(Ashland, Ore.) — Seven alumni of Southern Oregon University will be honored – two with special posthumous recognitions and five with annual awards – as part of Saturday’s 2018 commencement activities. All of the awards will be presented at the Pre-Commencement Alumni Breakfast on Saturday morning.
Steven Nelson, who passed away this spring, will be posthumously recognized when a President’s Medal is presented to his family. Nelson, a financial advisor and former banker, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SOU, and served nearly 20 years as a volunteer leader at Jefferson Public Radio and the JPR Foundation. His work contributed to JPR’s growth and expansion, restoration projects at the Cascade Theatre in Redding and the Holly Theatre in Medford, and the development of the radio station’s new home in the SOU Theater Building.
Edrik Gomez, who was a high-achieving SOU student when he died in a helicopter crash while on a firefighting crew at northern California’s Iron 44 blaze in 2008, will be honored posthumously when a Certificate of Achievement is presented to his mother. He was majoring in communication and political science, had a 3.72 grade point average and had been admitted into the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at the time of the accident that claimed nine firefighters’ lives. Gomez, who was from Coquille, was involved in SOU’s Multicultural Center, the Latino Student Union, and the Ecology and Sustainability Center.
Recipients of this year’s annual alumni awards are Jeff Brady, for Distinguished Alumni; Amanda MacGurn, for Young Alumni; Malcus Williams and Tim Williams, for the Stan Smith Alumni Service Award; and Betsy Bishop, for Excellence in Education.
Brady, who earned his SOU bachelor’s degree in communication in 1995, is a national desk correspondent in Philadelphia, focusing on energy issues for National Public Radio. He is credited with helping to demystify an industry that can seem complicated to many listeners and to establish NPR’s Environment and Energy Collaborative for reporters at NPR member stations around the country.
MacGurn, a 2006 French language and culture graduate at SOU, taught English in Costa Rica and Chile before joining the Peace Corps and ultimately earning her master’s degree in public health from Emory University. An internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led her to a full-time position in the health agency’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. MacGurn was deployed to West Africa four times during the Ebola outbreak, and continues to work in the region where her French skills are critical.
Malcus Williams, who died while on a call for the Ashland Police Department in March, played football and met his wife, Ona, while a student at SOU. He became a reserve officer and then was sworn in as a full-time Ashland Police officer during the 1996 flood. He completed his degree in criminology and criminal justice in 2008, while serving as a full-time officer, and served on the department as a school resource officer, firearms instructor, patrol officer, sergeant and Citizen’s Academy diversity instructor. He also served in the community as a youth sports coach.
Tim Williams was a forward on the nationally ranked SOU basketball team of the late 1990s before earning his bachelor’s degree in criminology in 1999, then moving on to earn his law degree at the University of Oregon School of Law in 2003. He is a partner in the firm of Dwyer Williams Dretke Attorneys, has been recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the country, has held a variety of posts in the Oregon State Bar and has advocated justice for the economically disadvantaged. He has also served on the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House of Central Oregon, the Sparrow Clubs of Central Oregon and other nonprofit organizations.
Bishop received her undergraduate degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., before earning her master’s degree in teaching at SOU in 1977. She taught 10 years at Monrovia High School in California, and has taught English and theatre at Ashland High School since moving back to Ashland in 1988. She has maintained a 25-year school and business partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, has been recognized with four statewide teaching awards and earned two national awards in 2016.