Alumni Association Awards

Alumnus of Merit Award

Bill Bell ’82

Bill Bell ’82 received the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association for his outstanding work to improve the quality of life for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease in the Seattle area.

A tireless advocate for Parkinson’s patients and their families since his mother’s early diagnosis, Bell co-founded the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation in 1998. In 2000, the foundation received a $200,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bell currently serves on the board of directors for both the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation and the Davis Finney Foundation, which promotes Parkinson’s research.

“The process learned through the Whitman experience gives one the tools to attack and solve problems from many angles,” he said. “If you tackle the problem with the confidence of your convictions, you’ll find the solution. It then becomes a game of when, rather than if, the solution will come.”

When the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation first opened the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center with Evergreen Hospital, it was one of only two care centers nationwide specializing in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

“Over the years we’ve met some of the most courageous and inspiring people who happen to face a chronic, degenerative disease,” Bell said. “My mother, Tina, the inspiration for this effort, was certainly one of them. I feel myself lucky to have become a friend, champion and advocate to those touched by Parkinson’s. I’m inspired by and learn from this community every day.”

Gordon Scribner Award for Distinguished Service

Dick Hunter ’65

Trustee Emeritus Dick Hunter ’65 was recognized for decades of leadership and support for the college.

A trustee from 1997 to 2009, he has led by example through his active involvement in multiple governing board committees, as well as with his participation in alumni events and activities. Hunter has served on committees for the Now Is the Time Campaign, development, buildings and grounds, enrollment, student life and technology; he was also the Reunion Fund Chair from 1999 to 2000. He donated the funds for a restoration of Hunter Conservatory, named in honor of his mother.

“It’s been an absolute delight to see the progress of the college,” he said. “I think the college is doing incredibly well, and I’m fortunate to be a part of that.”

After graduating from Whitman with a degree in math and physics, Hunter earned his master’s degree in aerospace science from Columbia University. Before joining the family business in irrigation, he worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories on U.S. Space Program projects at NASA headquarters. Walter Brattain ’24, another math and physics major who taught Hunter at Whitman, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956 for his work at Bell to develop the transistor.

“He was proud of me, because I was his only student who had gone to work for Bell Labs.”

Hunter retired this year as president and C.E.O. of Hunter Industries, one of the largest irrigation companies in the world.

Sally Rodgers Award for Lifelong Achievement

Paul Pugh ’51

Paul Pugh ’51 was honored for exemplifying the qualities of a liberal arts education in the more than 50 years since his graduation.

“Whitman was a marvelous part of my life,” he said. “I have always been very grateful to be a member of the Whitman alumni and still am, regardless of any award. That’s just frosting on the cake.”

A junior high school teacher, counselor and principal in the Wenatchee School District for more than 30 years, Pugh has played many professional roles. As a tour guide, he said he has led groups to Africa 18 times and to China nine times. He is best known for his work as a circus owner and operator and as his alter-ego of more than 50 years: Guppo the Clown.

In 1952, Pugh founded the Wenatchee Youth Circus as an after-school tumbling class; it is now one of the top four nonprofessional circus troupes in the country. Over the years, it has been home to more than 3,200 students and has provided more than 200 scholarships. In 2002, Pugh was the recipient of the Wenatchee Valley Living Treasure Award, presented by the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.

Pugh credits his friend and mentor, Harper Joy ’22, with inspiring his life on the road. Although the two were a generation apart, Joy contributed contacts and even a few props to help Pugh achieve a lifelong dream, his own circus company. The Wenatchee Youth Circus still tours and performs regularly under his leadership.

Sally Rodgers Award for Lifelong Achievement

Gerald Fry ’54

Gerald Fry ’54 was honored for a remarkable career in radio and television that exemplifies the benefits of a liberal arts education.

At Whitman, Fry majored in speech and drama and worked as an announcer for KUJ. He was a charter member of the Whitman Radio Guild, the first radio program at Whitman. He also played clarinet for Whitman and the Walla Walla Symphony, edited The Pioneer and served as president of TKE fraternity.

He said, “I treasure my four years at Whitman studying drama under the great Rod Alexander and speech under several professors, all of who helped prepare me for my chosen profession of broadcasting.”

After graduation, Fry spent two years in the Army as a correspondent for American Forces Network and Army Hour for the 10th Infantry Division in Würzburg, Germany. He went on to become assistant director of the Navy Broadcasting Service in the Pentagon and later director of programming for the worldwide Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in Hollywood, where he helped produce and distribute programming for 400 radio and some 40 TV outlets overseas. He was awarded both the Navy Superior Civilian Services Medal, the second highest civilian honor given by the Navy, and the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Fry retired from the AFRTS in 1996 but has remained active in the broadcast community. He also serves on the board of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, and is the organization’s audio historian and webmaster. Since 2004, he has acted in movies, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni

Dana Leighton ’01

Dana Leighton ’01 was recognized for outstanding work in his chosen field, commitment to serving others and significant contributions to the college, particularly his ongoing involvement with the Annual Fund.

Leighton was a non-traditional student at Whitman – he was 32 when he enrolled. Now an assistant professor of psychology at Marywood University in Pennsylvania, he said he chose Whitman after spending time as a computer programmer and systems analyst, because he wanted a school where “the students were smarter than me, and the students and faculty challenged each other at a really rigorous level.

“What sealed the deal for me at Whitman was that the faculty there seemed really approachable and friendly, and the students just seemed like they were comfortable being who they were. It was clear that the students at Whitman really built a community,” he said.

A current class representative, Leighton first became involved with fundraising efforts as a member of his Senior Fund Committee. He earned the Eugene Marx Service Award in 2001 for “consistent unrewarded service to the College.” He has served as an admission representative since 2010, calling prospective students to answer questions about Whitman. He was also a member of his 10th Reunion Fund Committee.

After completing his degree in psychology, Leighton earned his master’s in social psychology at the University of British Columbia and his Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Arkansas.

Faculty Award for Service

Delbert Hutchison

Delbert Hutchison was honored for his commitment to strengthening ties between the college and its alumni by leading alumni trips.

Hutchison, or “Hutch” as he is fondly known around campus, joined the Whitman faculty in 1999. He currently serves as chair of the biology department and specializes in genetics and evolutionary biology.

He has led alumni association trips far and wide: from exploring the biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands, to boating down the Amazon River, to venturing on safari in Africa – “world-class destinations with world-class people.”

“One cannot overlook the camaraderie and fun of meeting new people and renewing older relationships,” Hutchison said. “The people make or break the trip, and traveling with Whitman alumni is always smooth sailing and good times.”

Hutchison has also participated in Summer College, an opportunity for alumni to bond with current faculty by returning to Whitman for a week of intellectual stimulation centering on a liberal arts theme.

“Whitman folks are upbeat, curious, passionate and fun to be around. I’m inspired by their love of the college – those of us here at this time must do all we can to maintain the great work of those that have gone before so that current students leave feeling the same way.”

Gillian Frew ’11