Two new alumni trustees

Ken McGill ’61 has a graduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, but it’s the liberal arts education he got at Puget Sound that he values most.

“I don’t think I appreciated it while I was a student, but life has given me the perspective to understand that my Puget Sound education has served me very well,” he says.

McGill, retired CEO of Northwest Kinetics, had mostly lost touch with the university during the three-plus decades he lived in California. Since returning to Tacoma, he’s more than made up for lost time.

He served on the National Alumni Board for seven years, the last three as president, then oversaw the transition of that group to the much expanded Alumni Council. He is a member of the Logger Club Board and chair of the Alumni Council Awards and Nominating Committee. Less formally, he’s thrilled to have reconnected with a group of about 20 former classmates and fraternity brothers, who regularly gather for coffee at his house or on campus.

Now, as one of the newest members of the board of trustees, he’s working on the Parents Council Task Force, looking for ways in which parents can become more involved with the university.

“I’m on campus a lot. Not because I have to be, but because this is how I’ve chosen to spend my time,” he says. “The chance to work with and talk with faculty, staff, and students allows me to give back.

“I didn’t realize how important that was until shortly after I returned to Tacoma,” he recalls. “My parents had set up a scholarship in honor of my brother (Robert McGill ’59), and I went with them to the award presentation. I had always known that they valued education, but that event really sealed it for me. It spoke to my heart.”

McGill says he’s proud to be a Puget Sound donor, but he finds it even more gratifying to give of his time and talents. Puget Sound Vice President for University Relations Dave Beers notes that those talents are many.

“Ken has the ability to think strategically, put things together conceptually, lead a group to consensus, and then execute. It’s rare for one person to have that entire set of skills,” says Beers. “We’re fortunate because his commitment to this place is as strong as I’ve seen in all the years I’ve done this type of work.”

“I’m excited because I know the other trustees are committed to doing excellent work on behalf of the university. We all have our reasons for being involved,” McGill says. “For me, this is a way to say ‘thank you’ and to encourage the next generation—all at once.”

Bob Shishido ’72 is quick to admit his childhood was a little sheltered. He grew up on the west side of Maui in a town called Lahaina.

“At the time, there were probably only 2,000 to 3,000 people living there,” he says. “When I graduated from high school, there were only 132 students in my class.”

Set on a career in the sciences, Shishido sent off applications to the University of Hawai’i, the University of Washington, and Oregon State.

“Then I did a kind of doubletake and realized I was a small-town guy and I’d only applied to really large universities,” he says. A chance meeting with an old friend who was attending Puget Sound convinced him to submit an application.

“I chose Puget Sound on a whim, but it really ended up suiting my experiences and needs,” he says. “When I came to campus as a freshman, it was literally my first trip to the mainland. I’d seen a catalog and a few black and white pictures, but I really had no idea what I was getting into.”

Bob’s naiveté even saw him landing at Sea-Tac Airport with no plan for how he was going to get to Tacoma.

“I was lucky I met a gal on the plane who was going to Puget Sound,” he says. “She realized my predicament, and I got a ride to campus with her. I was fortunate to start building a network of people who cared about me and supported me before I even left the airport.

“Puget Sound’s smaller size and smaller classes allowed me to make connections that provided the support, guidance, and encouragement I needed,” says Bob, a senior software engineer for The Boeing Company.

Bob has seen his own daughter, Caitlin Shishido ’09, benefit from that same Logger support system.

“Cait connected with a couple of professors early on, and they’ve provided her with strong support and guidance,” he says. “I feel strongly about the role Puget Sound faculty and staff play in getting students involved in their own education. That contact between faculty and students is one of the strengths of Puget Sound, and it doesn’t necessarily happen everywhere.”

Now, Bob is pleased to be able to use his position as a member of the board of trustees to lend his support to current and future students. One of his priorities is to see Puget Sound gain even greater recognition as a leading liberal arts institution.

“People all across the country know Wellesley and Vassar. I believe Puget Sound provides the same type of excellent education, but our name recognition isn’t there yet,” he says. “If we can continue to provide a high-quality education and we improve our name recognition, we’ll be able to draw even higher caliber students here. It’s all part of a cycle that will allow us to be the very, very best we can be.”  — Mary Boone