The sound of old friends reuniting, champagne glasses clinking and beautiful piano music filled the air at the 2016 Alumni Awards Gala May 20 at the Spokane Convention Center. More than 175 people attended the event to honor Eastern’s inspiring alumni.
“Tonight, we are thrilled to be here recognizing some incredible individuals and one great organization,” Kelleye Heydon ’95, president elect of the EWU Alumni Association, said. “You will quickly learn that they are completely deserving of these awards.”
Alumni were nominated for the awards in December and a committee selected winners in March. The committee is comprised of past winners, EWU Alumni Association board members and campus and community partners.
Honorees were chosen for the following categories: Marilee Roloff ’73, Lifetime Achievement; Susan Ashe ’12, Alumna of Service; Amanda Swan-Roadruck ’16, ’09, Inspirational Young Alumna; Fred Wong ’64, Exceptional Military Service; and Matt Minton ’93, Eagle4Life Spirit.
Jean Kay Swartz received the Presidential Philanthropy Award, and Numerica Credit Union was named Organization of the Year.
Jean Kaye Swartz
Presidential Philanthropy Award
Jean Kaye Swartz and her late husband, J. Herman Swartz, established endowed scholarships to support EWU students, and have successfully supported students for more than 10 years.
Neither Jean nor Herman graduated from Eastern, but they funded six EWU scholarships in various fields, including medical technology, nursing and biology. They also founded the first graduate fellowship for biotechnology students.
“The parents come to some of the events and will say, ‘Oh you’re so wonderful, so generous.’ I say, ‘Look, these are not handed out to kids. Your child, who has a scholarship, has earned it,’” Jean once said.
Herman wanted to establish scholarships so students could have the opportunity to go to college and have the advantage of higher education.
“It was a benefactor who provided the money for my scholarship, and now I’m in a position to be a benefactor,” Herman once said.
To ensure their legacy of supporting education lives on, the Swartz family has also established a planned gift to continue funding the scholarships.
Numerica Credit Union
Organization of the Year
Numerica Credit Union has been serving the Spokane region for more than 75 years, giving back to the community through donations, events and partnerships.
“When I brought the $150,000 idea back to the organization, they said, ‘Can we do it? Can we do it? Yeah! Let’s do it,’” Carla Altepeter, CEO of Numerica Credit Union, said. “I have a whole team of people behind me that support Eastern, support our communities.”
In 2013, Numerica partnered with the Alumni Association as the original sponsor of the Alumni Awards Gala. In 2014, they expanded their support by becoming a sponsor of EWU’s Young Professionals Network.
Numerica has continuously supported EWU events, while also supporting the community. Numerica partnered with EWU to bring Touchdowns for a Cause to university football games, donating $100 per touchdown to local nonprofits. In total Numerica has contributed $2,400 to area charities through that program.
Inspirational Young Alumna
Amanda Swan’s passion for and dedication to service in the Spokane and EWU community has positively impacted the place she calls home.
As the community relations coordinator for Numerica Credit Union, she develops community partnerships and coordinates charitable campaigns across the region. In 2015, Swan-Roadruck’s work influenced community giving of more than $1 million.
Also serving as Numerica’s United Way campaign coordinator since 2013, she has raised more than $125,000 for the organization and has more than doubled Numerica’s community outreach throughout eastern Washington.
Graduating with an MS in communications in 2016, Swan-Roadruck continues to stay active in the EWU community by serving on the board of directors for EWU’s Young Professionals Network. She also established a partnership with EWU Athletics called Touchdowns for a Cause, providing local nonprofit organizations exposure and funding at each EWU home football game.
In her personal time, Swan-Roadruck has actively supported Blessings Under the Bridge, which feeds more than 300 homeless men, women and children in the Spokane area. She has also volunteered with numerous organizations, including Women Helping Women, Planned Parenthood and Idaho Youth Ranch, among many others.
Attending EWU the same time as his mother and two sisters, Matt Minton embodies his family’s love for EWU by promoting alumni events and avidly supporting the university’s athletics.
Minton was instrumental in the creation, development and implementation of numerous activities as part of the Westside Alumni Advisory Committee.
He helped to establish the westside student send-off event, held annually in September, which connects EWU students and their parents before heading off to Cheney. He also worked to create the Westside Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to four students from the west side of Washington.
“I’ve been so thankful for the opportunities that Eastern has provided me in my career and education, so this was a good way for me to give back,” Minton once said.
Although Minton works near Seattle as a senior content publishing manager for Microsoft, he encourages his family to root for EWU during football and basketball games, both in Seattle and in Cheney. Minton has held multiple viewing parties for EWU football games, generating attendance for his event through social media.
Minton’s love, loyalty and pride for EWU makes him the first Eagle4Life recipient, as it has been described that promoting and encouraging Eastern is one of his greatest joys.
Alumna of Service
Beginning her career at Kaiser Aluminum as a secretary, Susan Ashe worked while raising her son as a single, low-income mother after fleeing an abusive relationship. She now actively devotes her personal and professional life to balancing equity and justice for all.
Ashe serves as the current board chair for the YWCA and, in 2015, served as the chair of the YWCA’s Women of Achievement luncheon, which raised a record $303,000 under her efforts.
Ashe’s leadership also helped her to climb the corporate ladder to become Kaiser’s Northwest public affairs manager.
After working at Kaiser for nearly 25 years, she then served as the director of legislative and public affairs for four mayors of the city of Spokane. One of her greatest successes was raising more than $22 million in direct state and federal appropriations for city projects.
Now, Ashe serves as the executive director for the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County, which was created to promote economic development through bio and health sciences research. She is also an accredited business communicator with the International Association of Business Communicators.
“Susan Ashe has left, and continues to leave, a positive, forward-thinking impact on our community,” Kim Pearman-Gilman, director of strategic market development at McKinstry, once said. “Spokane is simply much better for having her in it.”
Brig. Gen. (Retired) Fred Wong
Exceptional Military Service
Fred Wong graduated from Eastern Washington State College in 1964 as a Distinguished Military Graduate from ROTC, launching him into an outstanding 31-year career in the U.S. Army.
Wong served two tours in Vietnam and later enrolled in the Infantry Officer Advance Course, preparing for command and staff assignments at a higher level.
He landed back at EWU as an ROTC Instructor, where he found time to complete his master’s in guidance and counseling.
Wong continued his career with assignments in Germany, Kansas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and upon returning to Washington, D.C., he served as the chief of Assignments Branch, Colonels Division, U.S. Army Personnel Center.
Following that job, Wong found his way back to his home state of Hawaii, and during his time at the United States Pacific Command, he was promoted to brigadier general.
His last assignment was as director, Office of Personnel Management Directorate, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Wong retired in August 1995, having received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with two Valor devices, two Purple Hearts and the two awards of Air Medal.
Wong and his wife, Vicky, have been married for 52 years and reside in Tennessee. He continues to enjoy gardening, something he picked up during his time in Kansas.
Since graduating from EWU in 1973, Marilee Roloff has been brightening lives in the Spokane area for more than 30 years at Volunteers of America.
As a strong community leader, Roloff has helped countless individuals in the community during her role at Volunteers of America – hundreds of thousands of bellies fed, backs clothed and runaways reunited with their families.
Roloff served as the president and CEO of Volunteers for America for nearly 20 years, and extended her role across the community by serving on various organizations, such as the Havermale High School advisory committee and the Medical Respite committee, among many more.
As the founding director of Crosswalk, a teen shelter, Roloff broadened Volunteer of America’s programs to include a women’s shelter, as well as housing for veterans, low-income individuals, people who are disabled and the chronically homeless.
Roloff has contributed to the Eastern community by recruiting, training and supporting hundreds of interns, practicum students and volunteers from EWU – exemplifying her commitment to the university and its students.
“As far as I’m concerned, Marilee Roloff should have her number retired, her jersey hung from the rafters, a wing of offices named after her, and a statue of her on campus,” Robert McCann, PhD and executive director of Catholic Charities of Spokane, once said. “She is the best of the best.”