1882 Event Celebrates Eagles Who Make a Difference

May 18, 2023

The Pend Oreille Pavilion at Northern Quest Resort and Casino was glowing red for the “1882: Honoring Outstanding Eagles” awards event. The evening celebrated inspirational alumni and longstanding supporters, sometimes one and the same, who make a difference.

With more than 250 people in attendance, the event highlighted stories of Eagles who exemplify the values of Eastern Washington University and make an impact through their philanthropy, work and volunteerism. (View the complete photo gallery here.)

Emcees Barb Richey ’92, ’99 and Kelsey Hatch-Brecek ’21 provided the framework for an evening of heartfelt storytelling and well-deserved recognitions.

President Shari McMahan offered a toast to the difference makers in the audience, saying that by giving their time, talent and treasure, they created an environment where Eastern students soar.

In one of many touching moments throughout the evening, longtime professor Bill Youngs took the stage to accept the Philanthropist of the Year Award. As Youngs, who has served on the history faculty at EWU for more than 50 years, walked toward the stage, the entire audience stood – clapping and cheering for the well-loved educator.

Youngs, who has become a legend at EWU not only for his support within the classroom but for gifts that increase opportunities for students, said a string of inspirational events nurtured his affection for EWU and his desire to give back. One such moment happened a few years ago when a young student battling cancer, experiencing hair loss and other side effects of chemotherapy, approached Youngs to let him know about an upcoming schedule of chemo treatments.

Instead of saying she’d be missing class, as Youngs expected, the student said, “’I want to apologize in advance if I’m tired,’” Youngs recalled. “This was one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard anyone say.”

Another special moment for Youngs happened because of Mike Clawson ’07 and Alicia Kinne-Clawson ’07, a couple who met at Eastern and later married.

Youngs, who was president of Eastern’s Faculty Organization, had helped to mentor the two as they served in student government. They later started the Bill Youngs Endowment. A young couple just starting out – and generously giving $5,000 in his honor – was deeply moving, Youngs said.

As the evening continued, presenters spoke of how Eastern’s influence was magnified by a legacy of generations of graduates – including many of the region’s most talented teachers.

The inaugural Sandy Williams Trailblazer Award, given posthumously to Williams’ family and accepted by her daughter, Renika Williams, showed the university’s deep appreciation for the legacy she left at EWU.

“I wouldn’t be here if not for Sandy Williams’ legacy,” said Vanessa Delgado, director of student equity and inclusion and the EWU Pride Center that Williams helped to open.

Lance Kissler, associate vice president for University Relations, has spent the past decade working to advance equality and human rights by serving on the region’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, helping the Spokane AIDS Network and chairing the Spokane Human Rights Commission.

“In all my years, all the conversations and gatherings, meetings and rallies–there is one name that consistently came to the forefront as a champion of human and civil rights,” Kissler said of Williams.

Lili Navarrete-Lorenzo ’99 was given the 2023 Sandy Williams Trailblazer Award in recognition of her leadership and mentorship, and for generously giving her time to make a positive impact for others. Navarrete-Lorenzo’s video is posted below along with videos in recognition of all of the award recipients.

The Benjamin P. Cheney Lifetime Achievement Award, the last of the evening, went to Lori Wyborney, former principal of Rogers High School. Wyborney led a team that transformed a school in a high-need community – that once had dismal graduation rates – into a place where students flourish amid increased opportunities and expectations.

Her work to get students to the finish line, college-ready with support to move to the next level, was highlighted by the national media, and featured in the New York Times. Some of the strategies used at Rogers are being adopted in other districts throughout the county.

Although Wyborney, retired as a principal, continues to work as a consultant for Spokane Public Schools. “It’s a real honor to receive this award from a university that gave me so much opportunity,” Wyborney said. “I am forever a proud alumna of Eastern Washington University. Go Eags!”


Philanthropy award winners:

  • Corporate Philanthropist Award | STCU
  • Philanthropist of the Year | Bill Youngs (EWU History Professor)
  • Alumni Philanthropist of the Year | Barbara Shields ’92

Alumni award winners:


**Philanthropy award winners are nominated by EWU staff, faculty and friends, and are selected by the EWU Foundation. Alumni award winners are nominated by EWU alumni, staff, faculty and friends, and are selected by the EWU Alumni Association awards selection committee, comprised of EWUAA board members. Nominations are generally open to the public for several months starting in December.