Javier del Rio

SOU to present Distinguished Alumni Awards

(Ashland, Ore.) — An arts graduate with a 30-year career as a museum curator and a regional education leader who has championed the underrepresented will be honored Friday when Southern Oregon University presents its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards during a luncheon on campus.

Bruce Guenther, who earned a bachelor’s degree in applied design from SOU in 1971, will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni whose personal and professional achievements have significantly benefited humankind and brought distinction to Southern Oregon University.

Javier del Rio, currently the assistant superintendent for business and human resources at the Phoenix-Talent School District, will be recognized with the Excellence in Education Award. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from SOU in 1994 and a master’s degree in education in 2005.

Bruce Guenther

Bruce Guenther

Guenther grew up in Medford and came to what was then Southern Oregon College in the late 1960s to study art and participate in the honors program. He found his career path when he landed a National Endowment for the Arts curatorial internship at the Portland Art Museum after graduation. Guenther served in curator roles at the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Orange County Museum of Art in California. He returned to the Portland Art Museum as chief curator in 2000 and oversaw two major expansions before retiring in 2014.

Del Rio, who came to SOU as an exchange student from Spain, went to work for MCI Telecommunications in Los Angeles after earning his bachelor’s degree. He discovered his calling a few years later when he began teaching under an emergency credential in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He earned his teaching license from Cal State, Northridge, while he worked and then returned to SOU for his master’s degree. He has served in a variety of roles in the Phoenix-Talent School District and as principal in the Medford School District. At each stop in his education career, del Rio has advocated for underprivileged and underrepresented children, and those for whom English is a second language.


Van Delden holding baby

Van Delden: Returning kindness with compassion

Service has been a way of life for Dr. James Van Delden (’70). He has delivered babies in war-torn nations, cared for children on Native American reservations of the Great Plains and served on medical missions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“I was a family doctor; I wanted to help wherever families and kids needed a doctor,” he said.

Van Delden’s career path began when he emigrated with his family from the Netherlands to Grants Pass in 1961 at the age of 12. He was born in what is now Indonesia, and became a U.S. citizen while studying pre-med and playing soccer at Southern Oregon College in the late 1960s. He chose the small college in Ashland because of the atmosphere – it offered what he needed.

Van Delden with mother and child“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at SOC,” Van Delden said. “The professors were very helpful, I made a lot of friends and I loved soccer.”

The kindness of his instructors, friends and teammates made a lasting impression on Van Delden, who studied biology. His experience at SOC had a profound influence and led to a lifelong commitment to help others. “When people give to you, you want to give back,” he said.

Van Delden entered medical school in 1969 at Creighton University in Nebraska, with a bachelor’s degree and just three years of pre-med coursework at SOU. “Graduation was a glorious day, but then I went back to work swing shift at the plywood mill to earn some money for med school,” said Van Delden.

“I truly had no funds when I reached third-year status at Creighton, and the U.S. Army came to the rescue by signing me up in 1971 and made me an instant ‘butter bar’ (a second lieutenant),” explained Van Delden.

He was then on active duty during his senior year and was stationed in West Germany after completing his medical degree in 1973.

After retiring from active duty in 1977, Van Delden joined the Army National Guard and signed on with the Indian Health Service as a civilian. The Indian Health Service is a division of the U.S. Public Health Service, and is the principal federal health care advocate and provider for American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to the more than 550 federally recognized tribes.

“I had two careers simultaneously,” he said. “I was working full time at the Indian Health Service and part-time as a soldier.”

Van Delden was recalled to active duty with Army National Guard during Desert Storm in 1990. He retired from the Army in 2001 after 30 years, earning the rank of Brigadier General upon retirement. Van Delden’s career with the Indian Health Service ended in 2005, although he remained busy helping tribal administrators with their own medical clinics for almost 10 years.

“It was a fun ride,” he said. “I met lots of good folks, and I was honored to have been able to be a part of their lives.”

Throughout his career and into retirement, the SOU alumnus’ focus has remained squarely on serving those in need.

“If there is a situation where I can be of help, then that is what I will do,” he said.

He volunteers with veterans’ organizations and continues to work at the Omaha Nation tribal clinic in Nebraska.

Van Delden said his sense of service comes from the joy he takes in meeting people and the many kindnesses people have shown him over the years.

“I’d tell anyone who wanted a career in medicine or in any public service to just think of those who were of service to you,” he said. “Then knuckle down, hit the books and engage with your community.

“So many people were good to me and supported me when I first came to the United States. It never occurred to me not to give back.”

Reposted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

Abbigail Rosewood to discuss her novel at SOU

SOU alumna Rosewood returns to read from her novel

SOU alumna and current best-selling author Abbigail Rosewood will return to her alma mater on Friday (May 24) as part of a cross-country book tour for her novel, “If I Had Two Lives.”

She will discuss and read from her book at 5 p.m. in the SOU Art Building’s Meese Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Rosewood received her bachelor’s degree at SOU in 2013, focusing on creative writing, then earned her master of fine arts degree in fiction from Columbia University in 2017. She won the Michael Baughman Fiction Award while at SOU.

“At the time, I was still finding my voice,” Rosewood said in a 2017 interview with the SOU alumni magazine. “In this nascent stage as a writer when you are vulnerable, doubtful of your abilities, it’s very easy for your flame to get snuffed out by an unkind comment, a skeptical glance. Writers are sensitive.

“Words such as ‘have faith’ and ‘believe’ are often so overused that they can lose their meaning, but that’s what the SOU community gave me,” she said. “They had faith and they believed in me.”

Rosewood’s “If I Had Two Lives” was published in April by Europa Editions, an independent publisher in New York. The novel has since been reviewed by publications ranging from the Hungry Reader and Foreword Reviews to The New Yorker and the Los Angeles Review of Books. The book quickly became the No. 1 bestseller in its genre at Kinokuniya USA, a Japan-based bookseller with retail stores across the U.S.

Her book tour is taking Rosewood to New York, Miami, Washington, D.C., Portland, Ashland and other locations.

“If I Had Two Lives” centers on the daughter of a political dissident growing up in a Vietnam military camp during the 1990s and the girl’s adulthood as an immigrant in New York, where she deals with issues from her youth. Trauma prompts her return to Vietnam, where she comes to grips with her identity.

Rosewood was born in Vietnam and lived there until age 12.

In an interview with SOU English Professor Ed Battistella for the “Literary Ashland” website, she said the novel is only indirectly about her life.

“My work is autobiographical in the sense that it is blanketed with emotional truths and emblemed with personal ‘objects,’” Rosewood said. “My writing will always be honest in this way and autobiographical even if I were writing about dragons.”

She told Battistella she has a second novel, “which is still looking for a home.”

Rosewood has also written several essays, reviews, articles and creative works for various online and print publications.

Molly Troupe and Jill Kuehler from Travel Oregon story on distilling

SOU alumna helping to reinvent the distilling world

SOU chemistry graduate Molly Troupe (2012) and her business partner are being portrayed by Oregon’s tourism marketing agency as “the women changing the distilling world” at their craft distillery in Portland.

Troupe and Jill Kuehler opened Freeland Spirits in northwest Portland two years ago. Kuehler serves as the CEO and Troupe is the master distiller – placing theirs among the fewer than 2 percent of U.S. distilleries that are owned and operated by women.

Freeland is also set apart by its commitment to fresh ingredients and flavors – such as the cucumber, mint and other farm-to-still components in its trademark gin.

“Distilling is like art, just in the way that you balance out your recipe,” Troupe said in the recent story and video for Travel Oregon, the marketing arm of the Oregon Tourism Commission.

“You try to create ebbs and flows, and top notes and bottom notes, and that beautiful middle note as well,” Troupe said. “All of the recipes we’re trying to achieve here have this amazing balance that takes a lot of time, patience and understanding of the art and science of distilling to actually achieve.”

Troupe earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis on forensics at SOU – where she was a resident assistant for housing, a chemistry lab teaching assistant and a mentor in organic chemistry. She then studied brewing and distilling at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University, earning a master’s degree and the designation of master distiller.

She served for a year as a quality control assistant at Hood River Distillers and then three years as production manager and lead distiller at Bend’s Oregon Spirit Distillers.

That’s when Troupe was contacted and recruited by Kuehler, who had developed the vision of a women-run distillery that would get most of its ingredients from local, women-owned farms.

Troupe had already begun to make a name for herself as one of the nation’s youngest master distillers, and she has since been chosen for the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 list of food-and-drink innovators. She is also on the board of directors of the American Craft Spirits Association.

Freeland Spirits focuses on craft gin and bourbon, distinguished by unique ingredients and pioneering techniques – such as the combination of heat and vacuum distillation that preserves the fresh flavors in its gin.

“We’re starting with West Coast domination – and then the world!” Troupe said in the Travel Oregon video.

The Amistad exchange program between SOU and Universidad de Guanajuato is going strong after 50 years

Bridging cultures, changing lives: International exchange and lasting friendships

Angelica Ruppe, (masters ’86) did not speak English when she arrived at Southern Oregon University from Mexico in 1984 to participate in the Amistad student exchange program. Ruppe had earned a degree in accounting at Universidad de Guanajuato and was taking part in the exchange program to earn a graduate degree from SOU.

“I took English classes as well as graduate classes such as accounting and law,” she said. “I studied English every chance I got and within three months, I could handle it. My dictionary was my best friend.”

Ruppe eventually would serve 23 years the CFO of La Clinica in Medford, before leaving in 2017 to visit Africa on a humanitarian mission. A strong believer in serving her community – in the Rogue Valley, Guanajuato and elsewhere – Ruppe served on the boards of the Community Health Advocates for Oregon, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ashland Rotary.

Ruppe is among about 1,000 students and others who have participated in the 50-year-old exchange between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. The program is still going strong after five decades, bridging cultures and changing lives.

“The connections between the two universities are so rich and so strong. I don’t know of many programs like this that have lasted so long,” said Mary Gardiner, currently the interim director of SOU’s Office of International Programs.

Professors and administrators also have participated in the exchange program. Ashland’s sister-city relationship with Guanajuato has encouraged cultural and professional exchanges that have led to long-time friendships.

One reason the exchange has continued so long is because of the efforts of Ashland’s Amigo Club, an organization composed of community members and alumni who support the Amistad program. The Amigo Club has even endowed a scholarship to encourage the student exchanges.

“We are really delighted to have formed the Amigo Club Scholarship to support the exchange program,” said Amigo Club President Mina Turner. “It’s one of the Amigo Club’s great achievements since it became a nonprofit.”

Turner said she cannot overstate the importance of the program to both schools.

“The exchange helps make life-long bonds and educates people in a way that goes beyond academics,” she said. “Students get a great vision of a different culture, language, tradition and friendship.”

A driving force behind the program has been Graciela Tapp-Kocks, a professor emerita of Spanish at SOU who is known in Ashland and Guanajuato simply as “Señora Chela.” She pursued the sister-city relationship after a painful incident with her son in his Ashland elementary school.

“I thought if people could really experience Mexico and its culture, it would open up their worlds and change some of their misconceptions,” she said.

At the time, the city of Ashland was looking for a sister city, and it was considering partnering with a town in England.

“I knew that a relationship with Guanajuato, Mexico, would bring together two countries, two communities and two peoples in a civil, cultural and academic manner,” Señora Chela said.

She poured her energy into creating a relationship with Guanajuato. She spoke with representatives from both cities and both universities, and through sheer determination brought the schools together.

Over the ensuing years, Señora Chela has been among the most vocal supporters of the exchange program, and she has been a visible symbol of the enduring power of friendship. An equal number of students from each school participate in the exchanges, and students can study just about any subject the schools offer.

“The experience and the social connections they make are priceless,” Señora Chela said.

Brenda Johnson (’95) is currently the CEO of La Clinica, and she said her time in Guanajuato inspired her career choices and helped shape her life.

“I went to Guanajuato with the intention of becoming bilingual, but I got so much more out of it,” she said. “Education is not all intellectual. Some of the greatest and most transformational educational experiences happen when people really catapult themselves into an unfamiliar environment.

“When you trust yourself and immerse yourself in a new experience, the rewards can be phenomenal.”

Johnson, who graduated from SOU with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, said that one experience in particular inspired her to go into the medical profession.

“While I was in Guanajuato, I got sick, and I had to communicate my health needs and get treatment in a language I didn’t fully understand,” she said. “It made me think about migrant workers and how they access health care in the United States.”

Johnson works at La Clinica making sure people have access to health care regardless of language differences.

“We target a host of community needs but focus on low-income and migrant-worker communities,” she said. “My experiences, seeing the poverty and the resilience of people in Mexico, forever informs my professional choices.”

Mexico Sen. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks (masters ’79 and ’81) was among the earliest students to participate in the exchange program and is among SOU’s most accomplished alums.

“The Amistad program changed my life,” he said.

Romero Hicks came to SOU in 1978, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in industrial relations from Universidad de Guanajuato. His first child was born in Ashland the day before he started classes.

He has gone on to serve as president of the University of Guanajuato, director general of the Mexican National Science and Technology Council, governor of the State of Guanajuato and now is a federal senator. He said his time at SOU helped shape him and influence his path of service and politics.

“When I became president of the University of Guanajuato, I said none of that would have happened if it weren’t for my experiences with the exchange program,” Romero Hicks said. “The time I was there, I wouldn’t change for anything in my life. It gave me the education and the global perspective that shaped who I am.”

He said the positive experiences of living and learning abroad stay with a person forever.

“When I look back, I see four areas of growth during that period of my life – personal growth, language, cultural growth and academic,” he said. “Being bi-cultural is especially important to me. I think of being bilingual as like having two hands, but being bi-cultural is like playing the piano.”

The exchange program is filled with possibility for current and recent students. Kyanna Kuriyama participated in the exchange in 2014 and said it was an unforgettable experience.

“I actually chose SOU because of the Amistad program,” Kuriyama said. “I went on one of the trips to Guanajuato with Señora Chela when I was in high school, and it was so magical. I knew I wanted to return and study there.”

Kuriyama, a Spanish major, stayed with a host family while she attended classes.

“Staying with a family was great,” she said. “They were so nice, and it gave me even more opportunity to practice Spanish.

“People have a lot of misconceptions about Mexico, but if you go you’ll feel comfortable, you’ll make friends and you will learn more than you imagine.”

Señora Chela concurs.

“University exchange programs like La Amistad are hard work,” she said. “They thrive when they are supported by the administration and faculty.

“When I was teaching at SOU, I pushed the program. I would tell students to plan on going to Guanajuato, to come back and share their experience. I would encourage faculty exchanges and share stories about the program with anyone who was interested.”

Gardiner said the hard work has been worth it.

“Students who have participated in the exchange almost unanimously say that the experience has changed them in some way,” she said. “Their experiences in Guanajuato stay with them long after they have left school.”

Reposted from the Fall 2016 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine

SOU alumnus Daniel Breaux

Alumnus Daniel Breaux: Love at first sight

SOU graduate Daniel Breaux (‘14) says the school’s character-driven athletics philosophy stays with him every day, and he applies those values in his career as a police officer in Berkeley, California, as well as in his personal life.

Breaux came to SOU for football and its well-regarded criminal justice program.

“I wanted a school and a team that reflected my own values,” he said. “SOU and the athletic department did just that. When I visited the campus and met the athletic department staff and coaches, it was love at first sight.”

Breaux says he was particularly impressed with Athletic Director Matt Sayre and the late Craig Howard, who was then SOU’s head football coach, and their shared vision for the football program.

“Coach Howard said from the beginning that he was there to develop men who would become better husbands, fathers, employees and citizens of the world,” Breaux said. “Along the way, he’d help us become better players and win championships.

“I knew I was in the right place. It’s not just about winning games, it’s about academics, our school and our community.”

With encouragement from the coaching staff, Breaux dove into college life, serving in student government as an athletics senator, working with the planning committee for the new recreation center, helping to develop the Raider Weekend of Service and even volunteering at the local humane society.

“In student government, I learned whole new aspects of the university,” he said. “I learned about the work of servant leadership, and I developed an entirely new view about my role as a student and a contributor to the community.”

Breaux did all of this while winning accolades as a defensive end on the 2014 National Championship football team and managing to graduate with honors two terms early.

Howard was an integral part of his college life, Breaux says.

“I remember whenever the football team went to an event, Coach Howard would tell us to leave the room better than we found it,” he said. “I know sometimes he literally meant for us to clean up our garbage before we left, but I also took it as something to be applied to everyday life.

“Now I do the same with police work. I want to leave my community better and have a positive effect on the world around me.”

Reposted from the Spring 2016 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine

Zappos-Fred Mossler-SOU alum

SOU and Zappos alumnus Fred Mossler: Big shoes to fill

The first sentence in a Wikipedia entry for Fred Mossler includes the terms “business executive,” “fashion guru” and “philanthropist.” He has also been called a customer experience expert, digital visionary and serial entrepreneur.

But it is Mossler’s humble roots in rural California that keep this wildly successful “original shoe guy” of Zappos.com grounded.

Mossler was by all accounts a typical college student. He attended classes and worked in a local shoe store. When he graduated from SOU in 1990, Mossler moved to Seattle and began working at Nordstrom, where he learned the art of customer service and nurtured his penchant for fashion. From Seattle, Mossler moved to San Francisco, where he became a merchandise buyer for the company.

Mossler was approached by Shoesite.com founder Nick Swinmurn in 1999 to join a budding venture. Swinmurn had secured enough capital to launch one of the nation’s first online shoe retailers, but he needed someone with fashion sensibility and a proven background in customer service. That was Fred Mossler.

Although the name Shoesite.com didn’t last, the company made an important impact on the online retail industry. Shoesite.com was replaced by the name Zappos.com within several months of the launch so the company would have the flexibility to sell more than shoes.

First-year sales were minimal, but sales in 2000 reached $1.6 million. By 2009, when it was acquired by Amazon, Zappos.com had more than $1 billion in sales.

As head of the day-to-day operations at the company, Mossler was at the epicenter. His assignments during 17 years with the company included merchandising, logistics and customer care. He also drove great innovation that included many groundbreaking e-commerce and customer experience moves, such as responsive, highly-personal service and free returns that set a new standard in the e-commerce industry.

At Zappos, Mossler helped build the company’s culture into a competitive differentiator. The 4 C’s: Culture, Clothing, Customer Service and Community were the foundation of a quality experience for all employees and customers.

Zappos made its debut on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in 2009, making the list again in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Much of the reason for Zappos’ appearance on the Fortune list was an unrelenting focus on building a company culture that valued its employees and their lives.

“My whole focus was to help bring people in at entry levels and help them develop skills that made them more valuable employees and more valuable people in their communities and in the world,” Mossler said. “I’ve tried to do that in all my work, and it was at SOU that I realized that was something I really loved to do.”

Mossler credits SOU with giving him a strong academic foundation and the confidence to follow his business instincts and dive into new ventures.

“My time at SOU absolutely helped shape my career path,” he said. “SOU gave me the confidence to pursue a career in the business world, and my experience as an RA in the residence halls taught me some valuable lessons in terms of managing people.

“I’ve built my business career on management, and a lot of the skills I apply in management I learned as a residence hall director.”

Mossler stepped away from Zappos in 2016 to focus on other entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures. Along with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, Mossler is setting out to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. And he has been a major player in producing the Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, which brings music, culinary and art into the revitalized downtown area each year.

Additionally, Mossler and a former Zappos executive have launched an upscale, après ski-inspired shoe brand called Ross & Snow. Mossler also produced the 2018 film “Viena and the Fantomes” featuring Dakota Fanning.

But perhaps Mossler’s most intriguing venture is that of restaurateur. Mossler and several partners opened Nacho Daddy in Las Vegas in 2010. With four locations, Nacho Daddy has its signature scorpion shot, but it does something even more unique. It donates a portion of every entre purchased to a child in need.

Since 2016, Nacho Daddy has contributed some 250,000 meals through Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank.

Mossler’s philanthropic work extends to the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, where he is an honorary director. Goodie Two Shoes provides children in crisis with new shoes and socks, and other essential items to ensure good health and positive development.

Looking back, Mossler said that a strong sense of community led to his active involvement while on the SOU campus. In addition to his residence hall work, he played intramural sports and helped organize campus fundraisers.

“My advice to students is to get involved,” he said. “SOU provides a great entrepreneurial environment. It gives students freedom to create and learn and pursue their interests.

“I was deeply involved in campus life and those experiences were priceless.”

Reposted from the Fall 2018 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine


At SOU, athletic success is driven by character

The old adage that sports build character isn’t necessarily true, according to SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre.

“There are studies that show the longer someone is involved in organized sports, the lower they score on ethical tests, unless you purposely teach character values,” Sayre said.

Since becoming athletic director in 2010, Sayre and his coaches have made the topic a major focus of the program, and the results on and off the field have been notable.

“I thought character-driven athletics would be the key to our success, and it is,” Sayre said.

SOU’s character-driven athletics program strives for balance in sports, classrooms and the community, admitting high-achieving students with strong values, and intentionally teaching character within the context of sports.

“We’re not beating our students over the head with the idea of character values,” said Bobby Heiken, SOU’s associate athletic director. “It’s in the coaches we’re hiring and the students we’re recruiting, the way we coach, the way we behave, and the behaviors we encourage.”

SOU athletics is currently on a run of successes on the playing fields and in the classroom that goes unmatched at SOU. The Raider football team played in back-to-back national championships, the women’s basketball team has played in the national championship, and men’s basketball, volleyball, wrestling, cross country and track and field are fixtures at the national championships.

Those winning performances put SOU sixth in the NAIA Director’s Cup rankings of the top athletic departments in the nation following the 2014-15 year – the university’s best-ever finish. And SOU was No. 1 in the country following strong showings by its fall sports teams this academic year, and is poised for another Top 10 finish.

“We’re redefining what it means to be an athlete here,” said Sayre, who was named the Cascade Conference Athletic Director of the Year following the 2014-15 season. “All the coaches are very serious about character-driven athletics, and it has made our department a really positive place.”

Heiken added that the focus on character in the athletic programs has benefited the entire university.

“It’s exactly what you want in a college,” he said. “The student-athletes live in the dorms and in the community. They participate, and they work hard. These students are coming out as leaders in the community and anywhere they go in the world.”

SOU belongs to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which focuses on and tracks five core values for all of its schools: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership, which involves working for the greater good. Sayre said the first step is to find students who already embody those core values.

“We really target the academically high-achieving students and those who buy into those core values,” he said. “With these student-athletes, there aren’t as many problems off the field or with the team, and we win games. Plus, they’re more fun to coach.”

Sayre said he is most proud of the response he gets from teachers and community members about the athletes.

“I love hearing people tell me what good, respectful men and women are on our teams,” he said. “They represent SOU and the Rogue Valley in positive ways, and we’re all so proud of them.”

Balancing the highly competitive nature of college sports with a strong focus on character isn’t as hard as one might think.

“It is all connected,” Sayre said. “We find that our students do better in class, on teams, in the community and life. Our athletes’ retention and graduation rates are higher than average, as well.

“Winning games is a side effect of the values, academic work and service learning they’re embracing.”

Heiken added that the strength of SOU’s athletic teams, and the athletes’ growing reputation as strong performers and students, are attracting more students of the same caliber.

“We’re bringing in good students, and we’re turning out great students, not just great athletes,” Heiken said. “So much has changed over the years, and I’m really proud of where SOU is in terms of athletics right now. The fact that we’re able to win and be competitive across the board is an impressive thing.”

Reposted and updated from the Spring 2016 issue of The Raider, the SOU Alumni Association magazine


SOU’s 2018 grads still have professional development offer on the table

The 1,100 SOU graduates who received degrees last June still have more than a year and a half to take the university up on its offer of a free professional development course to help establish or advance their careers.

A handful of last year’s degree recipients have enrolled in or registered for the non-credit courses that were offered by President Linda Schott as a surprise at last June’s commencement ceremony. It was anticipated that enrollment in the courses would begin to swell about six months to a year later.

The gift of $125 toward a professional development class for each graduate, within two years of graduation, has a total potential value of about $140,000.

President Schott described the offer as an effort by the university to make good on its mission of being an educational provider of choice for learners throughout their lives.

Examples of upcoming seminars or workshops available under the offer are “Thriving in the Midst of Change,” which helps people cope with and flourish in changing environments; “Decision-Making Groups,” aimed at making participants more effective as group leaders or members; “Effective Continuous Quality Improvement,” a course that examines the common components of all quality improvement processes; “Project Management Fundamentals,” which provides the tools necessary for managing involved projects; and “Presentation Skills for Professionals,” which provides hands-on experience in creating and delivering engaging presentations.

All of the courses are presented at the RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford. The cost varies by course, but most are in the range of the $125 offer.

Those who have questions or would like to register for a professional development course can email professional@sou.edu or call (541) 552-8150.

SOU-Adams-IDW Publishing

SOU alumnus serious about his comics venture, IDW Publishing

Perhaps it was his job in the SOU bookstore that led Ted Adams (’90) to the role of publisher and CEO of IDW Publishing and IDW Media Holdings.

“It was the best experience,” Adams said. “I got to interact with students and read books on break. Having access to all those books was fun for me.”

Today, Adams is surrounded by books – comic books – on the grandest of scales. IDW, which Adams cofounded in 1999, is one of the largest comic book publishers in the United States. The multiple award-winning company fills a unique niche in the publishing world.

“Instead of competing with the likes of Marvel comics in the superhero genre, we specialize in taking existing entertainment brands and turning them into comic books,” Adams said. “We’ve done this for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony and Transformers.”

Adams said he was always interested in entrepreneurship. His father, Brady Adams, was a prominent Grants Pass businessman and president of the Oregon Senate.

“I grew up in that environment, and knew from an early age that I wanted to be a business owner,” he said.

Adams said SOU’s small class sizes played a big part in helping him focus on his educational goals.

“Southern Oregon really worked for me. I had the chance to get to know my classmates, and the professors were accessible,” he said. “I feel like I got a lot out of it. I was always impressed with the faculty. They were high-caliber professionals who had also been CEOs or worked in business.”

Starting a business has its ups and downs, but Adams has found his stride. “It seems cliché, but hard work really pays off,” he said. “That is what I believe and what I tell my son. You get out of life what you put into it.

“When I was a student at Southern Oregon, I decided I was going to work hard. I got a good education because of it.”

In addition to comic book publishing, IDW works with writers and artists to publish original works. One such work, “30 Days of Night,” led to a film version in 2007. Since then, IDW has expanded into media holdings, games and merchandise, with over 200 regular employees and 250 freelancers.

There is also a three-year-old entertainment branch to fund, develop and produce television series based on IDW books. Its TV series, “Wynonna Earp,” currently airs on the SyFy channel.

Last year, IDW opened the San Diego Comic Art Gallery to showcase comic books and graphic arts. The gallery, which is designed to educate and engage the community, also offers studio space for artists in residence.

“It is the only such gallery on the West Coast, and it’s our company’s way of giving back to the community and sharing what we do,” Adams said.