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Diamond Alum Peggy Halley first Oregon female career fire officer
Photos and Story by Kate Chester
Five graduates of Portland Community College who have become community leaders along their professional and personal journeys since attending PCC have been tapped by the college to receive this year’s Diamond Alum Awards.
The 2014 winners include Abel Ahumada Alaniz of Garden Home, Cheryl Burgermeister of Southwest Portland, Rep. Chris Gorsek of Troutdale, Peggy Halley of Hillsboro and Hung “Lee” Nguyen of Beaverton. The award winners will be honored as part of PCC’s annual celebration of “Founders’ Week,” May 12-17, when the college salutes its history and accomplishments by way of a slate of activities in which staff, faculty, students, and the public at large can participate. Additionally, the honorees will celebrate together on June 11, in a special luncheon linked to commencement on June 13.
“I am so impressed by the caliber of the nominations we received, as well as the achievements of the winners selected this year,” said Jeremy Brown, president, Portland Community College.
“These five graduates exhibit the qualities of which the college is so proud. Each demonstrates a strong work ethic, a positive outlook on life, and a desire to give back to the community at large. We are delighted to honor them this year, to showcase their efforts and the inspiration they offer to others,” he said.
The judging committee was made up of a collective of external constituents, two former Diamond Alum Award winners, and PCC staff.
Diamond Alum: Peggy Halley
Crises don’t shake Peggy Halley, one of the five award recipients. She was about to turn 19 when her mother died unexpectedly in 1980, prompting Halley to become the surrogate mother to her younger brother and sisters – ages 11, 13 and 16 at the time. While their father was supportive emotionally and financially, he lived out of state: Halley realized the need to provide stability for her younger siblings.
With that as her impetus, Halley juggled being “mom” while seeking an associate’s degree in Fire Science at Portland Community College in the early 1980s so that she could obtain secure, stable work upon graduation.
“Secure” and “stable” don’t adequately convey the plethora of opportunities that have opened to Halley since then.
She put her degree to work beginning in 1983, as a career firefighter in Lake Oswego. Ten years later Halley was promoted to Lieutenant, which made her the first female career fire officer in Oregon. She was promoted again in 1998, this time to Battalion Chief – another first for a woman in Oregon.
Since her retirement in 2012, Halley volunteers as the vice president for the Washington County Fire District 2 Board of Directors, an elected position she’s held for four years. She’s also been a volunteer basketball coach for St. Anthony’s grade school in Tigard, served as the secretary and a founding member of the Oregon State Fire Safety Officer’s Association, and has been on the board of directors – with four years as president – of her Home Owners Association board.
And the giving – especially in crisis – has continued: in 2003, Halley donated one of her kidneys to her older brother in need of a transplant.