LAKEWOOD – In honor of their personal and professional achievements, four Pierce College alumni will be recognized April 17 during the annual Distinguished Alumni celebration. Nominees are selected based on their achievements in academics, business, community or humanitarian support or personal triumph over adversity. This year’s honorees provide inspirational examples of the impact Pierce College has had on its students as well as the greater community.
This year’s Distinguished Alumni are Kate Starbird, assistant professor at University of Washington and former professional basketball player; Natalie Mayer, asset manager and philanthropist; Greg Brazell, dean of social science and business at Pierce College; and Dr. Sheley Secrest, policy analyst and former president of Seattle/King County NAACP.Before she made her WNBA debut, Pierce College Running Start alum Kate Starbird made her mark at Stanford University, and excelled in both basketball and academics. When her professional career ended, she decided to go back to school, ultimately earning her doctorate from the University of Colorado. Today, she serves as a professor in the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering department. Her area of interest revolves around the use of social media to spread information during crisis situations. For Lakewood businesswoman and philanthropist Natalie Mayer, Pierce College has always been there for her, to provide the support she needed to change careers or learn new skills to be successful in life. When she started at Pierce, it was the beginning of a search for what she wanted out of life and who she wanted to become.
“I had no clue what I wanted to do with myself when I was finished with high school,” she admitted. “I didn’t want to commit to anything, and struggled with focus. It wasn’t until I went back to Pierce that I became really grounded, because the instructors were always there to encourage me.”Greg Brazell, dean of social science and business at Pierce College. He calls himself a Pierce College ‘lifer,’ and he couldn’t be more proud to work for the school that gave him a much-needed sense of purpose in his life. When he was a faculty member, he joined with other Early Childhood Education leaders to advance the cause of childcare of the children of Pierce College students. According to Cherry Tinker, the former executive director of the Pierce College Foundation, Brazell’s efforts and advocacy were integral to the success of the childcare campaign. Since she was nine years old, Dr. Sheley Secrest knew she wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. She never lost sight of her dreams, but had little knowledge of what it would take to make her goal a reality. As a first-generation college student, it wasn’t until she enrolled at Pierce College that she was able to connect with instructors who were able to help set her on a course that would determine the direction of her life.
“My time at Pierce was instrumental for me,” she said. “I was a 19-year-old with nothing more than a dream, but they were able to map out exactly what I needed to do to make my dream a reality.”
A celebration and banquet will take place in their honor April 17 at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s Health Education Center at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30, and can be purchased in advance by calling (253) 864-3261 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.