Response Magazine

Saying goodbye: Departing faculty remembered for wit, wisdom, and extracurricular expertise

Twenty Seattle Pacific faculty members will retire this spring, representing a cumulative total of 593 years of service to the University.

JoAnn Atwell-Scrivner
Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance | 33 years

JoAnn started SPU’s volleyball program in 1986 and served as its award-winning head coach through 13 seasons. In 2002, SPU initiated the JoAnn Atwell-Scrivner Ambassador Award, presented annually to a Falcon volleyball player. As professor and HHP department chair, JoAnn oversaw undergraduate research and taught courses on topics from community health to fencing.

Dirk “Rick” Eigenbrood
Professor of Education | 18 years

Rick served in several leadership positions in the School of Education, including nine years as dean. A former special education teacher committed to quality education to all children, he wrote and presented on special education law and practices in the United States as well as overseas. Post-retirement, he looks forward to staying active with his wife and spending time with his grandkids, church, and community.

Arthur K. Ellis
Professor of Education | 33 years

A former public school teacher who believes in the impact caring education has on the lives of young people, Arthur teaches in SOE’s doctoral studies program, specializing in curriculum and instruction, and directs the Center for Global Curriculum Studies. The author of 20 published books, Arthur has presented at conferences worldwide and serves on the editorial board of two international education journals.


Dan W. Hess, PhD, talked business and faith with students

Professor of Finance | 42 years

Dan Hess photo by Dan SheehanProfessor of Finance Dan Hess has taught in the classroom at SPU for 42 years, but it’s the moments with students outside of the classroom — in his office or for dinner in his Queen Anne home — that have been the most memorable.

“Students talk about their lives, their struggles, and their families,” he said. “The majority of students have a personal faith, which creates a common link.”

With a background working at the Board of Trade in Chicago, Hess not only equipped students with the knowledge to work in the financial industry, but he also connected them with internships, professional mentors, networking opportunities, and potential employers. He wrote hundreds of reference letters. And with students now working successfully throughout the business world, his impact is global.

Travis Mann ’06, financial planner and partner at Smith Richards Group, counts Hess as a major factor in his decision to enter the financial industry. Once inspired by the investment professionals Hess invited to classes, Mann now returns to Hess’ classroom as a guest speaker.

“Dan does a really good job connecting his students together,” said Mann. “He’s introduced my firm to SPU students who have become some of our best employees.  When students leave his class, he doesn’t just wave goodbye and hope everything works out. He does what he can to help them succeed after graduation.” 

These are the accomplishments Hess is most proud of.

“When students leave (Dan’s) class, he doesn’t just wave goodbye and hope everything works out. He does what he can to help them succeed after graduation.”
— Travis Mann ’06

“It’s very gratifying, seeing how students have grown in their professions as a direct result of classroom experience or me helping them find a job,” he said.

Hess also enjoyed collaborating with faculty on research projects and advising the student investment fund at SPU.

“I can’t think of a better way to spend a professional career,” he said. “Immersing myself in finance, working with young people, having great colleagues, and working in the Pacific Northwest is hard to beat.”


Ramona A. Holmes
Professor of Music Education | 25 years

Ramona taught K–12 music strings for 20 years before coming to SPU. Her work combines music education and ethnomusicology, with focus on string music around the world. As a professor, she brought her global experience to Seattle Pacific, inviting global musicians to class and teaching gamelan. She has loved watching students grow into outstanding scholars, musicians, educators, and friends.

Richard P. Jackson
Assistant Professor of Journalism | 24 years 

With 13 years of copy editing and reporting experience before coming to SPU, Rick served as faculty advisor for SPU’s award-winning student newspaper, The Falcon. In the classroom, he combined building reporting and writing skills with examining the role of journalism and mass media in current society through a critical lens informed by Christian faith and ethics.

Bruce D. Congdon PhD*
Professor of Biology; Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, STEM and Social Sciences

*After this issue of Response went to press, Congdon announced that he would delay his retirement to take on the role of interim provost.


Donald J. MacDonald, PhD, pursued learning and student connections

Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy | 42 years

Don MacDonald photo by Dan SheehanRetiring Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy Don MacDonald grew up in a rural town where, he said, academic work was not prioritized. He became the only one of his siblings to graduate from college, completing his doctoral work in 1984.

MacDonald went on to lead a 39-year career as a beloved professor at Seattle Pacific, also teaching psychology courses at universities in China, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom.

“I stand on the shoulders of many,” he said, giving credit for much of his success to his wife, three sons, and grandchildren.

During his years at Seattle Pacific, the MFT master’s program grew from a small, locally known program to a nationally recognized one. MacDonald studied and taught courses on worldviews, culture, relational philosophies, psychotherapy law and ethics, and family therapy.

At SPU, MacDonald experienced a Christian educational community for the first time.

“It makes a difference: the company of colleagues and bright students who share a kinship in Christ,” he said. “I am a holistic, lifelong learner in that all of who I am — especially my relationship with the triune God — is involved. I get to invite my students on this journey of discovery.”

Peter Rivera, MS ’12, director of internships and assistant professor in SPU’s School of Psychology, Family, and Community, said MacDonald connected him with his current job.

“It makes a difference: the company of colleagues and bright students who share a kinship in Christ.”
— Don MacDonald

“Don’s ability to balance humility with competence was what drew me to him when I was a student,” said Rivera. “I see this in him now as a colleague when he avoids privileging his own perspective so that others can be heard.”

Two of MacDonald’s sons and one of his granddaughters have graduated from SPU, and many of his students have become instructors, supervisors, and directors in the field of marriage and family therapy.

“I feel somewhat like their dad as well,” he said


Gaile L. Moe, PhD
Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences; Director of General Education | 25 years

In addition to her roles of professor and general education director, Gaile directed SPU’s dietetics emphasis for ten years, helping launch dozens of students into dietetic careers. She also helped direct the remodel of the Peterson Hall foods lab and develop SPU’s first year writing curriculum. Gaile looks forward to more time for family, friends, travel, and taking art and history classes.

William E. Nagy, PhD
Professor of Education | 23 years

Bill teaches master’s and doctoral courses in literacy and research methods, and is especially interested in how children learn words, how vocabulary can best be taught, what teachers can do to help English language learners, and how students’ awareness of language contributes to their reading ability. He was elected into the Reading Hall of Fame in 2009.

Joanna K. Poznanska, PhD
Professor of International Business | 31 years 

During her time at SPU, Joanna led several study abroad trips to China. She has published and presented research at conferences around the world, but counts letters from her former students describing how her classes changed their lives among her greatest accomplishments. She is looking forward to writing a book about her experiences emigrating from communist Poland to the United States.

William H. Prenevost, EdD
Associate Professor of Educational Administration and Supervision | 13 years

Bill brought over 33 years of educational leadership to SPU, having served as superintendent, principal, and athletic director in Washington state schools. He also launched intiatives aimed at meeting the education needs of variousstudent populations. At SPU, he sought to prepare his students to be educational leaders of character, also serving as chair of Education Leadership.

Richard L. Ridgway, PhD
Associate Professor of Biology | 30 years

Rick’s research has focused on cellularbiology, using invertebrate animals as model systems for neural disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He has also collaborated with many other researchers, most recently in investigating anti-herbivore molecules that contribute to harmful “green tides” in Puget Sound. An SPU alumnus, Rick taught courses both at SPU’s campus and at the Blakely Island Field Station.

​Mícheál D. Roe, PhD
Professor of Psychology | 31 years

Mícheál is a development psychologist with anthropological training, with interests in the intersection of life span human development and social justice concerns. Named a Professor of the Year, his teaching focused on development and research psychology. He also served as the psychology department chair for 16 years and the School of Psychology, Family, and Community dean for 12 years.

Tina L. Schermer-Sellers
Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy | 21 years

Tina is a licensed marriage and family therapist, professor, writer, and blogger. As MFT director, Tina helped develop the nationally recognized, holistic MFT program currently at SPU. She also launched the Northwest Institute on Intimacy as a resource to therapists, pastors, and physicians. Post-retirement, she plans on continuing her work writing and speaking on spiritual intimacy and erasing sexual shame.


Regina P. Schlee, PhD, brought real-world experience to class

Professor of Marketing | 35 years

Regina Schlee photo by Dan SheehanRegina Schlee, professor of marketing, won many awards for her professional and academic work. But the accolades she most prizes are the thank-you notes from students and colleagues she keeps in a desk drawer.

“It makes my heart jump,” she said. “Engaging with students and making a difference is what makes teaching worthwhile.”

Alexis Ng ’14, senior business analyst at Zillow Group in Seattle, is still thankful for the applied lessons Schlee brought to her classes.

“Professional experiences tend to teach us more than classroom theory,” said Ng. “But Dr. Schlee always made sure we considered practical applications and encouraged us to take risks and think creatively.”

Schlee used her experience as a marketing research director in Bellevue, Washington, to enhance her SPU classroom for 35 years. In Bellevue, she worked with advertising agencies, television stations, retailers, bankers, telecommunication companies, nonprofit associations, the Small Business Association, and many other organizations.

After joining the School of Business and Economics faculty in 1984, Schlee continued to win awards for her marketing research and served on the leadership boards of several professional marketing organizations.

Schlee proved her expertise in the classroom. She received an award for an outstanding article in the Journal of Marketing Education. In 2011, she was named “Marketing Educator of the Year” by the Marketing Educators’ Association. In 2017, she was listed as No. 24 in a ranking of highly productive marketing education scholars by the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education.

“I goofed off and talked a lot during class,” said Ng. “But Dr. Schlee saw something in me that I didn’t even recognize in myself. In a world of people who are only willing to help themselves and are threatened by your success, it is huge to have Dr. Schlee in your corner.”


Frank A. Spina, PhD, modeled respectful disagreement

Professor of Old Testament | 46 years

Frank Spina photo by Dan SheehanAfter 46 years in the classroom, Professor of Old Testament Frank Spina is retiring at the end of Spring Quarter.

Spina, who was hired in 1973 by David McKenna, president of what was then Seattle Pacific College, has now taught the children — and grandchildren — of many of his first students.

“He taught me how to read Scripture in a new way, paying close attention to every detail,” said Elizabeth Stover, a senior double-majoring in communication and educational ministry. “I was challenged in every class session. The lessons I took from his classes will stick with me for a lifetime.”

Once an undergraduate student of Spina’s, Douglas Koskela, professor of theology, now has an office across the hall from his former professor.

“One of the most remarkable things about Frank as a teacher is the way he deftly combines formality — he calls students by their last names — with genuine warmth,” said Koskela, adding that he remembers Spina “standing in his suit, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, saying, ‘Mr. Koskela, to be able to study the Bible is a wonderful thing.’”

Spina is leaving behind a $20,000 gift for Seattle Pacific to begin an endowment in support of a Christian Scripture lectureship. He hopes other donors will raise the total to $100,000.

“Scripture has been important historically to SPU,” he said. “I want to continue that tradition.”

Named Professor of the Year in 2000, Spina has been called tough but fair by students throughout the years. “I want students to remember that I respected them enough to disagree with them, respected them enough not to allow them to be content with shallow arguments, and respected them enough to consider them adults,” he said. “I’m quite sure I did not always succeed in my efforts, but I never quit trying.”


John W. Thoburn, PhD
Professor of Clinical Psychology | 21 years

A licensed psychologist and therapist, John has served in leadership positions for national psychology organizations and won several awards for his work, including the American Psychological Association’s International Humanitarian award and SPU’s Scholar of the Year. At SPU, John mentored doctoral students on his Interpersonal Research Vertical Team, focusing on the nexus of intrapersonal and interpersonal factors in relationships.

Douglas J. Thorpe, PhD
Professor of English | 31 years

Doug combined his love of William Blake, Christian contemplative traditions, and the mountains in his award-winning book Rapture of the Deep: Reflections on the Wild in Art, Wilderness and the Sacred. An active member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Doug’s academic and teaching interests include romanticism, world literature, American ethnic literature, and environmental spirituality.


Elaine Y. Weltz, MSE, expert on two keyboards

Assistant Professor of Computer Science | 35 years

Elaine Weltz photo by Dan SheehanAssistant Professor of Computer Science Elaine Weltz first came to Seattle Pacific as a freshman in 1970 to study music.

After graduate studies in collaborative piano, however, Weltz shifted her career focus. Fascinated by computing machines and problem solving, she returned to SPU and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at a time when the field was just beginning to explode. In 1984, her alma mater needed a one-year visiting professor; she volunteered.

One year turned into 35. Weltz coordinated SPU’s computer science degree completion program, which began in 1985 and ran for 18 years, allowing adults with full-time jobs to complete degrees in the burgeoning field of computer science.

As SPU’s resident software engineer, Weltz taught courses in programming, systems design, database management, and computer ethics. She also went beyond her professorial duties, serving on Faculty Council and numerous university committees and task forces working to improve university processes, standards, and curriculum. She served as computer science chair for a decade and, in 2004, received the Faculty Servant Award.

Weltz’s former students now work at Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Boeing, Tableau, and numerous tech startups. Some of her students now teach alongside her in the department.

“I’ve loved collaborating with former students and the new, younger faculty who will take the department into the future,” she said. “Computer science is always changing, and they’re going to do great things.”

Ryan LaBrie, associate professor of management and information systems, credits Weltz’s database course with helping him discover his calling as a database professor. Weltz also does a lot of service work in the department to keep things running smoothly, he said.

“Elaine cares deeply about her subject and students,” he said. “I was an average student, yet I still felt she took a personal interest in me.”

Weltz never left music behind. Students encountered her in the computer science and music departments, as she accompanied the SPU Concert Choir for 29 years. After retirement, she plans to continue performing with local orchestras and playing piano and organ for Rosehill Church in Kirkland, Washington. 

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