By Brad Brown
Crowds of old friends, dressed in their evening finery with Champagne glasses in hand, gathered for the 2017 Alumni Awards Gala held on May 19 at the Spokane Convention Center to honor Eastern’s inspiring alumni.
Alumni were nominated for the awards in December, and a committee selected winners in March. The committee is composed of past winners, EWU Alumni Association board members and campus community partners.
JACK LUCAS ’77, Lifetime Achievement Award
Since graduating in 1977, Jack Lucas has had a hard time turning down opportunities for community involvement and volunteering.
Serving on multiple civic boards, including the Lilac Services for the Blind, Goodwill Industries, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Eastern
Washington University Foundation, Inland Empire Officials, International Ticketing Association and the Eastern magazine editorial board, Lucas has committed his life to assisting the community in leadership positions.
“What Jack represents for EWU, is the perfect mix of professional accomplishment, personal passion for service and making a difference and the loyalty to the institution from which he gained his education,” Doug Kelly once said.”
Just 45 days after being honorably discharged from the Navy, Lucas became a student at Eastern Washington State College and later graduated with BA in music education. To get by as a student, he was noted to have worked up to six jobs at a time, including directing church choirs, taking WA inventory and playing Santa Claus at the Bon Marche. Lucas also played hockey in college and later became a USA Hockey referee.
After graduating from Eastern 1997, Lucas first went on to teach music and theater for grades 5-12 in the Davenport school district, later becoming the president of the Davenport Teachers Association. He then went on to teach music and social studies in the Mead school district.
During that time, Lucas also began his career in the entertainment industry, working part time as an usher and an event supervisor for the City of Spokane Entertainment Facilities at the Coliseum and the Opera House.
Lucas currently serves as the president WestCoast Entertainment and has won numerous awards after more than 38 years in the ticketing and entertainment fields.
In addition to his professional achievements, Lucas has been a licensed pilot since 1977, owning and flying a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
“It’s definitely a pinch-me type of look back on my 30 years,” said Lucas. “It certainly has been a great career and one that I wouldn’t change for anything.”
JODEE GARRETSON ’91, Alumna of Service Award
JoDee Garretson has been an impassioned advocate for the vulnerable populations in her community for more than 20 years at the Support, Advocacy and Resource Center (SARC), a not-for-profit agency that provides free and confidential services for victims of crime.
Serving as the executive director at SARC, Garretson’s work is often times working with survivors of sexual abuse and other violent crimes, the majority of whom are children.
“The work is hard, and the stories are horrific,” said Angela Escobar, previous advocate at SARC and Garretson’s sister. “In one day your heart can break 20 times. This work takes a supportive team. Advocate positions have a high turnover rate. However, JoDee has worked extremely hard to maintain a positive environment via vicarious trauma reduction methods in order to bring sunshine into the office.”
Garretson has utilized her business administration degree in keeping the business side of the nonprofit secure. She’s led SARC through the critical Community Sexual Assault Program (CSAP) accreditation process and has overseen the tripling in the size of the agency.
While she was busy earning her degree at EWU, she and her husband, Rick ’91, BA economics, were raising their baby while attending classes. In their senior year, they staggered their classes and swapped the baby in the hallways, all the way to graduation, where he wore a little Eastern outfit.
LEAH HORTON ’12, Inspirational Young Alumna Award
Leah Horton’s passion for philanthropy runs deep. Often working behind the scenes, she has been a driving force for mobilizing volunteers, coordinating events and raising funds in the greater Spokane and EWU communities.
As the resource development manager at Spokane County United Way, she is responsible for raising more than $1 million to fight for the health, education and financial stability of people in the community.
In addition to her own volunteer efforts, Horton has also been leading a charge to get more young professional volunteers engaged by providing a vision and structure to the Spokane County United Way affinity group, the Emerging Leaders Society.
“What resonates most with me regarding her reputation and in interacting with Leah, and is mirrored in EWU, is her unique ability to wrap around you in an experience or interaction and truly assess and listen to your needs while making you feel valued,” Laura Martini, one of her nominators, said.
Horton spent numerous hours at EWU cultivating her love for philanthropy. As a student, she was awarded the President’s Cup for high academic standards and community engagement was the chair for Eagle Entertainment and was a member of the inaugural class of the Eastern Advantage Program dedicated to helping first-generation college students succeed, something she has demonstrated with every challenge she has undertaken.
RORY TALKINGTON ’81, Exceptional Military Service
When Rory Talkington first got to Eastern, he had no intentions of pursuing a military career. As a college football player at the time, Talkington became interested in the Marines when a group of officers came to campus and set up a display on flying jets.
“Of course the Marine officer said at the time, ‘You’ll never make it; You don’t have what it takes,’” said Talkington. “That was the hook that got me interested. I thought to myself, ‘I’m an Eastern grad; I can do anything.’”
After graduating from EWU in 1981 with a degree in history, Talkington went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps for 28 years.
In his early years, he received airborne and scuba training and became a member of the elite combat unit, Recon. Talkington later commanded a Recon company in Desert Storm and the 1st Recon Battalion in Iraq.
Talkington retired as a colonel in 2007, having received a Bronze Star for Valor, a Purple Heart, and two meritorious medals among many other awards.
“Eastern is the gem of this area of the state and we should continue to be in that vein of taking care of our veterans,” said Talkington. “There are Eastern grads in the farthest reaches of the world now, as fellow grads and fellow alumni, let’s keep an eye on those men and women make sure they get home and continue to be in good shape.”
ALAN ’73 AND JO ’78, ’73 MCDONALD, Eagle4Life Spirit Award
Alan and Jo McDonald are the quintessential example of a husband and wife team, fanatical about EWU athletics.
Along with attending nearly every EWU football game, as well as the men’s and women’s basketball games, the now retired couple has continued to give back to the university by officiating EWU track and field meets and coaching various sports camps over the years.
Alan and Jo met at EWU and have been married for 46 years. The first time Alan saw Jo was at one of the football games when she was a twirler in the marching band. He later asked Jo out on a date, which, by mistake, was on her mom’s birthday. Jo declined. Alan later got his first date, and two weeks later he asked Jo to marry him. She said yes.
Even when temperatures dip well below zero, Alan and Jo wouldn’t miss a football game. They come with Costco-sized boxes of hand warmers stuck to their bodies, heated socks and red sleeping bags. They’ve even driven 15 hours through the night to attend games.
“I think the beauty of what we’ve learned over the years in athletics, from participating, coaching and spectating, is the friendships we’ve gained over the years; we have built friendships that go beyond what you could do any other way,” said Alan.