Meet the Alumni of the Year 2020, honored for service and achievement that embody the spirit of their alma mater.
UPON ARRIVING ON the Walla Walla University campus in 1956, Sam Carvajal couldn’t speak English, had very little money, was miles from his family, and had no friends. Little did he know the things God had in store for him.
Carvajal was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia, where his father worked as a carpenter, a profession that Carvajal learned as well. His mother, though having only six years of formal education, was passionate about her children being educated. Carvajal and his two siblings all immigrated to the United States to receive college degrees. In fact, he and his sister, Solita Henderson (’71), both completed master’s degrees. Carvajal’s master's degree was in management from Central Michigan University.
Two years after arriving at WWU Carvajal met his future wife, Grace, and two years later they were married. After graduating from WWU in 1960, Carvajal obtained a license in medical technology from Glendale School of Medical Technology in Glendale, California, and went to work at Glendale Adventist Medical Center as a medical technologist. Within three years he was the chief technologist of the clinical laboratory. He later became director of radiology, cardiology, heart catheter-ization, and the clinical laboratory.
Following the birth of his and Grace’s first child, Carvajal decided that to be sure he could provide financial stability and a good education for his daughter he would invest in real estate, which he is still involved in today. He and Grace now have two children and four grand-children, two of whom also graduated from WWU.
In 2018 the Carvajals received the Life-time Legacy Award from the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation for their extraordinary philanthropic leadership. Through the years they have generously supported the foundation with their time, skills, and gifts, and have been particularly supportive of the Adventist Health Glendale radiology department where Carvajal spent his career. Their support has included seed donations for state-of-the-art medical equipment.
After 42 years at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Carvajal retired in 2003. He has been an active member of the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation Board of Directors since 2006. “What an incredible privilege to be associated with one organization my entire professional life,” he says.
“Without any question, Walla Walla University made the difference in my life, and that is why I am so thankful and continue to be part of the future of Walla Walla University,” Carvajal says. “You cannot enjoy what you have until you learn to share it with others.”
FIFTY YEARS AFTER graduating from WWU with a bachelor’s degree in theology and biblical languages, Doug Clark still believes that attending WWU is the best investment he has made, largely due to the support he received from faculty and staff. “Coming away from WWC with a top-notch education, the drive to excel, and friends forever made possible whatever I have done or become,” says Clark.
Clark completed a master of divinity degree in 1974 at Andrews University and a doctorate in Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University in 1984. He returned to WWU to teach in the School of Theology in 1987 and served as dean of the school from 1990 to 1998. In 2004 he accepted a position as executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Boston, a posi-tion he held until 2006. He began teaching at La Sierra University in 2006 where he joined the HMS Richards Divinity School and for two years was associate director of the honors program. Throughout his career he has also served as a pastor and taught at Southwestern Adventist University. He has authored, edited, or coedited 12 volumes (with two more at press) and 183 articles, and has made 207 presentations worldwide.
He is now partially retired and serves as director of the Center for Near Eastern Archaeology at La Sierra University, which he established in 2012 with the help of a dedicated support team. The center has become known for its undergraduate and graduate programs in archaeology, its ongoing participation in the archaeology of Jordan, and its annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend, which has been held each November for the past 12 years.
Clark is also director of the Madaba Plains Project excavations at Tall al-`Umayri, Jordan, where he has worked since the project’s inception in 1984. His interest in archaeology emerged in large part from a course on biblical backgrounds that he took at WWU from Malcolm Maxwell more than 50 years ago. A course taught by Siegfried Horn ’47 at Andrews University led to Clark’s first field experience at Tall Hisban, Jordan, in 1973.
Clark met and married his wife, Carmen (Mosser) att., when they were both WWU students. They have two sons, Bob ’95 and Randy att., and four grandchildren.
The Clarks enjoy gardening, golfing, and traveling, and have traveled to all 50 states. Clark has also traveled in 31 countries over six continents, and Carmen has visited nearly that many as well. They now live overlooking Discovery Bay near Port Townsend, Washington, in a home they designed themselves and had built for them.
“We continue looking for rewarding ways to contribute to life-changing educational experiences for students,” says Clark.
BILL FRITZ IS president of the College of Staten Island, The City University of New York (CUNY CSI). During his leadership, the university, which is the second largest employer in Staten Island, has undergone critical maintenance projects and the university’s foundation assets have quadrupled.
The foundation for Fritz’s own success began in a one-room log cabin classroom in Northwestern Montana. “My family lived in an original homesteaders’ cabin on a ranch about 10 miles away,” he says. From there, Fritz’s educational journey took him to Bella Vista Elementary School in Puerto Rico, Antillean College for his freshmen year of high school, and then to Shenandoah Valley Academy in Virginia. He found his way to WWU when the biology program he was studying in at Columbia Union College underwent structural changes, and his professor, Lester Harris, told him, “You need to transfer, and it can be anywhere, as long as it’s Walla Walla!” His studies at the Rosario Beach Marine Station focused on sponge respiration in Puget Sound. He made some of the first dives known to the local diving community under the Deception Pass bridge. (Fritz’s ties to WWU run deep: Peterson Memorial Library is named after his grand uncle Frank Peterson.)
Fritz describes himself as an “enthusiastic biology major” during his time at WWU. However he says his grades were less than ideal since he worked full time to pay tuition and support his growing family. “I had the great fortune to be in school at a time when I was eligible for food stamps, and that program alone probably kept me from dropping out,” he says. Fritz says this experience has helped him relate to the challenges faced by many students in the large, urban, public-access institutions where he has spent his career.
After completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at WWU, Fritz completed a doctoral program in geology in 1980 at the University of Montana. Just before defending his dissertation, he took a job with Amoco as an exploration geologist where he was put in charge of the newly developing Pacific Northwest region. “My first day on the job I was unexpectedly called before a committee to weigh in on a debate on the importance of some well logs,” he says. “My skills of oral presentation and thinking on my feet from Walla Walla paid off.”
Fritz says he enjoyed his work but knew that his passion was in higher education. In fall 1981 he joined the faculty at Georgia State University as an assistant professor of geology and eventually became provost. In 2008 he became provost for CUNY CSI and in 2012 was named CUNY CSI president.
Fritz is a also commercial instrument rated pilot with more than 2,100 hours in single- and multi-engine planes and seaplanes. He has flown across North America and often uses examples of flight planning, risk management, and safety in his leadership role at CUNY CSI. He advises college students to have a flight plan, but to not be afraid to alter the plan, as flight plans often change with gusts of wind, thunderstorms, or due to weary passengers.
Fritz and his wife, Bonnie, enjoy travel, especially with members of his parent’s generation, “the Greatest Generation”. This is because he says they are less risk averse than many other generations and ready for adventure!
Fritz enjoys cooking, and on every move-in day at CUNY CSI, he and his team make over 1,000 waffles using his great-grandmother’s recipe and his collection of antique cast iron waffle irons. While students and their families are waiting in line for their waffles, he asks them about their dreams and why they chose to include CUNY CSI in making those dreams a reality. “My passion is to serve and educate students from tough backgrounds, from marginal underrepresented groups, and to connect with the needs of the local community,” he says.
BECKY BILLOCK SAYS that her music education at WWU was transformational in shaping her musicality and technique. She attributes this to her mentor, Leonard Richter, and other WWU faculty, including Kraig Scott ’84, Glenn Spring att., and Debra Richter. “From these teachers and many others I learned to think critically, ask good questions, write better, connect with people in a meaningful way, and form many lasting friendships,” she says.
Billock graduated from WWU in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in music performance. She completed a master’s degree at University of Redlands and a doctor of musical arts degree at the University of Washington. While deciding on her dissertation focus, Billock drew on her memories of the Donne e Doni ensemble from her time at WWU. This group, comprised of WWU faculty Debra Richter and Sonja Gourley and Whitman College professor Susan Pickett, performed and showcased music by female composers.
While the idea of bringing attention to these little-known works by female composers intrigued her, she didn’t “jump on the bandwagon” immediately. “I bristled at the notion that a lot of pedagogical music is written by women (there is a lot of such music) but that when students start playing ‘real’ music, it’s all by men. I wanted to create the same sense of continuity for students with music by women that is already in place with the com-posers of the established repertoire.”
“My dissertation topic ended up focusing specifically on pedagogical works by women who also had a prolific output of concert-level repertoire,” she says. Around this time, Billock’s parents gave her the large collection of classical music LPs that she had listened to again and again while growing up. “They were largely responsible for my motivation to become a musician,” she says. “I was excited to own them, so I was a bit taken aback when I opened the box and discovered emblazoned on the side of each box the title ‘THE GREAT MEN OF MUSIC.’” Billock had misgivings about putting the collection on her shelf, but decided the best approach was to fill the adjacent shelf with “THE GREAT WOMEN OF MUSIC.” “The quest to fill that second shelf has been the driving force of my career over the years, and I’ve been able to perform and record many works by women that I hope will be around to inspire future generations of musicians.”
Billock has found a niche promoting the works of contemporary women. Her most recent project, “Mother Earth,” included pieces primarily written by women that celebrated the resources of the planet. Between 2012 and 2017, she was pianist for Pittsburg-based Trio Nova Mundi and toured with the group to locations including Africa, Mexico, and South America. The trio released a CD titled “Canticum” in November 2015. Billock has also played in the piano duo, Duo Junction, with Jack Kurutz, and her 2011 CD “Muses Nine: Eight American Composers Plus One Pianist” has received extensive airplay throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Billock and her husband, Jonathan Aldrich, live with their two children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is an adjunct professor of piano at Grove City College where her students have won many honors and competitions. She also maintains a thriving private studio. She also recently produced and released a mini-documentary about a cellist who plays for a waddle of penguins in Antarctica and on an iceberg in the Arctic.
Her advice for college students is to “Always strive for excellence rather than perfection. Figure out what you are passionate about, then go pour every last drop of your energy into being the very best you can be at that thing. And amidst all that dreaming and doing: be kind.”