Centralia College Has Its Day

75 YEARS STRONG: Gov. Gary Locke visits campus while President Clinton sends congratulatory not on anniversary

By Alice Thomas
The Chronicle

Note: This article is reprinted by permission of The Chronicle from the April 26, 2000 edition pages A1, A12.

   The three new Centralia College diversity clock tower panels weren't the only reason those on the college campus were celebrating Tuesday.Gov. Gary Locke

   Gov. Gary Locke stopped by to proclaim Tuesday as Centralia College Day in Washington, while Centralia College President Hank Kirk read a congratulatory letter from another president - one William Jefferson Clinton.

   "We gather together to celebrate our strong heritage," Kirk told the crowd that numbered in the hundreds. "And we look forward to the next 75 years."

   This year represents the college's 75th year of providing educational opportunities, establishing it as the state's oldest community college in continuous operation.

   Second-year student Steve Harrington of Centralia said he was "flabbergasted" at all the people who attended, but said he enjoyed the diversity clock tower ceremony. "It gives recognition to people who have done great things," he said.

   David Hoffman of Silver Creek, also a second-year student, said he is "glad they take time to do things like this."

   Judy Guenther, president of the institution's board of trustees, said she was honored to have the crowd on hand to celebrate. With the sky looking threatening most of the day, the rain hit during Locke's speech, but he shrugged off the offer of an umbrella, saying the downpour is another great part of Washington. "It makes the grass green and the tulips grow," he laughed.

   Locke then talked about how jobs have changed, and about the community college's role in helping workers gain skills.

   Job descriptions are changing every day, the governor said, and today's job market requires skills to "climb the ladder."

COLLEGE: Panels on clock unveiled; fashion show features styles from past 7 decades

Continued from page A1

   "That's why community colleges are so important," Locke continued. "They help (people) get ahead."

   The rain dissipated as Locke continued, saying the state doesn't have a labor shortage, but a skills shortage.Clocktower Ceremony

    The community colleges can offer the opportunity to embrace the change, Locke said, changing pace to lead the crowd in "Happy Birthday" to Centralia College.

   From 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., activities showcased the college's 75 years of history.

    Events began with lunch and the unveiling of the panels on the diversity clock tower, followed by a "75 years of fashion" show that featured styles from each of the past seven decades.

   The Student Center was open from 5 to 7 p.m. Festivities ended with a Shakespearean pastiche and musical performance by the combined Centralia College drama and music departments.

   The college library hosted a display of 75 years of technology, and 75 years of college memorabilia was on display in the atrium of the Student Center, and at other places on the campus.


Honorees Welcomed Back to Centralia

HARD TIMES: Children of labor attorney Elmer Smith on hand at college as father's plaque placed on diversity clocktower.

By Alice Thomas
The Chronicle

    They may have been shunned as children, but Stuart Smith and Virginia (Smith) Waddell came back to Centralia Tuesday as two of the most popular people in town.Virginia and Stuart Smith

    The offspring of Elmer Smith were guests of honor, sitting atop a rostrum at 1:30 p.m. near the Centralia College diversity clock tower with Gov. Gary Locke and Centralia College president Hank Kirk.

    Smith (1888-1932), was a Centralia labor attorney who worked to uphold minimum wage laws and helped defend the Industrial Workers of the World. He defended the "Centralia eight" after the infamous 1919 Armistice Day parade and massacre, working until his death for the eight convicted IWW union members.

    Many Centralia residents transferred what they believed to be these "sins" of the father to his widow and children, ostracizing them, remembers Waddell, now 81 and living in the Tacoma area.

    She said that was difficult for a young girl.

    Stuart Smith's son, Cameron, said he heard stories from his grandmother about times when people crossed the street so they wouldn't have to walk near her, his father and his aunt.

WELCOMED: Filmmaker on Hand For Work on Documentary

Continued from page A1

   Not so Tuesday, as many were eager to talk with Stuart Smith and his sister Virginia. For most of the day, they were inundated with requests to relay stories regarding their days living in Centralia, and concerning what they remember about their father and his life's work.

    Eventually, the two were seated in a room, being interviewed by a documentary filmmaker.

    A plaque of Elmer Smith's likeness, and similar castings honoring Floyd Schmoe and Juan Jose Perez, were unveiled Tuesday. They will be placed on the Centralia College diversity clock tower.

    Schmoe, a 104-year-old naturalist at Mount Rainier National Park and a University of Washington professor, fought against the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He helped establish Hiroshima Peace Park and the Seattle Peace Park. In 1995, he was honored with the highest civilian award by the Japanese emperor.

    The author of 14 books about philosophy, peace, marine biology, and forest ecology, Schmoe helped Jews flee Nazi Germany, and helped build orphanages, hospitals and water systems in South Korea, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East.

    Schmoe's daughter and son-in-law were also on hand Tuesday, accepting thanks for the numerous humanitarian efforts of her father.

    The third honoree, Perez, who died in 1774, was the non-native to discover the state of Washington. Rather than a photo, the panel shows a sailing ship, maybe on the Spanish commander used in leading naval expeditions of Mexicans and Spanish people from Mexico to the Northwest. Perez tried to confirm the existence of the mythical "River of the West," and explored the region.

    Perez also helped defend the United States against the British, and helped the nation claim what is now Washington. That resulted in the region becoming part of the United States, rather than part of Canada.

    Antonio Sanchez, an acquaintance of a Centralia College staff member and a researcher for the state government, nominated Perez and spoke at the unveiling, saying he "sincerely and humbly" thanked Centralia College for recognizing the importance of Spanish and Mexican people "opening the door to this part of the world."

    For a number of reasons, both intentional and unintentional, the names of the Spanish and Mexican people and their part in Washington's history haven't received recognition, Sanchez said.

    "They changed the history of this state forever," he said. "This (panel) is the only recognition of the Spanish and Mexican (people's) discovery of this state."

    Among Perez's legacies were the introduction of livestock, apples, onions, beans, and wheat, as well as the use of iron and the building of non-native structures at Nunez Gaoma (Neah Bay).

    Sanchez said he hopes all will recognize Washington's diversity, and how this "makes it a great state with a great future."

    In order to have a likeness placed on a plaque and mounted to the diversity clock tower, a person must be a Northwest individual who has significance to culture and communities, or who has otherwise distinguished himself or herself in the fields of science, the arts and humanities, civic or political life. Too, contributions must be historically recognized.

    For the past 18 months, a committee of Centralia College employees and community members sought nominations for honorees. Advertisements were placed around campus, and e-mails were distributed through the college's network. Then, the Centralia College Diversity Committee narrowed the nominations to 10 and sent the list to the President's Cabinet.

    Those already honored are: George and Mary Washington, Mother Joseph, Hazel Pete, Dixy Lee Ray, Merce Cunningham, Billy Frank Jr., and Jimi Hendrix.

Alice Thomas covers education news and the Washington Legislature for The Chronicle. She can be reached by e-mail at athomas@chronline.com or by calling 807-8232.