Each year, the Linfield Alumni Association honors dedicated individuals for their hard work, innovation and generosity of spirit. Here’s a look at Linfield’s 2016 award recipients.
Oregon journalist Floyd McKay ‘57 had a front-row seat for one of the most critical periods in Oregon’s history.
Now, McKay is telling that story in a new book, “Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State.” For his accomplishments, he has been named the Linfield College Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
McKay’s book covers the period from 1964 to 1986, often referred to as The Oregon Story because it was a time of great change. From clean rivers and open beaches to mass transit and the Columbia Gorge, those two decades shaped the future of Oregon. As a reporter at the Oregon Statesman (now the Statesman Journal) in Salem and a news analyst at KGW-TV for 17 years in Portland, McKay knew all the major players and rising newcomers that defined this era.
His book describes and analyzes the time, linking the state’s leadership with an emerging corps of activists, many of them women who were on the cusp of taking leadership roles in Oregon politics. It also discusses changes in the Oregon media and is the first to link the environmental gains of the time with the emergence of a Portland renaissance that included MAX, Pioneer Square and the demise of urban freeways.
“More important is my goal of alerting young readers and new Oregonians to what can be done working together for goals that protect and improve Oregon’s quality of life and the Earth’s sustainability,” McKay said.
As a student, McKay studied journalism, which was a very small Linfield department in the 1950s.
“Linfield’s greatest strength has always been its liberal arts focus and the ability of students to connect with professors in all fields,” said McKay. “My career never called into play the Shakespeare class from Dr. Horace Terrell or the Ethics and Life of Jesus classes with Dr. James Pollard, but the values and thinking of both men influenced me in many ways.”
McKay left full-time journalism in 1986 and spent two years as an assistant to Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. From 1990 to 2004 he taught journalism at Western Washington University, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington along the way, specializing in media history, later writing two books and many academic journal articles on that topic.
His vast background in journalism and history equip McKay to transcribe The Oregon Story and connect it to modern day, according to Bill Lunch, Oregon political scientist and regular commentator for OPB.
“Floyd McKay has burnished his reputation as one of the most thoughtful and insightful observers (while a participant himself) in the era of historic change in the Northwest and the nation, the significance of which we are only now beginning to fully appreciate,” Lunch said.
Pete Dengenis of Seattle, Wash., has demonstrated his commitment to the “Linfield Way” over the years through both his words and his actions.
For his commitment, Dengenis has earned the Linfield College Alumni Service Award.
Dengenis epitomized the term “student athlete,” graduating cum laude in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in economics while compiling an impressive Linfield Hall of Fame football career, He also earned a master's degree from Linfield in 1968. In addition, he did post graduate work in economics with an emphasis in labor relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and soon began a career as a negotiator for teachers’ unions in Michigan, California, Washington and Oregon. After 31 years, Dengenis retired, dedicating his time to authoring three instructional manuals for union bargaining as well as the biography, “Dengenis Family History.” He also serves on the Linfield Hall of Fame selection committee and has organized reunions in 2005 and 2010 in recognition of the Camellia Bowl Team’s induction into the Hall. His service-oriented attitude and dedicated work ethic marks him as someone who not only “talks the talk,” but also “walks the walk” when it comes to giving back.
Dengenis has remained active in the Linfield community, contributing regularly to the Top Cat Club, the Turf Fund, Mike Barrow Room, Ad Rutschman Field House, Paul Durham Endowment Fund, as well and his own scholar-athlete endowment fund. Most recently, Dengenis spearheaded efforts to fund and construct the Paul Durham Monument. Once the idea of a memorial statue was suggested, Dengenis went straight to work on making this brainchild a reality. From his home in Seattle, Dengenis commuted to meet with the sculptor, electricians, masons, architects, granite suppliers and even Linfield’s building and grounds personnel. Throughout the construction process, Dengenis acted as the general contractor, negotiating prices and managing every aspect of the monument from its inception, to the installation and ending with the dedication ceremony. Dengenis also started the financial campaign that raised more than $70,000 for the project.
Dengenis’ commitment to Linfield is reflected in his support of Linfield and his work on the Paul Durham Monument project.
As a school counselor, Kerry Nordstrom ’10 advocates for each and every student on a daily basis. She has gone above and beyond in her role as a school counselor.
For her achievements since graduation, she has been named the Linfield College Outstanding Young Alumna.
Nordstrom received her bachelor’s in social and behavioral science at Linfield and went on to earn a master’s in school counseling at Northwest Christian University. Since 2012 she has worked in Scammon Bay, Alaska, serving 230 students in grades K-12 in a Native Yup'ik community on the Bering Sea.
Nordstrom’s students always come first. She has secured over $24,000 in grants for school activities. She works hard to make sure her students actually get to college. Because financial aid doesn’t kick in until students arrive at college, Nordstrom raises the funds or uses her own to cover the cost of the flights, which are in the neighborhood of $500, just to fly to Anchorage.
Nordstom doesn’t just teach, she is involved with the community. She communicates closely with the Elders to ensure that she maintains the Yup'ik values as she works with her students. Her dedication has contributed to a 95 percent graduation rate, and 71 percent of the 110 students in grades seven through 12 now have a 3.0 or higher GPA. She launched a National Honor Society and works with a peer suicide group and the local agencies to reduce the number of suicides. She is the leader in our PBIS Foundations group to maintain a safe and civil school and discipline referrals have dropped from about 85 a year to less than 25 now.
Nordstrom received the 2015-2016 Alaska School Counselor of the Year and will represent Alaska in Washington, D.C., when the National Counselor of the Year is named. She was also elected the Outstanding Counselor Student for her graduating class at Northwest Christian University.
Nordstrom said the support of Virginia McCallum, her advisor at Linfield, was critical in her decision to attend Linfield. Nordstrom wrote her thesis on small town school counselors and fell in love with the career, which led to her pursuit of a master’s degree. She uses her life experiences to help students and community members realize their potential and has now helped several graduates further their careers through college, the military, and other jobs possibilities.
David and Jeanne Beck of McMinnville may be retired after prestigious research careers, but they continue to share their knowledge and vineyard with Linfield students and faculty.
David Beck received a bachelor’s from Princeton and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. He worked in a number of research programs including the Public Health Research Institute and as the president of Coriell Medical Research Institute, which is known for its research on polio and cancer and for creating the largest and most diverse cell repository.
Jeanne Beck has a bachelor’s from Wilson College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. She worked at the JHU School of Medicine and later at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She was the director of cell repositories at Coriell.
After retiring, they bought the Crawford-Beck Winery in Amity and opened their vineyard to Linfield students and faculty.
The Beck's have served Linfield in numerous ways, including allowing Linfield science students and faculty to use their vineyard as an outdoor classroom. The Becks often present lectures on the microbiology of the vineyard and have worked with students and faculty on science experiments in soil respiration rates and insect biology.
The Beck’s also welcomed students from an iFOCUS learning community for a research project examining the microbial community of grapes. The students sampled grapes from the Crawford-Beck vineyard, and visited several wineries in the area to sample primary fermentations of the grapes. The entire project would not exist without the contributions of the Becks. They have been enthusiastic about the research being done and have given of their time to expand on the geology (and other aspects) of their property.
The Becks have also served as advisors to the Linfield science division in the college’s continuing efforts to improve STEM programs and facilities at Linfield. Their consistent support of Linfield students and programs demonstrates a commitment to the college.
“The Becks have given of their time freely and encouraged us to use their expertise and their property as much as possible to improve programs for Linfield students,” said Jeremy Weisz, professor of biology. “I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of a service award from the college than Jeanne and David.”
For more information, contact Debbie Harmon Ferry '90, director of alumni relations, by email or call 503-883-2607.