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 2008 award winners.
Rick Pullen ’67 – Distinguished Alumnus
When Rick Pullen ’67 got his start in journalism as a teenager in a small logging town, he had no idea where the world of communication would take him.
Four decades later, Pullen has established an award-winning communication career and has been named the 2008 Linfield College Distinguished Alumnus.
Pullen, dean of the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, got his start in journalism at Myrtle Point High School with the help of his advisor, the late Don Wohler ’52. Pullen enrolled at Linfield and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in English, and completed his master’s in education in 1968.
Pullen found inspiration in his advisor Charlotte Filer, ’54, who taught journalism at Linfield for 14 years. Pullen took advantage of the journalism opportunities at Linfield. He covered sports for the Linfield Review for three years and assisted with the sports section of the Oak Leaves yearbook. As a junior, he was editor of the Linfield Review and the sports editor of Oak Leaves. He served as sports information director his junior and senior years, and while working on his master’s degree. In addition he spent a year as sports editor for the McMinnville News-Register and wrote a column called “Pullen Punches” for the newspaper.
Pullen’s love and passion for journalism has never diminished. He taught journalism at David Douglas High School in Portland for two years before completing his Ph.D. in journalism at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. While there he was a graduate adviser for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian. He then took a position at California State University, Fullerton, advising the school paper and teaching media law. He later worked in administrative positions in the communication department before eventually being appointed dean of the college, one of eight colleges on the campus of 37, 200 students.
“Journalism and communication have been extremely exciting, challenging and rewarding for me over the years,” said Pullen. “I’ve been involved at many levels and have been active in many social and academic organizations that focus on journalism and the media.”
Pullen has traveled the world and understands that learning what other cultures have to offer is crucial to communicate with different nationalities and societies.
Communications is critical in the world and will always play a major role in all aspects of business and society,” Pullen said.
He has been instrumental in establishing exchange programs in China, Japan and Korea as well as a master’s program at Hong Kong University where the students receive their degree through CSU-Fullerton. His department supports a London semester program and summer program in Florence, Italy, with the department providing faculty to teach at the locations. He encourages students to study abroad and expand their knowledge of global communities.
“Given the global village we live in, understanding and appreciating other cultures is critical,” Pullen said.
Pullen has been active in a number of organizations. He is on the board of directors of the California First Amendment Coalition, served on the national Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists and has been active over the years with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, among others.
“The greatest challenge today is ensuring that what we teach is relevant to the changing times,” Pullen said.
The practices of both communication and journalism have changed throughout the years with the progression of technology, but Pullen believes that journalism will always be a vital tool in society.
“Patterns of usage have changed drastically over the past decade, and we in communications must recognize and adjust to those changes while continuing to emphasize the basics of communication,” Pullen said. “It is truly amazing how communications has evolved.”
Erik and Jennifer McLaughlin ’96 – Alumni Service Award
Hospitality comes naturally for Erik and Jennifer (Cutts) McLaughlin ’96 and ’95.
Even as students at Linfield College, the couple began developing careers in the food and wine industry. For their efforts, the McLaughlins of Pendleton earned the Alumni Service Award for hosting events for alumni and prospective students.
The McLaughlins have hosted alumni gatherings, donating wine and meals for each event. They have also hosted events for incoming Linfield freshman, inviting local students in the area who are home for the summer break to meet the new students.
Erik is general manager for Hamley and Company, a 125-year-old organization which includes a retail outlet – they are the oldest saddle maker in the west – Hamley Steak House, event facilities and a coffee shop. The company offers an extensive wine program, showcasing private labels from Northwest vineyards.
Erik and Jennifer also operate Veraison, a wine consulting firm, and have three children, Naomi 4 1/2, Quinn 3 and Orla 4 months.
The two met as students during a concert in the Oak Grove. Erik, an English major, was active in student government and forensics. He was a co-editor of Testmarketed Downpour, the student literary magazine, and a columnist for the Linfield Review. Jennifer, an anthropology major who transferred to Linfield from Portland Community College, was active in the SOAN Department and found an outlet in pottery and sculpture.
Erik and Jennifer discovered an interest in the wine industry during their student years, when they worked in the cellars of several different Yamhill County wineries. Erik recalls the excitement of the burgeoning Willamette Valley wine industry.
“I fell in love with the industry and have spent the rest of my career pursuing it,” he said.
Erik became general manager and sommelier of Third Street Grill in McMinnville. Since then, the McLaughlins have owned several restaurants over the years, including Richard’s of Hyde Park, Taste, The Bungalow and most recently 8th Street Wine Company in Boise, Idaho.
“The wine industry engages me on every level -- historical, scientific, cultural, anthropological, agricultural and economic,” Erik added. “On top of all that, it’s an enjoyable, civilizing influence on an evening meal. It enhances the experience of company and good food.”
Eric views wine as more than just a commodity.
“Wines are living things made by real people. When you taste them, you can detect the connection with the people and places from which they come.”
The McLaughlins are grateful for their Linfield experience and want future students to have the same opportunities.
“Linfield was a life-making experience for both of us,” Erik said. “We had the opportunity to start becoming the adults we are now and we want other people to have that same opportunity. We continue to feel very connected to Linfield.”
Rob Owens ’94 – Outstanding Young Alumnus
As a Linfield College senior, Rob Owens ’94 stood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and knew he’d found his calling.
Owens, who toured the New York financial district during a Linfield January Term class, met with investment bankers and other business leaders on Wall Street, reinforcing a passion for the financial industry and identifying his future career path.
“It was a combination of both the energy on the floor as well as the academic side of high finance that was really compelling,” Owens said. “That’s when I realized what I wanted to do.”
Owens, vice president and senior research analyst at Pacific-Crest Securities, Inc., has been named the Linfield College Outstanding Young Alumnus for his distinguishing work in the finance industry and his willingness to mentor alumni in the field.
He has appeared on CNBC and Bloomberg Television and is frequently quoted in financial and industry trade publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Investor’s Business Daily. Owens’ work has been recognized in The Wall Street Journal and Reuters and he currently ranks as one of the top ranked software analysts in the US according to Institutional Investor Magazine. He travels extensively – three to four weeks per quarter – to major money centers in the United States and Europe and enjoys the interaction with portfolio managers and analysts at large institutional money managers.
“After 14 years, I’m still energized by work I do,” he said. “I enjoy the pace of the dynamic industry and having the ability to touch Wall Street from Portland, Ore.”
In addition to managing a demanding career, Owens volunteers at Linfield, meeting with faculty, staff and students throughout the year. He is a member of both the Presidents Circle and the Business Advisory Council, a group of professionals who work closely with the college to advance the shared mission of the Business Department.
With a double major in math and finance, Owens said he graduated from Linfield with a broad skill set to take on a career. He wants to make sure future generations of business students are prepared for the work environment as well.
“It’s important to give back to the college and contribute to the future direction of the Business Department,” he said.
Lee Vasquez – Walker Service Award
During the past four decades, Lee Vasquez has established vital connections with two of his favorite communities – Linfield and McMinnville.
Vasquez, former Yamhill County sheriff, has been an avid leader and volunteer in the McMinnville community, and his stewardship has extended to Linfield as well.
He received the Walker Service Award for his community-focused fundraising efforts. The Walker Award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through long-standing, significant service to the college. The award is named in honor of Charles and Cherie Walker. Charles Walker served as president of Linfield from 1975 to 1992.
Vasquez has served on the Partners in Progress Steering committee since 1994, chairing the committee twice during his tenure. As an active member of the PIP committee, he has gone into the community promoting the college and its missions, raising money for Linfield from individual and corporate supporters in Yamhill County.
Giving from individuals and corporate residents of Yamhill County has increased from over $200,000 in 1994 to nearly $500,000 last year.
“Education is our future,” Vasquez said. “The partnership between Linfield and the community is a must, and it’s a partnership that works very well.”
A Vietnam veteran, Vasquez joined the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office in 1968, rising to undersheriff in 1981. He served as sheriff from 1989 until his retirement in 1997. He received many local, state and national honors during his time with the sheriff's office, including a medal of valor in 1976 and a victim's advocacy award in 1990. He served on numerous professional boards, chairing the Oregon Criminal Justice Council and serving as a board member for the National Sheriff's Association.
“Our community has given a lot to me and there’s no way I can repay what the community has given to me,” said Vasquez, named Man of the Year by the Jaycees in April.
Vasquez has been involved in numerous community programs. In addition to his work with PIP, he has served on the board for Henderson House, chaired the CASA housing program board and supported Kids on the Block. He has been active in the McMinnville Rotary Club and has chaired the annual Rotary Wine & Art Auction, a benefit for the local cancer center and Virginia Garcia Clinic.
Looking back on his affiliation with Linfield, Vasquez said he’s proud of the fundraising effort, along with the positive bond between town and gown.
“It’s satisfying to give back to the community and give back to the college,” he said. “We surpassed the goal every year.”