Open for registration to the community and students, the 2021 Distinguished Alumni online ceremony, hosted by the Pierce College Foundation, presents Pierce as a possible stepping stone for impactful careers.
Four distinguished alumni were selected to receive their awards in 2020 before the pandemic, which caused their celebration to be delayed until April 2021. Videos of alumni created by Pierce College’s Marketing and Communication team will be presented on Zoom, while alumni will receive awards on camera during the celebration.
“These remarkable Pierce alumni serve as inspirations in their communities, and for all the lives they touch with their professional and academic achievements and service. By amplifying their stories, we hope that they inspire current and future Pierce College students to realize their potential,” said Robin Echtle, the Director of College Development and Executive Director of the Foundation.
Distinguished alumni application forms are completed online and selected by the Distinguished Alumni Nomination and Selection Committee. Awards are given on the criteria of having attended Pierce for a minimum of 15 credits, professional achievement, post-college success, community service and personal triumphs. After alumni are chosen, the Foundation board works with them to plan the event and find speakers for the usual on-campus dinner awards ceremony, where alumni like Frances Davis would attend.
“We have someone like Fran Davis, who is the first African American female federal probation and parole officer assigned to fieldwork, when you think about that kind of work that’s really impressive,” said Echtle.
Davis began college in 1977 at Fort Steilacoom Community College, Pierce College’s former name, where she graduated and transferred to Central Washington University to complete her degree in criminal justice. She worked for the state of Washington briefly at the McNeil Island Corrections Center, leading to her work in King County as a county probation officer and eventually a position in the federal court in 1990.
Originally, Davis considered pursuing a political science degree but realized her true calling was criminal justice and decided to prepare herself academically to follow her dreams of becoming a federal agent. At the time, Pierce had program cohorts where students and professors remained in the same class throughout two years of different subjects, which provided opportunities for study groups. Through Pierce, Davis participated in a work-study job at the Olympic National Forest, which helped her recognize the area when she was posted there as a federal agent.
Davis had two professors during her time at Pierce who left a lasting impact on her life, one of which was Chancellor Michelle Johnson, who, at the time, was a criminal justice professor and became her professional mentor. Dr. Johnson helped research the academic pathway for becoming a federal agent, along with the career path Davis should follow in a predominantly white-male career field.
“There had been no women appointed to supervision work and that was my calling, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a field agent,” said Davis.
Davis mentioned that other than her continued connection with Dr. Johnson and women in office at the state correction facilities doing investigative work, the lack of mentors and advice presented a challenge when she stepped into fieldwork. Over 27 years, the field began opening up, with more women in various positions. By the time Davis retired in 2017, the chief of the district court was a woman.
Following her retirement, Davis was offered board positions and job opportunities by multiple agencies, though she took none of the offers to care for her mother. After her mother passed, Dr. Johnson spoke with Davis about applying to serve on the Pierce College Foundation Board of Directors, which she has been on for three and a half years.
When asked what she would say to students at Pierce, Davis told students to ask the question they have heard a negative answer to the most. She explained that everyone had told her no until she came to Pierce and received the first realistic answer to pursue her dreams. As an awardee for the 2021 Distinguished Alumni celebration, Davis looks forward to the ceremony since the award is based on personal merit and honoring accomplishments.
“We’re just looking for people that have really gone on and distinguished themselves in their fields, for Fran it was being the top of her game where she’s at,” said Echtle.
Echtle explained that Foundation staff have considered how to maintain the feeling of importance that came with a formal gathering on-campus through a remote environment. With multiple recorded and live pieces to present through Zoom, Foundation staff hopes to uphold the expectations of awardees.
Foundation staff and the nominations committee desire to acknowledge the impact alumni have on local communities or places they move to, beginning with their investments at Pierce College. Awarding Distinguished Alumni provides this recognition for students who work to create new ideas or businesses.
Interviews and article by @elissapnwnews on Twitter.
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