WWU Selects Honored Alumni

Five alumni given mark of distinction

By: Becky St. Clair

Walla Walla University’s Alumni Homecoming Weekend 2009 took place April 23-26.  As part of the annual Homecoming Banquet, five alumni were chosen to be this year’s Honored Alumni.  Those selected can be nominated by anyone and are chosen by a committee appointed by the Alumni Association.

This year’s winners were Gary Patterson (religion, ’59), DeLona Lang Bell (journalism, ’79), Rick Schmactenberg (mechanical engineering, ’79), Alan Coffey (history, ’84), and Kevin Vixie (mathematics, ’84).

Gary Patterson
A faithful servant of God, Gary Patterson has always answered the call to where he is needed most.  In his 45 years of ministry, he has led congregations, served as a church and health care administrator, and even ran a summer camp.

Gary is a noted leader not only for the scope of his service, but also for his inspiring leadership style. "Gary has always been a leader fully alive," says one of his former colleagues.  "He has combined a natural zest for life and high energy with excellent communication skills throughout his distinguished career."

Now retired, Gary and his wife, Rae, recently completed writing a minister's handbook. Home base for the couple is in Virginia, where they live close to their daughter, Cynthia, and her family. Son Jeff has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a minister in Atlanta.
DeLona Lang Bell
Whether it is an advertisement for Adventist Health's maternity services or an annual report for a multimillion dollar corporation, DeLona Lang Bell’s work excels in both communication messaging and business strategy. In 2008 alone, her work received top awards in three national and international industry competitions.

However, DeLona would be the first to give credit to her creative team at CM Bell, the company she and her husband, Michael, founded in 1997. The company, based in College Place, offers services in marketing, communication, and business technology.

DeLona and Michael married while they were in college. Their son, Christian, is a history student at WWU, and their second son, Miles-Erik, will be a WWU freshman next year, following in the footsteps of his parents and more than 20 relatives who are Walla Walla alumni.

Alan Coffey
With an annual circulation of 62 million, there’s a good chance a Coffey Communications publication has reached your mailbox or even your computer screen. As the chief executive officer of Coffey Communications, Alan Coffey has developed the company into a leading health care publisher known in the industry for focusing solely on health care.

Alan has worked in the family business since its early days, taking leave only after graduating from Walla Walla University to attend law school in San Diego.  Alan’s sister, Jane, is now the company’s chief operating officer and his mother is semi-retired. Alan assumed the role of CEO after his father’s death in 1992.    

When Alan isn't at the office, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Sherilee (Goerlitz), a 1991 communications graduate, and stepson, Seth Chapman.

Rick Schmachtenberg
In 2007, Rick Schmachtenberg was named senior vice president of Consumables Development and Manufacturing Group at Xerox Corporation.  He is responsible for research development and global manufacturing of Xerographic and Solid Ink consumables. Rick oversees the development of toner, photoreceptors, intermediate transfer belts, print cartridges, xerographic charging devices, fusers, solid ink print heads and inks.

All together, Rick is responsible for seven research and development centers and 20 manufacturing plants located on nine sites in seven countries.

With Rick on the road much of the time, his wife, Debbie (Reynolds), a 1980 nursing graduate, and their children, Stefan and Jennifer, keep the home fires burning in Aloha, Ore.

Kevin Vixie
As mathematician and researcher, Kevin Vixie is at the forefront of research in geometric measure theory.  Through the findings of his team at Washington State University, he hopes to advance applications of these theories and develop new methods to extract information from sophisticated data.

Kevin has also quietly adopted the role of humanitarian. In addition to funding a mathematics library and student book fund at Walla Walla University, he has helped Walla Walla students secure internships at Los Alamos and admission into the Washington State University graduate program.

Kevin balances his busy professional life with time spent with his wife, Beata, their son, Levi, and dog, Obi.

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