to some of the most popular places on the SPU campus. While along for the ride, you can explore the action from every angle — sky, ground, and all around!

Check out the details on how to hop aboard the SPU virtual reality tour by headset or phone.

Connect with new SPU Switchboard

360 video

Want to connect with Falcons? Switchboard is a new online platform exclusively for the SPU community to connect with one another easily and directly. You can either “ask” for what you need or “offer” what you have to share, including job opportunities, housing, advice, and more. Through Switchboard, Seattle Pacific alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members can instantly access the extended Falcon network. We have more than 760 members and counting, so come join the SPU community on Switchboard and make your ask or offer today.

Watch how it works


SPU license plates — display Falcon pride and support student scholarships

The effort to obtain signatures for SPU license plates continues. We have almost 600 signatures and are making a renewed effort to collect the 3,500 signatures we need to make it happen in 2017!

If you are a Washington state vehicle owner and would be interested in purchasing an SPU branded license plate, we urge you to fill out the online form to indicate your intent to purchase these plates if and when they become available. It is not a binding agreement, rather an interest form that will show the Department of Licensing (DOL) that there is a demand for the license plates. If they become available, you are not required to purchase them.

SPU License Plate design proposals

Should the special plates become available, Seattle Pacific will contact you to let you know how to order. Each plate will contribute $28 in support of SPU scholarships.

Online form

Prayer requests

  • As the Class of 2017 prepares to graduate in June and venture into new opportunities, pray that our newest alumni will use what they have learned at SPU and continue to engage in communities across the region, nation, and world. We pray that God will help them be a force for good.
  • Pray for our Christian community, that they may feel peace and joy in the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of eternal life.
  • Pray for our world in this time of increasing uncertainty and violence. May we have the courage to take action in promoting a world that is more peaceable, just, and humane.

Campus jobs

Young Alumni Engagement Coordinator. Manage Alumni and Parent Relations Office programs intended to foster within students pride, tradition, and philanthropic support for SPU from the first day they enroll to graduation, and into their lives as alumni.

For more information and to apply for this and other open positions at SPU, visit

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Seattle Pacific University, Engaging the Culture, Changing the World

The Office of Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations
Walls Advancement Center
206-281-ALUM (206-281-2586)

Open weekdays, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Visitors welcome!

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