CWU News

CWU Alumni Association to Honor Distinguished Alumni

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Four Central Washington University graduates, one from each of the university’s academic divisions, along with an Alumnus of the Year, and Recent Graduate Award winner will be honored by the CWU Alumni Association at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner, Friday, October 11, at 5:30 p.m. in the Sue Lombard Dining Room.  

The 2013 honorees are Jeff Charbonneau, Alumnus of the Year, Jason Nowakowski, Recent Graduate Award; and Distinguished Alumni Dale Comstock, College of the Sciences; Ralph Conner, College of Business; Trevor Greene, College of Education and Professional Studies; and Richard Matthews, College of Arts and Humanities.

The Alumnus of the Year Award honors alumni whose contributions and achievements in the community embody CWU’s mission of fostering citizenship, responsible stewardship of the earth, and enlightened and productive lives.

Charbonneau was named the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. For the past 12 years, he’s served as both a chemistry and physics teacher at Zillah High School. Charbonneau was eligible for the national award after winning both the state and regional teacher of the year awards.

As the National Teacher of the Award, he’s spending this academic year visiting schools and talking with educators across the country and around the world to help develop guidelines for best practices in education. 

The Recent Graduate Award goes to an alum, who received his/her CWU degree 10 years ago or less, who has earned distinction in her/his field, and demonstrates outstanding future potential.

Nowakowski, a 2003 CWU graduate in mathematics, is the principal and consulting actuary at the Seattle office of Milliman. His areas of expertise are managed care, benefit pricing, and prescription drugs. He works primarily with group healthcare programs, including commercial, Medicare, Medicaid and veteran populations. He assists clients with benefit design, pricing, healthcare cost projections, and rate filings. His current responsibilities include modeling and analysis of medical and prescription drug benefit plans as well as utilization benchmarking and potential savings analyses.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes CWU graduates who have distinguished themselves in their fields; have earned a high degree of respect among their colleagues and in the general community; and whose impact has been felt on a regional, national and/or international level.

Comstock served on the CWU faculty for 32 years. He was also director of the university’s computer center, chair of the mathematics department, and served as dean of Graduate Studies and Research for 20 years. He retired from the university in 1996. He also was the Dean in Residence at the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington, DC, and senior program manager to the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs for the United States Department of Energy’s Energy Research and Development Administration.

Conner is a Certified Public Accountant and partner in the Yakima office of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, a national firm that provides audit, accounting, tax, benefits, information security, internal audit, international, outsourcing, advisory, and executive search services. Conner led the development of CWU internships at CliftonLarsonAllen, some of which have turned into jobs for university graduates, along with establishing student scholarships. He also serves on the new CWU Accounting Advisory Council. In addition, Conner is involved with university outreach efforts to Yakima County. 

Greene was named the 2013 National High School Principal of the Year for his work at Toppenish High School. He became the first principal in the Pacific Northwest to earn that honor in the 20 years it has been awarded. School improvement and student learning were hallmarks of Greene’s tenure at Toppenish, where he started in 2008. He’s now on a new, one-year fellowship, through the Association of Washington School Principals and Gates Foundation, where he’s helping principals throughout eastern Washington.

Matthews, who retired from the United States Army as a lieutienant colonel in 2004, now serves in the Pentagon as the deputy director of Plans and Combatant Command Support, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. He is responsible for daily situational awareness at 11 geographic and functional combatant commands and defense intelligence operations, oversees the Intelligence Combat Support Agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, and implements tasks associated with the Joint Intelligence Operations Centers at each command.  

The Distiguished Alumni Awards dinner is part of CWU 2013 Homecoming celebration. For more information, go to

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, e-mail

October 11, 2013