Eastern Achievers

2019 Alumni Awards Gala showcases the extraordinary stories of amazing Eagles

By Charles E. Reineke

What does it mean to be an Eagle4Life? At its most basic, it means simply having had the good sense to enroll in, and earn a degree from, Eastern Washington University. On a deeper level, of course, it means living and working in a way that personifies Eastern’s core values: service and sacrifice, inspiration and purpose, fairness and decency.

This year’s honorees at EWU’s annual Alumni Awards Gala, held May 17 at the Spokane Convention Center, are exemplars of what it means to truly excel as a lifelong Eagle.

James “Jamie” Wolff, a prominent friend and benefactor to EWU, is the recipient of our Lifetime Achievement award. Wolff is an attorney and real estate developer who, in addition to his tireless support for Eastern, has spent his professional life working to build a better Spokane region.

Robert Clark, our honoree for Exceptional Military Service, served with distinction during some of the darkest days of the Vietnam War then returned home to amass a stellar record of accomplishment as a senior executive with AT&T.

Tai Harden-Moore, this year’s Alum of Service award honoree, is one of Portland, Oregon’s most courageous and inspirational leaders in the ongoing struggle against injustice and inequality.

Our Inspirational Young Alum, Kyla Evans, used her service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi as a springboard for her current work promoting health, wellness and social justice among underserved populations here in the Pacific Northwest.

And, finally, the 2019 Eagle4Life Spirit award went to Brian Patterson, an EWU booster whose dedication to enhancing the gameday experience for students has long represented the epitome of Eagle pride.

“It’s an honor to shine a light on the unique journeys of some phenomenal Eags and the powerful contributions they make every day,” says Lisa Cargill, director of alumni relations at EWU. “Showcasing these stories reminds us all of the power Eagle grit, grace, gratitude and greatness can have on the world long after our time at Eastern.”


Leadership and Generosity

Jamie Wolff never thought he’d become an Eagle. After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School, he headed to the University of Washington, intent on being a Husky. But after his first year at UW, Wolff says he felt “disconnected,” and returned home to Liberty Lake, Washington. That summer he took a shot at summer school at EWU, where he met several members of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity chapter, the “Pikes.” They clicked, and he soon found himself a full-time student at Eastern.

Jamie Wolff
Jamie Wolff

Wolff thrived at EWU, and today he describes the university as “the fertile soil he needed for roots and growth.” After graduating in 1969, Wolff took a job with his uncle’s real estate firm in Spokane. He also attended law school at Gonzaga, graduating in 1974.

As his professional life blossomed, so did Wolff’s commitment to service. As a member, for example, of Rotary International he advanced our region’s global ties by hosting students from several foreign countries. Over the years he also served on the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and has been a member of EWU’s Foundation Board.

Perhaps most consequentially, Wolff has remained active with the Pikes. He served, first, as president of the fraternity’s Northwest region, and then as a member, and later chairman, of its national housing commission. During his term as chair, Wolff traveled the nation with other commission members creating lifelong friendships while helping fellow Pikes deal with the complexities of purchasing, selling, building, leasing, financing and maintaining fraternity chapter houses on college campuses.

More recently, Wolff and his fraternity brothers have enjoy spending time together, as Wolff puts it, “at their regular luncheon on the second Tuesday of every month for humor, caring, sharing and fun.”

Among the subjects discussed over lunch are giving back to Eastern, a task at which Wolff and the EWU Pike alumni have excelled. Wolff credits a friendship with Carol King, former director of library engagement at EWU, with alerting him and his brothers of the need to help support the library. In response, Wolff rallied the Pikes to raise more than $250,000 for the library’s special collections fund. They were surprised, he says, when another Pike alum also contributed a substantial piece of real property to the EWU Foundation. Later the same group established a scholarship in the memory of their fraternity brother, Randy Van Turner, an Eastern alumnus who never returned home from his service in Vietnam.

For his part, Wolff says he’s been happy to give back to the institution that gave so much to him. “I never imagined how my choice to attend summer school at Eastern would enrich my life in so many ways, and for so long,” he says.


Advocating for Inclusion

As founder and CEO of Moore Consultants, LLC, Tai Harden-Moore is helping organizational leaders better define, refine and achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. A breast cancer survivor, she is also a passionate advocate for breast cancer awareness and improved health outcomes for all.

Harden-Moore grew up as a self-described “city girl” in Seattle, but transitioning to student life in a small college town turned out to be surprisingly easy. “From the moment I stepped onto Eastern’s campus, I knew I was where I was supposed to be,” she says. “I made great friendships and have so many fond memories from my time in Cheney. One of the things that really stood out was that EWU was the first school that I attended — university or otherwise — where I just felt like a student. Not a black student, not a student of color, not a first-generation student. Just a student.”

Tai Harden-Moore with her daughter, Leia
Tai Harden-Moore with her daughter, Leia.

After graduating from Eastern, Harden-Moore earned a law degree from Florida A&M University. Even with her demanding course load, as a student she helped to lead an organization working to empower underrepresented law students throughout the South and Puerto Rico.

Now a resident of Portland, Oregon, Harden-Moore has continued to serve. She is currently co-chair of the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s Education Committee, a role that allows her to play a prominent role in tackling issues of access and inequality in Portland’s schools. In addition, through her teaching, writing and public-speaking engagements, she has tirelessly worked to push for policies that will level the educational playing field.

Harden-Moore was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at age 31. The cancer responded to therapy, but returned in late 2017. She has reacted by publicly sharing her story, particularly within the African American community. Too often, she notes, African-American women do not receive proper diagnostic screenings and, if eventually diagnosed with cancer, fail to follow up on potentially life-saving treatments. Harden-Moore is determined to use her experience to change that.

Her steadfast resolve to keep giving, even when faced with great personal adversity, made Harden-Moore an easy choice for this year’s Alum of Service Award.

“It is humbling to have my undergraduate alma mater, a place I left as a bright-eyed and naive young adult, to look at me now and say, ‘Tai, you’ve done well,’” Harden-Moore says. “For a little black girl from West Seattle, one who once had a teacher tell her that she would never reach her dreams, this honor means more than I can really put into words.”


A Lifetime of Valor and Distinction

On the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Bob Clark, third-year EWU football standout and newly appointed Brigade Commander for the Eastern Cadet Corps, was conducting drill exercises in Cheney with the entire 800 member student corps. As news of the tragedy trickled in to Clark’s ROTC commanders, they took him aside and informed him that they wanted him to share the news with the cadets.
That his superiors would place that level of trust and confidence in Clark speaks to the strength of character and dedication to duty that would serve him well a short time later in Vietnam, where he was eventually awarded numerous citations, including the U.S. Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross and a Bronze Star.

Clark was born in Seattle. A natural athlete, his contributions to both the football and baseball teams at O’Dea High School earned him scholarships to play both sports at Eastern Washington State College, as Eastern was known at the time. “More than a dream come true,” Clark says.

A smiling couple embrace one another
Bob and Maureen Clark

In those days, all freshmen and sophomore men were required to participate in ROTC. Clark needed little encouragement to serve. “The values being taught at that time,” he recalls, “were preparing me and many others to use them as our guide for the decisions we were making on a daily basis. Learning to be ready to serve our country and its citizens was becoming more important with the Vietnam War looming.”
Helping him stay focused was Maureen Sullivan, an undergraduate from Spokane that Clark met when both were new to campus. Clark and Maureen have now been married for 56 years.

Clark completed his active duty service in January 1970 with the rank of captain. He then began what became an extraordinarily successful career in telecommunications. By the time he retired as AT&T’s Pacific Region president, Clark was responsible for leading an organization of 4,000 employees that generated some $2 billion in annual revenue.

Such business success notwithstanding, Clark says receiving recognition for his military service is particularly gratifying — especially since it was a great chance for him to connect with members of today’s EWU Cadet Corps.

“I felt humbled and honored to receive the award, especially with eight members of my family in the audience,” Clark says. “Additionally, I had the opportunity, after the presentation, to talk directly with the cadets present at the gala. We mutually shared the importance of leadership, responsibility and military values. They are a great group of men and women who are making a difference at EWU.”


Stellar Athlete, Service Champion

Kyla Evans is another athlete whose spirit of service transcends the playing field — or, in her case, the basketball court.

A star forward at her hometown high school in Brewster, Washington, Evans’s four years as an Eagle were characterized by record-setting three-point shooting, tenacious defense and stellar academics. “It was a lot of work,” Evans admits. “It required a lot of juggling that, in the end, was well worth it.”

After graduation in 2010, she soon put her Eagle spirit to use in the service of others. As a volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps, Evans was dispatched to the southeastern African nation of Malawi, a beautiful but underdeveloped country with a long track record of poor health and education outcomes for its citizens.

Kyla Evans
Kyla Evans, surrounded by her students in Malawi.

Evans’ job title in Malawi designated her as a “community health advisor,” one that would focus primarily on AIDS and malaria mitigation. It soon became clear to her that harnessing the capacity and vision of Malawi’s women and girls was key to making progress in both areas. Evans eventually proved extraordinarily successful in making that happen, so much so that she was asked to extend her two-year service commitment by a year.


Virginia Palmer, U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, said in a letter that Evans immediately impressed her as a “smart, driven and natural leader.” Palmer recalled that she and Evans first met at a “View From the Village” event organized by the embassy, where Evans eloquently shared with high-ranking attendees the harsh realities of gender violence in rural Africa. Among the visiting dignitaries was Jill Biden, wife of the former vice president.

After completing her extended service, Evans enrolled in the social work program at the University of Washington, where she is now a graduate student. True to form, being a full-time scholar has not slowed down her commitment to real-world service. Evans, for example, has established a social-justice consulting firm that is working on wellness issues involving Native people in Seattle. She is also employed as a research assistant with the Seattle office of the Human Rights Defense Center, a national non-profit that advocates for the incarcerated.

Through it all, Evans says, her experience at Eastern ­— particularly the emphasis coach Wendy Schuller placed on engaging with community and volunteerism — has stuck with her.

“It was [at EWU] that I began to really delve into questions about justice, equality and privilege,” Evans says. “These questions continue to drive me professionally as I approach ten years working in organizations committed to promoting equitable access to healthcare and other basic needs for all people. They are also deeply personal as they serve as the foundation for my core values that guide the decisions I make every day.”


Fighting for Flight Club

On any given weekend in Spokane, Brian Patterson, EWU booster extraordinaire, can be readily identified by the “Eagle Kind of Guy” hat on his head, the Eagle polo on his back, and the Eagle license plates on his Eagle-red truck. Such devotion also extends to his professional life, where Patterson uses his skills and expertise as Lamar Outdoor Advertising’s sales manager to help Eastern promote its academic and athletic excellence far and wide.

Brian Patterson
Brian Patterson (left) with family members at an Eastern tailgate.

Back in 1983, when Patterson was looking for a collegiate home, becoming an Eagle seemed a no-brainer: his father, Denny ’64, had studied marketing and management at the university and loved it. Patterson was determined to follow his dad into the same field.

Throughout his time at EWU, Patterson bled Eagle red. But when his kids became Eastern undergrads, he noticed the powerful home court advantage he’d experienced at basketball games was slipping. As a proud Eagle parent, dedicated alumnus and marketing professional, he knew the university’s athletes deserved full-throttled support, and he never stopped pondering how to turn up the crowd volume for Eastern hoops.
Just over five years ago, inspiration struck. Why not take a more proactive approach to boosting interest in the Flight Club, Eastern’s mostly underwhelming student cheering section that he had helped to form a few years earlier?

In a 2015 article in this magazine, Patterson described the challenge he faced. “The idea for Flight Club [had] been there for a couple of years but it never really took off,” he told us. “I made some T-shirts a season or two ago, but the students just sat. They didn’t seem to know what to do. I’ve been at good games when we’d hit three 3-pointers in a row, and the whole student section was sitting down texting.”

As is sometimes the case, one good hire changed everything. At Patterson’s urging, former collegiate and professional mascot Brad Bishop ’12 agreed to become Flight Club’s official spark plug. At home games Bishop became a locus of liveliness, passing out swag, leading cheers and chants, and generally bringing the mayhem. Flight Club, so to speak, took off.

These days, Patterson’s love for Eastern extends well beyond the confines of Reese Court. As one of Patterson’s own boosters recently put it: “Brian transforms lives and expands opportunities for individuals, even as he pushes fans and alumni to be the ‘Next Great Eagle,’ displaying their EWU education with pride.”


Know an outstanding Eagle you would like to nominate for the 2020 Alumni Awards? Visit us at ewu.edu/alumniawards