Linfield College alumni award winners named

Linfield College bannerEach year, the Linfield Alumni Association honors dedicated individuals for their hard work, innovation and generosity of spirit. Linfield’s 2015 award recipients include Marcy (Hamby) Towns ’85, distinguished alumna; Ray Olson ’54, alumni service award; Daniel Roth ’00, outstanding young alumnus; and Maria Stuart, Walker service award. Learn more about them here.




Marcy (Hamby) Towns ’85 – Distinguished Alumna

Marcy (Hamby) Towns '85

Marcy (Hamby) Towns ’85, professor of chemistry at Purdue University, of West Lafayette, Ind., is a nationally and internationally known leader in the field of chemistry education research and discipline-based education research.

By the numbers, her work is impressive – 661 citations of scholarship, 52 peer-reviewed publications, eight editorials and book chapters and more than 160 presentations. But beyond the significant volume of published work, she is an accomplished teacher as well. Last year, she won the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, Purdue University’s highest undergraduate teaching honor.

In the early 1990s as faculty at smaller schools looked for ways to increase student involvement in physical chemistry, Towns became a part of the Physical Chemistry Online (PCOL) community. The materials developed by the group with NSF funding resulted in 12 multi-week projects based on collaborative learning in an online environment. Her efforts led to guidelines for faculty facilitating online interactions.

“Our research group investigates the factors that affect how students learn chemistry,” said Towns, who is currently studying student goals for labs across the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. “There is a lot of criticism of ‘cookbook laboratories’ that present everything to the students and lead them through the lab step by step. The students don’t get to make choices about questions to ask, data collection, how it’s to be analyzed or how to interpret it.”

Town’s groundbreaking research on undergraduate chemistry laboratories has resulted in new ways to classify individual experiments based upon student engagement. As a result, the method is widely used across all science disciplines. It has also helped faculty define the goals they want to accomplish in laboratory classes.

Towns said her years at Linfield College directly impacted her career, explaining that her favorite class, differential equations taught by Professor Emeritus Roger Dell, provided the foundation for her future research. She also took rigorous classes from her father, Drannan Hamby, professor emeritus of physics and chemistry.

“The faculty and experiences I had at Linfield College fostered a love for learning, which grew into a love for teaching and helping others to learn,” she said. “I am fortunate to have been inspired by outstanding faculty who stoked an intellectual fire that has not dimmed since I graduated.”

Now, in her role as director of general chemistry at Purdue, she is modeling the department after Linfield’s student-centered approach. Her mentorship techniques are also a reflection of her Linfield experience.

“I knew my professors, and there was a lot of encouragement to do well and go out and make a difference in the world,” she said. “I try to do the same for my own students. I give a lot of advice about study skills, internships and encouragement. I want to get to know them, their families, their hopes and dreams.”


Ray Olson ’54 – Alumni Service Award

Ray Olson '54Ray Olson 54 of Vancouver, Wash., has been a Linfield College supporter for decades – both financially and through his leadership.

In 1998, he organized the first of many reunion luncheons in honor of Paul Durham, renowned Linfield football coach and athletic director. Olson personally wrote the invitations, made the site selection, planned the menus, and organized every detail of the banquet planning. The lunches continued for 11 years and were attended annually by approximately 100 coaches, athletes, professors and friends of Durham. A 2007 edition of the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that “…the honor that meant most to Durham was the annual summer gathering of former players in McMinnville…”

The lunch group was responsible for funding the $30,000 Mike Barrow Room in the Nicholson Library. In addition, Olson videoed during each lunch and ultimately created a video, “Apples Don’t Fall Far From the Tree.” The video, archived in the Linfield Nicholson Library, is a complete visual history of the Paul Durham era reported by those who lived it, and a testament to Olson’s commitment to the preservation of the “Linfield Way.” An accomplished videographer, Olson is the creator of “Blaze Kid Warrior,” the story of a girl fighting ALS that appeared on PBS.

In 1999, Olson established the Paul Durham Endowment Fund and served as primary fundraiser for the account until it reached $70,000. In 2012, after the legendary fictitious character Ooney Gagen donated $10,000 and challenged others to increase the fund to $100,000, Olson led “Team Durham” to surpass Ooney’s challenge. The fund is now over $170,000.

Most recently, Olson worked with a number of alumni to create a statue honoring Durham. The eight-foot bronze, created by Northwest sculptor Heather Greene of Soderberg Gallery and Studio, weighs about 750 pounds and is located near the Health, Human Performance and Athletics building. The group raised more than $70,000 to complete the project.


Daniel Roth ’00 – Outstanding Young Alumnus

Dan Roth '00Dan Roth ’00 of Alexandria, Va., is committed to public service.

An international business graduate and active member of the Linfield College forensics team, Roth began his career as the campaign manager for Professor Emeritus Frank Nelson, who ran for the Oregon House of Representatives in 2000. He went on to work as a legislative assistant for two California Assembly members and the chief of staff for a Sacramento city council member. Now communications director for Rep. Karen Bass of California, Roth said his liberal arts education prepared him for work in politics.

He has been involved with several major issues including reforming California’s charter school system while working in the state legislature to helping to lead the effort at Sacramento City Hall to build a teen center for low-income youth in a working-class neighborhood where they now have a safe place for after-school tutoring and mentoring. He is currently working nationally to elevate the voices of the more than 400,000 young people who are a part of the nation’s foster care system to ensure that members of Congress don’t forget their unique needs as they craft public policy.

Roth utilizes strong Linfield communication skills to advance the depth and breadth for issues confronting his team. In one year, he scheduled more than 50 national television interviews for Rep. Bass, ranging from an interview with a foster youth who she was hosting on Capitol Hill to the BBC on Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 young girls.

Two very different areas of study at Linfield – forensics and accounting – have merged into vital components of Roth’s career. Speech and debate enabled Roth to think very quickly and effectively inform and persuade in a short amount of time. His accounting classes taught him about budgets.

“If you want to really understand an organization, look at its budget,” he said. “The budget is the most important document that the Congress or the state legislature will pass, and Linfield taught me how to read and understand budgets.”

He uses persuasion skills honed at Linfield to form coalitions and find common ground with unlikely allies. For example, Roth led the communication effort for the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, a bipartisan coalition of more than 140 members of Congress dedicated to improving the nation’s child welfare system. There, he was responsible for a wide range of communication tasks, from producing a media kit, social media posts and sample press releases for the members in the caucus to booking for foster youth as well as Dr. Phil, a television talk show host, when he testified on Capitol Hill about over medication of psychotropic drugs to foster youth.

One of the most rewarding parts of Roth’s job is empowering people who need a voice to tell their stories. He regularly pitches stories to media outlets, and said personal narratives are critical to changing the public’s view of vulnerable people.

“There are almost 400,000 young people in the foster care system – more people than live in New Orleans – but these young people are often ignored and neglected,” he said. “Enabling them to tell their stories is crucial to crafting public policy that will benefit them.”


Maria Stuart – Walker Service Award

Maria Stuart Maria Stuart of McMinnville first encountered the Northwest wine community, and her future husband, in 1990 while attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) at Linfield College.

Fast-forward a few years, and Stuart and her husband, Rob, own R. Stuart & Co. Winery in McMinnville, where she is the director of marketing, direct sales, public relations and hospitality. In addition to her role at the winery, Stuart has been a powerful advocate for Linfield.

Stuart, a strong proponent of the liberal arts education, is a member of the Linfield College Business Advisory Council, a group of alumni, community members and faculty charged with providing the Department of Business with professional, external program reviews and strategic direction. She has employed numerous Linfield graduates and speaks to students who are considering careers in the wine industry.

“I take every opportunity to mentor students and connect them to business leaders in the community,” said Stuart, who served as executive director of IPNC for three years, and is the incoming president of the IPNC board. “I’m passionate about mentoring young people. I want to help them become accomplished in the business world. As a society, it’s our obligation to help grow these young people into accomplished individuals.”

The R. Stuart & Co. Wine Bar has been the event site for a number of wine tasting events held during Family Weekend. A proud supporter of Linfield, Stuart represents the college well in the greater McMinnville community and to the many tourists who visit the winery. She said she’s pleased about the development of Linfield’s wine education program.

“The wine industry is a huge contributor to the economic picture in Oregon,” she said. “If we can educate students ready to come into that field, there will be more and more opportunities for them. It’s a mutual benefit for Linfield and the wine community.”

Stuart is also the author of “The Life and Times of a Pinot Mom,” a blog about food, life and the wine business ( Her son will attend Linfield in the fall.

For more information, contact Debbie Harmon Ferry ’90, director of alumni relations, by email or call 503-883-2607.