Profiles

Hugh McMillan '50 | Asia Wright '04 | Naomi LaViolette '98 | 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Hugh McMillan '50

Long Story Short: Hugh McMillan ’50

Hugh McMillan retired from the CIA in 1978, and he bristles a bit when someone suggests that his lengthy list of community activities means he’s not doing retirement correctly.

“I do it with a passion,” Hugh says. “I’m still breathing; too many of my friends aren’t.”

Hugh and Janice McMillan '50Hugh and Janice McMillan ’52, his wife of 65 years, admit that their life on the quiet Key Peninsula is a little different from the CIA days that took them to Japan, India, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and other countries.

“We have lived two totally different lives,” Hugh says. Their home in Lakebay, Wash., is filled with art and artifacts from their travels around the world and with awards and keepsakes from their work since retiring there.

U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer recognized Hugh’s 90th birthday last year in a speech on the House floor, calling him the “unofficial mayor of the Key Peninsula.” Hugh may well be the peninsula’s most famous resident.

“Going to Costco with him is a real experience,” Janice laughs. “Every 5 feet it’s, ‘Hi! Mr. McMillan, do you remember me? You took my picture when I was in the third grade!’”

While Hugh doesn’t recall many of the young folks he’s featured over some 20 years in his “Kids’ Corner” column in The Peninsula Gateway, they sure recall the time they were featured in the local news weekly.

“It’s a big deal to the kids,” Hugh says. “The thing is, an adult gave a damn.” That, in Hugh’s view, solves a lot of problems.

Hugh has been a volunteer photojournalist for the newspaper since 1980. “My pay is in the form of priceless column inches to tell about good people and events,” he says.

He began his community work shortly after one of his sons had tragically drowned. He was struggling with grief when the Key Peninsula Fire District asked him to become a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. He agreed but figured they would part ways before long. Within the first few weeks he helped save another man’s life.

“The fire department saved my life,” Hugh says. “I looked into my heart and said, ‘Maybe I’d better hang around for a while.’” That was in May 1980. He’s still involved with the fire district, where he is a lifetime honorary Washington state fire commissioner and volunteer, and a past president of its firefighters association.

Hugh’s other causes include the Key Peninsula Lions Club (of which he is a charter member), Prison Pet Partnership, Communities In Schools, Citizens Against Crime, the Peninsula Schools Education Foundation, Peninsula Emergency Preparedness Coalition, the Hope Recovery Center, and the Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club. He and Janice have tutored area kids in reading.

“I’m a rock star,” Hugh laughs. “I’m into everything! That’s what keeps me breathing. I don’t have time to die.”

Everything includes trains. There’s a restored, all-steel railroad caboose parked in front of the McMillan home, and it houses an amazing collection of railroad memorabilia. Hugh figures his love for trains dates back to when he was 8 years old. He received socks for Christmas, while his cousin got a cool electric train set.

“I hated him,” Hugh says with a smile. “I decided, some day, I’m going to have a train bigger than yours. Well, I’ve got the bigger train.”

The caboose was the first of its kind to be used by the Northern Pacific Railway, but the interior was gutted by an explosion of its diesel stove.

“It was just a great big, rusted, bent box,” when he got it, Hugh says, and he worked with craftsmen and volunteers for two years to restore it. “I’m proud of what we did to it.”

Hugh fesses up that, at age 91, he occasionally gets a bit tired out.

“I work my tail off, but I love what I do,” he says. “Every now and then I think, why the hell am I doing this? It’s exhausting!”

That thought is usually countered by a “Hi, Mr. McMillan” moment that energizes him once again.

“If you think I’ve got the guts to quit—no, never,” Hugh says. “I know I’m making a difference in a lot of kids’ lives.”

Greg Scheiderer

Asia Wright '04

Changing Perceptions Five Minutes at a Time: Asia Wright ’04

Can bigotry be vanquished five minutes at a time? In an effort to prove it can, Seattle attorney Asia Wright co-launched the social media campaign Five Minutes on the Fourth of July this year to combat negative perceptions of American Muslims.

“We’re saying, ‘Take five minutes to begin to know Muslims as humans. Don’t assume. Be willing to ask questions,’” Asia says. She and 11 other Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) attorneys produced a series of five-minute videos that show American Muslims living their everyday lives as a means to change negative perceptions about them. As a WLI fellow, Asia was mentored by influential leaders in the legal community, including the Washington State Supreme Court justices who advised her on the project.

The Five Minutes campaign has reached thousands of viewers and opened dialogue. One video features former Marine Ted Hakey Jr., who fired four shots into the Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden, Conn., as a drunken response to the terrorist attacks on Paris in November 2015. No one was injured, and Hakey later apologized to members of the mosque. “If I had knocked on the door of the mosque and went in there and spent five minutes, I would’ve realized immediately that there’s no extremists in there,” Hakey says in the video. “My views would’ve been entirely changed, and this would never have happened.”

Asia hopes that the Five Minutes campaign will reach people like Hakey before they react to terrorism by targeting Muslim communities. She saw the positive effect of social outreach at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound in Redmond, Wash., in November 2016. After a vandal destroyed the mosque’s sign, twice, Asia attended a fundraiser to replace it. “They were so welcoming. Lovely people, open. They invited me to their prayer services and welcomed questions. Their generosity blew me away,” she says.

As a woman of color and the first in her family to attend college, Asia knows firsthand what it’s like to be the target of discrimination. She earned a law degree as a pathway to political office, but switched course to join the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which eventually led to a career in maritime law. Despite her success, she has often been mistaken for a court reporter.

The Five Minutes project provides her with the opportunity to combat stereotypes and stand up for justice. “You don’t have to believe in Islam, but at least have respect for those who do,” she says.

Sandra Sarr

Naomi LaViolette '98

Saving His Music: Naomi LaViolette ’98

 A fascinating project to preserve the music of a Wilsonville, Ore., composer with a fading memory has given an unexpected turn to the career of musician Naomi LaViolette ’98.

Steve Goodwin has composed and played piano music for most of his 67 years, but recently he started having trouble playing his scores. He was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Steve rarely wrote down the musical notes, and his family feared his compositions would be lost.

When Naomi heard his story, she thought she could help because of her knowledge of composition and musical structure, ability to learn music by ear, and perfect pitch. She started sitting down at the piano with Steve, who could still play his music in fits and starts.

“I could hear how he would interpret melodies or how he would shape things, and so I could emulate that,” Naomi says. “I could really hear his heart as a writer, and try to express in his pieces what his heart was trying to say.”

After countless sessions, Naomi was able to re-create a large portion of Steve’s music. She recorded 16 tracks for an album titled The Nature of Love.

“It’s preserving his heart, it’s preserving his love for his family members, and it’s preserving his memories at a time when he’s devastated at the loss of his memory because of this disease,” Naomi says. The music is available on savinghismusic.com as well as through other music sales services.

The Oregonian picked up the story, a version of which was reprinted in The Week, giving it national exposure. CBS Sunday Morning did a piece about the project, and there’s even been talk of a movie about it.

“It continues to spread,” Naomi says. “It’s been life-giving on all counts.” 

Naomi is keeping busy with her own music. The attention has brought more composing opportunities, and her third album, Written For You, consisting of songs commissioned by others, is scheduled for release in October.

Greg Scheiderer

Nicholas Cary '07, Laura Coe '10, President Isiaah Crawford, Lynn Ellen Johnson Raisl '77, P'13, Leon Alden '62, and J. Mariner Kemper '95 at Summer Reunion Weekend in June

2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Service to Puget Sound

Presented to a volunteer who has demonstrated extraordinary service to Puget Sound. Whether their service includes involvement in the Alumni Council volunteer network or with other departments, these alumni have left an indelible mark on the university.

Lynn Ellen Johnson Raisl ’77, P’13
Lynn’s Logger lineage is more than 40 members strong, including her husband, Ed Raisl ’78, P’13; daughter Emma ’13; and uncle, Professor Emeritus of Religion Bob Albertson ’44.

As a student Lynn was engaged as a member of Alpha Phi sorority and the tennis team. As an alumna she is an active volunteer and a key leader in reconnecting alumni with Puget Sound. She currently serves as president of the Class of 1977, and she chaired her 40th Reunion Planning Committee. Lynn is also the immediate past president of the University of Puget Sound Women’s League and continues as a chair of the group’s annual flea market fundraiser. During her two-year term as president of the league, Lynn brought new energy to the group and increased membership. Under her leadership the Women’s League Flea Market and Field House Full of Awesome Stuff has reached a new level of visibility, and net income from the fundraising event has doubled. The Women’s League Endowed Scholarship Fund currently totals nearly a million dollars, and in 2016–17, the group awarded more than $34,000 in scholarships to 15 students.

Lynn also continues to play a significant role in the Alumni Council’s admission efforts. She and Ed have hosted Summer Welcome Gatherings for incoming students and families in their home for the past four years.

Young Logger Service

Recognizes a current student or recent graduate (within the past 10 years) whose contributions have resulted in programming that inspires young Loggers (alumni and/or current students) to engage more deeply in the rich alumni traditions and spirit of Puget Sound.

Laura Coe ’10
Laura has been an active leader of the Seattle Regional Club since her graduation. In 2013 she took on the role of coordinator for the Seattle Regional Club, leading the team of volunteers that plans events for Seattle-area alumni. Under her direction the Seattle club has been among the most active. Past events have attracted alumni from across class years and have been successful at engaging and growing new alumni volunteers. The club is also a partner with the Alumni Council Admission Committee, which supports student recruitment efforts in the Seattle area. In 2016 Laura was promoted to vice chair of regional clubs. She now manages six regional club coordinators, advising them on everything from event planning to volunteer retention.

As a student Laura was a member of the Business Leadership Program. She also served as a Passages leader, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, was a member of the varsity women’s crew team, and graduated cum laude. Laura began her career at The Boeing Company in 2010 as a financial analyst. She is now a senior finance manager with Microsoft, and earned her M.B.A. with honors from Seattle University this past spring.

Service to Community

Recognizes alumni whose commitment, skill, and dedication have had a significant impact on their communities. Through voluntary service in artistic, recreational, educational, human service, or other worthy organizations, recipients of this award better the quality of life around them through service.

Leon Alden ’62 
The foundation of Leon’s ministry and volunteer work is the lesson he learned from his father: If you see something that needs doing, you do it. After graduating in 1962, Leon pursued a Master of Divinity degree at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, before returning to Washington to lead his first congregation, Finley Methodist Church, in Kennewick.

For the next 52 years, Leon served as a pastor across Washington. With a knack for identifying a community’s areas of need, he also worked to build affordable housing as a volunteer and board member for Habitat for Humanity; he offered single moms opportunities to pursue continuing education with child care; and he partnered with local schools, food banks, and service organizations. For 16 years Leon worked as a team mentor, runner, organizer, and recruiter for the Washington/Alaska chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, raising more than $70,000 for research. He helped establish the Clothing Closet at Fircrest United Methodist Church, which has made new and gently used clothing available to low-income families and those in need for more than 20 years.

Leon tried to retire once, in 2006, but after just a few months returned to ministry part time for two congregations in the North Okanogan Valley, where he also served for several years as a part-time volunteer chaplain for the county’s hospice program. When he retires (again), he plans to renew his involvement with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He looks forward to having the time to train for his next marathon.

Professional Achievement

Recognizes alumni whose professional career and work exemplify the intellectual curiosity, active inquiry, and reasoned independence that a Puget Sound education aims to develop. Recipients have gained national or international recognition in their careers in a manner that reflects positively on the university.

J. Mariner Kemper ’95
Mariner has had a celebrated career in financial services. He became chairman and CEO of UMB Financial Corporation in 2004, at age 31, and in November 2015 took on the additional role of president. Prior to that he served as president of UMB Bank Colorado and as chairman of western region at UMB Financial Corporation. In 2008 he was named American Banker’s Community Banker of the Year, and in 2012 Forbes named him among the Top 10 of “America’s 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under.”

Mariner is an active volunteer leader and philanthropist. He is a trustee of the Kemper family foundations and currently serves on the boards of the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, National Jewish Health, the Denver Art Museum, and the Boy Scouts of America Denver Area Council.

As a Logger Mariner has been a strong supporter of the Denver Regional Club. He and his wife, Megan Kemper ’95, have attended numerous club events over the years, and they hosted a donor event in their home during the One [of a Kind] campaign. Mariner served as a class agent from 2007 to 2010 and is a current Puget Sound trustee.

Nicholas Cary ’07
In 2013 Nicholas co-founded Blockchain, the most widely recognized and utilized digital assets platform in the world. With more than 200,000 daily transactions using the digital currencies bitcoin and ether in 140 countries, Blockchain was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a 2016 Technology Pioneer.

In 2015 Nicholas was recognized as the European Digital Leader of the Year for his “inspiring and innovative contribution to initiate progress in the digital world.” He is a vocal advocate of financial technology and a trusted resource in the industry, contributing to publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Wired, and Forbes, and appearing on CNN, CNBC, CNET, NPR, and more.

Nicholas serves as co-founder and chairman of Youth Business USA, a nonprofit he created with classmate Bo Ghirardelli ’07 dedicated to empowering underserved young adult entrepreneurs through training, microfinance, and business mentoring. Their digital platform, Sky’s the Limit, is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help solve the youth unemployment crisis. In 2014 Nicholas gifted 14.5 bitcoins ($10,000) to Puget Sound as part of the One [of a Kind] campaign, the first bitcoin donation ever made to a U.S. college.

The Alumni Council Executive Committee (ACEC) is responsible for the annual selection of the Distinguished Alumni Awards. Each year, members of the alumni body and the campus community are invited to submit nominations for consideration. Send your nomination to pugetsound.edu/alumniawardnomination.