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Clark College News and Events

June 16, 2009

For Immediate Release

For additional information: 

Barbara Kerr, Executive Director of
Communications and Marketing Telephone:  360-992-2921



The college’s yearlong 75th anniversary celebration will reach a milestone during commencement ceremonies at the Amphitheatre of Clark County on Thursday, June 18

VANCOUVER, Wash. – On June 14, 1934, Clark Junior College honored its first – and only – graduate at its “first all-school banquet and dance” at Vancouver’s Castle Grill. 

On Thursday, June 18, 2009, Clark College – now the second largest community and technical college in Washington state -- will honor members of the class of 2009 at the Amphitheatre of Clark County, 17200 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield. The commencement ceremony will begin at 7 p.m.

Business leader, philanthropist and advocate for persons with disabilities Vail Horton will be the keynote speaker.  Horton is the founder and CEO of Keen Mobility Company and founder and chairman of The Incight Foundation.  Born without legs and improper bone growth in his arms, Vail Horton has said that he has “a true calling to change the world for the better, focusing on the elderly and disabled.”

During the 2008-2009 academic year, 1,276 men and women have earned degrees and certificates from Clark College.  Three-hundred-fifty-five graduates are expected to take part in the commencement ceremony.

During the ceremony, Clark College President Robert K. Knight will announce the winners of the 2009 Exceptional Faculty Award.  He will also announce the winner of the President’s Award for a transfer student from Clark College to Washington State University Vancouver.  The award winner will receive full tuition and fees while they earn their bachelor’s degree at WSU Vancouver.

Clark College at 75:  Preserving the Past.  Honoring the Present.  Embracing the Future.

The 2009 commencement ceremony will feature a video segment from Gov. Chris Gregoire, congratulating the college on its diamond anniversary.  There will special moments honoring the history of the college and its faculty and students throughout the evening. 

Wilbert KalmbachWilbert Kalmbach – a World War II veteran -- first took classes at Clark in 1947.  Continuing his studies, he believed that he would take part in the college’s 1969 commencement ceremony.  But, for reasons that are unclear, a diploma – received by mail – was never entered into the college’s records.  

Forty years after he believed he would be taking part in this ceremony – more than 62 years since he took his first class at Clark College – Wilbert Kalmbach will finally get to march as a Clark College penguin – receiving an associate of arts degree from Clark College President Robert K. Knight.  The evening will be a family event.  Kalmbach’s great nephew, Richard Alan Kalmbach, is among the 2009 graduates.

In addition, 2009 graduate Christian Hidden is a member of the respected family that owned the Hidden House – Clark’s first home in downtown Vancouver.


Keynote speaker Vail Horton

Clark College Commencement Speaker Vail HortonVail Horton has been appointed to the Secretary of State Advisory Committee for Worldwide Disability Policy and was recognized as one of the Oregon Healthcare Heroes by former Senator Gordon Smith. He also serves on the American Healthcare Association Quality Improvement Committee and is a board member for the Oregon Healthcare Association.

Vail Horton graduated from the University of Portland and received the university’s Contemporary Alumni Award in 2007.  He was named as one of the 2007 Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees).

Vail Horton and his wife Elizabeth Ann Horton and their four children -- Grace, Logan, Katherine and Kelvin – reside in Portland. 

Keen Mobility Company provides world-class medical products focused on safety, mobility, and comfort for the disabled, elderly and injured.  For two consecutive years, the company ranked within the top 50 companies on the Portland Business Journal’s 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies List.  In 2008, it was ranked #1,382 on the Inc. 5000.

Under Horton’s leadership, the Incight Foundation has raised over $1,500,000 in private, corporate, state and federal donations in support of scholarships, mentoring and internships for disabled students.   As a result, 253 disabled high school students have each received $750 college scholarships and seven students are now working.  In addition, 20 universities have entered into matching scholarship programs and 42 internships have been created. 

Horton says those efforts address the reality that “just 16% of people with disabilities receive a college education and 76% are unemployed.”


Clark College Highlights:  2008-2009


The college celebrated two milestones during this academic year:  its yearlong 75th anniversary celebration and a successful accreditation visit by representatives of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Throughout the year, work has continued on Clark College at Columbia Tech Center (CTC).  “The Next Step” for the next 75 years, Clark College at CTC will open its doors for fall 2009. 

Additional highlights included: 


  • Students Lorene Boyd and Melissa Smithdeal were named to the 2009 All-Washington Academic Team.  Students Heather Evans, Natalia Mendoza and Scott Shirley were named winners of the 2009 Washington Award for Vocational Excellence (WAVE).

  • The 2008 issue of Phoenix, the college’s student art and literary magazine, earned top honors in the country from the American Scholastic Press Association.

  • The college was named one of five mentor colleges in the national Plus 50 program, established by the American Association of Community Colleges.

  • Jack Burkman was named to the Board of Trustees, succeeding Kim Peery who was honored for 10 years of service as a trustee.

  • Cindy Heck, administrative assistant in Planning and Effectiveness, and Assessment Center Program Manager Mirranda Saari received the college’s annual Exceptional Classified Staff Award.

  • The renovation of central Gaiser Hall was honored with a 2008 Community Pride Design Award, presented by Clark County and the City of Vancouver.

  • A grand reopening and dedication ceremony was held for the remodeled O’Connell Sports Center which now includes the Ted Farnsworth Conference Room.

  • Communications Studies professor Deena Bisig was named a national Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) scholar.  Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society of two-year colleges. For its activities, the college’s PTK chapter earned multiple awards – including “Most Distinguished Chapter” -- in the Greater Northwest Region.  The chapter also won two international honors including an award for service. 

  • Clark’s speech and debate team took second place honors at the International Forensics Association tournament in Montreal, Canada.

  • Eighteen students were honored as Clark’s Student Athletes of the Month:  Jason Martschinske, Men’s Soccer; Michele Chesebro, Women’s Volleyball; Matt Moncour, Men’s Cross Country;  Jenna Rae Sitton, Volleyball; Marc Meland, Men’s Soccer; Chelsae Leasure, Volleyball; Jessica Crawley, Women’s Basketball; Grant Ziegler, Men’s Basketball; Garrick Ashenfelter, Men’s Basketball; Michelle Marthini, Women’s Basketball;  Mandy Wall, Women’s Basketball;  Derek Thurston, Men’s Basketball; Stormi Grendahl, Women’s Softball; Shane Weldon, Men’s Track & Field; Brittany Henderson, Women’s Track & Field; Lacey Franklin, Women’s Softball; Brittanie Williams, Women’s Track & Field; and Valerie Noble, Women’s Softball.


  • The college hosted a regional Elementary Science Olympiad and the 2009 Washington State Science Olympiad.  The emphasis on science continued through the college’s participation in SEMI High Tech U.

  • Karla Sylwester, an instructor in Clark College’s dental hygiene department, has been named a recipient of the 2009 Anna Sue McNeill Teaching, Learning and Assessment Award. The award is designed to recognize an individual’s contributions to teaching, student learning and assessment in a public two- or four-year college in Washington state.

  • Clark College hosted theatrical and musical events throughout the year including the Clark College Orchestra’s world premiere of "Symphony No. 5" by Dr. Matt Doran, 85, who resides in Vancouver.

  • In partnership with YWCA Clark County, the college marked the 25th Women of Achievement celebration.  During those 25 years, 200 women have been honored for their accomplishments in Southwest Washington.

  • Clark College’s Service-Learning Program won the 2009 national Collaboration Award of the Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE). The college was recognized for its international service-learning partnership with the St. John American International School in Cairo, Egypt.

  • The Clark College nursing department hosted its 100th (and 101st) pinning ceremonies for graduates.  The college’s dental hygiene program continued its perfect record – making the 39th consecutive year in which Clark dental hygiene students have passed the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) on their first try.  Clark College is the only long-standing program in the United States that can claim that 100% pass rate for the NBDHE.

  • The college earned top honors in the country from the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) for its athletics media guides.  The college earned regional honors from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for a commemorative book in celebration of the college’s 75th anniversary.

  • The Presidential Award for Excellence was presented to The Columbian in commemoration of the newspaper’s 75 years of news coverage of Clark College.  Faculty emeritus Orv Iverson was the winner of the college’s 2009 Outstanding Alumni Award.


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