(Ashland, Ore.) — A graphic novelist, television producer and retired corporate CEO; a geriatric nurse practitioner, designer of retirement housing and nursing school founder; a retired credit union CEO and financial literacy proponent; and a partner in a Portland distillery and youngest master distiller in the U.S. have been recognized as this year’s Southern Oregon University alumni award winners.
This year’s four award recipients were chosen by the SOU Alumni Association Board of Directors: Ted Adams for the Distinguished Alumni Award; Heather Young, Ph.D., for the Alumni Excellence in Education Award; Gene Pelham for the Stan Smith Alumni Service Award; and Molly Troupe for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. The awards were presented as part of last week’s homecoming celebration.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually by the university and the SOU Alumni Association to recognize someone whose personal and professional achievements have significantly benefited humankind and brought distinction to the university. This year’s honoree, Ted Adams, earned his business degree at SOU in 1990, founded Clover Press and then went on to co-found IDW Publishing in 1999 – a company that would become one of the largest comic book publishers in the country, with a market cap of more than $300 million. Adams served for 20 years as publisher and CEO of IDW Publishing and IDW Media Holdings. The companies adapt existing works as comics or graphic novels, and also have produced television series for Syfy and Netflix. Adams and IDW opened the San Diego Comic Art Gallery to showcase the comic book and graphic arts industry, and he has also served on the boards of the non-profit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Traveling Stories and SOU Foundation Board of Trustees.
The Alumni Excellence in Education Award recognizes career achievement in education, service to community and commitment to SOU. Heather Young earned a degree in nursing in Sacramento and was working in Coos Bay when she learned of an innovative pilot program offered by SOU’s nursing program that offered all courses in Coos Bay and Roseburg. She was awarded her degree in 1986, then went on to the University of Washington to earn her Ph.D., and become a geriatric nurse practitioner. Young worked in the corporate world to help design retirement housing that met he needs of older residents, and also served as a faculty member for the UW nursing program. She then founded the now-prestigious Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis, in 2008, and served as dean until 2018. She continues to serve on a variety of advisory panels and commissions that help to shape state and national policies on healthy aging.
The Stan Smith Alumni Service Award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the community and service to people. Gene Pelham, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business at SOU in 1983 and 2006, credits an attentive high school counselor with helping him secure a scholarship to attend college and he has in turn tried to help others throughout his career. He began work with a Eugene credit union in 1985, took his first CEO position in 1999, then returned to southern Oregon in 2007 as CEO of Rogue Credit Union – where he served until his retirement in 2022. RCU grew to serve 183,000 members and held $3 billion in assets under Pelham. He encouraged volunteerism among his employees, who last year donated 8,000 hours of service to more than 30 organizations. The credit union also raised more than $600,000 over the past five years to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, and Pelham has spearheaded efforts to teach the essential skills of financial literacy in local schools.
The Distinguished Young Alumni Award is presented to a recent university graduate who has demonstrated distinction in career, civic involvement or both. Molly Troupe wanted to become a forensic anthropologist when she chose SOU for its highly regarded chemistry department. She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, then was admitted to Hariot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a master’s degree program in brewing and distilling. She became a quality control assistant with Hood River Distillers after returning to Oregon, then moved on to Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend for three years, eventually becoming production manager and lead distiller. Troupe became the original employee and master distiller – the youngest in the U.S. to hold that title – in 2017 for Freeland Spirits in Portland. Troupe is now a partner in the venture and in 2018 was named to the Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” list. She helped Freeland pivot quickly when COVID-19 hit in spring 2020, shifting for a time from spirits to hand sanitizer, and winning contracts with the city of Portland and Providence Hospital.