Homecoming. It’s a fun time when graduates return to their alma mater to reconnect, reminisce and see what has changed at the place that set them up for their future. Saint Martin’s University is celebrating Homecoming February 23 – 24 with a few very special awards. “By recognizing Saint Martin’s distinguished alumni, we’re acknowledging the exceptional contributions they make to society, whether through their career, their local community or by giving back to their alma mater in a unique way,” says Katie Wojke, assistant vice president for institutional advancement.

It’s a time of excitement and high energy, as the following seven graduates will be honored by the Saint Martin’s University National Alumni Board with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Christopher Thomsen ’80 (Port Angeles)

Saint Martins University Alum Christopher Thomsen
Along with his other accomplishments, Christopher Thomsen has two US patents for his work on robotics and automated workflow systems. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

While at Saint Martin’s, Thomsen was active in many activities, including student council, yearbook and martial arts, chemistry and drama clubs. He also served as an ER volunteer for Providence St. Peter’s Hospital and was part of the master swimming program.

Christopher Thomsen is being recognized for his professional achievements. As vice president of business development for Kirby Lester Pharmacy Automation, Thomsen is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on healthcare?related automation and technology. He is a member of many associations and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.

“What most influenced and prepared me for my career were the monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey,” Thomsen shares. “It was here, amongst that incredible group of men, that I truly learned the meaning of caring, humility and respect. Without that, there is no career path, no direction, no success and no satisfaction with the people and work that you will encounter and do for the rest of your life.”

Father George Seidel, O.S.B. HS ’50, ’55 (Lacey)

Saint Martins University Alum George Seidel
George Seidel is a leader in his field and is well published. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

Fr. Seidel has been at Saint Martin’s since high school in 1946, when the school included a high school as well as a college. He is being recognized for his Benedictine service.

As a member of the Saint Martin’s Abbey and an educator at Saint Martin’s University for almost 70 years, he has dedicated his life to service. At Saint Martin’s, he has taught a variety of philosophy courses since 1962. Seidel has also served on the Saint Martin’s Board of Trustees at various times.

In his spare time, Fr. Seidel can be found playing jazz piano at Ben Moore’s on Friday nights.

John Spiller Sr., HS ’24, ’26

Saint Martins University Alum John Spiller
John Spiller worked tirelessly in condemnation law as Interstate 5 made its way south to Thurston County, resulting in substantial land acquisition, which greatly impacted the Saint Martin’s Abbey property. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

While attending Saint Martin’s, Spiller was Holy Names Society vice president, yearbook editor-in-chief and drama club secretary.

He spent his career as an attorney and, while in private practice in Seattle, Spiller provided legal counsel to the Washington State Legislature, Saint Martin’s College (now University), the Archdiocese of Seattle and Catholic Charities. His education at Saint Martin’s High School and College prepared him to begin law school at the age of 19 and to graduate from University of Washington’s law school in just two and a half years.

John Spiller is being recognized posthumously for his professional achievements and service to Saint Martin’s. “John Spiller’s family is delighted to accept this award in honor of their father and grandfather,” shares Liz Spiller, John’s granddaughter-in-law.

Perry Shea ’84 (Tenino)

Saint Martins University Alum Perry Shea
The SCJ team, led by Shea’s example, has supported dozens of nonprofits with volunteer hours and financial donations in the communities in which its employees live and work. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

Shea is being recognized for his service to community. He is a co-founder and president of SCJ Alliance, a nationally recognized, multidisciplinary consulting firm. Shea is a board member of South Puget Sound Community College Foundation, and board chair and president of the Thurston Economic Development Council. In the past, he has been on the board of the Tenino School District and was board president for two years.

He spends many hours serving the community in other ways as well, including coaching youth sports and serving as a mentor for small start-up businesses.

“Small class sizes [at Saint Martin’s] created a collaborative atmosphere and encouraged active participation,” Shea shares. “I would attribute the classroom experience as a key factor in my ability to become a leader in my industry, business coach and mentor in my firm and active participant in civic and community organizations.”

Christine Schaller ’93 (Tacoma)

Saint Martins University Alum Christine Schaller
In 2009, Schaller was named “Jurist of the Year” by the Washington State Bar Association, Family Law Section. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

During her time at Saint Martin’s, Christine Schaller worked at various jobs, participated in cheer, served as the secretary of the Associated Students of Saint Martin’s College, was active in Campus Ministry and competed for the Model League of Arab States.

“Saint Martin’s prepared me for my career path by instilling in me that you can achieve anything with hard work,” Schaller shares. “Saint Martin’s prepared me for the rigors of law school and a career in the law. It, however, did so much more than that. Saint Martin’s and the community made it feel like you could do anything. It taught me, more than academics, inherent ways to be successful in life.”

Schaller is being honored for her professional achievements. She was elected to the Thurston County Superior Court in 2012 and currently serves at Family and Juvenile Court. In January 2018, Schaller will preside over criminal and civil trials and serve as the presiding judge for the Thurston County Superior Court.

George A. Parker ‘71, Ph.D. (Shoreline)

Saint Martins University Alum George Parker
Among his many accomplishments, George A. Parker has written and developed the Boeing – Edmonds Community College educational experiential learning exposure internship program which has been successful in replacing the maturing technical technician workforce at Boeing. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

George Parker is being recognized for his professional achievements. He is a technical fellow, technical lead engineer and Boeing designated expert at The Boeing Company.

“I was a chemistry major at Saint Martin’s, and I was always interested in identifying problems,” Parker shares. “I had great mentors at [Saint Martin’s] who challenged, pushed and encouraged me, like Fr. Bede, who was the reason for my success as a chemist.”

He is active in mentoring and coaching young engineers and scientists through STEAM outreach programs. In 2014, he received a Lifetime Achievement in Industry Award from the National Society of Black Engineers.

Parker continues to serve his community through his church by working with youth and young adults. In addition, he serves on a number of professional and nonprofit boards, including the Saint Martin’s University Board of Trustees. He is also a volunteer assistant basketball coach.

Tom Barte ’68 (Lacey)

Saint Martins University Alum Tom Barte
Tom Barte is a fixture on the Saint Martin’s campus, visiting almost daily, helping the current students reach their full potential. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

While attending Saint Martin’s, he participated in sports and theater and was theater manager. He enjoyed a 28-year career at the Washington Department of Corrections, retiring in 2005.

“I attribute my values and moral compass to the education and examples set by the inspirational monks,” Barte shares about his experience at Saint Martin’s.

Tom Barte is being recognized for his years of dedicated service to Saint Martin’s University. Over the years, he has been a member of the Alumni Association (over two decades) and has served a term as president.

Today, Barte is on campus almost daily and is involved in many events. In retirement, he has driven for the athletic teams, international programs and other groups. A true ambassador for alumni relations, he has even spent vacation time meeting with potential students to help with recruiting efforts.


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