Five graduates of Portland Community College who have become community leaders along their professional and personal journeys since their time at PCC have been tapped by the college to receive this year’s Diamond Alum Awards.
The awards were distributed at a luncheon as part of PCC’s annual celebration of “Founders’ Week,” May 13-18. During the week, PCC saluted its history, offering a slate of activities for staff, faculty, students and the public at large to share their pride in the college, and its accomplishments.
“We received so many powerful nominations that whittling down the selection to only five candidates was challenging,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams.
“These five graduates personify qualities, talents, and attributes that PCC is so proud of. A hard work ethic, a positive outlook on life, commitment to social justice and service to others, creativity, diligence, determination . . . this year’s winners shine in all of these areas, and the college is delighted to showcase their efforts and the impact that they’ve had on the community,” he said.
The judging committee was made up of a collective of external constituents, a former award Diamond Alum Award winner, and PCC staff.
“I found the judging process to be an interesting and valuable exercise for me, personally,” said Judy Hutchison, Business Banker with First Republic Bank. “Reading all the applications, and then helping to choose the finalists, allowed me to better understand the varied experiences and backgrounds of the students Portland Community College serves.
“And learning about the many good things these people have accomplished since studying at PCC was fascinating,” she said.
Following are profiles of the 2013 PCC Diamond Alum Award winners:
Sr. Theresa Ann Bunker, SSMO – Sr. Theresa Anne Bunker’s life has been devoted to service, both professionally and spiritually. In 1952 she entered the religious community of Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon (SSMO). Ten years later she received her licensed practical nurse credentials from St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia, Wash., passed the state board exam, and joined the inaugural staff of the Maryville Nursing Home in Beaverton, which opened in 1963 and served about 80 residents. During her tenure at Maryville she attended PCC, graduating in 1971 with her associate’s degree in nursing and continuing to serve as Maryville’s lead charge nurse. For relaxation, she cared for flowers, especially roses, around the nursing home grounds. This hobby made an important difference in the lives of their residents because they could look out their windows and see beauty.
In 2005, after 42 years of what she calls a “joy-filled ministry”—one that included offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on for those in need at the facility—Bunker retired from Maryville and now lives at her religious community’s motherhouse in Beaverton. At 80 years old, she remains active—driving her religious sisters to their medical appointments, helping with grocery shopping, and caring for the community’s vegetable garden, harvesting and cooking the produce. Maryville, meanwhile, has doubled in size since its launch, and now serves approximately 160 residents.
Martina Clemmons – Martina Clemmons is a transplant to Oregon, having moved to Portland in 2008 from Brooklyn, N.Y. She enrolled at PCC and took African-American literature and history courses for three years before transferring to Portland State University, where she’s currently pursuing a history degree. While at PCC, Clemmons participated in a “Peer to Peer Mentoring Program” through the Associated Students of PCC and The Tutoring Center at the PCC Cascade Campus. Because of her dedication, intellect and ability to connect with students, she is now in a paid tutor position at PCC Cascade, a role she relishes, while continuing to balance her studies at PSU.
Since January 2012, Clemmons has worked with a unique collection of Portland African-American historical documents, the Burdine-Rutherford Collection, with Cristine N. Paschild, head of special collections and the university archivist at the PSU library. “Say We Are Here: Culture Community and Activism Across Four Generations of Black Oregonians” showcases the existence of a contiguous residential African-American community in North and Northeast Portland. Clemmons is helping to make this collection available as a resource for students, teachers, researchers and the general public interested in African-American history and the Oregon experience. Through her archiving work, she is creating the opportunity for Portlanders to gain a richer understanding of a pivotal part of the city’s cultural backdrop.
J.J. De Sousa – J.J. De Sousa is the owner of Digs Inside and Out, a successful and expanding interior design business celebrating its 10th anniversary. A graduate of PCC’s interior design program, De Sousa took the professional gamble of opening her own business in an “iffy” part of town: In Northeast Portland, on the once-derelict Alberta Street. However, the establishment of Digs Inside and Out enhanced the commercial district there, and the business—which sells home furnishings and accessories and features full interior design and garden design services—is considered one of the fixtures of this eclectic, now-thriving retail community. In fact, Digs Inside and Out was awarded “Best of 2012 Shopping” by the Oregonian, and Country Living Magazine touted it as one of the top stores for garden accessories.
As part of her motto to give back, De Sousa regularly returns to the Sylvania Campus to serve as a guest reviewer for interior design students. Additionally, she serves on the professional advisory board for the interior design department and provides internships to PCC students, to offer them professional experience. In fact, an intern she hired in 2007 at the conclusion of the internship remains on staff today.
Rep. Joe Gallegos – Rep. Joe Gallegos currently serves as State Representative for Oregon’s 30th House District, as well as on the House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. Gallegos is a living embodiment of the American Dream—and the hard work it took to achieve it. Born in Texas, he came from an immigrant, migrant worker family. He served in the United States Air Force, and then in the Oregon Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. After his service, Gallegos wanted to further his education and began at PCC, where in order to pay for classes, he worked full-time graveyard shifts as a steel cutter in the shipyard. After completing his lower division studies at PCC, he transferred to Portland State University. It took 10 years for Gallegos to obtain his bachelor of science in psychology because he juggled his studies while working as a janitor. But he accomplished his goal—which then led to a master’s degree in social work and a career as a family counselor in the Portland School District, followed by a doctorate from the University of Denver in social welfare, with post-doctorate work in cross cultural mental health from the University of Maryland.
Upon returning to the Portland metro area several years later, he took a faculty position at the University of Portland, where he worked for 25 years dedicating his life to training and mentoring future social workers. His impact there was profound; a social justice fund in his name resides at the university, and former students light up when they speak of their professor, who they consider a mentor and friend. Gallegos has served on the Board of Directors of the American Leadership Forum and has chaired the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. In January 2010 he received a Martin Luther King, Jr., Lifetime Achievement Award for his advocacy work and community organizing.
Ben Jones, M.D. – Moving to Portland in 1997 was a turning point for Dr. Ben Jones. He had just left Idaho, where poor grades and behavioral problems kept him from graduating with a high school diploma. He knew he needed direction, so he enrolled at PCC within a few weeks of his arrival.
Jones finished the classes needed for a high school diploma with a renewed love for learning (the anatomy and physiology class he took at PCC was a life changer) and thus began his long journey to become a medical doctor. He transferred to Willamette University, graduated in 1999 with a biology degree and took time off to work various jobs in the health care and medical fields, including at Tuality hospital, all the while applying to medical school.
Jones was accepted to Oregon Health & Science University, where he began his studies in 2008 and served as president of the senior class before graduating in June 2012. He is now in the first year of a residency program in emergency medicine at East Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.