2017 Distinguished Alumni

Western Washington University honored the 2017 Distinguished Alumni & Recognition Award recipients on May 18 to kick off Western’s Back2Bellingham weekend.

This year, the association honored 13 alumni, a Campus School grad, and a family of 23 who carry on the Western legacy. They come from all colleges and span class years from 1923 to 2017. Each recipient’s commitment to excellence and giving back is apparent and their impacts are felt by many, from those on Western’s campus to foreign countries.


photo of President Sabah with attendees
photo of Stephanie Bowers conversing with a guest
Photo of the presentation during the Alumni Awards event


“It gives us great pride to celebrate these alumni who have distinguished themselves not only in their chosen professions, but as public servants, community builders, and leaders. Their achievements and example not only inspire us, they demonstrate the many paths to excellence that can be pursued with a Western education,” Western President Sabah Randhawa said.

The following individuals were honored at the 2017 Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards & Recognition Celebration:


Young Alumnus of the Year - Jesse Dean Moore (’05)

Young Alumnus of the Year - Jesse Dean Moore (’05)

Jesse Moore took his ability to communicate clearly and his skill in community organizing all the way to the White House. During the Obama administration, Moore was the Associate Director of Public Engagement and a speechwriter. He was the primary liaison to the entertainment industry and minority faith communities. His work included President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community College Challenge, which created opportunities for young minority men to enter college through mentorship, workforce training, and other programs. Most recently, Jesse was the Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote, bringing the voices of youth into the political process. Jesse is currently the Communications Lead at Pop Culture Collaborative, an organization that leverages pop culture, social media, and advertising to elevate the narratives of people of color, Muslims, and refugees in popular media.

Scot Studebaker (’90)

Larry “Go Vikings!” Taylor Alumni Service Award - Scot Studebaker (’90)

Scot Studebaker is more than just a global financial whiz kid at the EY firm in Seattle, he has served as an adviser to Western’s College of Business and Economics since 2001. Not only has Studebaker supported Western’s faculty and students with his time, he—along with partners at EY—donated generously to the CBE for the EY Global Mindset Immersion Program, an internationally-focused immersive summer program.

Studebaker has also served as an adviser to the College of Business and Economics, sharing his expertise with the Accounting Department and creating ways to make Western students competitive in the marketplace.

Huxley College of the Environment - Denise Attwood (’83) and Ric Conner (‘85)

Huxley College of the Environment - Denise Attwood (’83) and Ric Conner (‘85)

For Denise Attwood and Ric Conner, it all started with two sweaters they purchased on a trip to Nepal thirty years ago. They fell in love with the craftsmanship and integrity of the Tibetan refugee artisans they encountered, and returned to Nepal to buy sweaters to sell in the U.S. In turn, they paid the Tibetan families a fair wage and ensured they had good working conditions. Over time, Ganesh Himal Trading has grown to include crafts of all kinds from Nepal. Their work in Nepal expanded, too, as they built schools and medical clinics, and maintained an ongoing relationship with subsequent generations of artisans. They started The Conscious Connections Foundation to allow tax-deductible contributions to help Nepali families pay for healthcare, education, college scholarships, and more.

Todd Lindley

College of Business and Economics - Todd J. Lindley (’83)

Todd Lindley received a B.A. in Administration and Accounting minor to become the first in his family with a college degree. He Joined Lincoln Cascades in November 1983, fresh out of Western, and two years later, he and his wife opened Lindley Financial Services. In 2016, Lindley Financial Services merged with Pillar Financial Group in Lacey.

For more than a decade, Lindley has supported the WWU Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, has served as an executive member of the Alumni Association board, put both of his children through Western, and endowed a scholarship. He was WWU’s commencement speaker in 2015 with one very important grad in the room—his daughter, Marisa.

Vini Elizabeth Samuel

College of Humanities and Social Sciences - Vini Elizabeth Samuel (’94)


In 2015, attorney Vini Samuel was the first Indian-American woman elected mayor in the entire United States. She is also Montesano, Washington’s first female mayor, and was elected in a landslide. Her community involvement and experience on Montesano city council had made her a popular choice for mayor. She had been practicing law in Grays Harbor since 1997.

Vini was born in Kerala, India and moved to Juneau, Alaska at six years old. She moved to Montesano after receiving her bachelor’s degree from WWU and her law degree from Seattle University Law School. Vini has served on the WWU Alumni Association board, and has been a long-time scholarship supporter for Western.

Betty Cobbs

Woodring College of Education - Betty Cobbs (’73, '76, ’77)

Educational leader Betty Cobbs has worked in Everett Public Schools for 44 years, as a teacher for 9 years and a school principal for 35 years. She is currently completing her 8th year as principal at Woodside Elementary. In addition to her work in schools, Betty has served as a civil service commissioner in Everett, a commissioner for Everett Parks and Recreation; and she is currently a member of the PEAB Advisory Board at University of Washington-Bothell, and a member of the Board of Trustees for Everett Community College. Betty has worked with several nonprofits, including Imagine Children’s Museum, the NW Regional Educational Lab, the Everett Performing Arts Theatre, the Everett Youth Symphony, and the Parent-Teacher-Student Association. In 1993, the Business and Professional Women, Inc. of Snohomish County honored Betty as Woman of the Year.

Marc Seales

College of Fine and Performing Arts - Marc Seales (’78)

Pianist Marc Seales’ great passion is jazz. He has composed, performed, and won awards all over the world. He was Western’s first prominent black jazz student, and now chairs the Jazz Department at the University of Washington. Seales has worked with Ernie Watts, Benny Carter, Howard Roberts, Bobby Hutcherson, and Art Pepper. Microsoft included his song “Highway Blues” in Windows XP.

Music critic Adam Greenberg said of Marc’s album “A Time, A Place, a Journey:” “Seales has done a fine job of crafting each work to perfection, leaving just the right amount of room for solos and making use of every tool at his disposal to create the perfect atmosphere and mood for the various works.”

Jeffrey Stuart Wiggins

College of Science and Engineering - Jeffrey Stuart Wiggins (’88)


After serving as general manager of Nike, Jeffrey Stuart Wiggins went back to school to get his PhD in Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he now teaches. But despite the fact that he’s soaking up the sun while we’re in a drizzle, Jeffrey keeps his connection to Western very close—he recruits Western students into his graduate and PhD programs at USM. “One of my recent PhD graduates, John Misasi, teaches plastics and composite engineering at Western.”

One of Jeffrey’s recent projects were impact-resistant football helmets for the NFL. That project caught the attention of the U.S. military, and his helmet design is now being tested in the U.S. Army.

Debora Juarez

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies - Debora Juarez (’83)

Debora Juarez has dedicated her career to legal advocacy and economic development. She is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and the first person in her family to go to college. She spent five years as a public defender, worked as staff attorney for the Native American Project at Evergreen Legal Services, and served as a King County Superior Court Judge. She was elected in 2015 to represent District 5 on Seattle’s City Council, making her the first Native American Councilmember in the city’s 150-year history.

Whether working to divest the City of Seattle from Wells Fargo or advocating for strong neighborhood representation, Juarez works hard with her community in mind.

James Hildebrand

Campus School Recognition Award - James Hildebrand (’56)


James Hildebrand started Campus School in 1952 in the third grade. Hildebrand’s father had just returned from the war to teach in the mathematics department at Western Washington College of Education. The John Dewey-influenced curriculum suited Hildebrand very well, and the years he spent there informed his career in finance and law many years later. Hildebrand took his lessons from that time with him through life. “In my career as an international lawyer, international investment banker, insurance underwriting ‘Name’ at Lloyds of London, as well as in my private life, I have always focused on the ‘process.’” He is quick to point out that “process” doesn’t mean you dispense with results. “Stated another way, the end goal or end result did not get in the way of learning.”

He has also co-authored a book about the Campus School with Florence Winsor Hellieson called “Campus School Class of 1956 Book of Memories.”

Linda P. Beckman

Campus Volunteer Recognition Award - Linda P. Beckman (’91)


A lot of graduates take off and leave Bellingham’s loose bricks and misty weather behind, but not Linda Beckman. Linda not only graduated from Western with an MBA, she serves as the Division Director of Budget & Administration for Enrollment and Student Services. Beckman oversees budget and capital planning for the division and supervises Academic and Career Development Services and the AS Bookstore.

She gets her blue on and shares her Viking pride at a number of campus and community events each year. From managing funds to donating her own funds, along with her precious time and energy, her contributions to Western are invaluable.

Gerald E. Henson (’73)

Community Volunteer Recognition Award - Gerald E. Henson (’73)

It’s no secret that rugby is a prominent club at WWU, and Gerald “Gerry” Henson is one reason why. A former player who loves the game, loves WWU, and supports the team whenever he can, Gerry has boosted and bolstered our rugby program for years. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration and put his degree to good work—until his retirement, he was the Director of IT and Corporate Services of Puget Sound Freight Lines, which manages supply chain logistics from ship yard to terminus.

Gerry’s love of shipping comes naturally—he loves to sail, and also volunteers for Seattle Yacht Club.

image of Hoffman-McLeod family

Legacy Family of the Year Award – Hoffman-McLeod Family

For the Hoffman-McLeod’s, WWU is all in the family. With a whopping 23 family members spanning the years from 1923-2017, the McLeod Family is practically a Western institution. Jean McLeod (’61) attended the Campus School from 1923-1932. In the paternal line Donald McLeod attended the Campus School and was one of the founders of Fairhaven College. Marian Hoffman’s (’32) children attended WWU. From Bellingham, daughter Holly Hoffman McLeod earned a B.A. in Education in 1972 and an MA in Education in 1992. Holly and Bruce McLeod’s four children received degrees from WWU.