Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations

Connections Winter 2017

Winter 2017, Volume 10, Issue 1
Homecoming and Parents Weekend

SPU’s 125th-year Homecoming and Parents Weekend: Do not miss these bragging rights!

Homecoming and Parents Weekend 2017 is a rare opportunity to experience all the great Homecoming traditions and earn one-of-a-kind bragging rights. “I was there the year Seattle Pacific University turned 125 years old!” will be yours to say for the rest of your life.

Mark February 10–11, 2017, on your calendar and plan to join us on campus for these favorite events that can only be experienced at Homecoming:

  • Student Talent Show
  • Falcon Fever: Basketball Doubleheader
  • Alumni Awards Luncheon
  • Homecoming Concert
  • Mainstage Theatre: Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband”

And. whatever you do, don’t miss out on the:

Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Brunch and Ceremony

The SPU Athletic Hall of Fame is back! Join your fellow Falcons as we induct John Glancy ’70, Virginia Husted ‘63, soccer coach Cliff McCrath, and the ’78 Men’s National Championship soccer team! Tickets: $20.

All Athletics Reunion

The first-ever All Athletics Reunion is here. Following the men’s basketball game Saturday evening, athletes, managers, coaches, and trainers from every sport SPU has ever offered will gather at Royal Brougham Pavilion. Falcon fans are also invited to join in the celebration of current and alumni athletes.

Details/Registration: Visit, call 206-281-ALUM, or email

A grand turnout for a Grand Reunion

When a university turns 125, it is a milestone worthy of sound and spectacle, shared celebrations, rousing reunions, delicious food, and a pavilion filled with the singing of “Amazing Grace.”

Seattle Pacific University’s “Grand Reunion” October 7 and 8 had all of that and more.

An estimated 1,000 people took in the span of activities and 1,400 immersed themselves in the Crowder experience in Brougham Pavilion for a light and music spectacular. Featuring Grammy-nominated folktronic artist David Crowder, rapper Tedashii, and rock guitarist and vocalist Evan Egerer ’10, the concert burst over the crowd in powerful beats and thunderous rhythms, later to be gentled by the moving reassurance of “Amazing Grace.”

The Taste of SPU event in Gwinn Commons not only celebrated dozens of GOLD alumni — graduates of the last 10 years designated Ones to Watch — but was also given the good humor and panache of past Seattle Pacific presidents. David McKenna, David LeShana, and Philip Eaton joined the fun, food, and good friends event in the company of current president, Dan Martin.

Four presidents at a Taste of SPU

A quartet of presidents, past and present, were introduced by Alumni and Parent Relations Director Bryan Jones.

Three affinity group reunions, 10 academic program reunions, and 11 class reunions drew nearly 700 alumni to gatherings of reconnection and storytelling on a “grand” scale.

There was a hardy outdoor gathering at SPU’s Story Pole near Beegle Hall. It was a rededication of the 25-foot cedar pole carved by Tlingit tribal member Abner Johnson and presented to SPU by the Class of 1971. The carvings tell the story of SPU. The rededication ceremony, including traditional Tlingit stories and songs, was led by Tlingit tribal member Tom Dalton ’85.

First-time attenders of the annual President’s Circle Dinner, held in conjunction with the Grand Reunion, included Walter Lee and his wife, Marie, of Brazil; Jim Ballard ’73 and his wife, Donna, of Colorado; and David Wong ’61 and his wife, Christina, of Indiana. Another first-time attender of the dinner was Wes Willmer ’71 of California, who was presented later in the weekend with the Centurion of the Year award for a life of Christian faith and leadership. There were 250 guests at the President’s Circle Dinner, which honors the generosity of donors who annually contribute $1,000 or more to support the University.

View the gallery of Grand Reunion photos. And make your plans now to attend the next Grand Reunion, October 6–7, 2017.

He led a ministry in pursuit of all kids

Denny Rydberg

Denny and Marilyn Rydberg

When in 1993 Denny Rydberg began his tenure as president at Young Life International, the organization reached 700,000 teenagers each year. By the time of his retirement this fall, YL was reaching 2 million teenagers a year in 105 countries around the world.

“Young Life is all about introducing kids to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith,” says Rydberg, a 1967 graduate of Seattle Pacific. “There are so many lost kids and we want to make a difference in their lives.”

Sixty thousand Young Life volunteers and 4,000 staff members make that difference through a mix of fun, adventure, and friendship.

“I love the fact we really are pursuing all kinds of kids,” says Rydberg. “Urban, suburban, rural … kids with special needs, teen moms, military dependents …” He reels off the subsets of young people drawn to Young Life, kids who hail from a wide swath of the earth, including Armenia, Croatia, France, and Scotland.

Says Curtis McWilliams, a YL board member, “(The Rydbergs) … have overseen a period of unprecedented growth and impact on the lives of kids worldwide.”

Rydberg, SPU’s Alumnus of the Year in 2000, points to his professors who devoted themselves to their students and their subjects with faith and expertise. “We appreciated the opportunity to get to know faculty personally,” says Rydberg, who also met his future wife at SPU. Marilyn Henderson Rydberg attended SPU for five quarters. It would be another 15 years, however, before they would tie the knot.

Denny, now a father of four, grandfather of six, and an author of books on youth leadership, thrived on the student life at SPU. He captained the tennis team, played freshman basketball, and co-wrote “The Fugitives,” a column for The Falcon student newspaper. He only missed chapel twice and emerged with a psychology degree.

After graduation, he worked as the director of Christian education for a California church and eventually went to work writing for Youth Specialties, creators of materials for church youth workers and publishers of The Wittenberg Door, a satirical periodical that enjoyed getting under the skin of overly pious Christians. Denny interviewed a broad swath of believers in his time at the Door, including Billy Graham and Fred Rogers of TV’s “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

It was later, while working as director of university ministries at Seattle’s University Presbyterian Church, that Denny received the call from Young Life. Warm-hearted, optimistic, and tenacious, he was a good fit for the ever-expanding ministry. So was his wife, Marilyn, whom he married in 1980. She had been the national women’s coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ.

Denny says he’s still learning what retirement means. And trusting in God to show them how he would next like the Rydbergs to invest their time and skills.

A trio of sisters serenade millions

A decade ago, music major Natalie Closner Schepman pursued vocal performance at Seattle Pacific University. Like so many young people with a musical gift, she harbored a private dream to take her music in front of people — lots of people.

After graduation, when demons of self-doubt nipped at her heels, she recalled the hard lessons taught by professors Carlene Brown and Stephen Newby. “Show up, do the work, and give a little more than you think you can because there’s probably more in there than you realize.” Indeed there was.

Schepman ’09 is lead singer for the three-sisters act known as The Band Joseph, that includes younger siblings Allison and Meegan. Named for their grandfather and a small town in eastern Oregon, the musical Joseph toured with their pop songs and ballads for seven years, building a fan base and a marketing team that led this year to smash performances of their hit single “White Flag” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Conan O’Brien Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and CBS This Morning. Their new album “I’m Alone, No You’re Not” released August 26 and features that original song and 10 others.

Natalie Schepman

Taking a holiday breather from their international tour in the fall, Schepman took time to tell Alumni Connections three things she is thankful for:

“I’m thankful we will not be on the road for Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for everyone who has supported this Joseph experience — parents, business team, people who have come to shows. It all astounds me. And I’m thankful for all the voices of artists and thinkers making love louder during a dark time in our world.”

The short list of her “go-to truthsayers” includes The Liturgist Podcast, Cheryl Strayed (Tiny Beautiful Things), Jimmy Fallon, Christine and the Queens, Rani Ban, Sia, Aziz Ansari (Master of None), This American Life, Invisibilia, and Humans of New York.

And then there’s SPU’s Brown and Newby. When Schepman thought for sure she would fail her music theory final, Newby would give her a tough solo or a pep talk. When she missed a lot of class time, Brown would give her a look that said, “You can do better than this” and let her choose the grade she thought she had earned. Schepman will never forget, “It was a C.”

“SPU is good at believing,” says Schepman. “It’s good at hoping. But it’s not delusional. It’s good at being honest and sober about what is hard in life. I’ve needed all that.”

Joseph’s tour schedule in the U.S. and abroad resumes this winter and spring, featuring scheduled concerts in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Britain, and France. As for the self-doubt, there’s less of it these days.

Taproot Theatre Company celebrates 40 years

Taproot Theatre Company

Pam Nolte and Chris Shea in Taproot’s “Joyful Noise.” (Photo by Erik Stuhaug)

Taproot Theatre Company celebrates their 40th year in theatre this year and we couldn’t be prouder of the founders, five of whom are SPU graduates — Pam Nolte ‘76, Scott Nolte ‘79, Jonathan Langer ‘75, Jeff Barker ‘76, and Carol Krenelka Gibson ‘77.

In an era when arts organizations struggle to last, Taproot has been impressively successful. During the founders’ formative years, they developed strong friendships with each other as theatre majors at SPU. Their professors, especially Professors George Scranton and Jim Chapman, provided them support and counsel as they developed their vision for a professional theatre.

At 40 years, Taproot operates a facility with two theatres and support space, serves 150,000 kids and adults across the region, and is seeing a growing diverse audience engage with the theatre. As Taproot heads into the future, Producing Artistic Director, President, CEO Scott Nolte wants the theatre of hope to create bridges of understanding and be a theatre that offers “inclusion, compassion, and grace.”

Making a high fashion statement from the heartland

Gina Moorehead

Gina Marie Moorhead ’07 did not set out to be an artisan tailor of woolen garments and accessories. Her early career dreams leaned more to becoming a doctor, marine biologist, or sociologist.

So how did she become the fashion brand House of Gina Marie and travel to France, Hong Kong, Sweden, and other fashion centers of the world?

Growing up, she embraced her Nordic heritage, soaked in the warmth, colors, and textures surrounding her. “After a while, you see that it’s woven in you, a sense of fantastic natural beauty and simplicity,” she says. She went from Minnesota to Seattle Pacific University, in part, because Seattle was “a wonderfully international little universe” that was “rich with waterfront living, sailing, and Scandinavians.” The beauty of the Seattle Pacific campus and the low student-to-teacher ratio drew her in. So did, it turns out, the exposure to the city’s corporate and independent designers in the fashion industry.

SPU’s Fashion Design program was the ideal proving ground for her fashion sense, as well as her career course correction. “Gina is such a creative and talented individual,” says her professor of apparel design and merchandising, Jaeil Lee. “At SPU she gained the various skills, strong knowledge foundation, and ethical decision-making abilities essential for creating her own brand and executing it.” Lee believes Moorhead not only creates clothing for an individual consumer’s needs but also honors the God-created human body in a modest yet fashionable way.

From SPU, Moorhead went to the New York Fashion Academy for a graduate degree in fashion design, which she was awarded in 2011. She returned to Minnesota to be closer to her grandparents and to more fully explore all things Norwegian and Swedish. The home of her grandparents itself proved a treasure trove of ancestral sewing machines, handmade wedding dresses and baptismal gowns, Norwegian sweaters, and a vintage cast-iron shoe cobbler’s set.

Moorehead started her business and made a name for herself under the motto “fearlessly tailored.” She sourced small cuts of special materials from around the world, told the stories behind them, made shift dresses out of shirting cotton and pleated skirts from suiting wool, and “fearlessly borrowed from the boys.” The style editor for Seattle Met magazine noted “her work encompasses her passion for high performance-meets-high style.” It is quality clothing made to last.

Caldwell Collection Winter 2017

Caldwell Collection Fall 2016

Next spring Moorhead will immerse herself in European fashion markets and “involve the brand” at the Stockholm Fashion Week.

Moorhead’s fashion collections are designed a year in advance and created six months before they hit the stores. Waiting for the reviews “can make you crazy,” but so far her careful trend forecasting and research have paid off.

What do the critics say about her creations? “Grace Kelly meets Swedish House Mafia.” (To the uninitiated, SHM is a Swedish electronic music supergroup.) And back home, photos in Minnesota Magazine put Moorhead’s garments on a supermodel destined to be America’s next top model. “I knew I was on the right track,” says Moorhead, who readily admits that Minneapolis is far from the fashion capitals, and yet “that (geographic) extremity can inspire something new in fashion.”

“I like to think that I’m doing my part to reverse the game from fast fashion to personal tailoring,” says Moorhead, and to do it in a place she has always called home.

In the know

157 SPU Family Legacy members attend the University this year. Legacy families are those of two or more generations of direct descendants who are recipients of degrees from SPU.

9 webcams are trained on some of your favorite SPU campus locations at all times, including Tiffany Loop and Martin Square. Missing the old alma mater? Have a look.

Royal Brougham Pavilion is one of seven “real-world locations” for NBA Live Pro-Am Summer Circuit. Each venue in the online “fantasy basketball” game has its own unique flavor and playstyle, including music that changes with the tempo of the game.

GOLD Tradition attracts people and reindeer

GOLD tradition Christmas

Real reindeer for the petting, deluxe hot chocolate, fire pits and fresh-baked treats, a live nativity scene, and contestant Austin Ellis from season six of TV’s “The Voice” serenading Tiffany Loop were among the crowd-pleasers at the annual Tradition Christmas celebration on December 2.

Alumni Open House at Tradition in the Student Union Building provided a cozy indoor refuge for alumni and their families wishing to escape the December chill. Letters to Santa were written. Christmas cookies were consumed. Grinning photos were taken. The toasty, flickering fireplace and soft couches were hard to resist.

Pre-Tradition, President Dan Martin hosted high school students who would be a good fit for SPU. Post-Tradition, Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD), who hosted the Alumni Open House, gathered at Nickerson Street Saloon for complimentary appetizers, to network, and to strengthen ties.

Don’t miss the free fun of Alumni Open House at Tradition next year. Be sure to keep Friday, December 1, 2017, open!

Alumni Legacy Dinner Reception

During Orientation preceding the start of the academic year, students and their families arrived on campus for a signature annual event that marks the beginning of residential life at SPU — move-in day.

For alumni with students who are new to SPU, the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations hosted an Alumni Legacy Dinner Reception, inviting parents and their student to eat, relax, and mingle with other legacy families after a busy day. Attendees picked up some free SPU swag and met the Alumni and Parent Relations staff, while parents got a chance to flip through SPU yearbooks of the past as they shared with their students the joys of being an SPU Falcon.

Retired teacher and pastor Wilburn Sooter ’55 wore his original letterman’s sweater and proudly talked about his Falcon sons Stephen Sooter ’74 and Daniel Sooter ’82. Sooter’s Falcon granddaughter Abigail Durr was Class of 2005.

Let your car display your Falcon pride – while supporting SPU student scholarships

Since launching our effort for an official SPU Falcon Washington state license plate, we have received almost 500 signatures! We need at least 3,000 more signatures before the Department of Licensing considers the SPU plate series. Help make it happen by letting them know you’re interested! Go to the online signature form here:

When the plates become available, each purchase will contribute $28 to support SPU scholarships.

Wise wins philanthropy award

This year, Idaho’s Ralph J. Comstock Jr Light of Philanthropy Award was presented by St. Luke’s Health Foundation to three members of one family in honor of their commitment to leadership, philanthropy, and humanitarianism for six generations.

Janelle Wise ’00 and her father Harry Bettis and sister Laura Bettis provide guidance for the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation. One of Idaho’s largest charitable foundations, and named for one of the state’s chief philanthropists, it has provided more than $90.5 million to hospitals and other health-related causes, social services, art, recreation, and educational scholarships.

A mother of four and an SPU psychology major, Wise also holds a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Idaho. A member of Falconettes, she has been a director of the Cunningham Foundation for 15 years. An avid adventurer, she has traveled to more than 40 countries and to every state in the Union.

Exploration of genetic ties

Alondra Nelson

The annual Day of Common Learning on October 26, 2016, took a fascinating look at the social and political significance of the increased interest in genealogy and examination of family trees. Keynote speaker Alondra Nelson is dean of social science and professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University. Her essays and commentary have appeared in the national media and she is author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome.

A variety of seminars around the topic were open to faculty, staff, students, and alumni. They included “Crafting the Past: Writing Your Story as a Means of Empowerment” and “Tracing American Catholicism: From Archbishop John Carroll to Vice President Joe Biden.” In a special emphasis, University Archivist Adrienne Meier explored the roots of mission in SPU’s founding in her seminar titled “Engaging the Culture and Changing the World for 125 Years.”

Don’t miss the Day of Common Learning in October 2017 when alumni are again invited to “dive deeper” and learn alongside the on-campus community.

Campus jobs

Mail Clerk – Counter Service. Provide primary customer service to the SPU community at Mailing Services service counter. Sell stamps and mailing supplies, answer phones, sort and track packages, and resolve customer issues.

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

Alumni bookshelf

Book cover52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy, by Moorea Seal McDaniel ‘09

Sasquatch Books, 2016


FlashfallBook cover by Jenny Moyer ‘98

Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2016

Hardcover Fiction

Connections Winter 2017
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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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