Alumni Information

Hello Alumni! Our annual newsletter is now combined with the rest of the department's newsletter. (We are no longer sending it out via snail mail.)

We've included Keith Russell's 2014 newsletter comments below. Read the full Newsletter.

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Recreation Program Coordinator Comments – 2014

Greeting alumni, family, and friends. I hope you and your family are well and have enjoyed a healthy and prosperous year. We have news to share that has brought great sadness to the Recreation Program and has reminded us all to cherish those we love and live life to its fullest every day. It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Glenn Merrill and Jill Heckathorn’s son Jake Merrill was killed on February 11th in a tragic accident. It is simply easier to use the words from the beautifully-written obituary that appeared in the Bellingham Herald to share the news:

So very many hearts were broken when deeply-loved Jake died in a tragic avalanche accident on February 11th while proudly acting as an assistant ski guide on his first professional job. A joyful soul devoted to family and friends, he will forever be remembered for his playful spirit, infectious laughter, outrageous hugs, and unwavering belief in the power of the outdoors. Jake packed more into life than most people twice his age. His zest for life attracted others, created relationships, and inspired seemingly endless adventures.

Jake loved most any outdoor adventure that challenged him and allowed his spirit to soar. He felt at peace and inspired in the mountains. He also enjoyed reading, cooking, eating, music, and anything that brought him to the company of his amazing group of friends. His heart was happiest when he was with his “lady-friend” and “life-partner” Katie Griffith and their dog Cedar. Glenn Merrill and Jill Heckathorn have no words to describe the joy they have known as Jake’s parents. He has taught them how to live with openness and wonder; how to share love without constraint; and how to make the most of each day.

A celebration of Jake’s life was held on Sunday, March 2nd in the Viking Union at Western Washington University. It was a beautiful ceremony that exemplified to family, friends, and loved ones—via stories, poems, and tears—the passion with which he lived his life and the love he shined on all those around him.

With love and support, the Recreation Program will continue to move forward and endeavor to pick up the pieces of so many broken hearts. It will take time. Jill and Glenn have been so touched by the outpouring of love and support from the Recreation Program “family” and from loved ones from far away places, which speaks to how many lives Jake was able to touch in such a short time.

We also have some exciting news and want to introduce our newest faculty member, Dr. Jasmine Goodnow. Jasmine earned a BS in Recreation Management/Youth Leadership from Brigham Young University and both an MS and PhD in Parks, Recreation and Tourism with a specialization in adventure and ecotourism from University of Utah. After graduation she moved to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia where she was an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of the Recreation Leadership and Ecotourism Programs at Ferrum College. Jasmine made the move to Western because of, as she states, “the awesome faculty, students, and program.” On a personal note, she is excited to explore the PNW and all of its rugged beauty.

In the pages that follow, the Recreation faculty— Jasmine, Charlie, and Randy— will be sharing what’s been going on with them. Lindsay Poynter, Recreation alumnus--and overall awesome person!--has been helping out this year teaching RECR 105, 274, and 380.

The 25th Annual Senior Banquet was a wonderful evening attended by over 275 students, family, and friends. Elke Govertsen was the keynote speaker and the 2013 recipient of our Alumni Achievement Award. Elke is an entrepreneur and mom who hails from Missoula, Montana. Her background is in Therapeutic Recreation, which taught her not only how to create something out of nothing, but also how to make it something special. Elke is the Founder and Editor of Mamalode, which has been called “America’s Best Parenting Magazine.” She routinely speaks to organizations and groups on a variety of topics, from social media to overcoming poverty; leads the Learn As You Go lecture series for small businesses; and is passionate about economic development in Montana.

Kassie McKnight, President of the Recreation Club, was the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award, given annually to the student who most represents the mission and ideals of the program. Jim Norman, Anna Peirson, and Jake Merrill were selected by their peers to deliver some words on behalf of their fellow students, and managed to inspire us, while also making us laugh, cry, and reflect on what the Phase experience was to this group. Finally, Zoe LindstromDemant was awarded the inaugural Servant Leadership Award for her outstanding service to Camp TEAM and various local organizations serving homeless youth and persons with disabilities.

I wish to thank everyone who made contributions to the Recreation Program Foundation, the Legacy Scholarship, and the Recreation Faculty Scholarship. Your donations make it possible for us to support and enrich students’ education. We rely on and greatly appreciate your support. Please continue to help us support the next generation of alumni who go out into the world to create change and bring happiness and joy to others through their dedication and passion to providing recreation services to all. We also want to thank those who have already given generously to the Jake Merrill Outdoor Leadership Scholarship. This is an important scholarship that will help us continue Jake’s legacy and allow us to support students in outdoor leadership and mountain safety educational endeavors.

Sheri, Alena, and Maysee continue to enjoy their work and play in Bellingham. Alena lives and dances ballet (14 now!), Maysee (11!) plays soccer and raises her frogs, and Sheri continues to help families through difficult transitions with her business Bellingham Mediation. We are blessed to live in such an amazingly beautiful and supportive community. And, with Recreation Program alumni scattered throughout the region and world, we are never far from home when we do wander. It is impossible to go anywhere and not run into a former Phaser! We hope to see you soon on the trails, lakes, mountains, and rivers. Have a wonderful year and stay in touch.

Best wishes, Keith

Professor and Coordinator, Recreation Program

Page Updated 06.30.2015