Washington State University Tri-Cities


WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Alumnus of the Year

Do you know someone you would like to nominate for the 2013 WSU Tri-Cities Alumnus of the Year? We want to know.

Click here to download the nomination form.

View previous winners

The Alumnus of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have gained unique distinction through their accomplishments and have excelled personally and professionally, making a continued and significant difference in the lives of others. The award process also stimulates greater interaction among prominent alumni and the WSU Tri-Cities’ community – administrators, faculty, staff, and students.


Download the criteria pdf file

To be considered for an Alumnus of the Year Award, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a graduate in good standing from WSU Tri-Cities having graduated at least five years prior to nomination or have graduated from one of its predecessor institutions located at the Richland campus.
  • Be distinguished among his/her peers for constructive contributions made to society that display leadership, responsibility and expertise in his/her field of endeavor.
  • Demonstrate a high level of integrity in his/her personal life and have gained the recognition of various other persons around him/her.
  • Be an individual whose deeds reflect the importance of his/her education.

Additional considerations include:

  • Preference will be given to nominees who have demonstrated continuing interest in and support of Washington State University Tri-Cities through contribution of time, talent or resources.
  • Only living alumni will be eligible; no posthumous awards will be considered.
  • A person may receive this award only once in his/her lifetime.

Nomination Process

All nominations must be received in written format and include the following information:

  • Nomination form (see website: www.tricity.wsu.edu/graduation/alumnus)
  • A written nomination letter explaining why the nominee should be considered for the award and summarizing the nominee’s professional accomplishments, support for higher education, and community involvement (community service, awards, organizations, etc.)
  • Summary resume or vita (limit 1 page)
  • Short, personal biography of the nominee (limit 1 page)
  • No less than two but no more than four letters of support

Nomination forms with all supporting materials should be submitted as a single packet and must be received by the Office of Campus Advancement no later than noon on April 1 of the year in which the person is being nominsted.

Selection and Award Process

  • Nominations for Alumnus of the Year will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellors, Director of Advancement & Development, and Associate Vice Chancellors of academic & professional programs at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • The name of the selected Alumnus of the Year shall be kept in confidence until announced at the commencement ceremony in May. The recipient of the award will be invited as a guest of the Chancellor to commencement activities, without knowledge of the award.
  • If the recipient cannot attend the presentation, the award will be deferred to the next year, and an alternate will be selected.

Previous Winners

2008 (inaugural award) — Sandra J. Matheson

Sandra J. Matheson, who graduated in 1998 with her master’s in business administration, was honored because she has gained unique distinction through her accomplishments and continues to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Sandra was appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2005 to be the director of the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems. In this cabinet position, Sandra focused the agency on building awareness on retirement planning. Her work and dedication to service exemplify how our students can make a difference in their communities.

2009 — Albert Torres

Albert Torres, CEO and Publisher of Tú Decides Media, graduated from WSU Tri-Cities in 2004 with a bachelor of arts in management information systems. In 2007 he founded Tú Decides, a bilingual newspaper, with a circulation of 5,000. Today the newspaper is distributed throughout the State of Washington and circulation has grown to more than 26,000. Through a program called Newspapers in Education, Tú Decides is fostering literacy by providing K- 12, community colleges, and universities throughout the state with free copies of the newspaper. The paper is used in classes where students are learning English, Spanish or multi-cultural business.

Albert, with his business partner and late wife, Blanca, also created Expo NorthWest, which organizes Latino Business, Consumer and Career expos. Expo NorthWest provides small and large businesses a venue by which to recruit Latino employees and promote Latino-owned businesses. Most importantly, this organization furthers the message that the Latino community is a vital economic base for Washington State.

In 2006, Albert and Blanca were honored at the White House during national Hispanic Heritage Month for their community involvement in helping permanent residents prepare for their citizenship tests.

Albert is a shining example of how one person can have a big idea, take a risk, and make a difference. He is a model of civic engagement, entrepreneurship and activism, and we thank him for everything he does to improve this community, for his passionate support for education, and his dedication to ensuring that people from all backgrounds have access to education.

2011 — Wayne Martin

Wayne Martin has graduated twice from Washington State University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management in 1978, from our campus when it was called the Joint Center for Graduate Study. In 1996, he received his doctorate in environmental and natural resource sciences at WSU Tri-Cities.

Over the past 30 years, Wayne has worked as an environmental scientist and managed many significant environmental and waste management programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He has also been a tireless mentor and a passionate advocate for students who are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields.

He currently is the manager of the Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Surety product line at PNNL, where he oversees more than 100 research projects.

Wayne’s recognition and awards are far too numerous to list, but include:

  • In 2008, the Black Equal Opportunity Employment Journal recognized him as one of America’s most accomplished African-American Engineers.
  • In 2004, Wayne was identified as “One of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science” by Science Spectrum Magazine.
  • And in 2007, he was nationally recognized by the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lockheed Martin Corporation, U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology as the Black Engineer of the Year for his efforts to increase involvement of underrepresented minorities in the engineering and scientific fields. This is Wayne’s passion!

Wayne currently serves on the WSU Tri-Cities Advisory Council. He previously served on the Board of Trustees at Columbia Basin College. He provides leadership in a wide range of organizations, such as MESA — the Mathematics, Science and Engineering Achievement board.

He also commits his time and expertise in a very personal way.  Wayne is hands-on!  He’s in the schools, he judges science fairs locally and nationally, he mentors individual aspiring scientists, he advises and supports student interns, and he works with K-12 science teacher training in the Laboratory.

He received the 2010 Community Stewardship award in honor of Black History Month.  He was recognized for being a positive role model, promoting the contribution and achievements of African-Americans and other minority communities, and striving to increase technical excellence among African-Americans and other minorities.

It has been our pleasure to work with Wayne on our Advisory Council since 2007.  Wayne embodies our institution's commitment to advancing knowledge as a top-tier research university.

Wayne is someone who gives back far more than he has received and demonstrates how one person can have a positive effect on countless young lives. We thank him for improving this community through his service; the environment through his research; and the future through his support of education.

2012 — Nancy Kerr

Nancy Kerr co-founded and has served as president of the Children’s Reading Foundation since 1996. With 22 Chapters in 14 states, the slogan of this international non-profit is, “Read with your child 20 minutes every day.” In 2010, Reading Foundation programs served nearly one million children. Nancy is the lead author of the foundation’s nationally respected, research-based, school-readiness program called READY! for Kindergarten. The program supports parents of children ages newborn to 5 as their child’s first and most loved teacher.

Ms. Kerr holds a B.S. in Family Sciences from Brigham Young University and Master of Education, Principal’s Certification, from WSU Tri-Cities.

2013 — Joe Burrowes

Judge Joe Burrowes was honored during the WSU Tri-Cities Commencement on May 10. He had been fooled into attending the graduation ceremony by his wife, Sue, and his friend, George Garlick.

Burrowes is the Presiding Judge for Benton County District Court. A Richland High graduate, Burrowes grew up in a military family and actually attended 36 different schools.

“His family left the Tri-Cities when Joe was a high school senior, and he made the decision to stay here and make this community his home,” said James R. Pratt, interim chancellor of WSU Tri-Cities, said as he announced the award to about 2,000 people in the Toyota Center.

For 15 years, Burrowes worked in law enforcement, including for the Hanford Patrol, and raised a family. During that time, he patiently and persistently attended Columbia Basin College to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice in 1987 and then transferred to WSU Tri-Cities, where he completed a bachelor’s of arts in social science in 1994.

Burrowes moved to Spokane at 36 to pursue a law degree at the Gonzaga School of Law. People thought he was crazy, Pratt noted, but Burrowes followed his passion. In 2001, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga and was admitted to the Washington State Bar.

He has given countless hours to the law, and in 2007 became District Court Commissioner, then District Court judge in 2009. In 2010, Burrowes was re-elected and now serves as the presiding judge. He is a regular volunteer, a guest speaker and he coordinates the annual YMCA High School Mock Trial Competition held at the Justice Center.

Commencement, 2710 Crimson Way, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Richland, WA, 99354-1671
509-372-7208, Contact Us