Clocktower & Champions of Social Change Awards

The Centralia College Clocktower in the center of campus has plaques honoring those who have worked to advance social change, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Clocktower Diversity Project

The Clocktower Diversity Project was conceived by the Cultural Infusion Project and supported by the Diversity Committee and the Associated Students of Centralia College. Engraved panels commemorating eight extraordinary people were placed in the college's clocktower in 1997. In 2000, 2002, and 2008, additional panels were created to honor more invididuals.

George and Mary Washington

(1817 – 1905)

(Unknown – 1889)

African-American Pioneers

Founder of what would become known as Centralia, George – the orphaned son of a slave – platted the land and sold plots for $10. Mary named the streets. Washington used his wit, good humor, and hard work to earn the acceptance and respect of the people despite the violence and racial hatred that marked much of Civil War era America. The couple was widely known for their friendliness and generosity.

Mother Joseph

(1823 – 1902)


Born Esther Pariseau in French Canada, the frontier educator devoted her life to the efforts of the Sisters of Providence to provide health care and education. Mother Joseph helped establish 11 hospitals, 7 academies, 5 Indian schools, and 2 orphanages. Many of the institutions she designed and helped build were in Washington, most around Vancouver. One of the largest, Providence Academy, still stands within view of the Columbia River.

Hazel Pete

(1914 – 2003)

Basketmaker/Tribal Elder

An active member and distinguished cultural leader of the Chehalis tribe, Hazel Pete was a master basketmaker who has been a major influence in preserving tribal culture and tradition. Her patterns have been passed on to new generations of tribal members so this unique Native American art form may continue and flourish. Her leadership was manifest in her abilities to teach, support, and maintain tribal traditions and culture.

Dixy Lee Ray

(1914 – 1994)

Scientist/Washington State Governor

A marine biologist and educator, Dr. Ray was deeply involved in a variety of environmental issues. She directed the Pacific Science Center in Seattle and the graduate research program at the University of Washington for 25 years. In 1972, she was appointed chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission. After serving as Assistant Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, Ray in 1977 became the first woman to be elected Governor of Washington.

Merce Cunningham

(1919 – 2009)


A native of Centralia, Cunningham is recognized as one of America’s most influential choreographers. Formerly the principal soloist for the Martha Graham dance company, Cunningham formed his own company in 1953. He has choreographed more than 150 works and is know for the innovative use of chance processes and contemporary technology in his work.

Billy Frank Jr.

(1931 – 2014)

Native American Activist

Billy Frank Jr. has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure fishing rights and other treaty guarantees for Northwest Native Americans for decades. A former Nisqually tribal fishery manager, Frank was the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He has won the Albert Schweitzer Award for Humanitarianism, the American Indian Distinguished Service Award, the National Common Cause Award, and the Washington State Environmental Excellence Award.

Jimi Hendrix

(1942 – 1970)


Jimi Hendrix was one of the most influential guitarists in the era of modern music. He expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had before explored. His blend of rock, blues, and jazz created a sound that had not before been heard and is now a standard in contemporary music. The Seattle-born Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

Juan Perez

(1725 – 1775)

Northwest Explorer

Perez was a Spanish commander who led the first naval expedition from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest in 1774. He became the first non-native explorer of the region that would become Washington State. His explorations allowed Spain to claim the area until 1819, when it ceded its interests to the United States. Perez and his Spanish-Mexican crew constructed the territory’s first non-native buildings at Neah Bay. Spanish explorers who followed him brought fruits, vegetables, and domestic animals to the Northwest.

Elmer Smith

(1888 – 1932)

Legal Advocate

Smith was a labor attorney who defended the eight International Workers of the World union members charged and convicted of murdering several World War I veterans during an emotional and violent Veteran’s Day parade in 1919 Centralia. Smith worked until his death to free the IWW members, or “Wobblies,” as they were called at the time. All eight were subsequently pardoned. Smith worked throughout his career for minimum wage laws, consumer protection, and the rights of free speech and assembly.

Floyd Schmoe

(1895 – 2001)


Schmoe was the first fulltime naturalist at Mt. Rainier Park. He wrote important works on both nature and humanitarianism. As a peace activist, Schmoe rescued battlefield wounded in Europe during WWI, helped Jews flee Nazi Germany in WWII, fought for the freedom of Japanese-Americans in “relocation” camps, and helped build homes for survivors of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and earned Japan’s Order of the Sacred Treasure, the nation’s highest civilian award.

The Cowlitz People

Ancient people of Southwest Washington

The Cowlitz people are noted for their courage, determination, and dignity in a century of struffle for justice and recognition by the federal government. The Cowlitz made friends with arriving European traders and settlers, opening a route through the Cascades for exploration. Contemporary Cowlitz, as an enduring tribal entity, continue to seek a homeland and preserve their cultural identity.

Our Story | The Cowlitz Indian Tribe

George Tsutakawa

(1910 – 1997)


A noted Nisei artist, Tsutakawa explored man’s need for a harmonious relationship with nature. He served in the US Army during WWII while his family was interned. Tsutakawa was known for his wooden obos, bronze sculptures, sumi ink paintings and prints. Many believe his greatest contribution to art came in his fountains described as the effort to unify water – “the life force of the universe that flows in an elusive cyclical course throughout eternity” – with immutable metal sculptures.

Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney


State Representative/Community Activist

Phyllis, the daughter of Hispanic immigrants, grew up immersed in the plight of migrant workers. After moving to Seattle, she successfully ran for a position in the state House of Representatives and began a long tenure representing the people of the 46th Legislative District. She continues to work tirelessly to help minorities achieve success and has dedicated her life to public service, advocating for education and the rights of individuals on a regional and national stage.

Tomás Villanueva

(1941 – 2014)

Farm Labor Organizer/Civil Rights Pioneer

Founder and past president of the United Farm Workers of Washington, Tomás began to work for equality for minority workers. He established the Pacific Northwest’s first privately funded Farm Worker Cooperative, Community Service Center and the first Farm Workers Medical Clinic. His advocacy led to the first collective bargaining contract in agriculture and coverage of farm workers under state labor laws. He continued to work for labor benefits, equal educational opportunities for first-generation Americans and social equality.

Charles L. Littel

(1885 – 1966)

Founder of Centralia College

Charles Little believed strongly in the concept of a junior college and was the motivational force behind the founding of Centralia College in 1925. He believed two-year colleges could provide access to higher education to more people at a lower cost, and offer closer connections to faculty and greater student success. His efforts opened the door to a college education for large numbers of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Centralia College now stands as the state’s oldest community college in continuous operation. Little also helped establish other community colleges in Washington and New Jersey.