Bearcat Connections

Alumni support each other in ways big and small

What’s the benefit of being part of the Willamette University Alumni Association? There’s the obvious: staying connected with friends, expanding your network, maintaining a relationship with your alma mater. But sometimes, the power of connection exceeds expectations. Below is a sampler of how and why being part of the Willamette extended family returns dividends:

Endorsements Rock

After graduating from Willamette, Caitlin Horsley ’09 moved to Portland and looked to the WU alumni network to set up some informational interviews. “The Willamette interviews gave me advice and connections that still benefit me today,” she reports.

One of the alumni she interviewed, Greg Stiles ’99, discovered Horsley had been hired at a company Stiles knew well. He quickly put in a good word for her. “Greg emailed the director of the company and told him I was a great hire,” she says. “The director then told me how glad he was they’d hired me. The Willamette network has been great!”

Bearcats Against Breast Cancer

When Toni Wright McGarvey ’85 faced a breast cancer diagnosis, alumni stood up to fight back. Carla Forrester ’87 reached out to fellow Bearcats to support McGarvey in her successful battle against the disease. McGarvey later “paid it forward” to help a friend of a Bearcat who also faced breast cancer, providing support, information and even fashionable knit caps.

“I haven’t been a hero by any means,” McGarvey says. “But I do know I couldn’t have made it through without my Willamette chums.”

You Count on Me, I Count on You

Sue Pyne ’86 has made the most of the Willamette alumni community.

When Pyne’s daughter followed in her footsteps as a Willamette freshman in 2012, Pyne reached out to Salem-area alumni for recommendations for hairdressers, auto repair shops, housing options, emergency contacts — you name it.

“Every time I’ve put out a call for help, I’ve had multiple offers,” Pyne says. Mary Louise Van Natta ’86, Darrell Fuller ’88, Greg Carter ’84, Beth Roop Eck ’86, Ted Romanowitz ’86 and Kate Johnson Speckman ’88 were among those who have responded to Pyne’s calls.

When Pyne asked Salem-area Willamette alumni to recommend a responsible teenager she could hire to let carpet cleaners into her rental property. Fuller wanted to do more. “Darrell offered to do it himself, and then to take on some property management duties, showing the space to prospective clients on my behalf,” Pyne says.

Pyne and her husband also called on alumni when they wanted to take their son to a World Series game, but could only find tickets in pairs. “Terry Sherbecoe ’86 answered an invitation within minutes to turn a trio into a foursome for the big game,” Pyne says.

She counts on Bearcats whenever she has a legal question too. “Anne Denecke ’82, JD’85, Dianne Babbit ’84 and Mike Milo Long ’85, JD’92 provide great service themselves and make excellent referrals,” says Pyne.

Whenever possible, Pyne tries to help Bearcats herself. Kimberlee Jackson Nicholls ’87, winemaker for Markham Vineyards in St. Helena, Calif., knew that a co-worker’s daughter, a recent college graduate, was looking for an affordable place to live in San Jose, Calif. Nichols reached out to Pyne, who lives there. Good timing and a good connection paid off — the young grad found a place right next door.

Mentorship, Pass It On

Adam DuVander ’01 served on former Willamette President M. Lee Pelton’s Technology Advisory Committee, a rewarding experience that connected him to Ryan Holznagel ’83. Shortly after they met, Holznagel hired DuVander to help with a website,, where DuVander worked with another Bearcat, Paul Hehn ’82. Those professional collaborations grew into a strong friendship.

“When I married Jenny Andrews ’03, both Ryan and Paul attended the wedding,” DuVander says. “And when I no longer had time to devote to, I connected both to Jose Alvarado ’09 to carry on the WU tradition.”

DuVander helped another Bearcat when he was paired with Jaered Croes ’08 at Willamette’s Mentor Day in 2007. “I helped Jaered land an internship,” DuVander says. “Then, when he graduated, I pointed him toward what became his first post-college job. Shortly after, he introduced me to a contact that led to my next job. Now, he’s one of my best friends.”

DuVander stays connected to Willamette through reunions, mentoring opportunities and serving on the Alumni Association board.

Let’s Get It Started

Adam DuVander figures into another alumni tech venture, too. Bryce Clemmer ’10 and Mathew Polzin ’11 had an idea for a startup when they were students at Willamette. What was missing? The crucial first steps toward turning the idea into a business.

“We needed guidance from someone in the technology space,” Clemmer says. “Through the Willamette network, we met Adam through John Callahan ’92.”

After some get-acquainted lunches, DuVander introduced Clemmer and Polzin to Elliot Swan, a Portland State student with a shared interest in technology and innovation. “The three of us became friends, and after Sam Oluwalana joined the group, all four of us co-founded a venture that has raised more than a million dollars in capital.”

Now connected with media companies on five continents, this project could have gotten stuck in the idea phase without help from experienced Willamette grads. “This venture shows what’s possible through the WU alumni network,” Clemmer says.

A Sound Investment

After graduating, Darien Loiselle ’87 worked in the university’s Development and Alumni Relations Department for two years. It was there he met former Vice President Jerry Whipple. After Loiselle’s first year, Whipple suffered a stroke.

“For the better part of the next year, I helped Jerry fulfill his duties while he tried to recover,” Loiselle says. “Jerry wanted to acknowledge my efforts, but felt Willamette couldn’t afford a raise. What happened next was extraordinary. When I left for law school, Jerry handed me a personal check for my first year’s tuition.”

Whipple didn’t stop there. He encouraged his son-in-law, Dennis Reese ’72, to contact Loiselle after his first year of law school. Reese, a lawyer with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, helped Loiselle arrange an interview with his firm. That interview led to an internship and, ultimately, a career. This year, he celebrates 22 years with Schwabe.

“Sadly, Jerry passed away after I started law school, but he left a remarkable legacy at Willamette,” Loiselle says. “Dennis has remained a friend and has continued his father-in-law’s charitable work.”

A Smart Hire

In 1990, Appraisal Group, a Portland-based commercial real estate valuation firm, needed an intern. As fortune would have it, Appraisal’s Bart DeLacy ’75 talked with Jim Booth ’64 at a Willamette University Alumni Association board meeting and jump-started two careers.

“If there is a rock star in the business, it’s Jay Booth ’91,” says DeLacy of Jim’s son. From his start as an intern and then employee at Appraisal Group, Jay progressed to his current position as senior managing director of valuation and advisory at Cushman & Wakefield, the world’s largest privately held commercial real estate services firm. Jay’s brother, Brian Booth ’93, was hired as an Appraisal Group intern as well, and is now executive director of valuation and advisory for Cushman & Wakefield.

“Bart really did the Booth family a favor to hire Jay and Brian,” Jim says.

DeLacy knew he could count on fellow Willamette grads, so he looked for more Bearcats. “After Jay went on to other opportunities, I recruited Jeremy Snow ’98, who went with me to Arthur Andersen and then to PGP Investors, a valuation firm,” says DeLacy. “PGP was bought by Colliers, and now Jeremy, Jeff Grose ’95 and Grant Norling ’00 manage the largest valuation office in Portland.”

Connection Illustration