Six outstanding graduates who have devoted themselves to their profession, their communities and Central Washington University were honored at our Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration, during Homecoming Weekend 2013. The University is proud and grateful for the contributions and commitment from all alumni, and appreciates the opportunity to publicly honor those whose achievements and dedication deserve special recognition.
To view our awardees' acceptance speeches, please click their names.
This year’s inspirational Alumni Award winners are:
Alumnus of the Year
College of Education & Professional Studies
President Obama chose to honor one of our very own, among the 3.2 million, with the National Teacher of the Year award, Jeff Charbonneau. Jeff will now serve as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year for the 2013-2014 school year, traveling nationally and internationally as the ambassador for America’s teachers.
Jeff is a National Board Certified Teacher and began teaching science at Zillah High School in 2001. He has been instrumental in creating a series of demanding STEM offerings. In 2013, students will be able to earn college credit in four of Jeff’s classes. Jeff fills his plate with responsibilities designed to engage all kinds of students. Like many great teachers, Jeff is an advisor to a host of clubs, including drama and science. As the yearbook advisor, Jeff led his students in a historical preservation project to digitize all of Zillah’s yearbooks from 1919 to 2002.
Jeff has also designed an exciting robotic challenge open to students from across the state, which alone has served over 850 students from 43 school districts over the past 4 years. These opportunities have dramatically increase the interest in science at Zillah. This year over 60 percent of juniors are registered for Chemistry and one-third of seniors will take Physics. There is no doubt that Jeff has put his education to good use and has accomplished so much, making him the recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award.
Distinguished Alumni Awards
College of Arts & Humanities
Richard Matthews is a distinguished military graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He is a graduate of the Military Intelligence Basic and Advanced Officers Course, the Post Graduate Intelligence Program, the Command General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies with a Master’s in Military Arts and Science, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI with a concentration in National Security Policy.
During his military career, Mr. Matthews had successful command and staff positions through the rank of lieutenant colonel, including commands in the 1st Infantry Division – Old Reliable, and overseas postings that included tours in Korea, Germany, and Bosnia. He retired as Lieutenant Colonel in 2004 and today is the Deputy Division Chief of the Exploitation and Collaboration Division of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Task Force, in the office of the Director of Joint and Coalition Warfighter Requirements and Evaluations. His years of service to his country and excellence with his field have made him the College of Arts and Humanities choice for the distinguished Alumni Award.
College of Business
Ralph Connor received his degree in Accounting as a transfer student to Central Washington University in 1988, all while working full-time. Upon graduation he worked for a local accounting firm in Yakima that was soon purchased by LeMasters Daniels where he worked for nearly 20 years, eventually becoming an owner of the firm. In 2010 the firm merged with Clifton Larson Allen in Yakima where Ralph is currently a Principal, managing their Yakima Office while overseeing the non-profit/public sector clients for the entire Northwest region.
Through this work he has been inspired to personally get involved with many local community organizations and has served in many capacities, including on Boards, as well as fundraising for the Yakima Valley Museum, YMCA, Police Activities League, American Cancer Society, and the United Way. In addition, Ralph also serves on the CWU Accounting Advisory Board. Central Washington University is happy to celebrate his achievements with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Business.
College of Education & Professional Studies
Trevor Greene was recently named the National High School Principal of the Year. Since he began his job as Principal of Toppenish High School, he has been recognized for his work of pulling all facets of the learning community together in supporting increased student achievement. Trevor previously served as the junior high principal at Toppenish during 2007-2008, and at Highland as the school district’s junior high school principal and vice principal (2006-2007). He also worked as a Spanish, English, and P.E. teacher in the Yakima School District, and previously taught Spanish in Utah.
Trevor holds a B.A. in Spanish and English from Brigham Young University, an M.A. in education from Central Washington University, and a superintendent certification from Washington State University. CWU is thrilled to celebrate his leadership and congratulates him for being the College of Education and Professional Studies Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient.
College of the Sciences
Dale Comstock completed his Bachelor of Arts in Education with a major in Math and minor in Physics and Geography at Central in 1955. While he would later go on to complete his Master of Science in mathematics in 1962, and PhD in Algebra, Applied Math, and Computer Science in 1966, Professor Emeritus Dale Comstock has been a devoted member of the Central Washington University community.
Professor Comstock started his career as a high school and college instructor, and would soon serve his country in the US Army. He was a scientific program analyst for General Electric and a math instructor for Oregon State University, before taking on his duties at the US Department of Energy where he was a Presidential Interchange Executive assigned as Senior Program Manager to the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Washington, DC. Following this he was Dean in Residence at the Council of Graduate Schools in DC. The College of Science is proud to call him an alumnus of Central Washington University and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient.
Recent Alumnus of the Year
College of the Sciences
Jason Nowakowski received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Central and is a principal and consulting actuary with the Seattle office of Milliman, having joined the firm in 2003. With areas of expertise in managed care, benefit pricing, and prescriptions, Jason works primarily with group healthcare programs, including commercial, Medicare, Medicaid, and veteran populations. Jason is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries Small Group Market Task Force committee and a fellow with the Society of Actuaries. It is his dynamic leadership within his field and as a bright reflection of our recent graduate community that Jason receives the Recent Alumnus of the Year Award.