Seattle Pacific University: Connections Alumni News

Autumn 2009 | Volume 3, Issue 4

Alumnus Named VP at ECFA

An established authority on stewardship, Wesley Willmer '71, M.Ed. '73, was appointed in June the senior vice president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

With more than 1,400 members, including some of the largest nonprofits in the country, ECFA provides accreditation to those Christian nonprofits that faithfully comply with standards encompassing financial accountability, fundraising, and board governance.

Willmer's prior experience includes 38 years as a professor, researcher, and administrator in four institutions of higher education, including Wheaton College and Roberts Wesleyan College. From 1971-73, he was associate dean of students at Seattle Pacific University, and for the past 19 years was vice president for university advancement at Biola University.

At ECFA, he will focus on strategic planning, marketing/communications, resource development, government advocacy, and membership development.

The former chairman of the Christian Stewardship Foundation, Willmer said in a recent online interview on stewardship, "God looks at our heart and our total life. Giving is not about 'how much,' but about how wise we are with what we have." In his book, God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul, Willmer says that when Christians give an account at the end of their lives, they will be asked, "What was accomplished for eternity with all the things God entrusted to you here on earth?"

In accepting the new position at an organization that gives many donors added peace of mind, Willmer said, "I am very pleased to be able to apply my God-given gifts and experiences on a national level to assist (ECFA) members in becoming more effective in fulfilling their missions." ECFA members include World Vision, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Seattle Pacific University.

Professor/Scientist Researches Killer Sea Lettuce

Sea LettuceExcessive algal blooms. Green tide. Big trouble.

Tim Nelson '87, SPU professor of biology and director of the Blakely Island Field Station, has his eye on occasional excessive blooms of sea lettuce in Puget Sound that in large concentrations suck oxygen out of ocean water, kill surrounding marine life, and foul beaches with decaying seaweed.

Studies conducted by SPU's Nelson, and scientists from Western Washington University (WWU), utilize student research assistants from all three institutions.

And the problem is global. This summer, a horse was killed on a beach in France by hydrogen sulfide from rotting green algae. Its rider was knocked unconscious and had to be dragged out of the algal mat. The French government will now clear thousands of tons of noxious seaweed from northern beaches to prevent the emission of dangerous gases.

So great is the potential for destruction of the marine food web that the overall study of the causes and effects of harmful algal blooms has been awarded millions of dollars in federal grants. Nelson and researcher Kathy Van Alstyne of WWU have received just over $1 million from these sources. Nelson also received an SPU Senior Faculty Grant for his work.

Sometimes called green tides, the blooms can negatively impact eelgrass by shading it out. Eelgrass meadows provide critical habitat for a variety of species, including juvenile salmon and herring as well as molting Dungeness crab. So valuable is its function that eelgrass is protected by the state of Washington.

Ironically, so is the troublesome seaweed. Says Nelson, "In Washington state, it's not possible to get a scientific collection permit to exceed recreational limits (of 10 pounds per day)." The question remains. Does the harvesting of green tides itself cause more damage than the algae?

The jury in this oceanic tug-of-war is still out.

Alumnus Coaches Team to World Series

Alumnus Coaches Team to Little League World SeriesSteve Stenberg '87 and his Mercer Island (Washington) Little League team wore their maroon colors with pride to win the Northwest Region title game and advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in August.

Five years ago, Mercer Island Little League did not even exist.

The team was amazed to earn a spot in Williamsport with such a short team history. They went east to play "bonus baseball," as anything beyond taking the district tournament would be considered a bonus against Eastern powerhouse teams with lengthy pedigrees. And they went under the leadership of a man unafraid of unconventional techniques as long as his players improved their game.

Stenberg's use of oven mitts to improve defense this season made The Seattle Times sports section. He believed that wearing the baker's friend during practice would help players learn to field the ball with a lighter touch and to use both hands. He was right. Their record through the state and district championships was 15-0.

Though they were unable to win in Williamsport, Stenberg, controller for a beverage distributor, called it "a great ride."

Graduate Saves Children With Life-Giving Water

SPU Graduate in VietnamThe statistics from the World Health Organization are tragic: Approximately 9,000 children worldwide die daily from diarrhea or diarrhea-related diseases, and 80 percent of these children live in Southeast Asia.

Because she believes that God's heart is for his people worldwide, LaRelle Catherman, M.N. '96, uses her skills as a nurse to help the at-risk children of Vietnam.

"God allowed me to see a people group who were in dire need of health and hygiene education, and safe drinking water," she says. The revelation came to her when, while studying for her master's degree in nursing at SPU, she traveled to Central Vietnam with colleagues to provide health care and classes at a hospital.

When the hospital director came to the U.S. for two months to study hospital administration, he guest-lectured at SPU and lived with LaRelle and her husband, Robert. The visitor asked his hostess to return to his country to research parental understanding of home treatment for diarrhea and why so many children died of the condition.

She returned to work alongside Vietnamese physicians and nurses, and to conduct many home visits. The research data indicated that most children suffered from diarrhea due to the lack of safe drinking water. Robert, "a meteorologist with an engineering mind," accepted the challenge to find a method of providing that safe, clean water.

Together, the Cathermans founded MEDRIX (Medical, Educational, and Development of Resources Through International Exchange) and, in 2002, were granted official permission to operate in Vietnam. Today, volunteer physicians, nurses, health educators, water specialists, native English speakers, and others are joining MEDRIX to make a difference in Southeast Asia.

And Robert's findings? He concluded that UV (ultraviolet) treatment to destroy harmful effects of bacteria is an affordable, fast, and practical way to ensure a clean source of water. The water treatment is especially effective and efficient in schools and health clinics where there are large concentrations of people.

MEDRIX and SPU's School of Health Sciences provide a transcultural and community health study abroad program in Vietnam. Ten selected nursing students spend five to six weeks in the country. Half the time is spent doing clinical rounds in the pediatric department of a provincial hospital, and the other half is spent in mountainous villages working alongside Vietnamese nursing students providing community health education in health clinics and village homes.

Pictured above is 2008 SPU nursing graduate Ryan Sexton, educating preschool children in a mountainous village in Central Vietnam on the importance of washing hands with soap. The nonprofit MEDRIX also taps its American partners to send physicians, who can train local Vietnamese doctors to provide improved health care to their patients.

"Never underestimate the small decisions you make every day," says LaRelle, who urges those interested in more information to check out "Don't wait for a large global opportunity to do something big for the world. The little daily decisions become the defining moments of one's life."

For Friends, Once a Disciple, Always a Disciple

Marta Bennett's discipleship groupMany people have testified that discipleship groups and Bible studies at SPU have a lasting impact on those involved. For the eight women in "Marta Bennett's discipleship group" (circa 1989-91) that affinity was the beginning of a close friendship now 18 years old and counting.

"We rarely missed a week (of meeting on campus) for two years," says Rachel LeMieux White, who remembers shared books such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together and Frederick Bruce's Hard Sayings of Jesus. She remembers, too, a blue vase from which slips of paper bearing their names were drawn to form prayer partnerships. Bennett still has the vase and all the disciples' names remain in it.

In addition to Bennett and White, the group includes Wendy (Schneider) Chamberlain, Kimberly (Finch) Crispeno, Leslie (McAuliffe) Leber, Robin (Young) Montgomery, Kathy (Myhre) Rodriquez, and Joan (Shannon) Jung.

The group, all Class of '91 (except Chamberlain '90), now stays in touch primarily through monthly emails. Seven of them held a rare get-together this past July when Bennett, former director of Campus Ministries, visited Seattle from Kenya, where she teaches at Nairobi International School of Theology. Assembling everyone is never easy. Although four of the classmates live in Seattle, one now lives in the Solomon Islands and one in British Columbia. This time, the missing member was Chamberlain, who lives in Thailand.

Since graduation, six of the friends have married SPU alumni; five have been involved in short- or long-term cross-cultural missions; six work or have worked as educators; two are ordained ministers; and six have earned or are working toward graduate degrees. Combined, they have 19 children and step-children.

"I think we're an amazing bunch!" says White. "Thanks, SPU, for the role you played in all of our lives."

First "Young Alum of the Year" Honored at Scholarship Auction

Young Alum of the Year Honored at Scholarship AuctionThe first Young Alum of the Year in SPU history is Bryan Pape '07. Announced at the recent Young Alumni Scholarship Auction, Pape is an active local volunteer and business leader who grew Little Hotties Hand Warmers into a dominant force in the hand warmer industry. Visit and check out the criteria for this new award honoring SPU Young Alums and think of someone you'd like to nominate.

Young Alum of the Year Honored at Scholarship AuctionThe auction was held at the trendy facilities of Imigri film production studios in Seattle. Most of the items, besides being purchased by young SPU alumns, were donated by young alumni with up and coming businesses of their own. The money raised will be added to the nearly $60,000 Young Alumni Scholarship Endowment to help quality seniors realize their educational goals. This year's scholarship recipient is Jennifer Bostrom '10, a 3.85 GPA educational ministry major who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.

View Young Alumni Auction photos on Flickr

SoulMates Marriage Seminar

Ready to transform your marriage? "Becoming Soul Mates," led by SPU professor of psychology Les Parrott and marriage and family therapist Leslie Parrott, will show you how. Saturday, January 16, 2010, will be a fun, thought-provoking day at SPU that will help everyone from newly engaged to longtime-married couples.

Register by December 5 for just $89/couple ($125 after) and receive the Parrott's latest book for free (a $15 value).
SoulMates Marriage Seminar

Did You Know?

SPU has 27 boilers generating heat, and 273 HVAC, cooler, and ice-making units.

When it first opened its doors in 1891, Seattle Pacific, like all of Seattle at the time, drew its water solely from underground springs.

In 1988, Stanley Allen '40 was a volunteer in Israel with the Vendyl Jones Research Institute when the archeological excavation team unearthed a small flask of oil. Used to anoint priests, prophets, and kings, the fragrant oil was the first artifact ever found from the First Temple period and was featured in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.


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Featured Podcast

Listen to the 2009 SPU Commencement address by civil rights champion and reconciler Dr. John Perkins.

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President's Blog Invites You to Consider These Big Ideas

Many of the things on SPU President Philip W. Eaton's mind can be found on his blog, "Saturday Morning From My Study."

Through the blog, he shares his thoughts about big ideas, current events, and cultural trends and concerns. His aim? To let blog visitors consider how the Christian gospel speaks into today's culture in order to make the world a better place.

You're invited to read the posts and book reviews, watch exclusive videos, and hear about special offers relating to the subject matter. Most importantly, you can say what you think about these ideas, and read what others are posting, as well, about "things that matter." Together we can envision a world, the president says, "where hope abounds, where all God's children might flourish."

First-Ever Mom's Day

Registrations are pouring in from mothers excited about sharing a day on campus with their students. November 7 is SPU Mom's Day: Sharing the Journey. Make history by attending the first ever!

Besides visiting residence halls; meeting their students' friends; and having brunch with SPU's First Lady, Sharon Eaton, moms are invited to join the Falcons cheering section at no less than two soccer matches and a volleyball game.

Sponsored by Parent Council and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations, Mom's Day is the perfect opportunity to gain a better sense of your student's world -- and to form bonds with other moms.
Get registration costs and details.

Sounds Sells Out

SPU's 10th annual Sacred Sounds of Christmas, on Monday, November 30 in Benaroya Hall, sold out two months in advance. Tickets for next year's Advent choral celebration will go on sale in September 2010.

Shake Those Bells

Who doesn't want a photo taken with Santa? Get in on all the holiday fun at SPU's annual Tradition celebration in Tiffany Loop. Lights, singing, and fun with the guy in the big red suit. Mark your calendars for Friday, December 4, starting at 7 p.m. Be sure to stop by the Young Alumni Coffee House in the Science Building lounge for java and dessert!

Ask for the "Alumni Rate" at Fort Casey Inn

Fort Casey Inn offers a special "alumni rate" of $105 a night to all SPU alumni, with a two-night minimum, October 1, 2009, through April 30, 2010. The two-bedroom water view units include a living area with a gas fireplace and a full kitchen. Contact us at 866-661-6604 or and enjoy a beautiful Whidbey Island getaway!

Tell Us a Story

Know a good story about SPU faculty, staff, students, or alumni? Submit story ideas about academic research, global engagement, interesting careers, and your personal alumni connections to Stories may be used in a variety of ways, from print pieces, to web communication, to media releases, and more.

Yearbooks Going Fast

The Alumni Center has given away more than two dozen SPU yearbooks since the last issue of Connections -- just for the asking! We can't mail them, but if you stop by the Center, you can help yourself to free copies of the following years: '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '57, '58, '67, '70, '71, '72, '75, '76, '77, '81, '85, '86, '87, '90, '91, '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, '00, '01, '02, and '04.

Show your kids what life was like way back when. Need an extra copy for a friend? Hurry. Once these are gone, they really are gone!

Reunion Committees: A Great Way to Serve

If you plan to attend your class reunion at SPU Homecoming and Family Weekend, January 28-30, 2010, then consider serving on the reunion planning committee. It's true what the old bromide says, "Many hands make light work."

Those who help plan their reunion events report how satisfying, inspiring, and downright fun it is. This Homecoming, the years ending in a "0" or a "5," starting with 1965, are the reunion classes needing committee assistance. To find out how you can help, email or call 206-281-ALUM.

Campus Jobs

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Assistant to the Vice President for Administration and University Relations.
32 hours per week providing office management; scheduling and meeting coordination; travel arrangements; event coordination and management; special project assistance; and some clerical support.

For more information and to apply for these and other open positions at SPU, see

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